Darren Mack case moved back to Reno
RENO – A judge ordered Darren Mack’s case moved back to Reno and refused a defense motion Monday to postpone the Jan. 17 sentencing as Mack tries to withdraw his guilty pleas in the killing of his wife and shooting of a judge.
Clark County District Judge Douglas Herndon said it made more sense – both financially and based on local community interest – to reverse the change of venue that sent last month’s trial to Las Vegas and return the high-profile case to its original jurisdiction in Washoe County.
Meanwhile, Mack’s brother, Landon, issued a statement Monday defending his brother, condemning media coverage of the case, criticizing prosecutors and defense lawyers and calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor to “thoroughly investigate the unethical and illegal conduct of the Nevada Judicial System.”
“The manifest injustice that led to and ultimately resulted with the events of June 12, 2006” – the day Darren Mack killed his wife and shot the judge handling their divorce – “will soon be described in graphic detail,” Landon Mack said. He apparently was referring to Darren Mack’s claims that corruption in the legal system had prevented him and other men from being treated fairly in child-custody cases.
“The unethical, immoral and illegal conduct that has continued since my brother voluntarily returned from Mexico will also be revealed in hopes that the truth will make a difference in the lives of others and spare others from such tragedies as my family has and continues to endure,” Landon Mack said.
In Washoe District Court earlier Monday, Mack’s new lawyer, William Routsis, asked that the Jan. 17 sentencing be vacated. He said he’ll need more time to prepare for it if they fail to persuade Herndon during a hearing scheduled Jan. 15-16 to allow Mack to withdraw his pleas because he was confused and under duress at the time his previous defense team negotiated the deal.
Routsis has an office in South Lake Tahoe and, in a separate case, defended former South Shore auto mechanic Rodney Sency, who stood trial this year in Placerville in the death of Edward Ortega. Sency was acquitted on a manslaughter charge.
In the Mack case, Herndon agreed Monday with special prosecutor Christopher Lalli, who said the families of Mack’s victims want to move on with their lives.
“There are peoples’ lives who are kind of floating in the wind,” Lalli told the judge during a 30-minute status.
“There are victims and victims’ families who suffered greatly. They want to put this behind them. For Judge (Chuck) Weller and his family and the family of Charla Mack,” he said.
Charla Mack’s mother, Soorya Townley, also issued a statement Monday afternoon that said in the 16 months since her daughter was killed, she has “seen no remorse from Darren Mack for his barbaric actions or regret for the profound suffering he has caused.”
“Now it appears, with his latest legal machinations, Mr. Mack is attempting to spoil Christmas for us as well,” Townley said.
Routsis said in a motion filed last week that Mack was confused and in physical distress when he ended his trial last month and pleaded guilty to killing his wife and an equivalent of no contest to shooting the judge handling their divorce. He argued that Mack should be allowed to withdraw his pleas and go to trial on charges of murder and attempted murder.
Routsis said Monday that he was requesting a delay in sentencing because he’s been focusing solely on the motion to withdraw the pleas and is looking through thousands of pages of documents.
“This man is looking at a life sentence,” he said.
But Herndon said that Routsis had been on the case since the first of December after Mack fired his previous lawyers, Scott Freeman of Reno and David Chesnoff of Las Vegas. “I think there is sufficient time,” the judge said.
Lalli said he expected to call Freeman and Chesnoff as witnesses as well as Robert Daskas, a special prosecutor from Clark County who assisted Lalli in the case and now is running for Congress.
Lalli said he is preparing a motion that would have Mack waive his attorney-client privilege in regard to his previous lawyers so that Lalli could question them about the plea negotiations.
Routsis indicated Mack likely would waive such privilege, but only in regard to specific plea negotiations. Lalli said his understanding of the law was that the privilege would be waived without restricting it to those negotiations.
Mack, 46, abruptly ended his trial Nov. 5 just as his previous defense team was to begin calling witnesses. He pleaded guilty to stabbing his estranged wife and entered an Alford plea acknowledging there was enough evidence for a conviction in the shooting of Weller.
Initially, Mack pleaded not guilty to killing his wife, maintaining the stabbing was in self-defense. In the shooting of the judge, he originally pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Routsis’ motion said Mack received poor treatment at the Clark County Detention Center during the 2 1/2-week trial, adding to his stress and confusion the morning of his change of plea. He was dehydrated, had to wait long periods between meals and could not get pain relief for a back problem, making it difficult for him to think rationally, Routsis said.
Routsis said he intends to call as witnesses “numerous bailiffs” from Clark County as well as some personnel at the Washoe County Jail, who were familiar with Mack’s “state of mind almost immediately after the plea.”
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