Nevada Assemblywoman, Michele Fiore joins Tim Brown and James White live from the federal court in OR where she reports from Pete Santilli’s latest hearing for release.
Nevada Assemblywoman, Michele Fiore joins Tim Brown and James White live from the federal court in OR where she reports from Pete Santilli’s latest hearing for release.
The jailed leader of the occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon has called on elected officials from mostly Western states to voice support for free speech and civil disobedience and to visit their constituents in federal custody.
At least one Nevada lawmaker — state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore — is answering the call.
“It is your duty to hold federal agencies at bay, protecting the people in your state,” occupation leader Ammon Bundy said according to the transcript of a telephone call he made Saturday from jail and released by one of his lawyers Monday.
He also urged elected representatives in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Washington state and Ohio to support the right to assemble.
Fiore, who is running for Rep. Joe Heck’s 3rd Congressional District seat, told Oregon Public Broadcasting that she is planning a trip to Portland and expects to be in the city Thursday night to protest the jailing of Ammon and his brother Ryan Bundy. The brothers are sons of Bunkerville rancher Cliven Bundy, who is embroiled in a legal dispute with the Bureau of Land Management over more than two decades of unpaid federal grazing fees.
An Oregon TV station tweeted at Fiore asking if she was planning the trip to Portland, to which she replied “CONFIRMED” in all capital letters.
While at least one media outlet has reported Cliven Bundy would make the trek to Oregon sometime this week, the rancher told the Review-Journal that he has not yet made up his mind and has other obligations to consider before going.
“I’ve been invited to go with (Fiore). I haven’t committed myself at all,” he said when reached by phone Monday night.
Cliven Bundy said Fiore did not personally invite him, but rather a mutual third party was setting it up. He declined to identify the third party.
Fiore told the public broadcasting station that she and other Western state lawmakers will meet Cliven Bundy in Burns and in Portland and that she would also demand the release of Ryan Bundy, who is from Nevada.
Ammon Bundy’s attorney Mike Arnold said he read that Fiore was planning to make a trip out to Portland. “I look forward to meeting her,” Arnold said, adding he was unaware of any others.
“Ammon’s main goal is to educate and increase the dialogue through free speech,” Arnold said Monday night. “The government needs to realize that when you arrest a political protester, that doesn’t mean you can muzzle them. That’s not what America’s about.”
The two Bundy brothers and nine others were arrested in Oregon in late January, most of them during a confrontation with the FBI and state police on a roadside where a spokesman for the group, Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was fatally shot. A 12th member of the group turned himself in to police in Arizona.
Two of those arrested have been released on condition that they wear electronic tracking devices while awaiting trial, leaving 10 of the former protesters, including the two Bundys, in custody.
Four armed anti-government protesters still at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge were indicted last week with the 12 others on charges of conspiring to impede federal officers during an armed standoff at the compound.
The takeover at Malheur started Jan. 2 when Bundy and followers seized buildings at the refuge in a protest against federal control over millions of acres of public land in the West.
A judge cited the continuing standoff as an obstacle to the release of at least some of those still in custody. They are to be arraigned on Feb. 24.
Tensions have flared in the town of Burns, 30 miles north of the refuge, with hundreds of demonstrators and residents angry about the occupation and its supporters.
Ammon Bundy has released statements previously, defending the takeover and urging the four holdouts to stand down.
Members of the Burns Paiute Tribe, native Americans whose land previously encompassed the preserve, have criticized Bundy and his group.
After years of languishing in Nevada courts, legislators are reconsidering sex-offender laws affecting juveniles and the way criminals are ranked and registered.
State Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 99 in February to repeal the state’s version of the federal Adam Walsh Act. Critics have said the law disenfranchises juveniles who could be reformed, and many think the way the law categorizes offenders — based on the crimes committed rather than risk of re-offending — might not really serve the public interest.
The law has been challenged in Clark County courts, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Nevada Supreme Court, which placed an emergency injunction against the law in October, the day before it was supposed to finally be enacted.
The Nevada Legislature passed Assembly Bill 579 in 2007 to make the state compliant with the Walsh Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006. The law was named after Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of TV personality John Walsh, who was abducted and murdered in Hollywood, Fla., on July 27, 1981.
Las Vegas attorney Maggie McLetchie has been litigating the issue since 2008. She said the Legislature was wrong to think that the federal government could compel Nevada to follow its guidelines.
McLetchie was scheduled to challenge the law in the state’s high court in early February, but oral arguments were canceled to give the Legislature another chance to work on it.
One problem with the Walsh Act is that community notification and lifetime registration applies to youths convicted of sex crimes as long as they’re over 14. But opponents of the law say juveniles should be treated differently than adult offenders.
Las Vegas attorney Donna Coleman has been serving on a committee evaluating the Walsh Act for the state attorney general’s office. She said she would testify in favor of the bill to repeal it.
The fragile minds of juveniles might not be able to cope with the pressures of community notification and appearing in online sex offender registries, Coleman said.
“We are at a very high suicide rate for juveniles,” she said. “We don’t want to push them over the edge.”
A 2014 study by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission found that most juveniles convicted of a sexual offense were not motivated by “deviant sexual arousal or a focused intent to harm others,” which would indicate a risk of future sexual offenses. Youths usually commit sexual crimes due to developmental or social issues, or because they were abused themselves.
Most juveniles respond well to therapy, the report said, so they will not become adult sex offenders.
The proposed law would ensure that juveniles would not be subjected to community notification, though schools would continue to get the information. When youths reach age 21, a court hearing would assess whether they were a risk to the public, Coleman said.
Juveniles who commit particularly heinous sexual crimes likely would be tried as an adult and thus be subjected to adult registration rules, she added.
Sgt. Brian Zana with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation’s sex offender unit compared publishing youth offenders on the public register to branding them with a “Scarlet Letter.” He said the division supports the idea of holding hearings when a juvenile offender turns 21.
“You have to remember children make mistakes,” he said.
Treatment of juvenile sex offenders was addressed in the first Walsh Act case to reach the Nevada Supreme Court. Justices upheld a lower court ruling that said the law did not violate the state constitution. But in an opinion penned by Justice Michael L. Douglas, the court acknowledges problems with the law.
“We share the juvenile court’s concerns regarding the wisdom of this legislation. Nevertheless, we are bound to follow the law,” the opinion reads. “Of utmost concern, it does not appear from the legislative history that the Nevada Legislature ever considered the impact of this bill on juveniles or public safety.”
Another problem is that the statute applies to offenders retroactively, and some people could end up on Internet sex offender registries for crimes that happened as long ago as 1956. In a worst-case scenario, the law could even be applied to people convicted long ago under Nevada’s voided and unconstitutional criminalization of consensual homosexual acts, McLetchie said. SB 99 would not repeal that, too.
The old sex offender law was pretty simple: Offenders individually were rated by specially trained mental health professionals from low to high according to their risk of re-offending. But how long people have to register as sex offenders is not based on this risk rating under the Walsh Act.
The current law categorizes offenders into tiers based on the crime they committed and might not truly be in the public’s interest, according to a 2012 multi-state study sponsored by the National Institute of Justice. Researchers found that many with the highest risk of re-offending often ended up on lower tiers with shorter registration terms under the Walsh Act.
“It’s not that cut and dry,” Zana said of categorizing offenders based on convictions.
Many first-time offenders automatically would be rated on the lowest tier under the Walsh Act but would be ranked higher if considered individually based on their risk of re-offending. This includes crimes such as lewdness with a child under 14 and incest, he said.
Under Walsh Act standards, the lowest registration tier is assigned to those convicted of a crime against a child or a sexual crime. Offenders have to register for 15 years.
Tier II offenders committed a sexual crime or one involving a child if it is punishable by imprisonment for more than a year. Those who re-offend after being assigned Tier I graduate to this level and have to register for 25 years. Tier II crimes include felony luring of a child, sexual abuse against children, sex trafficking and child pornography.
Those in the highest tier, which applies to people convicted of crimes including kidnapping and sexual abuse against a minor under 13, must register for life. Top-level crimes also include sexual assaults and murders involving rape.
All of the tiers also include attempts or conspiracies to commit those crimes and similar convictions from other states.
The Legislature said during the 2008 special session that more than 2,000 parolees would move from a low-risk rating under the old law to the highest tier under the Walsh Act.
“You get a needle-in-the-haystack problem,” McLetchie said.
Zana said he has been studying the proposed repeal for a couple weeks, and that while it’s not perfect, he said it’s heading in the right direction.
He said the current law is confusing and a handful of sexual offenses aren’t included, such as peeping and taking secret “up-skirt” photos. “Those are entry-level sex offenses,” Zana said.
Like so-called gateway drugs, Zana said people committing these offenses often get bored and move on to worse crimes.
Nevada was one of the first states to pass the Walsh Act, Segerblom said, adding that the Legislature rushed to comply with federal guidelines out of fear of losing criminal justice grants.
But the cost to implement it — estimated at $4 million in 2009 — far exceeds the less than $200,000 Nevada would have lost. To Segerblom’s knowledge, the state never has received federal funds to help with implementation of the Walsh Act.
Assemblyman Phillip O’Neill, R-Carson City, requested a separate bill draft to change laws about the lifetime monitoring of offenders and the system for dealing with violations. For the proposed changes, O’Neill has been working with the Nevada Department of Parole and Probation, which has been trying to change lifetime registration laws for years with no success.
The complexity of the legislation is one reason it hasn’t gained momentum in the past, according to parole department Lt. David Helgerman. Many hesitate because on the surface the bill seems to remove lifetime supervision altogether, but Helgerman said the department is actually trying to replace it with an extended probation period.
“We would not recommend something we thought would be a detriment to public safety,” Helgerman said.
Currently, lifetime registration begins for sex offenders after they have finished parole. And to punish violations would require an offender to be charged with an additional felony in the jurisdiction in which they were first charged. If they have moved to another city, officers must scramble to meet the 72-hour deadline to get the violator to court, where they could then be released on bail.
“There’s a long list of problems,” he said about the law.
O’Neill’s bill would replace lifetime registration by extending the maximum probation terms and giving courts more deference in sentencing sex offenders. Rather than new charges, violators would face a parole hearing. The proposed changes also would make it easier to hold hearings for violators in other jurisdictions and would make it easier to transfer probationers and parolees out of state, Helgerman said.
Helgerman said the majority of the sex crimes an ex-convict would have to register for come with life sentences in prison, so lifetime supervision requirements are “redundant.” The four charges that don’t carry maximum sentences of life in prison right now — battery to commit sexual assault, child pornography, incest and exploiting people with mental illnesses — would all get extended prison sentences under the new bill.
O’Neill’s bill also would prevent sex offenders from being released on bail after violating the terms of their registration.
Helgerman said the state has 783 offenders on lifetime supervision.
“This bill would give our current law more teeth,” Helgerman said.
Segerblom said that the current law unnecessarily “lumps everyone together” and burdens local law enforcement agencies. Nine years after the federal Walsh Act passed, most states have rejected it. Only 17 states have enacted it, and the count might include other states, like Nevada, where the law was approved but not fully enforced because of lawsuits.
“We had a really good sex offender law before the Adam Walsh Act,” Segerblom said. “Sometimes you just need to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ A bad law is a bad law.”
SB 99 addresses some of what opponents point to as the Walsh Act’s problems. The current draft of the bill gives offenders a way to appeal tier designations and lifetime monitoring after 15 years, and it calls for individual assessments of juveniles based on their risk of reoffending. The bill also would give juvenile courts the ability to exempt youths from community notification and registration.
The state attorney general’s office has defended the Walsh Act through every legal challenge, and Attorney General Adam Laxalt plans to continue to do so. When asked if Laxalt would support efforts to repeal the Walsh Act, Assistant Attorney General Brett Kandt said there’s no reason for the attorney general’s office to change course “unless and until the Legislature says so.”
Kandt said that he hasn’t seen any studies about problems with the Walsh Act, and the attorney general only engages with the Legislature on bills that would affect public safety, which he did earlier this session. Laxalt’s office sent a memo in January urging lawmakers to support Assembly Bill 45, which would allow the Department of Corrections to give sex offenders risk ratings of moderate-low and moderate-high in addition to low, moderate and high.
This risk ratings system would have no effect on the length of time an offender has to register under Walsh Act standards.
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office did not return repeated calls to ask whether he would sign a bill to repeal Nevada’s version of the Walsh Act.
CARSON CITY — The Nevada Assembly minority leader called on a GOP assemblywoman to apologize for comments she made in The New York times about rape, concealed weapons and women on college campuses.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, a conservative Las Vegas Republican, talked about her bill that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms on Nevada campuses.
“If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them,” Fiore was quoted as saying. “The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”
Minority Leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, issued a statement Wednesday calling Fiore’s comments sexist and violent.
“It is beyond unfortunate that Michele Fiore’s response to sexual assault on our campuses is a Rambo-like mentality,” Kirkpatrick said. “We live in the 21st century where women are business leaders, political leaders, mothers and friends that shouldn’t be objectified.
“To claim that sexual assault is only happening to ‘young, hot little girls’ and that arming people can alleviate this problem is a false narrative,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that legislators should not encourage “shootout at the OK Corral fantasies.”
Other groups also condemned Fiore’s statement.
“Sexual assault is never the fault of the victim under any circumstance,” said Daniele Dreitzer, executive director of Rape Crisis Center. She called Fiore’s characterization of women “demeaning and consistent with victim blaming.”
“While we recognize the magnitude of the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, violence is never an answer to violence,” Dreitzer said.
On her website, Fiore was non-apologetic and reaffirmed her comments.
“That may not be the most eloquent way to phrase it,” she wrote. “However, I stand wholeheartedly by that sentiments because I want every citizen, whether they’re on a college campus or not, to have the right to defend him or herself from sexual assault.”
Fiore is the main sponsor of a bill introduced last week that would allow people with concealed weapons permits to take their firearms onto the state’s college campuses. Assembly Bill 148 would also allow concealed weapons permit holders to have guns in other public buildings with some exceptions, as well as unsecured areas of airports.
It will be the third attempt to get the “campus carry” bill through the Nevada Legislature. Supporters said the measure could succeed with Republicans in control of both the Senate and Assembly.
Similar bills failed in 2011 and 2013 when Democrats held the majority in both chambers.
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Two Nevada Republican lawmakers say they have nearly enough votes to block Governor Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget, over concerns about tax increases they say will harm businesses.
Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michele Fiore and Sparks Senator Don Gustavson spoke at the Atlantis in Reno on Tuesday. Fiore said the proposed tax increases in Sandoval’s budget need to be removed after Republicans took control of the State Assembly.
She said the current budget needs to be flushed right down the drain, and that 12 assembly members will vote against the budget.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, who was recently demoted as the majority leader and tax committee chairwoman of the Nevada Assembly, told a Republican gathering in Reno Tuesday that she almost has enough votes to kill Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed tax plan.
Sandoval, also a Republican, proposed $1.1 billion in new and extended taxes during his State of the State speech last week to help fund his proposed $7.3 billion state general-fund ballot.
Yet Fiore, who has signed a pledge to oppose all new taxes, said she is only three commitments short of having enough votes to kill the plan in the lower house of the Nevada Legislature.
By Kyle Roerink (contact)
Embattled Assemblywoman Michele Fiore has been ousted from her two positions in the legislative hierarchy.
Assembly Speaker Designate John Hambrick announced the decision this morning and blamed Fiore’s troubles with the Internal Revenue Service as the reason for removing her as majority leader and chairwoman of the Assembly Taxation Committee.
Assemblyman Paul Anderson will replace Fiore as majority leader, and Assemblyman Derek Armstrong will replace her on the taxation committee.
Hambrick’s decision appears to be a final attempt at quelling the ongoing dysfunction in the Assembly Republican Caucus that’s dominated the legislative conversation since Nov. 4.
Two weeks ago, it was uncovered that Fiore faced more than $1 million in tax liens.
She waited until Tuesday to publicly address the issue. She went on a conservative radio program and blamed bookkeepers and a former employee for her tax troubles.
In a news release, Hambrick said Fiore’s explanation for her tax troubles was full of “deflections and slanderous allegations.”
“Michele’s actions have brought undue negativity and disharmony to our caucus,” Hambrick said.
Hambrick briefly removed Fiore from the taxation committee last week.
Fiore followed that by saying there was a war on women in the Assembly Republican Caucus, even though she was the first Republican woman elected majority leader.
Hambrick reinstated Fiore as chairwoman of the taxation committee, but he said today that her leadership roles were causing too many divisions among Republicans.
Fiore’s leadership fracas was the latest in what’s been a trying seven weeks for Republicans since the Nov. 4 elections.
Republicans, including Fiore, pledged harmony after they won control of the Legislature. But GOP members in the Assembly have showed signs of anything but in the last two months.
Before Hambrick came to power, Assemblyman Ira Hansen was the speaker designate and drew headlines for writing racially insensitive columns in the Sparks Tribune. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a figure of stability and promise for Republicans, asked Hansen to step down after a week of turmoil.
That forced the Assembly Republican Caucus to vote again for new leaders. Hambrick was chosen as speaker and Fiore as majority leader.