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Pastor still waiting on Las Vegas grand jury

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POSTED July 30, 2014 1:25 a.m.

The waiting game continues for Manteca Pastor Rob Cox.

And just like the specifics in his case, the next legal steps he’s going to have to take are going to be complicated.

Two weeks ago the Clark County prosecutor dismissed the murder charge against Cox that stemmed from a fight outside of a Las Vegas Bar and Grill last June. Police contend that Cox punched 55-year-old Link Ellingson in the face – knocking him to the ground where he smacked his head on the pavement – and then lied about it later in a formal statement.

But in the two-weeks that have followed, the Clark County Grand Jury has been deciding whether to indict Cox on a separate and much more broad charge that introduces an entirely new element to the equation – open murder.

Nearly two-dozen members of The Place of Refuge – the Button Avenue church where Cox is an associate pastor – were brought to Las Vegas to testify before the grand jury. The proceedings are closed to defense counsel so there is no cross-examination – or protection – of witnesses.

The open murder charge is a much more broad application of the word that includes a variety degrees as well as manslaughter charges that could be applied. If the grand jury decides that Cox didn’t seek out Ellingson specifically to hurt him – as the premeditated charge would lead one to believe – he could be indicted if he’s found to responsible for Ellingson’s death.

Cox continues to maintain his innocence.

What happened in the parking lot that night – the conclusion of an evening of worship with a music ministry that working its way home from Texas and stopping at churches along the way – in the eyes of Cox was nothing more than the perfect storm. He had a group of young people that were in his care, and he had his family with him when Ellingson, all 6-foot, 8-inches of him, started walking aggressively towards the group and became violent.

The response to wrap him up and take him to the ground – what Cox contends happened – was a reflexive way to try and at least slow down the fracas until police arrived.

The lawyers representing Cox – from the firm of Cofer, Geller and Dunham – were able to negotiate a cash bond posting in Nevada which eventually freed Cox from the San Joaquin County Jail when he was arrested on an open murder warrant by Manteca Police. He spent roughly a week in jail.

That bond amount, as part of the agreement when the state dropped the charges, has been returned.

“In the event that the grand jury does return with an indictment we’re very prepared and confident in where this case might be going,” Cofer said.

A handshake agreement between Cox’s lawyers and the Clark County District Attorney’s office will, if the grand jury indicts Cox, lead to a summons being issued rather than an arrest report.

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