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April 20, 2014

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New tack might take Boggs directly to trial

Former Clark County Commissioner Lynette Boggs may have to wait longer to get her say in court.

In a change of strategy, prosecutors are expected to ask a judge to call off her preliminary hearing Tuesday on criminal campaign charges so they can ask a county grand jury to indict Boggs and move the case directly to a trial, sources said.

Boggs, who founded a Christian ministry after losing her seat on the County Commission last year, is free on her own recognizance after being named in a four-count complaint in June charging that she falsified 2006 campaign reports to make it appear that she lived in her commission district when she did not and that she misrepresented payments to her children's nanny.

Justice of the Peace Nancy Oesterle had scheduled the preliminary hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to force Boggs to stand trial.

But if Boggs is indicted, prosecutors will move to dismiss the complaint and there will be no need to hold the hearing. Her case then would play out in District Court, where she would be tried on the new criminal charges.

Prosecutors frequently seek indictments in place of criminal complaints so that key witnesses are not subjected to cross-examination by defense attorneys before trial. Witnesses sometimes are reluctant to take the stand initially, and the grand jury proceeding, conducted behind closed doors, provides them a greater level of comfort.

Earlier this week, District Attorney David Roger said prosecutors had decided to proceed with the preliminary hearing. But by Friday, prosecution witnesses were being told they would have to testify before the grand jury instead.

One reason behind the change, sources said, is that one of the prosecution witnesses was hesitant to testify in an open proceeding, at least for now.

The case is being handled by Chief Deputy District Attorney Eric Jorgenson, who heads Roger's major fraud unit. Jorgenson declined to comment, and Boggs' attorney, William Terry, did not return phone calls.

Boggs was charged in the complaint with two counts of filing false records and two counts of perjury. Each of the records counts carries a prison term of up to five years, and each of the perjury charges carries a maximum four-year penalty.

Investigators alleged that Boggs filed campaign documents indicating her residence was in her commission district. Instead, her campaign assistant, Linda Ferris, allegedly rented the house.

Ferris told investigators that Boggs paid her $400 a month from a personal bank account to establish a paper trail. Ferris allegedly then would cash the checks and return the money to Boggs.

Boggs also is accused of lying when she claimed on campaign reports last year that she paid her nanny, Kelly McCleod, $1,230.52 from "Friends for Lynette" and listed the expenditure as related to special events. McCleod told investigators that she baby sat the former commissioner's children, but never worked for the campaign.

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