Woman gets probation in school kidnap case

Elaine Clermont's defiance had as much to do as her crime with why she went to jail instead of home Thursday after District Judge Doug Herndon sentenced her in connection with the kidnapping of a child near a school.

Clermont has refused to admit she did anything wrong even after she was arrested, charged and convicted of charges stemming from the 2008 incident.

On Sept. 8, 2008, Laurinda Drake found 6-year-old Raashad Davis wandering unattended off the grounds of Mackey Elementary School in North Las Vegas. She brought him to Clermont's home, where the women called the school district and the media. About 90 minutes later, they brought the boy to Clark County School District offices, unharmed, purportedly to publicize alleged lax security at the district's schools.

Drake was acquitted of charges after a trial in 2009. But a jury found Clermont guilty in October of felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping and a gross misdemeanor charge of false imprisonment.

That development surprised the legal community because Drake's involvement appeared more serious than Clermont's.

But Drake admitted she made a mistake; Clermont never has.

With her husband, Chris, and daughter, Siobahn, sitting in the courtroom, wiping tears from their faces, Clermont showed no signs of backing down. She said she did what she thought was right that day.

"I called the (school district)," she said. "At no point did they say do something different or that what I was doing was wrong."

She tried to object while prosecutors argued for prison time. Later, when addressing Herndon, she insulted the judge twice, saying he "degraded" people. She implied the judge showed favoritism to the prosecution because he used to be a deputy district attorney. Herndon has not worked for the district attorney's office for more than five years.

The state sought to have Clermont serve up to six years in prison because, in large part, of her defiance and unwillingness to be interviewed by the Division of Parole and Probation before being sentenced.

Defense attorney Mace Yampolsky, who was unsuccessful in getting the verdict dismissed on the grounds of insufficient evidence presented at trial, told the court Clermont was not uncooperative with Parole and Probation.

"She moved to Palm Springs (Calif.)," he said. "It was a miscommunication."

At the end of her statement, Clermont admitted that in hindsight she should have called police rather than hold on to the boy . She promised to appeal her conviction after accusing the district attorney's office of being corrupt and against a "Republican housewife Christian mom."

Herndon had strong words for her.

"You feel paranoia. You see evil whenever someone doesn't agree with you," Herndon said. "The school, the school district, the DA, Parole and Probation -- now you want to cast aspersions on me because I worked for the DA. You're right, and everybody else is wrong."

He said that Clermont's behavior was "very narcissistic" and that her inability to appreciate what she did was wrong was troubling.

Still, Herndon did not accept the state's argument she deserved a lengthy prison term. He sentenced her to up to five years of probation on the condition she serve 120 days in the Clark County Detention Center and undergo a mental evaluation when she is released.

Clermont's husband, Chris, comforted the couple's daughter as a bailiff placed handcuffs on his wife.

"This is wrong," he said. "This is so wrong. These people don't understand."

Contact reporter Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@review journal.com or 702-380-8135.