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Camera in courthouse hallways used to intimidate jurors

Contributor: John Treanor
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Updated: 7/18 12:28 pm

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Metro police caught their break among million-dollar homes in the southwest Las Vegas golf community of Rhodes Ranch.

Ocean Fleming, a notorious pimp, had evaded capture before. Fleming was so brazen, yet so seemingly untouchable, that police had begun calling him “Teflon.” But now he may have been too bold to escape an arrest on kidnapping and beating charges.

Fleming’s fall from power — he was known as “O” on Las Vegas streets — began Sept. 29, 2011, when police arrested him after a violent incident involving a prostitute.

The day before, one of Fleming’s prostitutes, a 19-year-old woman named April, fled a Rhodes Ranch neighborhood and flagged down a neighbor in a car, according to court records.

April jumped into the woman’s car and begged for help. Fleming blocked them and threatened to throw a rock through the window if the neighbor did not unlock the doors Fleming then dragged the younger woman away.

Armed with the 911 call, photos, social media and several reluctant and scared witnesses, police arrested Fleming the next day. They found April two days later in a Las Vegas home. She had been trying to escape from Fleming and had signs of recent, violent injuries, according to records.

“He was a prime focus of our section and that’s how he would beat charges. He would intimidate victims,” says Metro Sgt. Don Hoyer.

Now, with their target under arrest, police only had to convince a jury of his guilt.

But in the county courthouse they would be introduced to a new kind of crime and a much different criminal.

“He just seemed like a guy who was on a mission to disrupt the trial,” Hoyer said of Antonio Woods, a friend of Fleming’s.

Hoyer saw it happen in the hallway of the Regional Justice Center.

Woods took out his cell phone and snapped photos of jury members when they were not in the courtroom.

“He was taking photographs and video of the jury and would follow them to the end of the hall,” Hoyer says

It was, as Assistant District Attorney Noreen DeMonte says, a message to the jurors – a message that so frightened them that two years later they don’t want to go on camera to discuss it.

DeMonte says this type of attempted jury intimidation hadn’t been seen before in Clark County District Court. The impact of the hallway photography had not registered “until Juror Number 12 reported through a note to the bailiff.”

A judge can make sure jurors only see and hear certain things in the courtroom, but when they leave for breaks and recesses they can be exposed to potential intimidation and information they should not know to remain impartial.

“We don’t do much to those jurors,” Sgt. Hoyer says. “You can walk on any floor and see jurors out in the hallway.”

The Regional Justice Center has only one jury deliberation room for several courtrooms. So, during breaks there’s no place to put jurors. Instead, they walk the hallways with suspects, victims, attorneys and others.

That gave Fleming’s friend, Antonio Woods, all the access he needed to try to scare jurors, cause a mistrial or buy more time for Fleming.

In spite of Woods’ actions, the jury convicted Fleming of 22 counts including kidnapping, pandering, living off the earnings of a prostitute and battery in 2012.

The judge sentenced him to 35 years in prison.

Fleming appealed the conviction. The Nevada Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Thursday.

For his actions in the courthouse hallway, Woods was charged not with taking photos of jurors, but with assaulting an undercover officer. He pleaded guilty.

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