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Ex-county official Frances Deane gets five years of probation

Former county recorder pleaded guilty to theft in August

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Tiffany Brown

Former Clark County Recorder Frances Deane appears in court with deputy public defender Danny Hastings at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. Deane was sentenced to five years of probation on three felony counts stemming from a scheme to profit from her public office.

Updated Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010 | 1:55 p.m.

Frances Deane Sentencing (Jan. 14, 2010)

Former Clark County Recorder Frances Deane, left, leaves the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010. Deane was sentenced to five years of probation on three felony counts stemming from a scheme to profit from her public office. Launch slideshow »
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Frances Deane in July 2002.

Former Clark County Recorder Frances Deane was sentenced Thursday to five years of probation on three felony counts related to her use of the public office for personal gain.

Deane, 46, pleaded guilty in August to felony charges of theft, misconduct of a public officer and unlawful commissions, personal profit and compensation of public officers.

In addition to probation, Deane is also required to pay $54,000 in restitution to the county.

Visibly frail both emotionally and physically, Deane walked from the gallery to the defendants’ table with the assistance of a cane and help from her attorney, Danny Hastings.

Judge Valorie Vega asked Deane if she had anything to say before her sentence was handed down.

“Your honor, I am so emotional that if I didn’t have skin, I would be a puddle on the ground. Everything I feel about this situation I wrote to you in a letter. I hope you had time to read it,” Deane said through tears.

Deane allegedly sold county documents under her control, raking in thousands of dollars.

She was elected recorder in November 2002. The charges against her were filed in 2006, the same year she was removed from office.

Hastings, a deputy public defender, argued for probation. Prosecutors gave up the right to argue as part of the plea agreement.

“Before you today stands Ms. Deane, who is guilty, judge, of a gross violation of the public trust,” Hastings said.

The judge cut in: “Absolutely.”

“And there is no excuse for it and I don’t make any excuse for it,” Hastings continued, “… She doesn’t make any excuse for it.”

He pointed back to the day Deane entered her plea. “She didn’t just say guilty, judge, she said, ‘I’m guilty.’”

Hastings said Deane has taken full responsibility for her actions, evidenced by her three felony convictions.

In asking for probation, he called Deane a “broken woman” who was not at all the same “very young, naïve politician” who had ultimately made poor choices.

Fifteen other counts contained in the original charges were dismissed. On the three remaining counts, Deane could have faced more than 15 years behind bars.

Vega, who agreed to give her probation, disagreed that Deane was “naïve” in what she did. “I think that she was bold,” she said.

But she added that she had witnessed Deane’s deteriorating health condition throughout the life of the case, calling Deane’s medical issues “significant.”

As part of the probation, Deane is required to complete 16 hours of community service each month unless she is employed full-time or has a doctor’s excuse. She is also required make monthly payments toward the restitution and must disclose her conviction to any possible employers.

She is also barred from running again for public office.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Scott Mitchell, who prosecutes corruption and fraud cases, deferred to District Attorney David Roger to comment on the case.

Roger said he understood that judges like Vega have a “difficult job to do in fashioning sentences that fit the crime” and acknowledged giving up the right to argue was part of fashioning the plea deal.

But he said he respectfully disagreed with the sentence.

“I think it sends the wrong message to other public officials. I think when we accept the public’s trust, that we have to guard it and perform our duties ethically and honestly,” Roger said. “Ms. Deane did not do that. I don’t think that one day in jail is sufficient punishment for her crime.”

Court records indicate she posted a $20,000 bond and has been out of custody since June 2006.

At the conclusion of the hearing, Deane turned away from television cameras and dabbed her eyes while Hastings informed members of the news media in the courtroom neither he nor his client would be offering comments.

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