Fallon justice accused of ethics violations

The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline has filed a a 15-count statement of charges accusing Fallon Justice of the Peace Daniel Ward of numerous ethical violations - several of them centered on a drug case involving his son, Sean.

The charges were prepared by Mary Boetsch, acting as prosecuting attorney for the commission. They accuse Ward, JP of New River Township Justice Court, of having a conversation outside the court with Wanda Adams, a woman he issued a restraining order against, asking about drug abuse by his son and his son's girlfriend, Michelle Harrison. It says he cautioned the woman against working with the anti-drug task force or talking about any violations by his son.

The charges say Ward continued to handle the Adams woman's felony drug case and had similar out-of-court conversations about that case with the woman's brother.

After Sean Ward was arrested on drug charges, the charges say Ward used his influence and position to get the boy out of jail without having to post bail.

Ward also failed to recuse himself from handling a child endangerment case involving his son and son's girlfriend. When told Harrison had gone to the Nevada Division of Investigations threatening to accuse his son of sexual misconduct with her daughter, the charges say Ward contacted NDI to warn them off the case by saying she was a drug user.

Several of the counts involve allegations Ward misused his influence to give breaks to friends ranging from fixing traffic tickets to refusing to issue warrants and trying to discourage prosecution in a sexual molestation case involving a longtime acquaintance.

Wes Lattin was accused by the district attorney's office of sexual assault and lewdness with a 14-year-old girl. Judge Ward refused to sign the warrant.

"You advised (the deputy DA) he had proof problems with his case, that the evidence was weak and that he would probably not get a conviction, that you would only issue a summons and not a warrant because Mr. Lattin was a long-standing member of the community," the charges state.

The charges state the judge then designed a scheme intended to keep Lahontan Valley News reporter, Marlene Garcia, out of the court when the case was heard even though the victim's lawyer was willing to testify in open court. He made statements at the time that the newspaper "had already tried the case in the press, that they had made Mr. Lattin out to be a bad person and that the newspaper reporter had not been kind to the justice court in the past," according to the charges.

After a suspect in a drug case failed to appear for a hearing, Ward advised the bailbondsman that the bail - secured by a 1993 Lincoln - would be forfeited. Then, the charges say, Ward bought that same vehicle and registered it. The charges say Ward should have recused himself from the forfeiture proceeding but, instead, denied the motion to set aside the forfeiture.

It accuses him of treating the lawyer representing a woman in a domestic violence case rudely and of falsely charging that he had "a history" with the woman involved and she was a "liar." He rejected the lawyer's concerns the woman was arrested along with the man even though the restraining order was against the man, not the woman. According to the charging documents, the man involved in that case was a good friend of his son.

The commission can impose a range of sanctions for violations of judicial canons up to and including removal from office. Ward has 20 days to answer the charges. No hearing date has been set.

- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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