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Mack divorce settlement debated

RENO — Charla Mack’s husband, who also is alleged to be her killer, should be held to a verbal agreement he made regarding a divorce settlement, a lawyer for her estate argued.

During a hearing Monday, lawyer Egan Walker argued that Darren Mack should be ordered to pay the nearly $1 million settlement to Charla Mack’s estate.

But Mark Wray, Darren Mack’s civil attorney, countered that the settlement agreement ordered by Washoe Family Court Judge Chuck Weller last year was never signed and is not legally binding.

The contested settlement agreement, Wray said, ended when one party died.

Mack remains jailed while he awaits trial on charges of stabbing his estranged wife to death and shooting Weller through the window of his third-floor chambers. The judge survived.

Mack has pleaded innocent to charges of murder and attempted murder.

His trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

Third Judicial Judge David Huff, who was assigned the divorce case after all Washoe County judges were removed, took the arguments under consideration.

In the months before the killing and shooting, Darren and Charla Mack were embroiled in a bitter divorce and had met with Weller in January and May 2006 to hammer out a settlement.

The plan stalled and fell apart by May over whether Darren Mack’s mother, Joan, would sign releases to end any further legal battles with Charla Mack.

During the May hearing, Joan Mack testified that she would not sign global releases. Darren Mack asked for a new judge, but Weller ordered that the settlement should go forward anyway.

Weller then told Charla Mack’s lawyer to write up the order, but weeks later, the shooting and stabbing occurred and nothing was written or signed.

Under the agreement they had discussed, Darren Mack would pay Charla Mack $480,000 in cash within 48 hours of the agreement being signed.

The agreement also said that Mack would pay her $500,000 in monthly installments of $10,000 from his pension fund.

Walker said that, during their meetings in court, Weller, Charla and Darren Mack said that they wanted the agreement to go forward. Walker urged Huff to fix what was left undone and make the settlement binding.

"If you make a promise under oath and on the record, you ought to have to keep it," Walker said. "A person should not be able to fund his criminal defense for the murder of his wife with funds he had promised his wife."

But Wray said Walker’s legal arguments were wrong and noted that Darren Mack is innocent until proven otherwise.

He also argued that verbal agreements are put into writing and signed in order to make them legally binding, but in this case, that was never done.

"This is an unprecedented attempt to rewrite history," Wray told the judge. "You can’t write the order that never existed."

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