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Officer accused of seeking dates during traffic stops pleads guilty

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009 | 1:54 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

James Vernon Clayton

A former North Las Vegas police officer pleaded guilty today in Clark County District Court to five gross misdemeanor counts stemming from misconduct over issuing traffic citations.

Prosecutors say James Vernon Clayton, 40, sought dates and sexual favors from women he stopped for traffic violations while on duty as a patrol officer.

Clayton pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted misconduct by public officer and two counts of oppression under color of office. Under the agreement, he could see as many as five years in jail – one year for each count – and could face monetary fines.

The allegations stem from Clayton’s alleged interactions with five adult women. He was arrested on Dec. 23, 2008, after a five-month investigation and was fired Jan. 28 after months of being on paid administrative leave.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 18.

Today’s court date followed a hearing last month during which Clayton attempted to plead guilty but wouldn’t admit to seeking sex in exchange for dismissing tickets. On Nov. 5, Judge James Bixler continued the hearing when Clayton wouldn’t admit culpability for his alleged actions.

In Nevada, a person pleading guilty must openly admit guilt and explain the circumstances of the crime. Clayton told the judge last month that he “never asked for any sex.”

Although the plea agreement was ultimately accepted today in district court, Clayton hesitated on several points as he walked through the document with the judge.

When Bixler inquired as to details outlined in the first count of attempted misconduct of a public officer, in which Clayton is charged with offering to get rid of a woman’s speeding citation in exchange for oral sex, Clayton paused.

“Is that true?” Bixler asked. After several seconds, Clayton said, “Yes, sir.”

Clayton is accused of asking women to go on dates with him, to expose their breasts or legs to him; and of threatening one woman with bogus charges if she refused to allow him to pat search her after he pulled her over. He was a uniformed officer carrying a firearm during the incidents cited by prosecutors, according to court documents.

As he was entering his plea, Clayton argued several points. Chief Deputy District Attorney Giancarlo Pesci at one point voiced his frustration with the proceedings and suggested the judge vacate the plea and set a trial date.

Prosecutors told the judge that Clayton had waived his right to appeal any “defects in the language” of the document in entering the agreement.

“You are pleading guilty to these five counts because in truth and fact you are guilty and for no other reasons? Is that true?” Bixler asked him before accepting the plea.

“I have more reasons than that, your honor,” Clayton said.

“Well, you can have more reasons, but the main reason is that you are actually guilty?” Bixler queried.

“Yes, sir,” he said.

Clayton has remained out of custody after posting a $73,000 bond on Dec. 24.

The maximum sentence he could see is five years in the Clark County Detention Center and a fine, if the judge gives him a year on each count and runs the counts consecutively.

Clayton declined to comment after the hearing.

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