LAS VEGAS - A violent pimp serving 13 life sentences wants a new trial. One reason Raymond Sharpe is pushing for a new trial is because of Chris Baughman, the detective who put him away. The FBI is currently investigating Baughman.
Sharpe was convicted in 2012 but was back in court Wednesday morning for a motion hearing. His attorney wants the district attorney's office removed from the appeal, in part because of exclusive reports by the 8 News NOW I-Team.
Last year, the I-Team broke the story that the FBI was investigating former Metro Vice Officer Chris Baughman for his alleged involvement with suspected pimps and his possible romantic relationships with prostitutes -- women who were not only victims but key witnesses. Now, the same allegations are being raised by at least two notorious sex traffickers, both serving life terms.
One of them is Sharpe, who was in court Wednesday to start the process of getting a new trial. For many, Sharpe is an intimidating presence. He's a prison inmate serving 13 life sentences for kidnapping, pistol whipping, and coercing women who worked as prostitutes for him.
But did he get a fair trial?
"There's not a lot of sympathies when you see a person there that you think might have a bad character get mistreated by the system, said Jonathan MacArthur, defense attorney. "In fact, some people kind of like that.
MacArthur had already filed motions seeking a new trial for his client when I-Team stories revealed that the FBI was investigating Baughman, a former star in the vice unit, possibly along with some other lawmen.
Those news reports have now become a part of Sharpe's appeal. Sharpe told his family the FBI came to the prison to interview him back in January.
That's where agents also reportedly met with Ocean Fleming, another pimp serving a life sentence.
Fleming and Sharpe both want new trials. Both allege that Baughman was romantically involved with the prostitutes whose testimony helped convict them.
Baughman was also a key witness in those cases, and the prosecutor for both trials was Deputy D.A. Liz Mercer. Mercer and Baughman worked closely on several high-profile sex trafficking cases, but their relationship has since become a legal issue.
"Liz Mercer was the lead prosecutor in this case, and she is currently married to the lead detective who was also the state's central and star witness," MacAurthur said. "He provided the basis for many of the most important counts against Raymond Sharpe."
Attorney MacAurthur asked Judge Elissa Cadish to remove the D.A.'s office from any role in Sharpe's attempt to win a new trial. He wants to question both Baughman and Mercer under oath and says that since Mercer still works for the D.A., it could look like a conflict, but the D.A.'s office disagrees.
"Ms. Mercer is now married to former detective Mr. Baughman, but she is not here today. She was not married to him at the time this occurred. Now that she is, I'm here so this is completely a non-issue," said Lisa Luzaich, Deputy District Attorney.
Judge Cadish: "Is she walled off the case?
Luzaich: "Um, I guess she, technically yes. I have not spoken to her about it on purpose because of that."
Whether the D.A. stays on the case or not, Sharpe will argue that Detective Baughman had an inappropriate relationship with the victim and key witness Alisha Grundy.
As proof, the defense introduced 140 text messages between Baughman and Grundy, which show an increasingly intimate relationship unfolding. They had their own song, pet names for each other, and Baughman told Grundy he loved her.
The text messages were entered into evidence in Sharpe's first trial. Baughman explained that it is often necessary for detectives to develop a friendship with victims of sex trafficking to make sure they show up to testify.
"The explanation sufficed back then, but attorneys for Sharpe and Fleming now think the FBI investigation would call Baughman's credibility into question.
So far no charges have been filed against Baughman or anyone else. A hearing has been set for May.
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