Tuesday, May 18, 2010 | 11:36 a.m.
A former North Las Vegas police officer was sentenced Tuesday to probation and six months of house arrest for improper behavior while working as a patrol officer, including seeking dates and sexual favors from women he stopped for traffic violations.
James Vernon Clayton, 40, pleaded guilty in December to five gross misdemeanor counts – three counts of attempted misconduct by a public officer and two counts of oppression under color of office. He was sentenced to three years of probation, with a condition of his probation being six months of house arrest. He was also fined $5,000 and given an underlying sentence of five years, meaning if he violates his probation, he could spend five years behind bars.
The charges stem from allegations related to Clayton’s interactions with five adult women. Clayton was arrested in December 2008 and was ultimately fired from the police force.
“Obviously, this is a nightmare. It’s my fault. I don’t blame anybody else. I think there are some circumstances, but the whole thing is my fault,” Clayton said in asking District Court Judge James Bixler for mercy. “No matter what happens today, (this situation) will always be my biggest failure, my biggest regret.”
He told the judge his problems started after his divorce.
Clayton’s lawyer, Thomas Beatty, read from a number of letters written to the judge on his client’s behalf. He said since the situation became public, Clayton had suffered “extreme public humiliation” and had been heckled by people on the street. He also said Clayton’s children had been harassed at school.
“He understands this will not just disappear and that there is a long way to go to make things right,” Beatty told the judge. “He is repentant, he is remorseful.”
Beatty asked for probation, saying Clayton had suffered enough by losing his job, his family and his self-respect. He also pointed to the possible security considerations that would need to be undertaken by the jail if Clayton, as a former police officer, were incarcerated.
He further said that Clayton had developed a good relationship with his ex-wife and was seeing his three children daily. He also said he wished to continue to care for his ailing brother, with whom he is living.
Prosecutors argued for four months of jail time as a condition of probation.
“From the onset of this case, what the state found most disturbing is here’s an individual charged with our public safety -- we’ve blindly given him our trust to protect community, we’ve given him a badge, and he’s vitiated all of that, including blemishing his department,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Stacy Kollins said.
She said Clayton’s actions went “far beyond trying to get a date and far beyond flirtation.”
Three of the women were scheduled to speak at Tuesday’s hearing but none showed up, Kollins told the judge, adding that the case had been difficult to prosecute because the women were reluctant to come forward for fear of retaliation.
“This is a man who used his badge, has tarnished that department, has intimidated multiple females in this community and he deserves some punishment,” Kollins argued.
In handing down his sentence, Bixler offered harsh words for Clayton and how his actions had impacted the victims.
“You’ve shaken their faith, their trust in the most sacred thing that we all believe in -- our police. Our police are the rock that we rely on and you … violated that trust,” he said.
After the hearing, Clayton declined to comment. He has remained out of custody after posting a $73,000 bond.