Pleas for leniency and a tearful Donald Davidson failed to persuade a federal judge Thursday to significantly reduce the sentence of the 73-year-old real estate consultant convicted of attempting to bribe an elected official.
U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt sentenced Davidson to two years in prison and fined him $50,000.
“This is a serious crime,” Hunt said. “It is destructive to the community, destructive to the government of the community and destructive to the public’s trust in its leaders.
“I understand your family has been devastated, but others have also been devastated, but not by their own acts.”
A jury found Davidson guilty in July of attempting to bribe then-Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald to execute land use changes. The jury was hung on counts related to attempting to pay off former Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny.
Davidson told the judge that locking him up would harm the community.
“Me not being able to help all those organizations is really denying the public,” Davidson said, referring to his charitable work.
Davidson’s lawyer, Arizona-based Clark Derrick, who replaced defense attorney Dominic Gentile after the trial, said he would appeal the sentence. Derrick also suggested he might appeal the conviction, saying that when he read the transcripts of the trial, he found some problems.
“In the preparation we have done for sentencing and reviewing the transcripts of the trial proceedings, there are some issues that need to be explored on appeal,” Derrick said. He would not elaborate.
The government attempted to persuade Hunt that a sentence between 63 months and 78 months was appropriate because Davidson lied on the stand and offered more than one bribe.
Prosecutors argued that Davidson demonstrated the same pattern of behavior with McDonald and Kenny and, therefore, attempted payoffs to Kenny should be included in the final tally of bribe money involved.
The judge stuck to a sentencing range of between 21 months and 27 months, ruling that there was not enough evidence to support the government’s proposed enhancements. Davidson had requested probation.
Hunt rejected arguments from prosecutor Daniel Schiess that Davidson’s attempted bribes amounted to more than $300,000, which would have added more time to his sentence.
The bulk of the bribe amounts listed by the government was related to the Kenny counts on which the jury was hung.
Hunt indicated he was surprised the jury did not find Davidson guilty of the Kenny-related counts.
“The court will confess some surprise at the jury’s verdict,” he said.
Hunt also declined to add time because of the government’s contention that Davidson lied on the stand, although he cast doubt on Davidson’s honesty. Hunt noted that Davidson’s testimony “was primarily designed to explain away what was some very incriminating, devastating evidence.”
Davidson is scheduled to surrender on March 28. He has yet to be designated to a prison.
Friends and family took exception to comments by Schiess that Davidson might appear to be a good person from the outside but is corrupt inside. That, Schiess said, is who he has been his entire life.
Davidson’s son Stuart angrily told the judge: “He doesn’t know him for a lifetime. I’ve known him for a lifetime.”
Davidson’s supporters described him as a generous, hard-working, law-abiding man with a big heart. The government, however, brought in a witness with a different perspective: Carolyn Edwards.
Edwards and her neighbors strongly fought a zone change that allowed a CVS Pharmacy at the intersection of Desert Inn Road and Buffalo Drive. The store is directly behind Edwards’ home.
Davidson was charged with paying Kenny $200,000 for pushing through the unwanted zone change. Edwards said Davidson told neighbors to go home during meetings regarding the pharmacy.
“He was rude, he was belligerent and he was intimidating,” Edwards said. “He tried to undermine my rights as a citizen.”
Davidson told Hunt that no prison sentence can compare to the pain his family has suffered. Prison time would devastate his tight family, he said.
He described himself as “honest, forthright, dedicated and compassionate.”
“I ask you to allow me to continue doing what I’ve been doing my entire life, helping people,” Davidson said.
Derrick described Davidson’s demeanor since his conviction.
“There have been many times he has sat across from me, tears filled his eyes and he said, ‘Clark, I have lost my dignity,’ ” Derrick said. “For a man to lose his dignity, I can’t think of anything else that tears a person’s heart apart. It’s been difficult for me to watch.”
Schiess said that if “there is ever a crime that severely and terribly harms the community, it’s bribery. There is nothing more destructive to the unity of a community than those who bribe and those who accept bribes.”
Davidson’s son Lawrence was charged in connection with helping Kenny establish an off-shore bank account to hide her bribe money. He vanished before the trial and is considered a fugitive.
Davidson is the latest to be sentenced in the political corruption scandal that became public in 2003.
Kenny is serving a 30-month sentence after she pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from strip club owner Michael Galardi. Kenny later told prosecutors about her illicit relationship with Davidson.
Galardi, who also pleaded guilty, is serving a 30-month sentence. Former Commissioners Dario Herrera and Mary Kincaid-Chauncey are serving 50-month and 30-month sentences, respectively, for pocketing bribes from Galardi.
Former Commissioner Lance Malone, who served as a middleman for Galardi and advised Davidson, received a six-year prison sentence.
Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 384-8710.