A Central Coast couple is suing a former UFC fighter, accusing him of attacking them and several others unprovoked while they were visiting Las Vegas.
When they spoke with KSBY, the couple told us all they want is justice but feel they may not get it.
COUPLE SAYS THEY FEARED FOR THEIR LIVES
"I just think, this guy's gonna kill me right now and he's gonna turn around and kill my wife. My kids are gonna have no parents."
What should have been a relaxing vacation in Las Vegas turned into what Chris and Julie Stellpflug describe as a day of terror.
A week before Christmas, the couple says they were returning to their room at the Four Seasons hotel when they saw a man in the hallway who appeared to be intoxicated "uttering unintelligible noises."
They say the man, later identified as former UFC fighter Chael Sonnen, slapped a drink out of Chris' hand.
"It was within a matter of seconds, he had Chris on the ground in a headlock," Julie said.
"He (Sonnen) was on top of me, pounding the sides of my head and then he put me in a chokehold and then he was uttering gibberish," Chris recalled.
Julie says as she screamed for help and tried to intervene, Sonnen attacked her.
"I looked up and I see she's sliding down the wall. He'd thrown her against the wall into a light fixture," Chris said, describing the attack on his wife.
The couple provided KSBY medical documents showing Chris was treated in the ER that night for a head injury.
Two days later, the couple was seen at a Pismo Beach urgent care center where they were both diagnosed with concussions.
The couple showed a photo Chris says shows the marks around his neck days after the attack and a photo of Julie with a busted lip.
According to the police report, a man from one of the hotel rooms heard the commotion and tried to restrain Sonnen, but the ex-MMA fighter elbowed him in the chest.
Victim statements show that when hotel security arrived, Sonnen went after them too.
"Just out of nowhere he just grabs the guy (security officer) and knees him right in the face and the older guy collapses and I see all the other security guards get on top of him," Chris described.
One security officer was struck in the face causing his nose to bleed. Another was kicked in the chest.
Sonnen was eventually detained.
According to the affidavit by the investigating officer, there was no surveillance video of the incident because the hotel does not have cameras in the hallways.
Further victim statements show that before the Stellpflugs arrived, a hotel engineer reported Sonnen punched him as he was coming out of a room and later saw him "attacking two other guests".
KSBY obtained video from one of the hotel’s guests the night of the attack. It appears to show Sonnen being led away in handcuffs.
Later that night, Sonnen told detectives he did not remember anything because he had taken Ambien earlier that day.
"We were sure from the police that he would be arrested. And that was the first failure is that they let him go," Chris said.
Las Vegas police told KSBY that they cited Sonnen at the scene because it was a "misdemeanor battery that did not occur in police presence." He was issued a citizen's citation and released.
CRIMINAL AND CIVIL CASE VS. SONNEN
Police filed five misdemeanor citations against Sonnen in January but a judge dismissed the citations due to a technicality. ("Citation's notice to appear fails to comply with requirement set forth in NRS 171.1773")
The Clark County District Attorney's Office told KSBY it “played absolutely no role in the unilateral decision by the sitting judge to dismiss the citations".
Two months later, the DA's office charged Sonnen with one felony count of battery by strangulation and 10 misdemeanor counts of battery in March.
However, based on their amended criminal complaint filed days later, the former MMA fighter ended up facing only six counts of misdemeanor battery.
We wanted to know why.
Assistant District Attorney Robert Daskas responded to our email saying:
"Following the unexpected dismissal of the citations by the judge, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department submitted a request directly to the Clark County District Attorney’s Office in February 2022 to prosecute Chael Sonnen for six (6) counts of misdemeanor battery. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office approved charges against Chael Sonnen, and there is currently a criminal complaint filed against Chael Sonnen for six (6) counts of misdemeanor battery. These are the precise charges the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department requested the District Attorney’s Office to prosecute based on Metro’s investigation, which included interviews of all victims (including the Stellpflugs)."
The Stellpflugs feel blindsided.
"We had to bring light to the subject and let them know what happened and how it's not right. Be careful when you go to Vegas because if you end up with any altercation with a pseudo-celebrity, the DA is not gonna be there for you. The cops are not gonna be there for you," Chris said.
The Clark County District Attorney's Office strongly disputes the couple's statement saying:
"It is outrageous to suggest that a retired MMA fighter, or anyone else for that matter, is getting “special treatment” because he is a known public figure. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office played absolutely no role in the unilateral decision by the sitting judge to dismiss the citations. In fact, the District Attorney’s Office remedied that decision by approving the precise charges against Chael Sonnen that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department requested based on Metro’s investigation, which included interviews of all victims (including the Stellpflugs)."
Sonnen has not publicly commented on the criminal case against him.
KSBY reached out to Sonnen's defense attorney, Dayvid Figler, multiple times. I sent messages online and called his office four times on three separate occasions but did not get a response.
Although the Stellpflugs are opposed to the felony charges being dropped, their attorney, Kory Kaplan, explains the ongoing criminal case is out of his clients' hands.
"It is the Clark County District Attorney's Office... it is their decision on what charges they can bring and what they believe they can prove."
Frustrated with the ongoing criminal case, the Stellpflugs sued Sonnen in civil court.
If found liable in civil court, Sonnen will not face jail time but the Stellpflugs can seek damages in excess of $15,000.
Still, the Stellpflugs say they do not want to negotiate and want to see the criminal case against Sonnen go to trial.
"His goal is to beat people into submission and to use his skills outside of the cage on regular people — I think that's why for us we wanted to have just the fullest extent applied to him. “
Clark County Assistant District Attorney Robert Daskas said:
"In the State of Nevada, it is well settled in criminal law despite what the victims and their civil lawyers might believe that a person’s hands do not qualify as deadly weapons for purposes of enhancing a criminal charge."
The Clark County District Attorney's Office says a status check for the criminal complaint is scheduled for August 3. Prosecutors anticipate a misdemeanor trial will be set. The justice of the peace will determine the misdemeanor trial date.