“I love you, and I believe you, but there is nothing I can do to get you out of jail, we don’t have enough money, you’re going to have to stay in there until your court date.”
Tuesday morningI woke up early with one goal, I needed the best lawyer in town regardless of cost and to meet with him/her immediately. She had work and had already missed two shifts. With what we could only assume would be a long drawn out legal battle for her freedom we needed to meet someone quickly. Neither of us has a criminal defense attorney, as we’re not criminals, so I called and spoke with the front desk of a few prominent local attorneys. None of which service Nye county and I quickly understood why. At $200-$500 per hour imagine the legal costs associated with such a trial. You want quality representation but quickly can’t afford travel costs alone. One legal office expected the legal bill to become north of $30,000. Remember most of America can’t afford bail themselves out of jail, let alone begin to defend their freedom. I received a call back from Robert Fahrendorf, a highly recommended local criminal defense attorney and he graciously listened to me explain the situation to him. We spoke at length, and he told me that from a financial standpoint it made the most sense to hire an attorney in Nye county. There was, of course, the option of a court-appointed public defender. But when you’re talking about the freedom of a family member being in jeopardy in conjunction with a small county with a well-known history of corruption, do you honestly want to take the risk of ending up with lackluster representation or the remote possibility of collusion? I had to seriously question how far the Nye County prosecution may be willing to go to not admit a mistake had been made, was there a chance that a local defense attorney or public defender would ultimately be involved in ensuring there was a conviction? I want to make it clear that this is by no means an accusation of anything of the sort, merely something that crosses your mind when thrust into such a life-changing event. Do you trust your loved one’s freedom to an attorney you’ve never met in a city neither of you has ever been to over a charge that carries mandatory prison sentencing? Personally, that was not a decision I was willing to make. I felt the need to take matters into my own hands. I’ve always been a logical, well-thought and well-spoken individual and I knew I could figure this out. This of course came with risk, as I’ve never studied law in any capacity and my highest level of formal education is a G.E.D., I tested out of high school to pursue my businesses at 16. It did, however, come with major advantages starting with my hourly rate. At $0/hr Brittany could certainly afford my services, and I’d be able to document the entire process with nothing happening behind closed doors. I would fight harder than anyone to ensure she remained free; I had something more to lose than just a case, my partner. I set out to gather as much information as I could, I filled out paperwork required to get my hands on every aspect of the initial warrant, her arrest, body camera footage from the arresting officers and more. I knew that when we ended up in court, we would need all available evidence. Somewhere a mistake had been made, and I had to find it at whatever cost. I started with calls to the Nye County Recorder’s office to obtain the initial arrest warrant from 2011; I was told I needed to call the Nye County Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff’s office then explained they do not keep warrants and it may be with the District Attorney’s office. I then called Nye County District Attorney’s office and was greeted by a woman named Vanessa, and for the third time was told they didn’t keep them, the Justice Court would have it. At that point I broke, I asked her to please give me any advice she could, I was hitting dead end after dead end. As I started to explain the situation I could hear her begin to interrupt me, I knew she was legally bound to not offer any legal advice, but for some reason, she continued to listen. She gave me the benefit of the doubt that this could be the one-in-a-million case of someone being falsely arrested. She then told me she was an administrator with the District Attorney’s office and typically wouldn’t be answering the phone, I don’t know what it was that I said, or if someone was looking out for us that day but she restored my faith in humanity at that very moment. She offered me her e-mail address and told me to forward her as much information as I could, she would personally pull the file and have a detective/prosecutor take a look at it to see if there was anything out of the ordinary. I was beyond thankful and immediately sent over images of everything we had from her stint in jail along with a copy of her driver’s license along with an explanation of the situation with a heartfelt thank you for her time, it meant the world to me. Minutes after sending the e-mail I realized this could be our only chance to prove Brittany was not the criminal she was being made out to be, before standing trial; I scrambled to think of ways to prove she wasn’t in Pahrump in the months before the 2011 warrant. I still didn’t know when the apparent crime had been committed; it could have been weeks or months before the issuance of the warrant. I needed overwhelming evidence indicating she was not there, and I needed it fast. If we missed this opportunity, we would be stuck in a legal battle that could forever change the course of our lives. I started by going as far back as I could with her online bank statements, thankfully Wells Fargo allowed us to go back as far as January 2011, I saved all 2011 statements and forwarded them on to her again explaining I would do whatever it took to prove she was not involved.
This woman deserves a medal, singlehandedly unraveling major mistakes that had cost a young woman her freedom in mere hours.
We’ve received the paperwork dropping all charges, thank god, the nightmare is over.
We now must begin to put the pieces back together, have her arrest expunged and her good name restored.
Updates2/22/18 It’s now been over a month since this happened, and we’ve received countless requests for an update. Brittany is doing her best to return to a ‘normal’ life, although I’m not sure her ‘normal’ will ever be the same. She’s sad, cries about it often and feels like her innocence has been stripped away. We’re continually asked about it, it’s become a huge part of our lives and has no real end in sight. We’ve done two interviews that will hit new stations and print in the coming weeks; I hope to bring awareness to the issue so measures can be taken to prevent this from happening again to anyone, it has been nothing short of life-changing for us. The Washoe County Sherrif’s office reached out to us, we were able to sit down and talk about the events for almost two hours, they were kind, understanding, and overall great to speak with. Much thanks to Captain Peter Petzing in that regard. The NHP has since released the body camera footage and other related information I requested (seemingly reluctantly). They initially indicated they were going to do an internal investigation but then decided against it for whatever reason. I’m still combing through all of the videos and will update once finished. She went to court for her illegal left-hand turn and plead “guilty with an explanation”, the judge was FAR from pleasant, not wanting to hear any explanation from her at all, it’s been interesting how it’s progressed. She’s done her VERY worthless online traffic school and closed that chapter. Now the ugly part, Nye County. Words cannot begin to describe the incompetence and pure lack of professionalism they’ve exuded throughout this ordeal. One would think that after falsely imprisoning an upstanding member of society they would do everything in their power to rectify the situation at hand. They’ve done the absolute opposite. After we received the paperwork dropping all charges I again contacted Vanessa to thank her dearly, I asked for one last favor; I wanted something more than just dropping charges. I asked for them to draft up some form of a letter that indicated Brittany should never have had the charges brought up against her, as merely dropping charges doesn’t prove much of anything later in life. Imagine years down the road saying “yes she was indeed arrested on felony drug charges, but honestly, it was all just a mistake” (we’ve seen how much people believe you when you say that first hand). We wanted something to validate her story. She agreed and said she was working with the DA to draft that letter and we would have it shortly. That was a month ago today, I’ve heard nothing back. Why? Well, one would assume a lawyer for Nye County stopped that dead in its tracks, not wanting to send any admission of wrongdoing on their part for fear of backlash or lawsuit. What about our money? We don’t have it, and they’re not responding to our requests for it. Crazy right? While in our two-hour meeting with the Washoe County Sherrif’s office last week we mentioned our bail money not being returned, and expressed how upsetting that was. Beyond false imprisonment, humility, trauma and more, we’re still out FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. They were surprised themselves, and Captain Petzing graciously offered to call Nye County with us and see what the hold up was. It took him no less than five attempts to finally get someone on the phone; he explained whom he was and the situation in detail right down to the case number as we listened on speaker phone. The clerk informed him the check had indeed been mailed on January 30th much to my surprise as we had not seen anything show up. He asked what address it had been sent to and she repeated it back correctly, right up to the point that she said “McCarren, NV.” We all had a puzzled look on our faces, and he asked just where McCarren, NV was, as he’d never heard of it in 20 years of working as a Sheriff. It took her a bit, but she finally realized it should have been addressed to Sparks, NV. You can imagine my thoughts, “does Nye County mess up EVERYTHING they do??” He gave her my phone number and asked that someone reach out and contact me to provide me an update as to when the new check would be sent out, she said her Chief Clerk would call me as soon as she was out of court with an update. We thanked Captain Petzing for his time and went home. An hour later my phone rings, and it’s Alisa Shoults, Chief Clerk of the Pahrump Justice Court. She says she’s just calling to let me know that the reason for the delay in us receiving the bail money was due to the check from Washoe County having just cleared that day (2/15/18) and that they would have it mailed out the following day, Friday the 16th. I chose not to question her on the phone, seemingly she didn’t realize I had already been told of the mix up on their end and was trying to cover it up. Maybe she thought I’d believe a check takes weeks to clear? Who knows. I then looked up her contact information and wrote her an e-mail to confirm what she had told me and to make sure they could get the address right this time. Her response: “Pahrump Justice Court received the check with your bail from Washoe County on 1/30/18 and we normally allow 2 weeks for checks to clear. It is our policy to run checks on Fridays. If time permits for me, I will try to do a special check run this afternoon so you can get your check sooner.” I then called her on the discrepancy and informed her I knew they had already mailed a check to the wrong address and I was blown away by their continual mistakes and now blatant lies. She responded with: “I will apologize to you for my clerk giving misinformation. I was in court at the time of the initial phone call, and she is not real familiar with the accounting. No check has been sent and no check was ever sent; what she was seeing what the receipt for the payment received from Washoe County for the bail you posted there. I will be addressing this with her so it will not happen to anyone else in the future. She also told me about the issue with the address. I did see that in the system we had both Sparks and McCarran with the same zip code. I have since verified with USPS that both do have the same zip code, but again do to a data entry error by another clerk, your address was entered as McCarran and not Sparks. I updated the information in our system so your address is correct. I will also be addressing this with the clerk who entered your information incorrectly.” Forgive the grammar, that’s a direct quote from her e-mail. So, one of two things happened. Either I caught Ms. Shoults in a lie, which is terrible, OR a further TWO individuals at the Nye County Justice Court made more “mistakes.” Crazy either way right? Again she indicated she would have the check out by the next day, Friday the 16th but possibly that same day. Being that Monday was a holiday (Presidents Day), I could expect the check by Tuesday (as we’re only a six and a half hour drive from them). Tuesday came and went, nothing in the mail. I thought to myself, give it another day, it’ll show up, maybe just a busy weekend for the post office? Wednesday came and went, again nothing. So I decided to write in again, rather upset. They can’t select the right person for a warrant, they can’t get addresses correctly, their clerks apparently aren’t “real familiar with the accounting” (isn’t that what they’re there for?) and as icing on the cake, they don’t actually mail checks out when they promise they will.
Ms. Shoults,Whether you were dishonest or your clerk “made a mistake” it was yet another “mistake” in Nye County. Follow that up with “again do to a data entry error by another clerk” my address was entered into the system incorrectly, just how many mistakes can be made there? Just whom is doing their job correctly?Additionally last week you assured me the check would go out on Friday (unless you were able to find the time to get it out on Thursday as you said you may), well here it is Wednesday the 21st and guess what, nothing.Was it forgotten? Was the address entered incorrectly? Was it sent via carrier pigeon? Perhaps an Ox-wagon? Maybe this was just another mistake??I’m literally in disbelief as to how each and every step of this is riddled with mistakes and excuses.Your county has falsely imprisoned my girlfriend and done absolutely nothing to rectify it, let’s get the ball rolling here, I don’t think I’m asking for much. The $5,000 wasn’t an interest free loan.
3/14/18 Two days after posting the previous update a check arrived, after breaking her promise and no longer responding to e-mails it seems my last e-mail was effective. You’ll notice it being sent the same day the check was magically printed and mailed, coincidence? I think not.
KOLO’s Ed Pearce covered the story in a two part series here