John L. Smith says these are strange days at the Clark County Regional Justice Center.
Among defense attorneys at the courthouse, the effort to win a new trial for convicted Las Vegas pimp Ocean Fleming continues to generate a buzz.
Fleming, convicted in 2012 of felonies ranging from kidnapping and pandering to assault, received a life sentence and isn’t eligible for parole until 2025.
But now key witnesses in the Metro Vice investigation have recanted their damning testimony. And, worse yet for the police department, the prostitutes are claiming lead investigator - former Detective Christopher Baughman - exploited their relationship for sex.
“The women have recanted their testimony and in addition, they said they were coached into giving that damning testimony that wound up being used to convict Ocean Fleming," Smith explained, "They were coached, allegedly, according to court documents by detective Christopher Baughman a former Metro Vice detective and head of the pandering unit. And also by a member of the District Attorney’s office, a veteran prosecutor named Liz Mercer.”
The ex-detective is also accused in court documents of accepting cash payments and other inducements from a Fleming rival on the street named Jamal Rashid, who is also known as the music producer Mally Mall.
“It wouldn’t be all that surprising for one person on the street to drop a dime on the competition in order to eliminate them,” Smith said.
Detectives hear those tips all the time but if that relationship crossed a line it could be a big problem. It has not been proven that Baughman and Mally Mall's relationship was problematic.
However, Fleming's attorney Janiece Mitchell has pointed to questionable phone conversations between Baughman and Mally Mall while Fleming was on trial.
It is unclear what was said because Baughman used the 5th Amendment during the FBI investigation.
“You’re getting a lot of stuff that is starting to build up," Smith said, "This is why the defense attorney is attempting to get more discovery and to ask some questions and these are hard questions."
Fleming hasn’t won a new trial yet, but Mitchell is tearing into the police department as she battles to receive approval for more discovery and an evidentiary hearing.
Smith says the allegations are damaging and are already having an impact.
“It has cast a shadow over the vice department," he said, "It has raised some issues about the activities of the former leader of that department and of those detectives.”
In a story substantially reported by KLAS I-Team investigator George Knapp, the FBI is also investigating the case through its public corruption office.
For Smith, the case and its fallout raise a lot more questions. He said there are pimps who are getting only a slap on the wrist for some of the same behavior that Fleming was sentenced to life in prison for.
“What it says to me, at least, it says there is a system of prosecution of prostitution-related cases that is disarray at the district attorney’s office, at Metro, inside the court system," he said, "There is something that needs a little sunshine shed on it.”
And although no one is arguing that Ocean Fleming is a good guy or that he is totally innocent of any charges, “to put someone under the penitentiary for a life sentence, that is a very, very serious thing to do," Smith said.
And if that sentence is based on a too-cozy relationship with a police officer and Fleming's rival, "justice would call to have something done."
John L. Smith, contributor
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