District Attorney Richard Flores has excused himself from prosecuting the adults who he alleges failed to promptly notify authorities about attacks during a Robertson High School football camp last year.
His decision was in response to arguments by defense attorneys that he appeared to have conflicts of interest.
Superintendent Richard Romero, Athletic Director Mike Yara, former football coach Ray Woods and two former assistant coaches, Adam Alvarez and Ikaika Neizman, each face a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse or neglect.
In a hearing in Magistrate Court, Flores referred specifically to defense attorneys’ contention that he may be perceived as moving the case forward to benefit the possible lawsuit of one of his employees. That employee is the mother of one of the victims at the football camp. She and her family have put the Las Vegas City Schools district on notice that they may file a a lawsuit.
Flores said he wouldn’t use his office to help an employee with her lawsuit.
“I don’t play that way,” he told Magistrate Judge James Moncayo.
But he said it was best to protect his office against even an appearance of a conflict.
Jerry Walz, the attorney for Romero and Yara, said he didn’t question Flores’ integrity. But he said that things have happened since the district attorney filed the case that have created more of a appearance of a conflict of interest.
Walz said one of Flores’ employees had filed the notice with the district and that she had appeared at school board meetings as part of a group critical of Romero and Yara.
He noted that the district attorney’s office has referred the cases against football players to the Santa Fe DA’s office because of an appearance of conflicts of interest.
Flores countered that he didn’t intend to have any witnesses who have relatives in the local DA’s office testify in the adults’ cases. But he said they would likely testify in the youths’ cases.
Flores said that when he heard that his employee had filed the notice, he delayed action in the case and requested a hearing.
“We don’t want to be accused of furthering the the prosecution so as to benefit my employee’s civil suit,” the DA said.
He asked the magistrate judge to give him time to find a new DA’s office to prosecute the case. The judge commended Flores for his stand and asked him if he could find a new prosecutor within 10 days .
Flores said he could.
The new prosecutor could continue to pursue the case or dismiss it. No new hearing has been set.
The husband of the DA’s office employee in question said he supported Flores’ decision. He said the DA properly severed all communication with his wife about the case to avoid any conflict of interest.
“We can only hope that whichever district attorney’s office receives the case will prosecute it with the same conviction that Mr. Flores would have,” the husband said. “Mr. Flores has demonstrated a very high ethical standard since the beginning of this ordeal.”
Woods and all of his assistant coaches resigned weeks after the attacks. Neizman and Alvarez allegedly walked in a cabin when the perpetrators were sodomizing one of the victims with a broomstick.
Coaches later told investigators that they believed that some of the victims had volunteered for the sodomizing.
Romero and Yara remain employed with the district. The school board has issued a statement backing the superintendent; the board has no powers over Yara’s employment.
Authorities have maintained that school officials could have informed authorities earlier about the attacks. A state police’s officer wife was a camp chaperone, and she called her husband about the attacks. He was waiting at the school when the team bus arrived in mid-August last year.
A investigation immediately began.