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DA drops charges against youth pastor

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POSTED July 3, 2014 1:12 a.m.

The fate of Rob Cox now rests in the hands of the Clark County Grand Jury. 

On Wednesday the Las Vegas prosecutor dropped the murder case against the Manteca youth pastor in a technical move that essentially transfers the case from the open courtroom to a sealed, closed session – leaving the decision on whether to move forward with formal charges of murder up to 17 members who could decide as early as Tuesday whether they’ll indict Cox. 

A motion by Cox’s attorneys to return the $100,000 cash bail amount that was posted in order to release him from San Joaquin County Jail on the condition that he appear in a Las Vegas courtroom was granted Wednesday afternoon. One of his attorneys, Frank Cofer, said that he would now be heading home. 

“Right now he’s getting ready to await the grand jury’s decision,” said Cofer – a partner in the firm of Cofer, Geller and Durham. “We’re confident that he’ll be exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”

Cox was arrested last month at The Place of Refuge – where he is an associate pastor that works closely with the youth in the church – on a Clark County murder warrant. 

He spent almost a week in the San Joaquin County Jail and was originally set to be extradited to Nevada to answer the charges. Prosecutors allege that Cox punched 55-year-old Link Ellingson in the face after the 6-foot, 8-inch man charged the 18-member group that Cox had been traveling with from Texas back to California – knocking the man to the ground. 

Ellingson sustained a major head injury, and died after the large-diameter vein that carries blood from the heart to brain was pierced during a surgical procedure. The Clark County medical examiner wrote in his assessment that because Ellingson bled out during treatment to correct a problem that stemmed from the assault, the outstanding charge of assault – which was filed in October, four months after the melee occurred – should be upgraded to murder. 

A warrant for felonious assault was filed by the Clark County district attorney’s office in October of 2013 following an investigation. After Ellingson died in December and an autopsy and medical examiners report ruled the death a homicide, the charges were upgraded to murder. A warrant for that charge was called for in April of 2014 and formally issued in May. 

Ever since he was arrested Cox has denied that he punched Ellingson and that he was legitimately in fear for his life and the lives of his children and his wife and the young people in his care when he claims that Ellingson came up aggressively to the group. 

In an interview with Fox 40, witness Kelli Lane said that Ellingson approached and said, “Hey girlfriend, you want to ‘F’ with me?” Cox reported stepped in and replied “Oh my gosh, no – I have kids here.”

Ellingson then replied, “Well I’m coming to ‘F’ with you.”

A surveillance camera picked up the scuffle in the parking lot but according to the police report what transpired between Cox and Ellingson did so between frames. The video has not been released by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, but was described in the report that outlined the evidence that led to Cox’s arrest. 

Elements of that police report, Cox says, are completely false and misleading and damaging to his case – like the mention that he had the young people huddled up and talking about getting their stories straight before the police showed up. 

The group, he said, gathered around Ellingson to pray and “put hands on him” as he laid on the sidewalk. 

Wednesday’s legal proceedings – Cox’s case getting dropped by the district attorney’s office – was not unexpected. After the grand jury was brought in and summoned the 18 young people who were present – 15 of which had never been interviewed by police – it became a situation where a preliminary hearing couldn’t take place before an indictment had actually issued. If the grand jury were to indict Cox, the legal process that he was just cleared of would begin again and the preliminary trial date would be reinstated. 

Nevada, unlike California, is a “stand your ground” state where people don’t have to look for a way to retreat before using force to protect themselves, family members or others from harm, according to Cox’s lawyer Warren Geller of the law firm of Cofer, Geller and Durham. 

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