I wasn't going to write about the sordid Darren Mack murder case, but after watching a Court TV interview with his brother and his defense attorney last Monday, I can't remain silent. In my opinion, Mack got exactly what he deserved when he was sentenced to 36 years in prison for killing his wife, Charla, and shooting Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who presided over their contentious divorce.
I've spent a lot of time in Northern Nevada courtrooms during the past 12 years and have never seen or heard of a more despicable or duplicitous criminal defendant than Reno psychopath Darren Mack, a businessman who thought he could get away with murder because he was rich and had political connections through his prominent family. None of that mattered on Feb. 8, however, as visiting Las Vegas District Judge Douglas Herndon gave Mack the maximum sentences on two felony convictions.
The Darren Macks of this world blame everyone else for their problems and refuse to take responsibility for their own bad decisions and deadly actions. According to Mack, he was the victim in this convoluted case and all of the officers of the court " including Judges Herndon and Weller, the prosecutors and his former defense attorneys " are corrupt liars. At least that's what Mack's brother and his current defense attorney, William Routsis of Reno, told Court TV.
Let's begin at the beginning. Charla and Darren Mack were married in May 1995, and had a daughter in December 1997. In February 2005 Charla filed for divorce from Mack, a wealthy pawn shop owner who apparently favored a swinging lifestyle. In August 2005 Mack filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection so as to protect his assets from Charla and her family.
The Macks appeared before Judge Weller in January 2006 to finalize details of a tentative divorce settlement, but the agreement broke down shortly thereafter when Mack tried to renege on the deal. Nevertheless, Judge Weller affirmed the original agreement on May 24, 2006, granting joint custody of their daughter to both parents. Tragically, the Macks and Charla's family still are engaged in a bitter custody battle.
Nineteen days later, Mack stabbed his wife to death in their beautiful million dollar Washoe Valley home before driving to Reno, where he shot and wounded Judge Weller from a nearby parking garage. Mack immediately fled to Mexico, where he was arrested on June 26. He was soon extradited to Nevada, where he hired two high-profile defense attorneys, David Chesnoff of Las Vegas and Scott Freeman of Reno, to defend him against murder and attempted murder charges.
Chesnoff and Freeman filed a series of motions that resulted in the disqualification of Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick and all Northern Nevada judges, and a change of the trial venue to Las Vegas, which cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mack claimed self-defense and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in April 2007; his trial got underway in mid-October. After the prosecution " led by Las Vegas Deputy DA Christopher Lalli " presented its case, Mack suddenly decided to plead guilty to two serious felony charges and took a deal that spared him from the death penalty.
MACK FIRES HIS LAWYERS
Three weeks later, however, Mack fired his lawyers, hired Routsis and filed motions to withdraw his guilty pleas. Mack trashed his dead wife's reputation, accused his former attorneys of coercing him to plead guilty, claimed that he had been abused by the prosecutors and psychologically "raped" by Chesnoff and Freeman, and "railroaded" into prison. Routsis reiterated those spurious charges on Court TV last Monday, smearing Nevada's criminal justice system in the process. Give me a break!
In mid-January, Judge Herndon denied Mack's motions to withdraw his guilty pleas and on Feb. 8 sentenced him to 36 years in prison " life with parole eligibility after 20 years on the murder charge and life with possible parole after 16 years for attempted murder " with the sentences to run consecutively. As a result, the 46-year-old Mack will be 83 before he's eligible for parole.
At sentencing, Judge Herndon noted the defendant's total lack of remorse. "Despite all the time I gave him (Mack) to speak, he never said 'I'm sorry,'" the judge observed, which "led me to the conclusion that you're not sorry ... That type of attitude deserves the maximum punishment." Amen!
In an emotional victim impact statement, Charla's mother, Soorya Townley, accused Mack of "playing God" and said her daughter's murder has shattered her life. "I don't know if I will ever find peace until I die," she added. For his part, Judge Weller said Mack "has demonstrated that he's too dangerous to live in a free society." If I was was Judge Herndon or D.A. Lalli, I'd be looking over my shoulder. And if Routsis doesn't win Mack's appeal to the State Supreme Court, he's in jeopardy, too.
So that's the troubling story of Reno businessman Darren Mack, who thought he could get away with murder. But now he's just another inmate at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, where he should remain for the rest of his life.
- Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, has worked as an occasional English/Spanish interpreter in Northern Nevada courtrooms since 1996.