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October 25, 2014

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Familiar face in awkward place in court

Man charged with sex crime involving minor owns company that counsels defendants

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Steven Brox

Las Vegas Justice Court

Steven Brox is a familiar face at the county courthouse, where his counseling company helps people charged with crimes get through the justice system.

Now it turns out that Brox himself could use some of that counseling.

Brox, 44, has been charged in a six-count criminal complaint stemming from an alleged sexual assault in December of one of his relatives, a 15-year-old girl.

The case has shaken up Las Vegas Justice Court, which has been doing most of the courthouse business with his company, United States Justice Associates.

“We are all shocked,” Chief Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman said. “Nobody would have imagined that he could be charged with this kind of crime.”

District Judge Doug Smith, who preceded Zimmerman as chief justice of the peace, added: “It took me by surprise because of his involvement in the system helping people.”

Smith said that he has been friendly with Brox over the years, but hasn’t talked to him in “a long time.” Smith still uses the services of United States Justice Associates in District Court when he sentences defendants, however.

United States Justice Associates is one of several companies that offer counseling programs in alcohol and drug abuse, anger management, AIDS awareness and petty larceny. Judges often order defendants to attend such programs as part of an effort to steer them out of the justice system and keep them from returning.

Brox says in a letter on the United States Justice Associates Web site that those who enroll in his company’s programs gain a “better understanding of themselves and the court system, along with a better understanding of how to stay out of the court system.”

Zimmerman said she polled eight of the 12 justices of the peace attending a judges meeting late last week and found that several of them had used Brox’s company in the past, but only one justice of the peace, Joseph Sciscento, is currently dealing with the company.

Sciscento had been assigned Brox’s criminal case, and Zimmerman said Sciscento agreed it would be best if he got off it because of the potential conflict of interest.

Zimmerman, who said she has not had any dealings with Brox, noted that because Brox is so well-known at the courthouse, she is looking to have a judge from outside Las Vegas Justice Court hear the case.

Brox initially was booked on three gross misdemeanor lewdness charges at the beginning of this month. One of the justices of the peace who worked with Brox’s company in the past, Tony Abbatangelo, released Brox on his own recognizance Sept. 2 as part of an agreement between detectives and Brox’s attorney, Robert Draskovich.

That week, Abbatangelo was acting as the court’s signing judge, a rotating assignment in which, among other things, new criminal cases are reviewed for proper probable cause, Zimmerman said.

Abbatangelo did not return phone calls, but Zimmerman said he told her that he thought he could act in the case because he hadn’t used Brox’s company in his court for several years.

On Sept. 9, after taking another look at the evidence, the district attorney’s office filed a criminal complaint against Brox, adding three felony charges, including attempted sexual assault with a minor under 16. Brox is to appear for his arraignment on the six charges in Justice Court on Nov. 2.

District Attorney David Roger said his special victims unit found enough evidence to warrant the additional felony charges.

“We will treat this case the same as we would any other sexually related case,” he said.

Brox declined to comment, but Draskovich said his client is taking a leave of absence from his company pending the outcome of the charges.

“He maintains his innocence and looks forward to being exonerated,” Draskovich said. “We’re dealing with a teenage girl, and the reliability of her accusations is going to be in question.”

The encounter between Brox and the girl allegedly occurred at his home on Dec. 27, but it wasn’t reported to police until last month, after her mother learned about it. The teen told her mother she didn’t disclose the incident earlier because she was afraid of Brox, a police report says.

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