Updated September 30, 2020 - 4:22 pm
A Las Vegas attorney, recently charged with writing $400,000 in bad checks, told police in 2017 that he used cocaine with a woman who died of a drug overdose.
He also acknowledged that he never called authorities to report her death, according to police records.
Attorney Brian Padgett, 47, told Henderson police in a recorded interview that he consumed “a little” cocaine with Catherine “Katie” Howard, 38, of Henderson on the morning of June 25, 2017, at a home on Moyer Drive.
Padgett said he later found Howard dead in her bedroom. The Clark County coroner’s office ultimately ruled Howard’s death an accidental overdose due to heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine intoxication.
Henderson police asked Padgett why he did not call authorities after discovering the woman’s lifeless body.
“Obviously, I guess I should have,” the attorney responded in an audio recording of the interview.
Padgett was not arrested or charged with wrongdoing in the death — a fact that has frustrated Howard’s family. Henderson police described the matter as “non-criminal” in an incident report.
In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, the Police Department cited a Nevada law that went into effect in July. Under the law, a person who provides drugs that cause another person’s death can be charged with murder.
However, police said, “there were no applicable offenses to charge Mr. Padgett with” at the time of Howard’s death.
Howard’s sister, Denise Levesque, of Santa Monica, California, said police told her it is not a crime in Nevada if someone fails to call 911 for an individual in medical distress.
“We’ll never know if she could have survived that event had he called 911,” Levesque said.
Padgett’s attorney, Garrett Ogata, did not respond to a request for comment for this story. A message left for Padgett on his cellphone generated no response. A phone number for Padgett’s law office is not functioning, nor is an email address for Padgett’s downtown Las Vegas law firm that specialized in land use and eminent domain litigation.
‘Magnetic, beautiful person’
Levesque said her sister was a wonderful person who fell on hard times in Las Vegas, eventually becoming a victim of the opioid crisis. Howard was born in New York, grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, lived in California for a bit, then came to Las Vegas to attend UNLV.
“She was an incredibly special, magnetic, beautiful person,” Levesque said. “She made everyone laugh who she knew. She was a light in our family.”
Howard worked in a bar at Mandalay Bay and several other restaurants. Levesque said her family, over time, came to the painful realization that Howard was fighting a dangerous addiction to narcotics. They tried to get her help, but she refused.
“We honestly thought she would hit a point where she would hit rock bottom,” Levesque said. “Then we could get her into rehab, finally, but we didn’t get that chance.”
There is a discrepancy in the details of how Howard met Padgett. A police report detailing Howard’s death indicates that Padgett told police the couple met at an area bar. Levesque said her sister told her she met Padgett through an online dating site called sugardaddy.com.
“She told me she had met this guy, he was a lawyer, he seemed really nice, but then they were not in touch for a few months. And then she texted me, and she was like, ‘Well he came back,’ ” Levesque said. “ ‘He thinks that I’m special. He’s not really my sugar daddy, but he gets a kick out of me, and he thinks I’m so funny, and we are kind of actually seeing each other.’ ”
At the time, Padgett was a successful lawyer who owned a prominent marijuana dispensary business, CWNevada, and at least one apartment building. He also was engaged.
Howard, meanwhile, was broke, living in a small room in Henderson, single and struggling with drug addiction.
Padgett told police he was paying for a hotel room for Howard at Green Valley Ranch Resort in the days leading up to her death because she was a friend and he was concerned about her.
“We call it an inactive friendship,” he told police. “That’s what I would call it. There was always sexual banter, but I mean we weren’t.”
Accidental 911 call
Henderson police were alerted to a problem in the home on Moyer Drive at 6:58 a.m. on June 25, 2017, as a result of an accidental 911 call that was made by Howard’s male roommate at least 2½ hours after Padgett discovered Howard’s body. A resulting police report said that on the accidental call, a dispatcher heard “somebody talking about $100,000 cash and a possible dead body.”
Padgett told police he picked up Howard at Green Valley Ranch around midnight. The pair returned to Howard’s room at the home on Moyer because she had a “surprise” for Padgett.
“Brian and the decedent proceeded to use cocaine which was ingested by snorting it,” a police report states.
Padgett told police he only used a small amount of cocaine. Padgett said he subsequently fell asleep in Howard’s room, then awoke sometime between 3 and 4:30 a.m.
It was then that he found Howard’s body.
“I looked at her, determined there was no breathing, there was nothing, so I started to perform CPR,” Padgett told police.
He said the CPR was unsuccessful. He said he called a female roommate of Howard’s repeatedly, then repeatedly called a man who did security work for his marijuana company.
Padgett confirmed to police that he never called paramedics or police. He also confirmed he left the residence before returning at some point.
“Did you ever think to call 911 and have paramedics take a look at her?” an officer asked.
“Um, so there was nothing,” Padgett responded. “Nothing. Maybe I should have. I’ve never been in that situation before.”
Police inspected Padgett’s phone, finding “messages from several apparent women who appeared to have a sexual relationship with Brian” along with messages referencing cocaine, the police incident report states.
“When confronted with these facts Brian admitted he would in fact participate and had participated in cocaine use more than just the one time he originally claimed he used cocaine with the decedent,” police wrote.
‘Several questionable decisions’
Police said that once they turned off a recording device, Padgett told them he was “in a horrible spot.”
“Brian made several questionable decisions including not calling 911 for several hours,” the report states.
Police said the accidental 911 call was made during an argument between Padgett and Howard’s male roommate. Police said they could hear Padgett on the phone asking Howard’s roommate “how he would like $100,000 cash.”
“Brian makes this offer two times during the 911 call,” the incident report states.
Padgett denied making the statement and could not explain it to investigators. He said he never tried to prevent Howard’s roommate from calling 911.
After the police recording device was turned off, police said, Padgett informed officers that he was concerned that the details of Howard’s death “would be on the news and tarnish his reputation.”
Bad checks and the State Bar
In the years after Howard’s death, Padgett’s marijuana business faltered. The Review-Journal reported last year that the company was struggling to pay its bills, and in July, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board voted to strip more than a dozen licenses from the business plagued with accusations of fraud and unpaid taxes. The company also is the subject of civil litigation in District Court.
In August, Las Vegas police arrested Padgett in connection with $400,000 in bounced checks. A criminal complaint filed in Las Vegas Justice Court after Padgett’s arrest accused the lawyer of drawing and passing checks without sufficient funds with intent to defraud.
The criminal complaint states that Padgett wrote two checks — one for $350,000 and one for $50,000 — that bounced.
Padgett’s defense attorney, Ogata, described him in court as a lawyer and business owner who has extensive ties to the community.
“This actually is a crime I believe is involving many civil suits,” Ogata said. “This is a bad-check case, not a violent crime. He’s not a threat to the community.”
The State Bar of Nevada is now seeking to revoke Padgett’s law license after two complaints filed against him with the State Bar were sustained by a disciplinary board.
One of the sustained complaints involved a former client who said Padgett took a $152,000 civil judgment from him in District Court without his knowledge. The second sustained complaint involves a former employee of Padgett’s marijuana company who said Padgett persuaded him to take on a civil liability with the promise that Padgett would pay it off. He never did.
The bar’s Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board recommended that Padgett’s license be suspended for five years. If, after that period, he wants to return to the legal profession, he would have to retake the state’s bar exam. The Nevada Supreme Court has not ruled on those recommendations.
Padgett is scheduled to appear in Justice Court in the bad-checks case on Dec. 16.
Reflecting on the lawyer’s connection to Howard’s death, Levesque said she doesn’t blame him for her sister’s drug use, but she does blame him for not calling 911.
“We will never know if she could have been saved,” the woman said.