Judge dismisses charges against Nevada Lt. Gov. | NevadaAppeal.com

Judge dismisses charges against Nevada Lt. Gov.

OSKAR GARCIA
Associated Press Writer

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A judge has dismissed charges against Nevada Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and an aide who were accused of misappropriating funds from a college savings program.

Clark County District Court Judge Valerie Adair said in a ruling delivered Monday that the four-count felony indictment alleges that the crimes occurred over five years but doesn’t say which funds were used, which transactions were wrong and what duty Krolicki violated.

Adair’s ruling said the indictment of Krolicki aide Kathryn Besser was also insufficient.

“This has been just a very difficult ordeal,” Krolicki said after a brief hearing during which Adair summarized the order.

“This whole thing has been absurd from the very beginning,” he said.

It was not clear whether prosecutors would appeal. Edie Cartwright, a spokeswoman for the Nevada attorney general’s office, said the office was reviewing the decision and considering its options.

Defense lawyers have said the same state attorney general’s office which prosecuted Krolicki advised him when he was state treasurer that the way funds were handled was appropriate.

An audit in 2007 found no funds missing from the $3 billion program, but that more was spent on advertising than the Legislature allowed.

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, his lawyers have said.

The Republican politician’s lawyers have accused Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto of a partisan prosecution. Cortez Masto is a Democrat, and Krolicki’s hopes of challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the 2010 election ended following his indictment one year ago.

Krolicki prosecutor Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen has denied that politics played any role in the case. Hafen said Krolicki violated state budget law and his responsibilities as state treasurer in diverting that money.

Prosecutors have also argued that Krolicki benefited from the advertising because he appeared in the ads, increasing his visibility and name recognition.

But Adair said there is no evidence or contention that Krolicki or his aide converted state funds for their own use.

Kathryn Besser, Krolicki’s chief of staff, said the ruling showed the case to be a “partisan witch hunt.”

“I think the attorney general at the very least owes me an apology,” Besser said. “Catherine Cortez Masto should be ashamed of herself – of what she allowed her office to do.”

Cartwright, Cortez Masto’s spokeswoman, did not immediately return a call left on her voicemail seeking comment on the allegation.