Herrera’s freedom moves up

Former Clark County Commissioner Dario Herrera was hammered with a 50-month prison sentence after a jury convicted him of charges related to accepting bribes from a Las Vegas strip club owner.

But Herrera, who arrived at a Las Vegas halfway house Thursday, is serving less time in prison than ordered by U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks upon his conviction in 2006.

Herrera surrendered to a prison camp in Florence, Colo. and began his sentence on Jan. 12, 2007. Herrera officially should be released from the prison system in March 2011 if the sentence Hicks levied stands.

But the Bureau of Prisons’ Web site lists Herrera’s formal release date from the prison system as Dec. 14, 2009. A message to the bureau was not returned Thursday, and a recorded message said officials do not comment on specific inmates.

If it seems Herrera is getting out of prison early, this is why: New guidelines for the release of federal prisoners were passed by Congress and went into effect April 8.

The new law changed the previous rules, which allowed inmates to leave a prison and enter a halfway house six months before their formal release date. The law states that prisoners now may spend up to one year in a halfway house and up to six months under home confinement.

The law also states that prisoners may receive up to 54 days of credit toward their sentence "at the end of each year of the prisoner’s term of imprisonment."

The decision is made by "the Bureau of Prisons that, during that year, the prisoner has displayed exemplary compliance with institutional disciplinary regulations," the law states.

Herrera already has spent 30 months in prison. Under the new guidelines, he is credited the 54 days for each of his two years of good behavior, which knocks nearly four months off his sentence.

Also, he is allowed a year in a halfway house and a remaining five months under home confinement. All of that amounts to about 50 months.

Under the old law, Herrera would have another year to go at the Colorado prison camp.

Gregory Brower, U.S. attorney for Nevada, said once a judge sentences a defendant, the case is out of his office’s control unless the defendant violates probation.

"We participate in the sentencing and ask for a certain sentence," said Brower, whose office recommended a 51-month sentence for Herrera. "It’s out of our hands once that happens. It’s a matter for the Bureau of Prisons and beyond that, Congress."

Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, who also was convicted of accepting bribes from strip club owner Michael Galardi, received a 30-month sentence. Kincaid-Chauncey, who surrendered the same day as Herrera, spent the majority of her sentence in a Victorville, Calif., prison camp.

Kincaid-Chauncey was transferred to the Las Vegas Community Corrections Center in December and released to home confinement 10 days later. She said Thursday that the new guidelines did not benefit her because her official release date was less than a year after the law was enacted.

Kincaid-Chauncey was allowed to move to home confinement because of space constraints in the 124-bed halfway house and the fact that she did not need drug rehabilitation, aid in finding a job or help re-establishing ties to the community.

She said most inmates in her situation do not stay long at the halfway house.

Still, the halfway house was more restrictive than prison, she said. At the prison camp, she was permitted to use the library, go to the gym, take walks around the track or sit in the garden and read when she wasn’t working.

"At the halfway house, they don’t have all those facilities," Kincaid-Chauncey said of the center, on Industrial Road behind the Circus Circus. "You have 45 minutes each day you can leave the halfway house. Other than that, you’re just sitting there."

Visitors are allowed only on weekends, she said.

On home confinement, Kincaid-Chauncey was allowed out for a few hours a day but had to report her daily outings to her probation officer and had to be reachable by a land-line phone.

"I couldn’t go up to Mount Charleston or to the park," she said. "I’d have to give them the number of the grocery store so if I was shopping when they called, I’d be there. If I left Smith’s and went to Albertson’s, I’d have to call."

Kincaid-Chauncey’s formal release date was in March. She recently arrived in Colorado to care for her grandchildren after her son was deployed to Afghanistan. Because she is still on probation, the first day she was there, a probation officer showed up to confirm her new temporary address.

Herrera’s arrival at the halfway house comes before former Clark County Commissioner Erin Kenny’s check-in date.

Kenny, who cooperated in the investigation, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and checked into a Phoenix facility in October 2007. It is conceivable the two might be living at the halfway house at the same time.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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