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Something is terribly wrong with our court system

I had a hard time deciding which story to lead off with here because there are a couple that are apropos. So of course, I’ll do ’em both.

First Story: An admission that I have benefited from what I always thought was a pretty odd system in Southern Nevada of being able to pay a little money to a law firm and get a moving violation pleaded down to a parking ticket. I’ve done this twice, actually.

First time was the summer of 2005 shortly after we moved here from Altadena, Calif. I had an appointment at home with the contractor who was bidding to landscape our backyard and I was running late. Back then, Durango, the only street in far-SW Vegas that actually went all the way through going north/south near our house, had a ridiculous 25 mph speed limit and I got popped going 40.

I said something about it to the contractor and his foreman when I finally arrived and the contractor said, “Get me a copy of your license and insurance and I’ll get it turned into a parking ticket.” I was kind of shocked and said so to the foreman after the contractor left.

“Can he actually do that?” I asked. The foreman’s reply might offend some but this is verbatim. “His grandfather came here in the ’40s to start a concrete company and his last name ends with a vowel. What do you think?”

And he came through. Side note: A few years later when we had bought a different house and hired the same guy to do concrete and artificial turf, he took $1,000 deposit for the turf and disappeared.

The second time I was a little heavy on the accelerator was a few years later. I just used a company called, I think, 24hourticketpower.com and did it all online with no insinuated Mob connections needed.

Second story: This is about how much I hate officials or companies trying to bury news because they think they can get away with it. (And too often they do because so many of us — including too many of the folks whose job should be “afflicting the comfortable” — are ill-informed, overworked, lazy or a combination of all of the above.)

I was editing a magazine covering the concert audio business. This was about 2007-ish back when news about American companies shipping production to China was still a big deal. (As it seems to be becoming once again. Hate to say “I told ya so” but …).

Not gonna use any names, but there was a legacy American speaker company that got bought by another company that made similar but much lower-end products and that did all of its manufacturing in China. It wasn’t a huge surprise when this company followed suit.

But they tried to hide the news. They released it on the Friday of a long holiday weekend and only via an interview with a small magazine based in the UK. I saw that interview and was… I’m trying to find a term that is accurate and that I can still use in a family newspaper. Let’s say I was “not pleased.”

This was still early-ish days of social media and I had built a members-only network for the audio tribe so I posted the news there and said something like, “They are obviously trying to hide the ball here and think y’all are too stupid or distracted to notice. Let them know how you feel about that here.”

It didn’t go well. Boycott. Marketing jobs lost. People who never forgave or spoke to me again. Oh well.

So, this is all an, as usual, too long intro to something I am, again, “not pleased” about.

You may have noticed the info which was included as part of BCR’s coverage of a kidnapping that was first reported near Boulder City in which BCPD was part of the more than two-hour pursuit that ended only when a Las Vegas Metro SWAT officer shot the suspect as he held a victim at gunpoint in the car he was using to run from the cops.

This was far from this guy’s first brush with the law. (Kudos to our homies at the Review-Journal for pointing out the first six in a story from January of this year.) In fact, there were at least seven other times in the previous 18 months.

Seven.

First there were two citations for reckless driving within minutes of each other in North Las Vegas. The first for 75 mph in a 35 mph zone and then, again minutes later, same guy, same car, same jurisdiction for over 100 mph in a 35. Call me judgemental, but when you pop the same guy twice for the same offense within minutes, that should be some kind of red flag that the guy is a problem.

There was another reckless driving citation in Laughlin. All of those appear to have been pleaded down to parking tickets.

Then two more citations in North Las Vegas before, in January of this year, he was arrested for DUI, reckless driving and trying to run a state trooper over while driving a stolen car. That one was, again, in Laughlin.

And somehow, Jeffrey Hair was still out there driving a car from which a passenger texted 911 near the dry lake bed and reported that she had been kidnapped and feared for her life. Police from Boulder City, Henderson and NHP gave chase before he was finally cornered in Las Vegas and taken into custody — actually, taken to a hospital in critical condition — after a SWAT officer and his rifle had to “get involved.”

Now, maybe it’s just me, but there are two big questions here.

First, how in the name of all that is holy was this guy not already in jail? It appears to this outside observer that cops did their job at every juncture and then were failed by the courts.

Second, did officials really think they could get away with just referring to a history of more than a half-dozen reckless driving incidents in about a year and a half as “multiple previous felonies?” Among reporter types, we call that “burying the lead.”

I admit to being a bit jaded and my friends tell me that I should always assume positive intent. But, sorry, that is often a sucker’s game. The hard truth is that, in general, humans are not all that virtuous. Most people, if they think they can get away with something non-virtuous that will benefit them and suffer no consequences, will do the non-virtuous thing. (There’s a great Mark Twain story that covers this same ground called “The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg.” This is far from a modern phenomenon. Twain wrote this around 1907.)

And in this case, the non-virtuous thing is burying the fact that the law enforcement system totally failed by turning that failure into a passing reference in a press conference about an officer-involved shooting.

Let ’em know what you think about this. Do it loudly. This is a systemic failure and the only way anyone will be held accountable for that failure is if enough people demand accountability.

The next steps are up to you.

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