VIRGINIA CITY, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- With the primary election just around the corner, accusations of rape have surfaced in the Storey County Sheriff's race. Sheriff Gerald Antinoro is squaring off against two of his own deputies in his re-election bid. But the fact that they all work together has not stopped this race from getting downright ugly.
Antinoro said he has never seen anything like it. "Definitely one of the dirtiest campaigns I've ever seen in my 30 years in law enforcement."
As Antinoro seeks his second term as sheriff on the Comstock, he finds himself not only defending his record, but his character. Antinoro is facing off against Tim Guthrie and Shawn Mahan.
Among the questions that have surfaced is why a member of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang is featured in one of Antinoro's campaign brochures planting trees. News 4 asked Antinoro for an explanation. "So he belongs to an outlaw motorcycle group, but anybody who's willing to lend a hand and improve our community, I'm not going to turn that down."
News 4 has also been contacted by several people inside and outside the Storey County Sheriff's Office, who claim Antinoro covered up a murder after Virginia City resident Judy Black fell down some stairs in her house and died recently.
Antinoro said all signs point to an accidental death. But sources close to the case said the scene looked suspicious, because of the amount of blood found throughout the house on Combination Road. They said there was blood upstairs and downstairs, and that Black suffered "trauma from head to toe". Our sources also said her injuries were so severe that her family was not allowed to see view body at the mortuary.
The sheriff said there is no cover-up. "It's been thoroughly examined, thoroughly documented," Antintoro insisted.
But that does not compare to a complaint filed with Sparks Police in January, accusing Antinoro of rape. The alleged victim told police, "(Then deputy sheriff) Antinoro had sex with me while (another deputy named) Dosen pleasured himself." The alleged victim said it happened sometime in 2006. That was eight years ago.
News 4 asked Sheriff Antinoro to respond to the allegation. "One, I categorically deny committing any sexual assault at anytime in my life," he said.
Antinoro said he questions why the complaint was filed eight years after the fact, during the middle of a political campaign. And he also wonders why he was never even contacted by Sparks Police.
The Sparks Police Department said by the time that complaint was filed, the statute of limitations on rape had already expired. So there was nothing for them to investigate. As for why the woman who filed the complaint waited eight years before speaking up, Sparks Police said they did not ask about that, because they do not want to discourage other potential victims from coming forward in any case.
Even though the case was never investigated, the accusation is out there and the complaint is now a public document. "It stinks of a witch hunt," said Antinoro. "Unnamed person making a complaint where there's absolutely no basis."
If that is the case, the question is, why in the typically friendly, small town of Virginia City have the politics become so mean-spirited?
It depends who you ask. Some say Virginia City is simply a town that does not like change. "It's the old guard versus the new guard," said local business owner Breck Greninger. "And Jerry rode in wearing a white hat."
Others, like Storey County District Attorney Bill Maddox, said it is simply a fact of life in a small town where everybody knows everyone. "It's a little more personal, the fewer people you have. In Virginia City, most of the people know the candidates, so it's a little more personal in small towns than it is in the big cities."
The question is, will the rumors and the accusations impact the vote on election day?
News 4 did speak with Guthrie and Mahan, the other two candidates in the race. They both deny having any role in spreading these accusations.
As far as the rape allegation, that case is closed. When it comes to the death of Judy Black, Sheriff Antinoro said it appears to be accidental, but he is awaiting the results of an autopsy before making it official.
Early voting in Storey County begins on Saturday.