Mack alleges judge demanded money to back plea
RENO, Nev. (AP) ” Darren Mack claims Washoe Family Court Judge Chuck Weller and his attorney, Cal Dunlap, sought $5 million in return for accepting Mack’s guilty plea to killing his wife, according to new court documents.
In documents filed Monday, Mack said his former lawyer, David Chesnoff, received a call from Dunlap and was told that Dunlap and Weller agreed with the plea deal.
But Mack said Dunlap called back later and was “quite upset,” saying he and Weller would only agree with the plea if Mack paid Weller the money.
“I am not in a civil action with Judge Weller for him to be able to demand money from me,” Mack said in his declaration, filed to support his request to withdraw his guilty pleas.
“This seems as another attempt at extortion.”
Mack said the money demand was mentioned in other civil court documents filed after the plea deal reached in November.
“This seems to verify what Chesnoff told me while in Las Vegas during the coerced plea,” Mack said in the declaration.
Neither Weller nor Dunlap could be reached for immediate comment.
Special Prosecutor Christopher Lalli said no such deal was made involving his office.
“It is unethical for a prosecutor to, in any way, connect a criminal resolution to a civil suit,” Lalli said. “We had absolutely nothing to do about that. Nothing.”
Mack, 46, was charged with killing his estranged wife, Charla, on June 12, 2006, and then shooting Weller, who was presiding over their bitter divorce.
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.
But the former wealthy pawn shop owner 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.
He later fired Chesnoff and Reno lawyer Scott Freeman, and hired William Routsis to defend him. He has since asked the court to allow him to withdraw his pleas and have a new trial.
District Judge Douglas Herndon will hearing arguments on the motions next week.
Kent Robison, a Reno lawyer who filed a wrongful death suit against Mack on behalf of Charla Mack’s estate and Mack’s daughter, said he was told by Mack’s civil lawyer, Mark Wray, that Weller was seeking financial reimbursement for supporting Mack’s plea, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Tuesday.
Robison said he became concerned about such an alleged demand, because then “we’re all fighting over the same dollars.”
In a motion filed Nov. 30, Robison asked Judge Noel Manoukian to lift a stay he had placed on the civil suit, saying he feared that Weller may take money from Robison’s clients.
“Judge Weller has initiated settlement discussions and has reportedly demanded a $5 million settlement,” Robison said in the motion.
Wray said that in his contact with Dunlap, no specific sum of money was discussed or requested.
“What Mr. Robison says is basically not disputed,” Wray said, “but there was no specific sum demanded when I talked to Cal. We talked about a concept.
“We talked in general terms only, and I referred him to the defense lawyers. He did not say that Judge Weller wanted a specific sum of money,” Wray told the newspaper.
Manoukian lifted the stay on the civil case, and said he was skeptical about Weller’s efforts.
“Incidentally, Judge Weller can try and settle for whatever he wants, but the hostilities between those two are considerable,” Manoukian wrote in his Dec. 5 ruling.
“He can demand whatever he wants, but settlement will not be forthcoming.”
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