Report on UNLV student boxing death draws anger, not action

Aug 23, 2022, 3:08 AM | Updated: 3:53 pm
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli responds while being questioned during a State of Nev...

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli responds while being questioned during a State of Nevada Athletic Commission meeting held to discuss the Nevada Attorney General's investigation findings regarding the death of UNLV student Nathan Valencia, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in Las Vegas. Valencia, 20, died at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center on Nov. 23, 2021, days after participating in a charity boxing match sponsored by a UNLV fraternity. (Wade Vandervort/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

(Wade Vandervort/Las Vegas Sun via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada boxing regulators on Tuesday called the death of a University of Nevada, Las Vegas student after he fought in a fraternity charity boxing match last November a tragedy and branded the event “an illegal fight.”

But they said they lacked authority then or now to take criminal action in the case.

“It’s clear now that regulations and statutes were violated, and a man died,” Nevada Athletic Commission member Anthony Marnell III said as the five-member panel received a 158-page report from the state attorney general about the death of 20-year-old UNLV student Nathan Valencia.

The report concludes that a police department statement last December that no crime had been committed was too definitive and “premature.”

“This statement completely foreclosed the possibility of any future prosecution — regardless of any additional investigative findings,” it said.

“This was an underground fight … an illegal fight, and somebody died,” Marnell said after referring to strict rules about safety, training, equipment, medical care, insurance and referee requirements that would have had to be followed if the commission was in charge. “This can’t happen again.”

A key loophole in state law exempted from commission oversight competitions “exclusively” involving students and conducted by schools, colleges, universities and associated organizations.

Commission Chairman Commission Chairman Stephen J. Cloobeck last December invoked authority to close that loophole and require written commission permission for future charity contests or exhibitions.

Valencia died at a hospital four days after the match sponsored by school-sanctioned fraternity Kappa Sigma. The Clark County coroner ruled his death a homicide — a finding that did not call it a criminal act.

With Valencia family members in the audience, Cloobeck on Tuesday berated and accused Las Vegas police, Clark County prosecutors and event venue representatives of inaction. He also unleashed an expletive-laced commentary about political divisiveness.

“This is a young man’s death that didn’t have to happen,” Cloobeck said, mourning the emotional toll Valencia’s death had on his family, the community and others involved in the annual Kappa Sigma Fraternity “Fight Night” at an off-campus arena.

Still, the commission took no official action as it accepted the report. The document offered three “key findings” about the limits of police involvement and concluded that neither the Athletic Commission nor any regulatory body had the authority to prosecute criminal infractions.

Las Vegas police were not called about Valencia’s injuries until four days after the charity event, Deputy Chief James LaRochelle told the commission.

The department investigated whether the venue had proper permits, but did not open a murder investigation. It concluded Valencia’s death was “not criminal and no charges will be filed.”

“We did not have criminal charges,” LaRochelle said Tuesday, adding that the department “disputes contents of” the attorney general report.

Christopher Lalli, a top administrator in Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson’s office, told commissioners that prosecutors don’t initiate investigations but would assess evidence about Valencia’s death if it is presented.

“As of right now, there is nothing that has been submitted,” he said.

Cloobeck referred to photos showing the referee ringside with a canned beverage in his hand, suggested that people drank alcohol and used cocaine during the event, and asked why police never collected boxing gloves from Valencia’s opponent, Emmanuel Aleman.

Attorney Jordan Logan, representing Aleman and his family, told the commission he wasn’t contacted by attorney general’s office investigators until April and wasn’t asked to turn over Aleman’s boxing equipment for examination.

“There was never an attempt on our part to prevent or hinder this investigation,” Logan told the commission. “We were just never asked.”

Valencia’s family has a wrongful death lawsuit pending against the university, the fraternity, the amateur referee who officiated and the venue that hosted the fight. Aleman is not a defendant in that case.

The fraternity chapter was suspended in December by UNLV and its national organization. It is no longer affiliated with the university, campus spokesman Francis McCabe said.

Lawyers representing the family did not immediately respond Tuesday to messages.

Sahara Event Center owner Daniel Corsatea and his attorney, Stephen Reid, attended the commission meeting but declined to comment citing the pending civil lawsuit.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Report on UNLV student boxing death draws anger, not action