Appropriate Erin Kenny sentence varies with the eye of the beholder

Thirty months in prison is a fair sentence for Erin Kenny.

I’d have given her 24 months, which is what the federal prosecutor said was righteous. And federal prosecutors are not known to be sentencing softies.

The corrupt former county commissioner handed federal authorities unexpected gifts when she admitted she was a crook on May 15, 2003. FBI agents had damning tapes of conversations of her discussing bribes from topless club owner Michael Galardi. Then the final question of the day: Did you take bribes from anyone else?

Actually, yes. She confessed she also welcomed bribes from real estate developer Donald Davidson. She said the vice president at Triple Five Development gave her $200,000 for a zone change vote for a CVS Pharmacy. She said that for about two years, he handed her $3,000 a month on behalf of his boss Eskander Ghermezian as a thank you for a zoning vote in behalf of a never-built casino. And, oh yes, she remembered Davidson gave her a separate bribe from developer John Hui for somewhere between $5,000 and $20,000.

Until that moment, the feds’ case was limited to Galardi’s sleazy world. Now they had an insider’s peek at the murky world of land development in Clark County.

So Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Schiess looked more favorably upon Kenny than did U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson, who didn’t have a lot of leeway in his sentencing Wednesday. After the judge agreed she deserved a break because she had provided evidence of previously unknown bribes, the sentence range was established at between 24 and 30 months.

Dawson opted for 30 months.

It is the same prison time U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks gave Galardi, who also flipped, and ex-County Commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey, who took the stand and perjured herself.

Ex-Commissioner Dario Herrera’s 50-month sentence reflected his perjury and the larger sums of money and sexual favors he demanded.

Commissioner-turned-bagman Lance Malone’s 72-month sentence reflected his refusal to cooperate and the fact he took bribes while on the commission, then passed them out while working for Galardi, making him the bribee, the briber and the guy too dumb to take a deal.

Personally, I’d have given Kenny a six-month break for confessing and not lying on the stand as Kincaid-Chauncey and Herrera did. But I loathe liars.

Dawson focused on the harm Kenny caused.

“The loss of trust in the institution of local government is a tragedy,” he said. “Many good, honest public servants were affected by this.”

Kenny’s sentence was longer because she admitted to taking about $330,000 from Davidson on top of the $50,000 to $70,000 from Galardi.

However, because of one holdout, a jury on Tuesday didn’t convict Davidson of the charges based on Kenny’s testimony. Instead, the jury, in part because of the convincing power of wiretaps, convicted him of offering a $50,000 bribe to Las Vegas City Councilman Michael McDonald for another zone change.

Kenny attorney Frank Cremen launched a tirade against the media, particularly the Review-Journal, for making Kenny “the most vilified woman in Clark County.”

He argued that the media perpetuated an old style of ethics that it’s wrong to become a cooperating witness, citing an editorial and political cartoon in which Kenny was depicted as a rat. Cremen took an obvious swipe at Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, a former defense attorney for the mob who proclaimed he didn’t represent “rats.” Cremen said that old style of “tired and mistaken ethics” protected criminals in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Erin Kenny subscribed to a new ethics,” Cremen said. That’s true. She was caught and she confessed.

Over the past weeks, I asked a lot of people what sentence they thought she should get. The harshest answer from someone who felt she had betrayed his neighborhood on a zoning matter: “Forever.”

The most lenient came from a former prosecutor who appreciated the value of a government witness: 18 months.

On top of her 30 months, Kenny was ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and forfeiture. Rhodes Homes is no longer paying her more than $200,000 a year. The IRS is going after her civilly, which can’t be fun.

No word on where she’ll serve, but probably not in the same big house as Kincaid-Chauncey. Wouldn’t that be B-movie material?

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at or call 383-0275.

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