Pardons Board rejects pleas by nine of 15 petitioners
The Pardons Board on Wednesday rejected pleas for clemency by nine of 15 prison inmates, including John Olausen, convicted in the murder of undercover Reno police officer James Hoff.
Olausen was 18 when he participated in the 1979 murder, which occurred during a drug deal gone wrong. He has now served nearly 30 years on a sentence of life without possible parole.
Although Olausen said he regrets the killing “to the depths of my soul,” Reno Police officer Dave Jenkins ” one of the few officers still active who knew Hoff ” said giving him a chance would be “an offense to every member of this community.”
He asked the board to keep Olausen in prison and the board agreed, unanimously.
When the board hit the cases of Robert Stoltz, given life for a Reno murder in the 1980s, and Jamie Cunningham, sentenced to life as an habitual criminal 15 years ago, they ran into a legal problem. David Smith of the Parole Board said even if those two were given the possibility of parole by the Pardons Board, parole officials couldn’t release them because of a statute that precludes release from a life sentence if the inmate has a prior criminal history.
Justice Jim Hardesty said the conflict raises a public policy question and a possible conflict with the state constitution.
Attorney Richard Cornell, who represented both men, said Cunningham even has the support of the victim’s father who believes him innocent of the crime.
In Stoltz’s case, he said he has everything going right, “but because of this stolen check case from 1979, we can’t give parole.”
The board granted Amalia Boyer parole eligibility on her second degree murder conviction out of Clark County. She shot her best friend in the head when she was 16 and has spent the past 11 years in prison.
Jesus Avelar was released from his drug trafficking conviction and turned over to immigration authorities. He will be deported to Mexico and said he plans to work on the family’s farm.
While Mark McKinney of Las Vegas was denied relief on his request to run 15 conviction sentences concurrently instead of consecutively, Michael Smith won concurrent sentencing on his 21 sentences. The difference, in the eyes of the board, was the extensive programs Smith has involved himself in including not only psychological counseling and substance abuse courses but educational classes. He will be eligible for parole in 2011.
The board continued the petition by Thomas Welsh, who pleaded guilty to first degree murder in Clark County and agreed to a life sentence without parole. Justice Michael Cherry said he wants to see the transcript of the sentencing hearing and the plea agreement to determine why Welsh basically got nothing out of the agreement except the maximum possible sentence.
The board also denied 76-year-old Janine Hillman, who was convicted of executing a Sparks 71-year-old 21 years ago. The victim’s son, Dave Galleron, urged the board to reject the plea saying she held him prisoner, tortured and killed him, then spent three days draining his bank accounts while the victim’s body lay in a hot tub.
And the board denied Nolan Klein, who was convicted of sexual assault some 19 years ago. Attorney Robert Hager raised serious questions about the evidence in that case saying the district attorney and sheriff’s office have allowed cigarette butts with DNA evidence on them to disappear from the evidence despite Klein’s request they be maintained so they could be tested.
Klein has always maintained he is innocent of the crime.
Hager said the disappearance of the evidence is especially serious in the wake of a recent TV appearance by Washoe District Attorney Dick Gammick in which he told an interviewer Klein’s evidence was tested.
“Where is that report?” Hager demanded, saying it could exonerate Klein of the crime. “It would either be exculpatory or incriminating.”
After the denial, Hager said the issue will be raised in Klein’s ongoing federal case.
Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.