Undercurrent

Inmate complains judge suffered from COVID when she issued sentence

By: - June 3, 2022 2:26 pm

The Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas. (Photo by Ronda Churchill)

A Las Vegas woman says she believes Clark County Judge Erika Ballou “was not in the right frame of mind” when she sentenced her to two years in jail for felony charges.

“Judge Ballou was suffering from COVID and not able to appear in person the day of my sentencing,” Katie Moriarty wrote in a handwritten complaint to the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission. Moriarty says Ballou “made it clear she was not fit to be making such important decisions…”

“I’m sick and I’m trying – it’s taking everything out of me to be here this morning, so I’m trying real hard just to hang on,” Ballou said via video conference at Moriarty’s November 2021 sentencing, according to a transcript.

Moriarty was involved in a fatal car accident in September 2020. She accepted a plea deal on one count of reckless driving and one count of leaving the scene of an accident, which she says she did not do.  

“I don’t believe prison does any good, but for the – you’re going to have to spend the first 364 days in the Clark County Detention Center on that, and that is going to be flat time,” the judge said, according to the transcript. “That is going to be the number one condition of probation for count one. For count two, I’m going to order you to spend the next 364, and that’s going to be consecutive, that 364 is consecutive.”

Moriarty writes in her complaint that Ballou’s on the record statements illustrate “not only a lack of experience being a judge, but also her lack of justice and knowledge on what programs state prison has to offer,” and alleges Ballou denied her the ability to seek “necessary programs to better myself…” which are not available at the county jail.

Most felons are sentenced to prison.

“Any sentence on a felony crime requires a Nevada Department of Corrections sentence, but that sentence can be suspended and the person can be placed on probation and given time in the detention center as a condition of probation,” says Mary Ann Price, a spokeswoman for Clark County District Court.  “The giving of time in the detention center is within judicial discretion, if it is imposed as a condition of probation.”

Moriarty says the sentence issued by Ballou violates Senate Bill 451, which established the Nevada Sentencing Commission. It says “sentencing and corrections policies should embody fairness, consistency, proportionality, and opportunity.”

The JDC did not respond to requests for comment. Ballou also did not respond to calls.

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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.

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