California police move to investigate rural Nevada sheriff over alleged 2015 rape
California police are investigating Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro for his possible involvement in the 2015 rape of a woman in a Lodi hotel.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office said in July it had no plans to pursue charges against the sheriff after a lengthy investigation, informed California police and the FBI of the accusation centering around a deposition made as part of an ongoing lawsuit against Antinoro by a former deputy, according to emails obtained in a public records request by The Nevada Independent.
The emails state that the Lodi Police Department is “moving forward on the appropriate initial investigative steps” surrounding allegations in a civil lawsuit that Antinoro arranged for a forced sexual assault by three men against his former girlfriend at a Lodi hotel in 2015. General Investigations Sgt. Rick Garcia of the Lodi Police Department confirmed Thursday that an investigation into the incident is ongoing but could provide no further details.
The attorney general’s initial investigation identified five women as potential victims of Antinoro, and determined that four of them, through both interviews that produced denials and in reviewing the statute of limitations, either were not victims or could not press charges against the sheriff.
However, investigators were never able to contact the fifth possible victim after several phone calls and home visits. But on August 29, an attorney for a former deputy who is suing Antinoro sent the deposition to the attorney general’s office, which included precise details of the alleged 2015 rape and, for the first time, a first-hand witness to crimes allegedly committed by Antinoro.
In her deposition, which was obtained by The Nevada Independent, the unnamed victim said that although Antinoro has made no explicit threat against her, she feared retaliation. She even feared being deposed in the civil suit, asking “now that I’ve given this testimony, well, what’s he going to do?”
In June 2015, Antinoro allegedly brought the woman to California to celebrate her birthday. While at their hotel, Antinoro met with three men who would later enter their room and sexually assault her, according to the deposition.
On August 31, the attorney general’s office referred the new details of the case to the Lodi police, San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, San Joaquin County District Attorney, and the FBI, and later attempted again to contact the fifth victim through her lawyer, Reno Attorney Cal Dunlap. Because the location of the alleged crime happened outside state lines, the attorney general’s office typically would not have jurisdiction over the incident unless asked to intervene by local law enforcement.
In a Sept. 13 email obtained through the records request, Dunlap wrote that he was representing the unnamed victim and requested that all future correspondence go through him. He wrote that Laxalt’s office had no jurisdiction in the case and that the attorney general had a “major conflict of interest” and no “legitimate reason” to be involved in the case.
“(Redacted’s) privacy should not be further invaded and she should no longer be stalked by anyone, including any member of your office and/or any of their agents,” he wrote.
Dunlap, who operates a law office with Monique Laxalt — a cousin of Adam Laxalt — declined to comment on the emails Wednesday. Monique Laxalt is hosting a fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak later this month.
Replying to Dunlap, Senior Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Segal said in a Sept. 17 email it was “insulting” to insinuate that his work in the investigation was politically motivated — noting that he was hired by Cortez Masto, a Democrat — and said no conflict of interest existed between Laxalt and Antinoro.
“It is extremely concerning that you have not returned my calls and refuse to talk to any law enforcement authorities to help advance a criminal investigation when your client — whom you are attempting to shield from contact with any law enforcement — is currently the only witness that could potentially provide the direct evidence necessary to investigate Sheriff Antinoro,” he wrote. “I hope that your actions — which have thwarted further criminal investigation of Sheriff Antinoro — are not politically motivated.”
Antinoro endorsed Laxalt and attorney general candidate Wes Duncan in their 2018 bids for office prior to the attorney general’s investigation into his behavior. Both Duncan and Laxalt have said they don’t plan to campaign with Antinoro and removed his endorsement from their respective websites.
Antinoro survived a 2017 recall election and won another four-year term during the state’s July primary election.
The deposition comes from a lawsuit filed by former Storey County Sheriff’s Deputy Melanie Keener, who accused Antinoro of workplace sexual harassment in 2016 — claims that were corroborated by an investigation into the matter by the county later that year. She is now suing Antinoro in both state and federal court, alleging he violated anti-discrimination and equal employment laws by transferring her out of the sheriff’s office after she filed a complaint against him.
The attorney general’s office had conducted an investigation into Antinoro this summer, after prompting from Reno developer Don Roger Norman caused the office to look into other claims of inappropriate behavior dating back to 2006. The investigation was declared closed in July when investigators failed to find evidence of criminal conduct committed by Antinoro within the statute of limitations, and noted that former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s office had received a similar tip in 2014 and declined to act on it.
Disclosure: Steve Sisolak has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can view a full list of donors here.
4:00 PM: This story was updated to add confirmation of the investigation from the Lodi Police Department.