Augustine’s attorney wants trial
The lawyer for Controller Kathy Augustine says he wants to go to trial rather than argue over whether there is enough evidence to justify the articles of impeachment against her.
“I think there’s a pleading error, a problem with the bill of impeachment, and we’ll address that,” said Dominic Gentile. “But we won’t be challenging the sufficiency of the charges.”
Augustine is charged with using her office to run her re-election campaign and coercing at least one member of her staff into spending large portions of her work day on that effort rather than state business. She admitted to those violations in a stipulation before the Nevada Commission on Ethics, automatically sending the case to the Legislature for consideration. Based on the ethics case, the Assembly voted unanimously to impeach and send the case to the Senate.
If convicted by the Senate, she could be the first Nevada constitutional officer ever removed from office by impeachment.
Senators agreed to convene Nov. 29 expecting Gentile to challenge the articles and argue that the whole case should be dismissed.
He said Friday he doesn’t plan to make that challenge.
“The bottom line is I want to get it over with because I think we can win,” Gentile said. “So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be messing around with a whole bunch of unnecessary process. I really can’t wait for this trial.”
That would pave the way for Augustine’s trial to begin Dec. 1. While some have speculated it could take several weeks, both Gentile and special prosecutor Dan Greco of the Washoe District Attorney’s office, predicted it would be shorter.
“With the number of witnesses I have, I suspect I could be done in three days,” said Greco. “Because of the unique circumstances of this case, I suspect presentation will probably take about a week.”
He said he will probably call from eight to 12 witnesses.
Gentile’s prediction was remarkably similar: “I could see, from opening statements to a decision, seven or eight days.”
And he said there won’t be any real surprises in the evidence.
“I understand Mr. Greco is an accomplished and straight-forward prosecutor,” he said. “He didn’t invent the facts. He’s got to use what was presented to him and I can’t imagine they’re going to come up with some new witness at this point.”
He said because both he and Greco have solid trial experience, everything should go smoothly and professionally.
Both men said the unknown commodity is what questions individual senators – who are acting as jurors – will ask. That is not something which happens in a court trial and could add significant time to the case.
Greco said he expects members of the Senate to vote “based solely on the evidence presented at trial and not anything they’ve read in Mr. Gentile’s media blitzkrieg.”
He said he has seen a number of stories and interviews with Gentile and understands he is trying to use the media to strengthen public perception of his case.
“That’s an attempt to taint the Senate, to influence the senators by providing one- sided information, much of which is going to be shown to be completely false during the Senate trial,” said Greco.
He predicted the media campaign will do little to sway anyone.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.