Longtime judge ousted as Las Vegans pick lesser-known candidate

Voters ousted Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad on Tuesday, opting instead for a lesser-known candidate with less baggage.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege, and I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve our community for the past nine years,” Assad said.

The 60-year-old judge spoke by telephone from his home, where he was watching election returns with his family.

Assad, who was appointed in 2002, faced his first contested election this year. He came out on top of five challengers in the primary election, but attorney Heidi Almase took the lead in the general election.

Almase received 57 percent of the vote, while Assad received 43 percent.

Assad said he had no idea what made the difference in the general election, adding, “I wish I could answer that.”

But the February arrest of his 29-year-old son, Anthony Michael Carleo, and the subsequent publicity surely played a role.

Carleo was arrested in connection with a $1.5 million casino robbery at the Bellagio. The crime drew worldwide headlines in part because of the amount of money taken but also because of its brazen nature.

A man parked a motorcycle at the casino’s north valet entrance on Dec. 14, left it running and walked into the casino wearing a full-face helmet and a leather jacket. He approached a craps table, pulled out a pistol and demanded money. He was given casino chips in denominations from $100 to $25,000.

Carleo has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the robbery.

Almase, 43, could not be reached for comment Tuesday night, but she previously said she targeted Assad’s Department 3 seat because of his courtroom demeanor.

“When I saw the kind of conduct and mean-spirited treatment of others that goes on in Judge Assad’s courtroom, that’s when I decided to run,” she said.

In 2003, Assad detained a woman without any legal basis. The woman had gone to court on her boyfriend’s behalf, and Assad ordered his bailiff to take her into custody to coerce her to call her boyfriend and persuade him to come to court.

Years later, the Nevada Supreme Court ordered Assad to apologize to the woman.

Assad’s ratings in the Review-Journal’s 2010 survey of attorneys who have practiced in his courtroom were abysmal. More than 60 percent of respondents described his work as less than adequate.

Almase received her law degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She has been licensed to practice law in Nevada for nearly a decade.

She is a founding partner of The Almase Law Group . According to the law firm’s website, she dedicates her practice to four areas of law: criminal defense, family law, personal injury and licensing matters. Previously, she worked as a prosecutor for the Las Vegas city attorney’s office and for the Nevada attorney general’s office.

Her husband, Caesar, is also an attorney.

Assad said he is helping raise his 11-year-old niece and is looking forward to spending more time with her. He said he has not evaluated his other options.

When asked whether he would run for election again, he said, “I don’t see that in the future, but you never know. Never say never.”

In the Department 2 race, Chief Deputy District Attorney Susan Roger defeated Deputy Public Defender Sonny Bonaventure.

Both candidates benefited from well-known surnames. Roger is married to Clark County District Attorney David Roger. Bonaventure, 32, is the brother of Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Joseph Bonaventure and son of Senior District Judge Joseph Bonaventure.

Roger won with 52 percent of the vote, while Sonny Bonaventure received 48 percent. Judicial races are nonpartisan.

Susan and David Roger were at home Tuesday night with their 7-month-old daughter.

In a telephone interview, Susan Roger said she wanted to commend Bonaventure for running a good race, and she wanted to thank the voters for supporting her in her first election bid.

“I am looking forward to working hard every day on their behalf,” she said.

Roger, 35, will replace Betsy Kolkoski, who is stepping down after more than a decade on the bench.

Municipal judges are paid roughly $150,000 a year and serve six-year terms.

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