Friday, Oct. 20, 2006 | 7:58 a.m.
Did Chrissy Mazzeo leave a Las Vegas restaurant less than a minute after gubernatorial candidate Jim Gibbons last Friday night? Or did she stay behind for 15 to 20 minutes, then emerge to find Gibbons waiting for her outside?
A UNLV law professor said Thursday that the timing issue could be critical if the case ever found its way into a courtroom. Both sides have hired lawyers.
Gibbons told police that as he left the restaurant to walk across the street to his hotel, Mazzeo emerged and began looking for her truck. He said he joined her in the search.
Mazzeo said she left long after Gibbons, but found him standing outside, where he asked: "Are you looking for me?"
A waitress who served Mazzeo and Gibbons their drinks corroborated Mazzeo's account of the timing. Waitress Julie Vick told police that Mazzeo left as many as 30 minutes after Gibbons.
The main issue the discrepancy raises is credibility, said UNLV law professor Raquel Aldana. "The more you can substantiate the information from several sources, the more reliable it becomes."
None of the three sworn statements released Thursday from witnesses who support Gibbons' version of events inside the restaurant mentioned the timing of Mazzeo's departure.
Under the law, Aldana said, the time discrepancy also could constitute "reasonable suspicion" that a crime occurred, giving police a reason to investigate. But she added that without a victim's cooperation and absent a criminal charge, police in Nevada are not legally obligated to continue an investigation.
Mazzeo told police she did not want to go forward with charges because she wanted to avoid the pressures and media attention of a case against Gibbons.
In some states, after pressure from victims' rights groups, laws have been changed to require prosecution of certain crimes, particularly domestic violence and civil rights violations, even if the victims don't want to pursue the matter.
Sheriff Bill Young, a Gibbons supporter, said police dropped the investigation after Mazzeo backed away.