No, I doubt either of the former Clark County Commissioners initially ran for office thinking “What a great way to get rich and pad my lifestyle, accepting bribes and handouts and extorting money from businesses all over town.”
Instead, a weak character and a lack of firm standards will be tested and crumbled gradually. First a free drink or dinner, then a Christmas basket with a hundred bucks worth of wine and gourmet goodies. Everyone’s just being a “good neighbor,” right?
How many people in our public life today are such models of rectitude that no one would dare slide them a plain brown envelope full of cash, knowing full well their burning scorn and rejection would be quickly followed by a visit from the FBI?
Think they’ve cleaned up the country, the old Wild West country, they’ve made law and order prevail? What happened to that city staffer who told Atlanta-based Ambling Development Co., a year back, that their planned 28-story buildings near Alta and Martin Luther King appeared to meet all the city’s planning and zoning requirements, without first asking, “What’s in it for Councilman Lawrence Weekly?” Anyone? I forget.
Mayor Oscar Goodman now has big plans for the 61-acre downtown Union Pacific parcel, which is in Assemblyman Weekly’s district. Will each planned structure there have to be rejected -- like the Ambling towers -- unless the developers somehow garner Mr. Weekly’s “personal approval”? What a town!
There are three topics here that are worth some follow-up. At least two have already been mentioned.
First, why was this a federal trial? Don’t we have state laws against bribing our public officials? Many will have responded to my first sentence, above, with “Of course they’re dirty. Duh. They were just convicted in federal court.”
Of what? Interstate wire fraud?
The rationale for that federal statute is obvious: Local prosecutors in Maine or South Carolina might lack the resources and jurisdiction to track down, arrest, and convict some boiler-room operator who sits here in Nevada, using long-distance phone lines to bilk ignorant widows, orphans, and idiots in the aforementioned rural backwaters.
But the tapped phone calls in question here were between the crooked county commissioners and blowjob potentate Michael Galardi, sitting a couple miles away right here in Las Vegas. No interstate calls, no federal jurisdiction.
Ah, but these were indeed “interstate” calls because they bounced off a cell tower in nearby California, sneer the prosecutors and judge, all of whom draw their paychecks from the same place.
That’s hogwash. The jurors -- possessed of not just a right but a duty to ignore the judge’s instructions when they defy common sense and violate the constitutional restrictions on federal authority -- should have demanded to see the statute in writing, and then rejected this group of charges out of hand.
Not only that, where was the “fraud”? If Galardi promised the crooked commissioners loot for friendly votes, and the loot and the votes were indeed exchanged, that may be bribery or extortion -- it’s certainly a betrayal of the public trust -- but it’s not “fraud.” Who was defrauded? If Galardi was defrauded because he never got his votes, then in turn there was no bribery.
What’s that? It’s the public that trusted Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey to do their duty that was defrauded? By this rationale, members of the Federal Reserve Board commit wire fraud every time they pick up the phone to discuss printing more fiat greenbacks, since they’re “defrauding” a public that was counting on them to maintain a constant value for that “lawful money” we’ve got socked away in our savings accounts -- but which is actually worth less than 4 percent of what it was worth in 1932.
This notion that us local yokels can’t be expected to get anything right -- that that requires intervention by a grown-up with FEDERAL authority -- is dangerous, and directly counter to the original concept of federalism.
Secondly, why the sweetheart deal with the crookedest commissioner, Erin Kenny? She gets a promise of a short sentence -- it appears she even gets to keep a good portion of her ill-gotten gains -- in exchange for testimony which likely played a minimal role in the convictions. The best she could do was “It was understood” that Herrera and Kincaid were also in the bag.
The crookedest commissioner skates, and she can’t even testify “And then we were all three in the room together and he gave us each some loot?” You wouldn’t buy that for a buck at the Fantastik Indoor Flea Market.
Lastly, where are the other prosecutions?
The prosecutors must believe Michael Galardi -- as officers of the court, they violate both the law and their own canon of ethics if they knowingly put a perjuror on the stand. The judge must believe Michael Galardi, or he was duty-bound to bind him over for prosecution for perjury under oath. And the jury sure seems to have believed Michael Galardi.
So why is there no prosecution of any of the other parties Michael Galardi says he bribed? Or any of the home-builders, developers, and casino folk who are reliably reported to have also had Ms. Kenny and former cop (turned Galardi bagman) Lance Malone on their payrolls?
One could almost conclude this was a failed “domino” prosecution. Bust Michael Galardi; offer him a deal to testify against some county commissioners. Bust the county commissioners; offer them a deal if they’ll testify against ... whom?
Dario Herrera and Erin Kenny were up-and-coming Democrats being groomed for higher office, being shown the ropes by ... whom?
Was this corruption trial a kind of “consolation” prosecution, like a boatload of philosophical fishermen frying up the little ones after all the big ones got away? Is that why the Kenny testimony -- while certainly good tabloid copy -- seemed so legally pointless?
In fact, are Erin Kenny and Dario Herrera still on the take, still being taken care of in exchange for a promise of a light sentence and a job when they get out, so long as they limit their loud-mouthing to the whoremaster Galardi, whose fall does nothing to change the political power structure in this valley?
Who on earth would have the juice to arrange that? I certainly don’t know.
After they were convicted last Friday, Dario Herrera and Mary Kincaid Chauncey weren’t led away in leg irons, the way you or I might be if we were nailed for multiple felonies. No, they’ll be home drinking lemonade and arranging more lap dances this summer, awaiting sentencing and the inevitable appeals. If they ever “do time,” it’ll be at some minimum security federal country club with no walls.
Why, after his May 5 conviction, Dario didn’t even want to exit the courthouse by the front door, where he would have had to face aggressive reporters and photographers. So he had someone use a security access card to sneak him out a side door usually reserved for police. That someone being Charvez Foger, an aide to Herrera’s political mentor ... U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.
(“It’s contrary to our policy, but we have no oversight over Senator Reid’s office,” commented U.S. Marshal Fidencio Rivera, whose main job is busting patients in the Department of Agriculture’s medical marijuana program for growing “too much” pot.)
Dario Herrera, still the golden boy with the special privileges, even after all this. It must be nice to have steadfast friends in high places.