MINDEN — A Nevada judge has been charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in the August death of a bicyclist.
A criminal complaint filed Friday alleges Douglas County District Judge Michael Gibbons failed to exercise due care when passing bicyclist Joseph Longo, 61, of Gardnerville.
Longo and Gibbons were both traveling west on Pinenut Road on Aug. 20, and the judge was making a right turn onto East Valley Road when the rear of his vehicle struck the bike, according to the Nevada Highway Patrol. Longo was not wearing a helmet.
The police investigation concluded the collision was a result of simple negligence, and there were no aggravating circumstances or egregious conduct involved.
Gibbons’ attorney David Houston issued a statement questioning District Attorney Mark Jackson’s handling of the case.
“We are surprised and disappointed that the local district attorney has decided to file charges,” Houston said. “We thought the case should be handled by a prosecutor from outside of Douglas County. We believe that this case is more properly resolved in a civil court because our accident reconstruction has shown that Judge Gibbons did not hit the bicyclist. This is a tragic incident for all.”
Jackson told Gardnerville’s Record-Courier he believed it was appropriate for him to prosecute the case, noting his office has pursued cases involving family members of county officials.
If convicted, Gibbons faces up to a $1,000 fine, a one-year suspension of his driver’s license and six months in jail.
Of seven drivers convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the county since 2005, two were sentenced to jail, Jackson said. The others received a suspended jail term or a fine only.
“In the cases wherein jail was imposed, there were either aggravating circumstances, a criminal history or strong victim recommendations for a term of confinement,” Jackson said.
Gibbons, a former chief deputy district attorney, was first elected to the bench in 1994 and re-elected in 1996, 2002 and 2008.
He’s scheduled to make an initial appearance in East Fork Township Justice Court on Jan. 13.