September 7, 2010 - 11:00 pm
A motion to disqualify a District Court judge accused of making disparaging remarks about Henderson police filed by Clark County prosecutors was denied Tuesday, according to court documents.
Prosecutors asked that Judge Abbi Silver be disqualified from handling their drug felony case against Michael Farrell and Tamara Farrell because the judge’s “impartiality may reasonably be questioned.”
Prosecutors said Silver at a bench conference with Chief Deputy District Attorney Sandra DiGiacomo and defense attorney Dominic Gentile said that Henderson police “do things they should not be able to do.”
Silver responded in an affidavit that, “unfortunately, the State has misinterpreted and mischaracterized those statements, and … the State is mistaken.”
Silver, a former Clark County prosecutor, stated that her comments did not show a bias and that she has no bias toward Henderson police.
Chief District Judge Arthur Ritchie denied the motion Tuesday. In his ruling, Ritchie said a hearing wasn’t needed and the motion “lacks merit and should be denied.”
Ritchie cited that Silver had ruled in favor of prosecutors in the Farrell case on a previous motion.
The Farrells are charged with four felony counts, including unlawful possession for sale of marijuana and conspiracy.
On March 4, 2009, during a traffic stop by Henderson police officers, a drug sniffing dog smelled a controlled substance and a “23 pound brick of marijuana” was found in the trunk of a Toyota Camry the Farrells were in, according to court records. Investigators had been surveilling the Farrells before the traffic stop.
According to an affidavit signed on Friday by DiGiacomo, Silver’s remarks were made Thursday during a defense motion to suppress hearing while at a bench conference with the judge and Gentile.
“This conference began by Mr. Gentile saying that there is something funny going on with ‘this case’ meaning the (Henderson Police Department) portion,” the affidavit stated.
The judge said “she knows things are done differently when dealing with a city department (other) than the (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) and that the city police do things they should not be able to do, i.e. improper, unethical or illegal, because the judges let them do it,” the affidavit stated.
The affidavit went on to state that the judge is friends with Henderson municipal judges “and had knowledge that (Henderson Police Department) officers do things that they should not do, i.e. improper, unethical or illegal, because one of the judges is a former police officer and another one of the judges is married to a police officer.”
Also, according to the affidavit, “Judge Silver stated that it was a fact city police officers act differently, i.e. improperly, unethically or illegally, and that she can not set aside that knowledge when looking at the facts of this case.”
Silver said via an assistant that it would be inappropriate for her to comment because the case is still pending.
Gentile said he would not comment on the issue.
While motions to disqualify a judge are rare in criminal cases, the request comes more often from defense attorneys. In 2006 defense attorneys for Craig Titus sought to have Judge Jackie Glass removed from his murder case for having a prohibited conversation with a prosecutor and another attorney. Then Chief Judge Kathy Hardcastle denied the motion.
In 2000, prosecutors for the state attorney general’s office unsuccessfully sought to remove Judge Donald Mosley from a money laundering case because they said he was biased against police investigators.
It’s more common for judges to recuse themselves from cases if they have a conflict of interest.
Prosecutors can ask Ritchie for a hearing to reconsider the motion to disqualify at a later date.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at email@example.com or 702-380-1039.