I-Team: Metro hires law firm to prevent testimony of vice cops in pimp's appeal

LAS VEGAS - The Metro Police Department is trying to prevent testimony by current and former vice officers in an appeal filed by one of the pimps they sent to prison.

The inmate, Ocean Fleming, wants a new trial because he says police detectives were sexually involved with prostitutes who later became witnesses against him. The same allegations are being investigated by the FBI as part of an ongoing corruption probe.

Now, the I-Team has learned that Metro Police, which previously said it was cooperating with the FBI's investigation, is going to court to prevent the officers from answering questions under oath. 

"Whether or not she was coached for her testimony, and that's the key here; if these witnesses were false or exaggerated some testimony, that's key to my concern whether he's entitled to a new trial," said Michael Villani, District Court Judge.

Judge Villani has made it clear since the beginning of Fleming's appeal that he wants to avoid larger issues surrounding alleged illegal acts committed by current and former members of Metro's anti-pimp team. 

Former star Metro Detective Chris Baughman, along with other law enforcement colleagues are now in the crosshairs of a 3-year FBI corruption probe. Federal agents suspect Baughman and others worked, in effect, as muscle for escort service kingpin Jamal Rashid, aka Mally Mall, by arresting Rashid's competitors in the lucrative Las Vegas sex industry.

One of those sent to prison for life was convicted pimp Ocean Fleming who has alleged for years that Baughman, his partner Al Beas, and other cops had sexual relations with prostitutes who then became a witness for prosecutor Liz Mercer, who's now Baughman's wife.

"This is where it goes overboard and over the line when you use those prostitutes and make promises to them, whatever the case may be, then you use those prostitutes to prosecute their dudes," Fleming said in a conversation over the phone.

Fleming's lawyers believe the vice cops and prosecutors coached or coerced the witnesses into making more serious allegations, such as strangulation and torture, as a way for the state to seek harsher penalties, including multiple life sentences, for the pimps they busted.  

The same allegations are at the heart of the FBI probe. Although the judge authorized Defense Attorney Janiece Marshall the chance to depose several of the key targets, including Baughman and Beas, the Metro Police Department is fighting hard to keep that from happening. 

Metro hired a private law firm which recently filed a 132-page motion to stop to the depositions. The question is, why would the department oppose getting to the bottom of a burgeoning scandal? Especially, if the officers did not twist witness testimony, and why would it spend public dollars to prevent the questioning of persons who no longer work for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, including Baughman and his lieutenant Karen Hughes.

 If Judge Villani rules in favor of Metro, it could mean the end of Fleming's bid for a new trial, but it will not stop the FBI probe, which is reportedly close to completion. 

A possible indictment of multiple officers would be a huge scandal, but also likely to surface in any federal trial are the names of a-list celebrities and prominent professionals who were the customers of these escort services. Those revelations are likely coming soon, no matter how the judge rules.  

Judge Villani is expected to rule Friday morning whether the Metro officers should answer questions under oath.


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