The tragic death of a college student stemming from a boxing event has taken an ugly, politicized turn.
This story is a bumpy ride so buckle up for your tour into…
Nevada: the most partisan government I’ve ever seen.
Before we get to the political grave-robbing and grandstanding on the preventable death of a college student, and before we discuss the shotty reasoning the current Sheriff and Trump-backed candidate for Governor was called upon to resign, let’s start at the beginning.
The now-suspended chapter of the University of Las Vegas fraternity Kappa Sigma held an annual “Fight Night”, reported to be styled as a Fight Club-themed event, on Nov 19. Four days following the match, 20-year-old student Nathan Valencia passed away from brain injuries. Reports from eyewitnesses say that Valencia became unconscious during the bout and an amateur referee allowed the fight to continue, leading to Valencia taking blows to the head while defenseless. The coroner ruled the manner of death as a homicide, a finding that does not inherently conclude criminality.
Nevada state law exempts the Nevada State Athletic Commission from oversight for competitions “exclusively” involving students and conducted by schools, colleges, universities, and associated organizations. This means that the annual charity event was unregulated, and safety precautions that are generally required for commission-sanctioned events were neither requisite nor implemented. The Athletic Commission has since invoked an authority to require written permission from the commission for future charity contests or exhibitions.
As you can imagine, the likely-avoidable loss of life and hindsight vision has created grief, anger, and legal battles including a civil suit filed by Valencia’s family claiming wrongful death against the university, the fraternity, the amateur referee who officiated, and the venue that hosted the fight.
Now, a new type of fight is ensuing and the contenders all have political aims amid election season. First, let’s look at some of the key players involved.
- Commission Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck is an appointee of NV Governor Steve Sisolak (D), who is currently running for re-election. Cloobeck is also a major donor to Democrat political campaigns, shelling out over $100,000 this year.
- Current Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo is the Republican challenger for the Governor’s office.
- Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford (D) is running for re-election against Sigal Chattah (R). Ford’s campaign received contributions from Cloobeck.
- Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson (D) is running for re-election against Timothy Treffinger (R). The case was never referred to DA’s office but Commissioner Cloobeck is sure to clear him of criticism to the local media, anyway.
As you can see, every named official that has a pertinent role in the aftermath of the fatal boxing match is also personally invested in the outcomes of partisan campaigns. This is inherently so because aside from the appointee, they all ran in elections to get those roles to begin with. Where it becomes problematic is when their public duties become campaign soapboxes and political theater.
It’s important to note that everyone named is a Democrat except the Sheriff who is running for Governor on the Republican ticket– so, if you had to guess who they want to place blame on, who would you imagine the blame target to be? The one Republican, duh.
On Tuesday, the Athletic Commission responded to a 158-page investigation report about Valencia’s death from the Attorney General’s office. The report concludes that a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (Metro) statement made last December indicating that no crime had been committed was too definitive and “premature”. The report also says “This statement completely foreclosed the possibility of any future prosecution — regardless of any additional investigative findings.”
I question those conclusions, personally. The intent is a consideration in criminality, and it can’t be concluded that anyone intended for Valencia to lose his life. It was an accident, albeit a senseless one.
The legal separation of morality and duty to act
Recalling a tragic incident in Florida where teens video-recorded and laughed as a man drowned, instead of seeking to aid him in any way– the teens were not charged because there is no statute that requires them to act in the preservation of another’s life. Were their actions immoral? Absolutely, and both the Florida Attorney General and police condemned the teens’ behaviors, but they couldn’t conclude criminality. CNN reported law enforcement’s statements:
The state of Florida currently does not have a law where a citizen is obligated to render aid or call for help for anyone in distress. “If there was (a law like that) we would charge them,” Cocoa Police Department spokeswoman Yvonne Martinez told CNN by phone. “The family is frustrated … the detectives are frustrated, that we cannot hold anyone accountable for this,” Martinez added. “No one deserves to go like that.”
“We don’t have anything criminal resulting from that incident,” Martinez said. “Our detectives were trying to get potentially if a negligence law could apply. The state attorney advises it doesn’t meet standard for a criminal charge.”
“We are deeply saddened and shocked at both the manner in which Mr. Dunn lost his life and the actions of the witnesses to this tragedy,” the state attorney’s office said in a statement. “While the incident depicted on the recording does not give rise to sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution under Florida statutes, we can find no moral justification for either the behavior of persons heard on the recording or the deliberate decision not to render aid to Mr. Dunn.”
One pronounced difference in comparing the cases is that the teens intended and anticipated that the man in Florida drowned. As immoral as it may be, they had no statutory responsibility to be decent or helpful human beings. There was a lot more intent in the fatal outcome of the drowned man than can be levied against anyone regarding the boxing match fatality. Nobody wanted that outcome.
Cut back to Nevada: the AG’s report didn’t conclude that there was any criminality, either. Just that the police made a statement that they didn’t find criminality earlier than the AG would have preferred them to. Then, the report goes on to imagine that this statement has barred any prosecution, ever. Which is a ridiculous and likely disingenuous thing to conclude. If we had someone come out and say, “I intended for the death to occur and/or took actions to ensure it”, bet your butt Metro would send that over to the DA’s office for prosecution. I feel this is a false statement in the report, and the assertion is hyperbole.
Governor Sisolak (D) responded to the AG’s report by commending the work of… just the Democrats, and not his political opponent. Although, so far all they have concluded is that no Democrats are at fault. The statement says,
The Governor appreciates the work of the Attorney General and Nevada Athletic Commission on this important topic.
Athletic Commission’s Kangaroo Court Proceedings
During Tuesday’s meeting, an athletic board commissioner asserted that “this was an illegal fight, an underground fight.” No, it wasn’t. It was a school-sanctioned annual charity event. It followed all of the non-rules and imaginary protocols the commission so thoughtfully required, year after year. Yet, somehow the commission found a power (they seemingly had all along) to now require their written approval for this type of event. There is only one entity in the entire state tasked with making sure boxing matches do not end in death and it happens to be the Athletic Commission. But, the Sheriff is a Republican, so the proceedings are a witch-hunt.
Metro agreed to requests to be “participatory” on the issues raised, giving assurances during the hearing. Representatives of the department were often under verbal attack, instructed by Cloobeck that he didn’t want “no Bull”.
During the hearing, Cloobeck had the audacity to ask Geordan Logan, the attorney for the fighter opposite Valencia, Emmanual Aleman, to turn over his client’s boxing gloves suggesting he should do so on Wednesday, the next day. Aleman is not a defendant in the wrongful death lawsuit and was never asked by any law enforcement agency or the Attorney General’s office to turn over his boxing equipment. This kangaroo court has unilaterally decided that Aleman’s counsel should give over property that has never been formally requested, per their whims, without a warrant, or any kind of process his counsel would be accustomed to operating in compliance thereof. It’s highly irregular, in an open public meeting, for an appointed commissioner to ask an attorney to turn over their client’s property, immediately. Such a request needs to go in front of a judge, show cause, and possibly motions could be filed -you know the thing- due process of law.
It is far beyond the scope of the Athletic Commission to have a criminal justice outcome in mind, to demand murder investigations, or to decide what needs to be casually collected as evidence per their informal request. 158 pages later, the Attorney General’s office concludes that someone else needs to keep on investigating because the initial investigation and their investigation of that investigation require more investigation. Got it. I guess Cloobeck and his commission figured this meant they were deputized and should turn public meetings into mock trials.
Cloobeck took the nothing burger of “investigation of the investigation for more investigation” to also conclude that the Sheriff should resign, immediately. No, not for anything having to do with Valencia’s death, but because the Sheriff is running for Governor, after holding a non-partisan office– which apparently to Cloobeck means the Sheriff has gone partisan for coco puffs.
In a bizarre rant to local media 8NewsNow, Cloobeck explained his nonsensical thinking,
Murphy: What would you say to critics who say you are making this political, attacking the sheriff directly?
Cloobeck: “Because the sheriff decided to run for governor and make it political. Ask him. Never before has the sheriff run for governor and become partisan. The sheriff’s always been non-partisan. He’s now running an institution as a partisan … it’s a non-partisan job.
He’s supposed to be non-partisan, I hope that he can wear different hats, like when goes on the campaign trail, he puts his little ‘R’ hat on and goes, ‘Trump, Trump, Trump,’ and does that kind of nonsense. But then when he was running Metro, he puts on that non-partisan hat. And he has a Chinese wall. I don’t know, ask him.”
Don’t say Chinese
It is unknown what Cloobeck meant by telling the public that Sheriff Lombardo “has a Chinese wall.” It seems he, himself, doesn’t know what he meant. The assertion is so random, casually race-invoking, and veiled in meaning (and this story is so bonkers already) that the angle has yet to be followed to the Chinese wall.
It’s worth noting that one time Nye County Commissioner Donna Cox said that the Governor’s wife, Kathy Sisolak, was “Chinese” and questioned if she was profiting from pandemic-era policies. There was immediate backlash, local headlines, and all the Democrats went rabid calling her ‘racist’ and rebuking her comments as ‘vile’.
Well, a few months after he won, he married his wife. Now how long he’d known her I have no idea, but she is Chinese. And you put two and two together … they actually said that her family in China own a company that’s making a lot of money off of this issue. That she’s here in the United States promoting and selling all these masks and emergency equipment and everything, and they’re all being shipped over from China.
Cox was raising concerns about a conflict of interest and called Kathy Sisolak “Chinese”, ethnically. That’s because she is. The Governor’s official website describes Kathy’s father saying, “Her father was the first Chinese dealer on Fremont Street.” So, while everyone used colorful language to describe Cox’s naughty behavior of, saying Chinese; there were no statements made on if there was a conflict of interest regarding pandemic-era policies and Kathy’s business dealings.
All we learned is that nobody can say, “Chinese”, unless you’re the Governor, then you can put it on your official website. The fact that Cloobeck made the allegation of having a “Chinese wall” (whatever it means) and no opportunistic outrage followed just shows there are two sets of rules.
The disgusting, racist comments aimed at our First Lady Kathy Sisolak have no place in our state. Home Means Nevada for everyone, in all of our communities. This kind of racism, bigotry, and intolerance is simply unacceptable, especially from an elected official. https://t.co/pK0967EHvW
— William McCurdy II (@WillMcCurdyII) August 10, 2021
Exit Stage Right
The rest of Cloobeck’s rants are just a bunch of made-up rules that aren’t applicable in our elections codes, thus misleading voters about what partisan and non-partisan offices entail. If Cloobeck wants to make up some rules they best be about school-sanctioned boxing and require more than a permission slip. Otherwise, don’t count on passing the blame to whoever is on the wrong side of the aisle when unregulated boxing, goes wrong. Pick a struggle, Cloobeck.
There is one voice calling a spade a spade and it’s Elizabeth Ray. The Lombardo for Governor Spokesperson responded to the outrageous antics by saying,
“Just like his boss and political godfather Steve Sisolak, Stephen Cloobeck is using his government position to do Sisolak’s political bidding. While the Sisolak Administration is the most corrupt in Nevada history, it is still disappointing to see these greasy, pay-to-play antics seep into the Nevada Athletic Commission. Frankly, it is an embarrassment to our state … but fortunately, when Joe Lombardo is governor, he’ll clean it up. Maybe that’s why they’re working so hard to protect their power.”
Metro released a statement after the hearing calling it “unprofessional and unproductive.” That’s one way to say it. Here’s another: It’s an absolute mockery that there is a mourning family and a lawyered-up fight-night participant being used as a political pawn, while the public is subjected to belligerent outbursts, expletives, and midterm partisan playbooks. It’s gross.
Nevadans, please vote better.