LAS VEGAS - A man accused of killing his wife and shooting the judge who was handling their bitter divorce reached a plea deal Monday, abruptly ending his trial.
Darren Mack, 46, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and entered an Alford plea to a charge of attempted murder as the defense was to begin calling witnesses.
Mack was on trial for the June 12, 2006, stabbing of his estranged wife, Charla, at Mack's town house in south Reno. Authorities said that after the killing, Mack drove to a downtown parking garage and shot Washoe Family Court Judge Chuck Weller through the third-floor window of the judge's chambers. The judge survived.
Mack admitted in court that he shot Weller, but invoked the Alford plea, in which a defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction without admitting guilt.
"I do understand right now in my state of mind that shooting at the judiciary is not a proper form of political redress," Mack said.
Judge Douglas Herndon set a two-day sentencing hearing, Jan. 17-18, saying he wanted to allow time for statements, and Mack made it clear he wanted to speak.
"There are some very important things to say, and I've remained quiet through this whole thing," Mack said.
During the hearing Monday, Mack apologized for shooting Weller, who watched from the first row behind the prosecution.
"This dark night is over, or at least a portion of this dark night is over," Weller said afterward.
In exchange for Mack's admissions, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of life in prison with possible parole after 20 years. The judge is not bound by that agreement.
Mack, whose family owns a well-known pawn shop, also faces two to 20 years on the attempted murder charge. Under Nevada law, his sentence automatically will be doubled because a deadly weapon was involved.
Prosecutor Robert Daskas noted that Mack's agreement waived his right to appeal.
"Our goal going into this case was to see Darren Mack convicted of premeditated murder and of attempted murder," Daskas said. "Whether it was by jury verdict or guilty pleas was insignificant to us."
David Chesnoff, one of Mack's lawyers, said he was pleased that Mack likely will have a chance to be released on parole.
Charla Mack's mother, Soorya Townley, said she was pleased with the outcome. She called Mack a "sociopath" who "hypnotized himself into believing he's justified and he's the victim."
Charla Mack filed for divorce in 2005. In court documents, her lawyer said Mack ignored Weller's order to pay her $10,000 a month in temporary alimony.
Weller found him in contempt of court, and Mack filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying, but Charla Mack's lawyer said in court documents that Mack continued his lavish lifestyle, taking frequent vacations with girlfriends.
Testimony in the trial began Oct. 24.
The trial was moved to Las Vegas because of pretrial publicity in Reno, and all Washoe County judges were recused from the case. Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick removed himself because of his long acquaintance with Mack.
Associated Press writers Sandra Chereb and Scott Sonner contributed to this report from Reno.