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Former Nye County DA has law license suspended

The Nevada Supreme Court has suspended the law license of former Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett in the wake of his no-contest plea to a misdemeanor charge in Pahrump last year.

Beckett is temporarily suspended from practicing law in Nevada pending formal disciplinary proceedings by a review board from the State Bar of Nevada.

In October, Beckett pleaded no contest to a charge of obstructing a public officer in connection with allegations of embezzlement from a fund managed by his office.

As part of his plea deal, the disgraced district attorney agreed to complete an alcohol treatment program and resign from office on Nov. 1, two months before his term was due to expire. He is due to have the charge wiped from his record upon successful completion of alcohol treatment.

The Supreme Court handed down its suspension on Dec. 30 in response to a petition from the State Bar.

According to the order, suspension and referral to the appropriate disciplinary board are mandatory when an attorney has been convicted of a “serious” crime.

Though not a felony, Beckett’s crime qualifies as serious because it involved “interference with the administration of justice,” the Supreme Court ruled.

According to bar records, Beckett has been licensed to practice law in Nevada since 1988. His hearing before the bar’s Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board has not been scheduled.

His suspension could complicate the cases of two Nye County School District employees who hired Beckett to defend them against charges of abusing special education students at a Pahrump school.

Floyd Elementary School special education teacher Sarah Hopkins and classroom aide Kathryn Cummings have retained Beckett to defend them on a felony child abuse charge stemming from allegations of corporal punishment in the classroom.

A second aide, Phyllis DuShane, faced the same felony count but pleaded guilty on Dec. 23 to a misdemeanor battery charge under a deal with prosecutors.

In a written statement released to the Pahrump Valley Times after her plea, DuShane said she regretted her error in judgment but did not believe her actions at the time went beyond what was allowed under the individualized education plans for the special education students in the class.

She was sentenced to 150 hours of community service.

Hopkins and Cummings are scheduled for arraignment in Pahrump Justice Court on Jan. 31.

The school’s principal, Holly Lepisto, also was charged with felony child abuse and is set for arraignment on Feb. 1.

All four school district employees remain on paid suspension from their jobs.

Beckett could not be reached for comment.

He finished last out of five candidates in the June 8 primary election and was due to leave office when his replacement was to be sworn in Jan. 3. By stepping down on Nov. 1, he lost out on about $20,000 in salary and benefits.

He still faces a misdemeanor drunken driving charge after he was found passed out behind the wheel of a county vehicle Sept. 7 on a remote Pahrump street.

In 2008, Beckett crashed two vehicles, one of them a county-owned SUV, six hours apart on the same desert highway in California.

He was arrested for drunken driving after the second accident, but he eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and agreed to undergo counseling on the dangers of alcohol and driving.

Court records show his probation in California lasts until March 2012.

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