No charges in Sheriff Stanek scuffle at Reno hotel-casino

Prosecutors in Nevada have decided not to press criminal charges in a brawl between Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and a former FBI agent, John Guandolo, that occurred in Reno, Nevada on June 28.  

The Fox 9 Investigators have obtained surveillance video of the confrontation from the lobby of the Atlantis Resort and Casino, which was hosting the annual convention of the National Sheriffs’ Association. Stanek is a vice president of the group and chairman of its Homeland Security Committee. Sheriff Stanek declined to be interviewed for this story.  

The grainy video shows pushing between the two men and Guandolo delivering two roundhouse punches toward Stanek. In dismissing a battery charge against Guandolo, prosecutors said it was not clear who initiated the confrontation.  

“We had actually asked to begin the meeting in prayer. He didn’t want to do that,” Guandolo told the Fox 9 Investigators.

It didn’t begin with prayers, but the meeting ended in punches.  

“He attacked my FBI career, my understanding of the threat, those kinds of things,” said Guandolo.

Guandolo is the founder of ‘Understanding the Threat,’ a consulting group that trains local law enforcement in what it calls the Global Islamic Movement.

A year ago, in a blog post, he wrote “the Twin Cities are in enemy held territory,” under the control of “Jihadist/Marxist elements,” and he named several Minnesota politicians as sympathizers, including Stanek. 

“Under his watch the Jihadi threat has grown exponentially,” Guandolo wrote.  He even criticized Stanek for reaching out to Muslim groups and promising to protect them from “hate crimes and backlash.”

“He brought up the article and made his concern about the article very clear, and he asked if we would withdraw the article and we said we would not, because what we wrote was factual," said Guandolo. 

Guandolo’s “facts” come from a week he spent in Minnesota, visiting Cedar Riverside, which he calls "Little Mogadishu." He claims a video shows how it’s a neighborhood under Sharia control.

“The number of Jihadis who have come out of the Minneapolis, the Twin Cities, the actual Jihadi activity right there in Minnesota, it’s one of the worst two or three places in the country," said Guandolo. "I don't think it's hyperbole all, if anything at all it's understated.”

Michael German is also a former FBI agent and a respected expert on domestic terrorism with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. He said it's concerning that Guandolo is actively training local police departments.  

"He's part of a larger network of anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists," said German.

German told the Fox 9 Investigators he’s concerned Guandolo is training local law enforcement to focus on the wrong issues and to see Islam as a threatening religion.

"This is just official bigotry wrapped in a counter-terrorism package,” said German.  

In the video documenting the fist fight, the audio was secretly recorded by a Guandolo associate on her iPhone. Fox 9 synced it with the video footage and magnified the corner where the fight took place.  

Police reports from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office paint two distinct versions of how the altercation began.

Guandolo told police Stanek was the aggressor, that Stanek " up and said, 'Let’s go'", “got in (his) face” and “pushed” him, and grabbed his tie.

When asked who started the physical altercation Guandolo responded: “He stepped into me and chest bumped me, asked me who I thought he was, using profanity. I just pushed him away from me and that’s when it turned into a scuffle.”  

Stanek told police he was just trying to leave, but Guandolo was blocking his path to the elevator and put his hand out to defend himself.  

What is clear from the video is Guandolo gets in a couple roundhouse punches, the second one landed on Stanek. Stanek told police the assault aggravated a previous neck injury, and Stanek told police he sought medical attention. 

When Stanek got back to Minnesota, he got a restraining order against Guandolo.  

Guandolo also got a ticket for battery. 

Nevada prosecutors quietly dismissed the charges two months ago and wrote that even from the video, “it is not clear who made first contact.” 

The National Sheriffs’ Association issued a statement shortly after the altercation that was critical of Guandolo. The group has since retracted that statement from its web site, and did not respond to a call seeking comment.  

According to published reports, Guandolo has held training sessions in a half-dozen states this year, but not Minnesota.  

Washington County Sheriff Bill Hutton, who is the executive director of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, said Guandolo approached the group this year about a speaking engagement, but they declined.  

“There is no room for someone who spews hate,” Hutton told the FOX 9 Investigators.