Video tells a different story about judge's confrontation in case

Clark County District Judge Doug Smith felt Juan Perez had an attitude in court, so he locked him in jail for three months.

However, video footage obtained by the Review-Journal of the 70-second hearing doesn’t show Perez giving the judge grief.

If anything, Perez, who speaks with a heavy Spanish accent, appeared casual.

District Court officials released video footage of the confrontation in response to a Review-Journal request under the state public records law.

After the Jan. 16 hearing, Smith jailed Perez for 15 days, then raised his bail from $3,000 to $1 million on a drug trafficking charge.

He remained in jail until the Nevada Supreme Court earlier this month rebuked Smith, ordered Perez’s bail returned to $3,000 and ordered the case to be moved to another judge’s courtroom.

Smith has said he is prohibited from commenting on a pending case.

Perez’s case dates to January 2010, when he was charged with drug trafficking after being found with two baggies containing more than 20 grams of cocaine.

Perez posted $3,000 bail and was released from jail. He hired veteran defense lawyer John Momot.

Nearly three years after Perez’s arrest, Momot withdrew as his lawyer.

On Jan. 16, Perez appeared before Smith.

The two exchanged just 55 words.

Smith: “Your attorney has withdrawn. How come you haven’t stayed in contact with your attorney?”

Perez: “Not helping me.”

Smith: “No, he withdrew.”

Perez: “OK. I’ll have to get another lawyer.”

Smith: “What?”

Perez: “I’ll have to get another lawyer.”

Smith: “Well, good, we’ll find you one.”

Perez: “Thank you.”

Smith: “You’re remanded. Thank you. An attitude like that, you can sit in jail.”

Momot, who was at the hearing in relation to a different case, declined comment.

On the video, the lawyer is seen being friendly with Perez as his case is called.

And once Smith ordered Perez locked up, Momot appeared to be trying to make an appeal, but the judge drowned out his voice and appointed the public defender’s office to represent the defendant.

On the video, Perez appeared surprised when a marshal began to handcuff him.

At a hearing later in January, Perez apologized to Smith and asked to be released on the original $3,000 bail, which had been approved by a Las Vegas justice of the peace in the lower court. Standard bail for a drug trafficking count is $10,000.

Citing Perez’ use of myriad names and Social Security numbers and a history of drug trafficking convictions, Smith set bail at $1 million.

Perez’ new lawyer, deputy public defender David Lopez-Negrete, appealed Smith’s decision to the Supreme Court.

Three justices found that Smith had violated Perez’s constitutional rights and abused his discretion “by remanding (Perez) to custody and setting bail at an excessive amount in order to punish him for having an ‘attitude’ during a court proceeding.”

The justices ordered bail set at $3,000, and the case was reassigned to Judge Abbi Silver. Records show Perez posted bail and was released from jail after the high court’s ruling.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have filed notice they will seek habitual criminal status for Perez. A hearing is set for April 30.

Court documents show Perez has a history of run-ins with Las Vegas law enforcement, including three separate felony convictions for drug trafficking since 1989. If convicted and deemed a habitual criminal, Perez could face a life prison term.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.