Judicial candidate’s experience runs the gamut

Candidates love to tout their experience during a campaign. They think it sets them apart from their opponents, and it often does.

Take judicial candidate Nicholas Perrino, for instance.

During his previously unsuccessful campaigns for judgeships in Municipal and District Court, the attorney often listed his experience. And why not?

Although my attempts to reach Perrino thus far have been unsuccessful, according to published reports he has been a licensed attorney since 1969. Although he has spent most of his career in private practice, he fondly recalls the nearly two years he was a prosecutor in Cincinnati. He noted in a 2011 Review-Journal story during his unsuccessful Municipal Court campaign that he had participated in approximately 100 jury trials ranging from civil litigation to the aggravated murder with the possibility of the death penalty.

Biographical material he generated at the time touted his 41 years of courtroom experience, time as an assistant city prosecutor, a Hamilton County (Ohio) domestic court magistrate, and even a brief tenure as a judge.

That’s a lot of experience, certainly enough to warrant Perrino’s considered legal opinion that, “Police should be tough on crime; prosecutors should be tough on crime. But judges should be in the middle.”

Hard to argue with that.

It’s also interesting to learn through a July 2008 Review-Journal article published during his unsuccessful run for the District Court bench that Perrino said that he was an IRS agent in his late 20s. He said at the time, “I’ve had every experience you can have.”

Talk about an understatement.

Perrino even has experience vouching for the character and credibility of PurchasePro President and CEO Charles E. “Junior” Johnson, who ranks among the greatest con men in Las Vegas history. Before he was convicted of stock fraud and obstruction of justice and packed off to federal prison on a nine-year sentence, Johnson befriended some of the Strip’s biggest casino players and sold them on the wonders of PurchasePro’s software program.

In theory, the program would enable them to buy goods at superior discounts. Johnson trumpeted his friendships with gaming titan Steve Wynn and lesser industry lights and sweetened many of those relationships with generous preferred-stock offers. In the end, many of Johnson’s Las Vegas contacts were as jilted as the rest of the suckers who believed his wildly inflated and fraudulent corporate “earnings” and bought PurchasePro stock.

The company was founded in 1997 in Las Vegas and went public in 1999. Johnson soon shouted about its $4 billion market capitalization and 140,000 vendors. At the company’s zenith, Johnson’s PurchasePro shares were worth approximately $1.2 billion and he enjoyed a lavish Las Vegas lifestyle.

By the spring of 2001, Johnson’s fraud was collapsing around his ears. He was forced to resign from his own board of directors. The company declared bankruptcy in 2002. Indictments of Johnson and seven others, including former AOL executives, followed.

The experienced Perrino would know all about this. He not only was Johnson’s loyal friend, but also was one of his in-house counsel.

For a time, Johnson even dated Perrino’s daughter, according to one published account. Although Perrino was never implicated in wrongdoing in the PurchasePro scandal, like many favored Johnson allies he received company stock, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The experienced Perrino, in an Oct. 23, 2000, edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier, offered this opinion of Johnson after accepting the job of in-house counsel, “It’s sort of invigorating. They’ve been great people to work with and Junior’s just a great leader. He’s a very dynamic person. The amount of work he does is just unbelievable.”

The amount of due diligence Perrino did before jumping at the lucrative job offer is another matter.

After acknowledging he had received generous stock options, he admitted to the business journal, “I’m not a millionaire yet. I hope it ends up that way. But I’m not now. I’m far from it.”

That was just a few months before the high-flying Johnson left the hydrogen-inflated PurchasePro and watched it explode like a Wall Street Hindenburg.

Although Perrino hasn’t been including his PurchasePro tenure in his campaign material, I think being a legal shill for a billion-dollar con man counts as experience, too.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.