Wolfson gone but not forgotten at DA forum 

Fumo, Treffinger critique performance of no-show incumbent

By: - April 1, 2022 7:23 am

Leisa Mosely with the Clark County Black Caucus moderates a forum between candidates for district attorney. At left, Republican Timothy Treffinger. At right, Democrat Ozzie Fumo. (Screengrab from stream)

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson was physically absent from a candidate forum Thursday night, but his presence loomed large as Republican Tim Treffinger and Democrat Ozzie Fumo made their respective cases why they’d be better DAs than Wolfson. 

The incumbent backed out of the debate at the last minute, citing recent public provocations involving other candidates, even after the hosts, Clark County Black Caucus, NAACP, and ACLU of Nevada, took precautions to ensure the public would not attend, but would be able to view the live event.    

“He has a problem with people of color. He doesn’t want you in his office. He doesn’t want you on juries and he doesn’t want you on the bench,” Fumo said of Wolfson’s alleged disparagement of Black people, recalling the 2020 election of Judge Erika Ballou, a Black woman who raised no money and spent no money on her campaign. Wolfson complained after the election to the Las Vegas Review-Journal there should be “a more direct relationship between efforts and results of fundraising and who won.”

Wolfson reported a campaign fund balance of more than $1.2 million at the end of 2021. 

Fumo had under $30,000, and Teffinger had $25.  

“I want to bring a conservative voice to the office,” said Treffinger, a defense attorney who previously served as a deputy Attorney General under Adam Laxalt. He says he’ll prioritize “balance and consistency” that he contends has been lacking in prosecutions during Wolfson’s time in office. “There’s been some very absurd charging decisions.”

Treffinger has firsthand knowledge of the justice system. He was arrested in Nye County for possessing heroin. He said it “had mainly to do” with an ex-girlfriend he was trying to get “clean.” He says his successful completion of a diversion program allowed him to keep his law license.  

Asked by moderator Leisa Mosley, a member of the Clark County Black Caucus, what he’d do on the first day in office, Fumo said he’d end death penalty prosecutions because of the potential for executing an innocent person.  

“According to the Death Penalty Information Center, since 1973, 186 individuals in America have been found innocent after previously being sentenced to death,” he said. 

Execution, Treffinger said, is a “very limited tool for a very limited set of cases.” He says mistakes are inevitable. “I’m not going to say I’m never going to get it wrong, but I’m going to do my best to make sure I’m as close to 100% right as possible.” 

Treffinger says no-knock warrants, in which police storm a residence unannounced, would also be reserved for extreme cases in his administration. 

Fumo said he would put an end to no -knock warrants.

“What happens when you blast into a place and you crash the windows and you knock down the door and a person is in his home? What is his first thing? Fight or flight? He’s going to grab his gun to protect his home,” Fumo said. 

He also pledged to prosecute police for wrongdoing.

“It’s unfortunate that the state of Nevada is one of only two states in the country that has never prosecuted an officer for murder and it’s because the District Attorney’s office is in bed with the police department and that’s going to change, too,” he said. “Because when you arrest them, or prosecute them, we are two independent organizations.”

Both men pledged to stand up to the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the union representing Metro police officers.  

Fumo said the last time he ran for office he received the PPA’s endorsement. But after a picture appeared in the news of Fumo with his fist in the air at a rally in remembrance of George Floyd, Fumo says he got a visit from law enforcement. 

“‘We saw this picture of you. We need you to renounce Black Lives Matter. We need you to say blue lives matter or we’re going to pull the endorsement’” Fumo says he was told. “And I told him that they could stick their endorsement.”

Treffinger said he would not support Black Lives Matter “as a movement” or other causes. 

He said if elected, on day one he’d “pick up a file” and go to court.  

“If you’re not on the frontline with your deputies, if you don’t see how your policies are being enforced, you have no control of the office,” he said. “And right now we do have an incumbent who I don’t believe has picked up a file in his entire time he’s been in office. I think that’s a problem.”

He also criticized Wolfson’s “consistency and quality of charging decisions. The DA is supposed to prosecute crimes without passion or prejudice. He’s not supposed to stack the deck just so he can win cases and have a big conviction rate.”

Treffinger said law enforcement and deputy DAs need to be trained to charge appropriately and determine custody status. 

“I do still believe cash bail is appropriate for some cases – murder cases, high level sex cases, sex trafficking cases – all major problems we have here in Clark County,” he said. 

Fumo favors decriminalizing sex work for adults while pursuing sex traffickers who victimize children.  

“There was a plague when I was in Northern Nevada and a plague down here,” Treffinger said. “There are avenues for legal sex work.”

He said he doesn’t think decriminalizing is the “route to go here… I think a broad decriminalization doesn’t necessarily protect people in the community.”

Treffinger pledged to be accountable and transparent. He said the DA’s office “should not be something shrouded in secrecy. That’s what makes people not trust law enforcement.” 

Fumo said as DA he would prioritize jailing criminals and ensuring treatment for individuals with addictions or mental health problems. 

“The Clark County Detention Center was not built to be a mental health hospital or a homeless shelter,” Fumo said. “It costs us $200 a day to warehouse people.” The cost of housing 15,000 inmates statewide is $1 billion a year, Fumo said.  

Both men said they’d eliminate the prosecution of misdemeanors for some traffic offenses and for “crimes” such as sleeping on a bench.  

“It affects the poor and keeps them disenfranchised,” Fumo said of a system “set up to do that.” 

Unpaid fines become warrants and the fee is doubled. “It happens in Henderson, it happens in North Las Vegas and it happens in Justice Court, and those ridiculous misdemeanors will no longer be prosecuted, because I’m not soft on crime, I’m tough on justice.”  

“They’re not helping anybody,” Treffinger said. “It’s not making our community any safer.”

Asked about putting a crimp in the school to prison pipeline, Treffinger advocated for more peer group guidance in the juvenile justice system. He says youth are better equipped to mete out meaningful punishment to other teens than adults, who aren’t always aware of what matters to youth.

Fumo committed to “treating children as children” by putting money saved from mass incarceration into mental health services and early education.  

“Maybe one day we won’t have as big of a problem as we do right now under Steve Wolfson’s leadership,” he said.   

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.