LAS VEGAS - The central figures in an ongoing FBI investigation into police corruption will be facing tough questions in court over the next few weeks. Subpoenas have been issued to at least four officers and a prosecutor as part of an appeal filed by one of the pimps who was arrested and convicted by the group.
An upcoming hearing could give the public its first glimpse of former cops who could be slapped with federal charges. For t10 months the I-Team has been reporting about an FBI investigation into alleged improprieties within an elite unit which once pursued the most notorious pimps in Nevada. But, now, the pimps are the ones in pursuit.
The FBI does not confirm the existence of any investigation, but the I-Team has learned that the same people who are the targets of a 3-year federal probe are being hauled into court to be questioned by lawyers for one of the people they sent to prison.
"It's way bigger than Chris Baughman; there are other individuals who haven't been named," said Ocean Fleming.
Back in March, when convicted pimp Ocean Fleming spoke by phone to a Chicago filmmaker, he recited what became a blueprint for his attorneys to appeal his sentence of 15 to life.
Fleming was reacting to I-Team stories about an FBI investigation into the men and women who put him behind bars. Fleming confirmed that agents had been to the prison to ask him questions. Now, months later, his attorneys are going after that same group.
"Last court hearing witnesses that have contacted me are anonymous sources. Some are metro officers; other people that worked with metro, victim advocates," said Janieve Marshall, defense attorney.
Marshall's effort to get a new trial for Fleming is on a parallel track to the FBI's investigation. The court has set aside two days in October for Marshall to depose witnesses.
It is likely that Marshall has sent subpoenas to former vice detective Chris Baughman, whose highly publicized arrests of high-profile pimps landed him book deals and a TV show, along with Baughman's partner, vice officer Al Beas. Beas still works for Metro Police.
Former vice lieutenant Karen Hughes, who created and oversaw the Pimp Enforcement Team is also likely to be deposed. Hughes allegedly had an affair with Baughman.
Marshall's also expected to call intelligence detective Warren Gray, who introduced Baughman to music producer and outcall owner Mally Mall, along with Liz Mercer, the deputy D.A. who prosecuted many of Baughman's cases. Mercer had an affair with Baughman. The two are now married.
The names of other potential witnesses are being withheld because of possible intimidation, but at least three women who interacted with the pimp enforcement team could testify on the stand or via affidavit, along with a former close associate of Mally Mall. Mally Mall's former close associate could testify that he witnessed money changing hands and that pimps and prostitutes were given notice about pending raids by other vice cops.
"I'm focusing on the witnesses in this case; if they were influenced, pressured, or coerced in any way to give certain testimony," said Judge Michael Villani at the last hearing.
Judge Villani wants to limit the depositions to the issue of whether the testimony was tainted, but Fleming's lawyers have cast a wide net, much like the FBI.
Federal agents believe that Baughman and Beas engaged in sexual relations with multiple prostitutes; women who were both victims and key witnesses.
Fleming and other pimps targeted by the team have alleged that the witnesses were coached or coerced into exaggerating about violent crimes so harsher sentences were imposed and bigger headlines were generated.
Raymond Sharpe, who's serving 13 life sentences, has filed an appeal based on the same allegations raised by Fleming.
"It's a whole different story now," Fleming said. "I got seven females that are willing to testify that they had been coached by Liz Mercer in certain cases to meet certain elements of the crime."
Given that the FBI is investigating these matters, there's a good chance that some of the key witnesses will invoke their fifth amendment rights so that nothing they might say in Fleming's case could be used against them if or when the federal charges are unveiled.
But defense attorneys will still get to ask the questions on the stand.
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