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Judge takes cake for DUI program graduate

Ashley Michelle Agerbeek struggled through DUI court for more than a year, so much so that Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joe Sciscento nearly kicked her out of the moderate offenders program.

She failed drug and alcohol tests twice, spending most of the months of February and May in 2014 in the Clark County Detention Center. The program requires regular addiction classes, court appearances and random drug and alcohol tests.

“I was for termination,” Sciscento said. “I didn’t think she would make it. She was one of these people who was fighting me left and right.”

Whenever he told her she was doing well, she would mess up again.

Even her mother, Gaby Agerbeek, said she was worried. Las Vegas, with access to all vices at all hours, isn’t the easiest town to stay sober.

“You have to be really disciplined not to get caught up in gambling and drinking,” she said.

In late 2013, Ashley Agerbeek was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, improper lane change and operating a vehicle without registration among other counts. It was her third DUI.

She knew she had a problem with booze, blacking out and making bad decisions, but she said she didn’t have control of herself.

As the 25-year-old struggled through rehabilitation, the judge threatened to send her to jail for six months. She would lose her house and car and probably the spa that she runs. She would have to start her life over.

Agerbeek sobered up during her last stint in jail, and she hasn’t had a drink since.

“I started taking things seriously,” she said. “I decided to challenge myself. I found a peace in myself. I like being sober, and I learned to love who I am sober. I don’t want to go backwards.”

Because of the DUI, she lost her license for an undetermined amount of time and spent more than $10,000 on her case. Whenever she is able to drive again, she’ll have to pay monthly fees for a Breathalyzer on her steering wheel.

She said she has mended relationships with family and changed the friends with whom she surrounds herself.

Late Friday morning, a pink, yellow and white Hello Kitty cake sat on the judge’s bench, waiting for Agerbeek’s name to be called. She was about to graduate from the yearlong intensive program. Sciscento said she has become a leader among her peers.

Nearly everyone in the packed courtroom — clerks, public defenders, prosecutors, court marshals and fellow judges — held cellphones up to snap photos and video of what was about to happen.

Two other people received certificates and cupcakes before the judge called Agerbeek.

She walked up with her mother and stepfather.

“I’m getting nervous now,” Sciscento said, standing on a drop cloth in the middle of the courtroom. “To see how much you’ve changed is amazing. I’m very proud.”

Months ago, when Agerbeek was struggling through the program, the judge promised her a special treat if she graduated. He agreed to let her throw the cake in his face.

“I will do whatever it takes to help you graduate,” Sciscento said.

Agerbeek learned Friday that the judge, whom she called one of her biggest motivators, stuck to his word.

“Thank you,” she said, reaching for the cake and nearly dropping it on the floor. “This is an honor.”

She mashed the cake in the judge’s face — twice. He extended his arms for a hug, and she ducked.

None of the cake appeared to fall on the judge’s robe, which he said wasn’t the one he normally wears.

Icing dripped from his face and hands, and Sciscento needed to wash up before addressing the rest of the people in the program.

“It’s not like this is moisturizing cream,” he said. “Court will be in recess for five minutes.”

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @randompoker.

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