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Rural judges blast state parole and probation division

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

Douglas County District Court Judge Nathan Tod Young is furious with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. He’s so mad he threatened to hold the division in contempt of court. 

Here’s why. He said in October the division had filed with his court false documents, misleading documents and “extraneous material which wastes the court’s time, and which is in fact frivolous.”

That was just in one case, a young woman who was found guilty of embezzlement in 2017 and was put on probation rather than serving time in prison. 

Young said he tried repeatedly to fix the issues with the division.

Judge Nathan Tod Young. Image: Douglas County.
Judge Nathan Tod Young. Image: Douglas County.

“I want you to know that I have personally met with people in your position, and people under your position on several occasions to try to correct some difficulties,” Young said. “At the time, Judge Michael Gibbons joined me. On another occasion, Judge Thomas Gregory joined the meeting. On another occasion, I met with the individual myself to try to talk about the difficulty with Parole and Probation providing the court with incomplete, inaccurate and untimely material related to people’s probations.” 

Young said he followed up with the division and “never heard a word” from the time the woman was given probation until April of this year. Young said she allegedly stopped reporting to her probation officer, but the division never issued a warrant for her arrest. 

Instead, he said the division sent false documents to the court, one of which indicated the woman had been dishonorably discharged by the court. 

“[A document] indicates that she was discharged,” Young said. “This is false. This … is a grotesque failure on the part of the people who are supposed to be supervising a criminal who stole from a citizen of the state of Nevada.”

Young said he had no choice but to grant the discharge of the woman from probation – even though she was short $5,000 of a total $15,000 she owed in restitution to her victim – because of the division’s actions.

Young had ordered the division chief, Tom Lawson, to court in October, according to reporting in the Record Courier. “Both Young and Judge Tom Gregory have faced instances where people ordered to pay restitution have seen their probation expire before they finished paying. Young has been threatening for months to hold the division in contempt if they kept sending in requests for dishonorable discharges after those ordered to pay restitution had their terms expire.”

Young said it was the fourth time he had to discharge somebody from probation who still owed restitution. Deputy Attorney General Nathan Holland said the woman would not have completed restitution during the probation period anyway. 

Young is not alone

Judge Kimberly Wanker of Nye County’s Fifth Judicial District Court also said she has problems with the division. She said she has been unable to get pre-sentencing investigation (PSI) reports from the division. 

“This is the second case I’ve had today so far that we haven’t been able to move forward on because of problems either with the PSIs not being done correctly, or they’re just wrong, or we don’t have one,” she said early this month during a hearing. 

She suggested, similar to Young, the division could be held in contempt. 

“I feel bad for the defendant. I feel bad for the prosecution. I feel bad for the courts because it slows the process down, but I don’t know why we’re having so many problems in the rurals,” she added. “I don’t like business being conducted in this manner.”

She ordered the division to appear before her in early January to explain why they aren’t complying with the court. 

One rural public defender said he would like to see the division abolished altogether. 

“If it were up to me, I would shut down Parole and Probation,” said Humboldt County Public Defender Matt Stermitz. “They’re a state agency and nobody is really in control of them.”

Stermitz said the division would also give honorable discharges to parolees “even with parolees owing tens of thousands of dollars in restitution. That made our judge frantic about it,” he said. “It was an embarrassment to the judge. The restitution issue was a disaster for over a decade or two.”

Administrators from the division did not answer questions for this article after initially saying a response would be provided. Governor Steve Sisolak’s office also did not respond to a request for comment. 

CORRECTION: This article was updated to correct the misspelling of Judge Wanker’s name

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