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October 1, 2014

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Good thing she didn’t hold breath for apology

Years later, judge says he’s sorry for ordering woman detained for beau’s fines

Being a judge means never having to say you’re sorry — unless you’re ordered to. And even then, you apparently can take a year to apologize.

At least you can if you’re Las Vegas Municipal Judge George Assad.

Back in 2003, Assad had his deputy marshal detain Anne Chrzanowski. The licensed practical nurse remained in custody for two hours until her boyfriend showed up in court to take care of his unpaid traffic tickets.

In February 2007, the Nevada Judicial Discipline Commission slapped Assad with a public reprimand for the unlawful detention, finding that Assad had violated the state’s judicial code of conduct. But the Nevada Supreme Court in June 2008 said the commission was being too hard on Assad. The justices ordered that Assad instead apologize to Chrzanowski in writing and take a judicial ethics course.

He is to attend a two-day “Ethics for Judges” seminar at the National Judicial College in Reno at his own expense beginning Oct. 12.

Assad spent months trying to persuade the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision and didn’t deliver the apology to the Judicial Discipline Commission until July 24, after the state panel ordered him to submit it.

“I truly had no intent in any manner to harm you or to create any anxiety within you in any manner whatsoever,” Assad wrote in his page-and-a-half letter, concluding: “With that being said, I do sincerely apologize to you for the events of that day.”

Chrzanowski could not be reached for comment, but her lawyer, Cal Potter, said Wednesday that the apology, coming so many years later, is “hollow” and now “meaningless” to his client. He said he hasn’t been able to locate Chrzanowski, who may have left Las Vegas, to send her a copy of the letter.

“It’s the old saying: ‘Justice delayed is justice denied,’ ” Potter said. “It took an inordinate amount of time for this to occur.”

Potter accused Assad of placing too much of the blame on his marshal.

Assad, who did not return the Sun’s phone calls, wrote that Chrzanowski’s detention was the result of a “misunderstanding” between him and the marshal. Chrzanowski had gone to Assad’s courtroom on March 31, 2003, on behalf of her boyfriend, Joshua Madera, who wanted more time to pay his traffic fines. He had just started a new job and was unable to come to court himself.

According to court transcripts, Assad informed Chrzanowski that her boyfriend had threatened a court clerk, an allegation the boyfriend later denied.

“So unless you want to get him down here real quick, we’re going to have to lock you up until he gets here,” Assad told Chrzanowski.

The judge then instructed her to go with his marshal and telephone Madera.

“Tell him you’re going to jail if he doesn’t get his butt down here,” Assad added.

Chrzanowski called Madera, but he told her he couldn’t immediately get to the courthouse, records show. The marshal then handcuffed Chrzanowski and put her in a holding cell, where she waited for two hours until Madera made it to court.

The marshal refused to let Chrzanowski call her employer to let her boss know that she would likely be unable to work that evening.

“None of the marshal’s behavior was anticipated by me, nor intended by me,” Assad wrote in his letter.

But the Judicial Commission’s special counsel alleged that the judge’s actions deprived Chrzanowski, who wasn’t a party to the court proceeding, of her due process rights.

The commission later concluded that Assad “had no basis in law ... to effectively hold a defendant’s paramour hostage pending arrival of the defendant to court.”

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