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Former cocktail waitress sues governor, former sheriff

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008 | 6:15 p.m.

Exhibit photos in Mazzeo case

Chrissy Mazzeo Launch slideshow »
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Chrissy Mazzeo during a news conference at her lawyer's office in downtown Las Vegas on Oct. 25, 2006, where she presented her side of an incident involving Jim Gibbons.

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Gov. Jim Gibbons

Alleged exchange between Gibbons and Mazzeo, according to the complaint

  • Startled and afraid, Mazzeo asked, "What are you doing? Are you serious? Please let me go."
  • At the time there was no expression on Gibbons' face as he started squeezing Mazzeo's arms harder and harder. Gibbons said, "You can try to run away or you can let this happen. I'm not going to f--- you. l'm going to rape you."
  • Mazzeo said, "What? Are you seriously going to rape me?"
  • Gibbons responded, "This isn't what l want from you. You have two choices. You can try to run away or you can let this happen."
  • From where Mazzeo had been seized, forced into a corner and confined she could see Camera No. 1 across the garages and she could see Camera No. 2 in line with the elevator.
  • Mazzeo said, "l have a baby. Please don't do this to me, There's a camera there."
  • Gibbons said. "I don't care about the cameras."
  • Mazzeo said, "What are you doing. You're running for governor."
  • Gibbons said, "You have two choices."
  • Mazzeo said, "What are my choices."
  • Gibbons coldly said, "you either listen to me and do what I say, or you're fu--ed!"

Former cocktail waitress Chrissy Mazzeo, who accused then-candidate for governor Jim Gibbons of assault, filed a lawsuit against the Republican governor and former Sheriff Bill Young in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.

The lawsuit names political consultant Sig Rogich, the Metro Police Department, attorney Donald J. Campbell and Mazzeo's former friend, Pennie Mossett-Puhek, and alleges Mazzeo's rights to due process and equal protection were violated.

The lawsuit was filed two years and a day after the alleged attack.

Rogich at the time was Gibbons' campaign manager. Campbell was retained by Rogich to represent Gibbons in regard to the incident, which occurred Oct. 13, 2006, in a Paradise Road garage.

Mazzeo, who was 32 at the time of the incident, was a cocktail waitress at the Bellagio. She accused Gibbons of assaulting her in a parking garage after a night of drinking at McCormick & Schmick's restaurant.

Mazzeo met Puhek, then they talked about an attack on Mazzeo by her boyfriend in Laughlin three months earlier, as well as her years-long battle with cancer.

At about 7:45 p.m., Puhek spotted Gibbons and Rogich in the cocktail lounge. Puhek bought Gibbons' table a round of drinks and Gibbons invited Mazzeo and Puhek to join them.

According to the complaint, Mazzeo said she became uncomfortable sitting next to Gibbons and tried to move closer to Puhek in the booth. When other people began taking photos of Gibbons, Mazzeo said she felt so uncomfortable that Puhek complained to Rogich.

After Mazzeo got out keys to her pickup truck, she went to the restroom, and Gibbons handed her a business card when she returned to the table. Gibbons and Rogich then left the table and Mazzeo stayed behind for 15 or 20 minutes before walking outside the restaurant and searching for her keys in her purse.

It was raining that Friday the 13th, so Mazzeo was startled when Gibbons appeared between two bushes at the north of the restaurant, the complaint states.

"Are you looking for me?" Gibbons asked Mazzeo.

"No, I'm looking for my keys," she replied, according to the complaint.

Gibbons offered to take her to her truck. She said they entered the first floor of the Hughes Center parking garage, then turned northeast, where Mazzeo said she spotted a surveillance camera. She alleged that Gibbons grabbed her by the upper arms and shoved her about 10 feet until she was pinned against a column near the elevator.

Mazzeo claimed in the lawsuit that Gibbons threatened to rape her and she struggled, kicking him in the shins as three teenagers ran by the pair.

Once she escaped, Mazzeo said she ran to the lobby of a nearby La Quinta Inn to call police. Mazzeo also called Puhek, who instructed her not to call police.

The lawsuit describes a frightened Mazzeo, who saw Gibbons at the La Quinta Inn's lobby windows with his wet jacket off and looking in at her. As Mazzeo ran passed Gibbons outside the hotel's lobby, he grabbed her arm and said, "Wait, I need to talk to you. You screwed up because you called 911. You'll be sorry."

The lawsuit said a night desk clerk at La Quinta witnessed this altercation.

Mazzeo ran across Paradise Road to a Starbucks and hid in a restroom stall before calling Metro Police again.

It was after 11:12 p.m. when police first responded to Mazzeo's 911 calls, the lawsuit said.

Puhek had urged Mazzeo to cooperate with Gibbons. When Mazzeo said, "No, he's guilty," Puhek replied: "I know he is. I saw how he was acting. I watched everything. But if you don't drop the charges they are going to kill you and all of your family. Rethink your decision. You don't know who you are messing with or who they know."

Mazzeo later refused to press charges, and no charges ever were filed. Gibbons won the race for governor three weeks later.

Gibbons spokesman Ben Kieckhefer declined to comment on the lawsuit late Tuesday afternoon. Gibbons is in Washington, D.C., all week in meetings with Interior Department officials.

Metro Police also declined to comment because the case is involved in litigation.

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