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August 29, 2014

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Columnist Tom Gorman: Spending some time in Judge Mosley’s courtroom and sees another story

Tom Gorman's column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-2310.

We all know where to send out-of-town friends who wonder what amazing things they can see for free in Las Vegas.

The Bellagio fountains and conservatory, the Mirage volcano, the Fremont Street light show, the taxicab line at McCarran. ...

For locals looking for something to do, I suggest spending a few hours in District Judge Donald Mosley's 12th floor courtroom while he sentences scofflaws to probation, jail or prison, or revokes probation for people who are too stupid to stay out of trouble. It's part comedy, part drama and it's very real.

Probably 99 percent of the cases won't make headlines nor inspire a "Law & Order" episode, but still they generally reflect the sad state of human affairs. (The reason the courts are so jammed isn't just because so many people have moved to Clark County, but because so many of them break the law.)

Part of the fun of sitting in Mosley's courtroom is just soaking him in. He's a big, chiseled guy. Shaking his hand is like being gripped by a vise. He has a deep, rich voice, kind of God-like. He told me that dealing with criminals is his contribution to society.

He makes his living keeping a straight face. He has to listen to criminals who give the same lame excuses about why they did what they did, and make usually hollow promises about changing their lives.

On Wednesday, TV was in Mosley's court when a nanny pleaded guilty to child abuse for violently shaking and slapping a 3-month-old baby. After it was over, the reporters left. I stayed behind and here are some of the things that happened.

A fellow named Grecco was being sentenced for burglary and theft charges, but the discussion quickly focused on his drug use. In fact, he had failed to appear for a previous court date because he had overdosed on heroin.

This time, Grecco was asking the judge to be sent to an in-patient drug rehab program.

"Your honor," he said, "I'm a drug addict. I've made wrong decisions and got wrapped up in drugs. I'm only 19 and I don't like wearing (jail-issued) orange jumpsuits, or blues. They are not my favorite colors."

Said Mosley: "You talk about a drug problem, but you refer to it like catching the cold. You got this started on your own. All this crime you're committing affects other people. It's my job to protect those other people. I've been seeing the 'poor me' for 27 years and it doesn't impress me."

Mosley ended up giving the guy one last chance to turn his life around by allowing him to attend the in-patient drug program. If he doesn't, he'll end up in prison.

A fellow named Clements was being sentenced for harassing his ex-wife.

"Your honor, I don't think you'll ever see me in this courtroom again," he said. "I've learned a very valuable lesson, both emotionally and financially."

His defense attorney chimed in with authority. "I've found him to be a very decent man," he told Mosley. (I'm sorry, but how decent is a guy who already has confessed to criminally harassing his ex-wife?)

The ex-wife was in court and got the chance to level a few broadsides at the jerk. It turned into a he-said, she-said affair. Finally Mosely had heard enough. He put the man on three-years' probation with instructions that he come nowhere near the woman, that he get domestic counseling and get a job. "You do not want to be back here," Mosley admonished the man in his God-like voice.

Another fellow, a guy named Figueroa, was being sentenced for assualt. "This wasn't like me," he told the judge. "I found my woman in the house with another man."

Mosley looked at the file and tilted his head like a curious dog. "You did the same thing five months ago," Mosley said. "You can't stand there and tell me it's not like you."

The defense attorney decided to earn his pay. "He's a good man who has made some bad decisions," he said of his client.

Figueroa was assigned probation with the requirement that he have no contact with the woman and enroll in a domestic-violence program.

Then came James, accused of possessing a forged check. "I've chosen a life of choosing the wrong friends and doing bad things to pay for my drug habit," he told Mosley with great contrition. "I take full responsibility for my actions." (Defense attorneys instruct their clients to say that, I'm sure.)

The guy should have stopped while he was ahead. "I'm seeking unemployment," he added, seeking Mosley's approval.

"Unemployment?" the judge asked incredulously. "Why don't you just get a job?"

The most refreshing criminal was a fellow named Hernandez. He had violated terms of his probation and was being sent back to jail.

"I have nothing to say in my defense," he told Mosley. "I apologize to everyone. I have no excuses."

The guy is behind bars now, but I hope he can at least sleep at night.

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