Judge says plea deal for ex-prosecutor too light, steps aside


Leila Navidi

Judge Douglas Herndon explains why he is recusing himself from the sentencing of former Deputy District Attorney David Schubert, who was appearing in court for sentencing on cocaine possession charges at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011.

Thu, Dec 1, 2011 (12:06 p.m.)

A judge said a plea deal reached for former Deputy District Attorney David Schubert in a cocaine possession case is too lenient and stepped aside rather than sentence him to probation.

“You’re getting a better deal than people you’ve prosecuted, and I don’t think that’s just and proper,” said Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon, who recused himself from the case.

Schubert, who handled the high-profile Paris Hilton and Bruno Mars celebrity cocaine cases, was arrested in March after a small amount of cocaine was found in his car during a traffic stop. He resigned from his job with the Clark County district attorney’s office in April and in October pleaded guilty to felony cocaine possession charges.

A prosecutor from the state attorney general’s office, which is handling the case because of the local district attorney’s conflict with Schubert, agreed to recommend probation.

But during Schubert’s sentencing Thursday, Herndon unexpectedly announced that he was recusing himself from the case. Herndon had worked in the district attorney’s office at the same time as Schubert, but Herndon said he didn’t have a personal relationship with Schubert.

The reason he is stepping aside, Herndon said, is because he didn’t agree with the plea deal struck.

Herndon admitted his feelings about the negotiations might be impacted by his history as a prosecutor, noting that he felt prosecutors should be held to “a higher sense of responsibility.”

“I just can’t reconcile it with myself,” he said.

Thom Gover, the chief deputy attorney general prosecuting the case, said he was surprised by Herndon’s decision and thinks the recommended sentence for Schubert is fair.

“That’s (Herndon’s) honest reaction I’m sure,” Gover said. “We disagree and think it’s an appropriate sentence.”

Gover noted that the amount of cocaine found in Schubert’s possession and the fact that it was his first offense qualify Schubert for probation under Nevada Statue.

Schubert’s case will be sent back to the court’s master calendar, where it will be assigned to a new judge, and a new sentencing hearing will be scheduled.

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