Clerk: Ruling on Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki case will come next week
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) – A clerk said Tuesday it will be next week before a Nevada judge rules whether to dismiss criminal charges accusing state Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and his top aide of mishandling a $3 billion state college savings program.
Clark County District Court Judge Valerie Adair’s clerk, Penny Wisner, said that a ruling won’t come until after Thanksgiving and a courts holiday on Friday.
Adair heard more than an hour of arguments and squabbles Tuesday between prosecutors from the state attorney general’s office and attorneys for Krolicki and his chief of staff and co-defendant, Kathryn Besser.
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto offered to turn the prosecution over to a special prosecutor due to what Masto characterized as a personal conflict. Lawyers for Krolicki derided the offer.
“This is absolutely ridiculous,” Krolicki defense lawyer Richard Wright said, accusing the prosecution of a “dog ate my homework” delaying tactic on the eve of trial.
“We don’t accept the representations of how this came about,” he said. “It looks like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit to me.”
Prosecutor Christine Guerci Nyhus told the judge that Masto just learned that her husband, Paul Masto, will host a Dec. 10 fundraiser for a candidate running against Krolicki in the 2010 lieutenant governor election.
Defense lawyers lost a legal battle last summer to disqualify the state attorney general’s office. Wright on Tuesday called the offer now, “too little, too late.”
The defense lawyers say the same state attorney general’s office now prosecuting the case advised Krolicki when he was state treasurer that the way funds were handled was appropriate.
Wright accuses Masto, a Democrat, of a partisan prosecution of Krolicki, a Republican whose hopes of challenging Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in the November 2010 election were crippled by his indictment a year ago. Prosecutors deny politics play any role in the case.
Besser’s lawyer, Lidia Stiglich, said Tuesday she wouldn’t oppose turning over the case to a special prosecutor if the trial would go forward as scheduled Dec. 14. All sides agreed that wasn’t possible.
Stiglich also attacked the charges against Besser, saying prosecutors confused and misled grand jurors to obtain her indictment. Stiglich denied her client had the requisite legal intent to “aid and abet” Krolicki in breaking any law.
Krolicki lawyer Margaret Stanish said Krolicki started the state’s College Savings Program after the Legislature created it in 1999, and properly deposited money in a trust account instead of the state general fund.
“Not a dollar, not a quarter, not a dime, not a penny is missing from the College Savings Program,” Stanish said.
An audit in 2007 found no funds missing, but that more was spent on advertising than the Legislature allowed.
Prosecutor Conrad Hafen said Krolicki violated state budget law and his responsibilities as state treasurer in diverting that money.
“Mr. Krolicki clearly … violated the state budget act and his responsibilities as state treasurer,” Hafen said.
The indictment handed up last December in Las Vegas charges Krolicki and Besser each with four felony charges – two counts of misappropriation and falsification of accounts by a public officer, and two counts of misappropriation – based on Krolicki’s performance in his previous elected position, state treasurer.
Both have pleaded not guilty. The charges each carry the possibility of probation or up to four years in prison.