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D.A. declines to pursue extortion charges alleged by county commissioner


Leila Navidi

Clark County Commission District A candidate Steve Sisolak talks with supporters with his then-girlfriend Kathleen Vermillion during a political mixer at the Pizza Caffe in Henderson Tuesday, October 14, 2008.

Updated Friday, Aug. 24, 2012 | 4:21 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Steve Wolfson

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has decided not to file criminal extortion charges against former Henderson City Councilwoman Kathleen Vermillion.

The decision seemingly ends ongoing legal drama between Vermillion and her ex-boyfriend, County Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who filed a police report in January accusing Vermillion of trying to extort $3.9 million from him.

Vermillion had filed a lawsuit against Sisolak and Clark County employees claiming they defamed her by revealing the results of a drug test she had taken at the request of the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth, which Vermillion founded. She also claimed Sisolak had an “improper” relationship with her 15-year-old daughter — a claim the teenage girl later said was false.

When Sisolak met with Vermillion, her attorney Rob Martin and public relations advisor Mark Fierro about the lawsuit against him, he wore a recording device. That’s when Sisolak alleged they asked him for money to make the lawsuit "go away."

Vermillion ultimately dropped her lawsuit against Sisolak in early February, but Sisolak urged authorities to continue the alleged extortion investigation.

Wolfson released a statement Friday announcing his decision not to file criminal charges in the case, citing the civil lawsuit as the primary factor influencing his decision.

The civil suit had been filed prior to the recorded meeting, meaning a legal defense known as litigation privilege could be raised in response to extortion charges, Wolfson said in the statement.

“The litigation privilege allows for a wide range of accusations and discussions between the parties involved in a lawsuit, including discussions about a possible financial settlement,” Wolfson explained.

Even so, Wolfson categorized the behavior of some involved as “troubling.”

Ultimately, Wolfson said “because their actions could fall under the litigation privilege, criminal charges could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Had the civil lawsuit not already been filed, the details of the case could have merited criminal charges of extortion, he said.

Sisolak said Wolfson called Friday morning to tell him of the decision before the public announcement.

“He shared his reasoning,” Sisolak said. “I shared my unhappiness.”

Sisolak said he would have liked to see the case proceed to the court system, where the issue of litigation privilege could have been vetted.

“(Wolfson) is one man that makes that call,” he said. “I would have preferred a judge or jury got that call.”

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