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George Knapp: Give me a friggin’ break

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As I write this, the whereabouts of former prosecutor David Schubert are unknown. Schubert was to have turned himself in last Friday to begin serving a ridiculously harsh nine-month prison sentence for drug possession, but he was a no-show. His lawyer and loved ones say he was terribly despondent about the prison sentence and the suspension of his law license. No one is expressing aloud the obvious concern — that Schubert might do something drastic — but that is clearly what some are thinking.

There is no question he made a terrible mistake when he bought a small amount of crack, but the heavy-handed, draconian punishment meted out to a public servant with an otherwise exemplary record is completely and totally out of line. Drug addiction is a disease. It is a treatable medical condition. Thousands of people in this community have found themselves in a similar spot, but they were allowed by the court to seek treatment, and many have fully recovered and are now productive members of society. Why was Schubert not given the same chance that far worse offenders have been given? Why does he deserve punishment that is far out of the norm, even for the kind of high-profile defendants he once prosecuted?

It seems as if Schubert is being punished for a crime that is not exactly spelled out in the statutes — the crime of embarrassment. Because he was a highly successful drug prosecutor, the man who led the charge against the likes of Paris Hilton and Bruno Mars, Schubert’s fall from grace is somehow an embarrassment to the local legal profession, and for that, he must receive the maximum punishment.

Give me a friggin’ break. There are lawyers in this town who have showed up to court whacked out of their minds, reeking of booze, flying on drugs, oblivious to the proceedings. Others have been caught on video stealing stuff. There are attorneys practicing today who have built their practices by ripping off their clients, stealing from their accounts, screwing up the cases so badly that the lives of those clients are completely ruined. The state bar is notoriously lax in its punishment of far more egregious legal predators, and even those few who’ve been nailed on criminal charges are still allowed a chance to clean up their acts, seek treatment and resume their careers, as it should be. Why not Schubert?

It is pretty obvious he had a problem, a dependency. He was still able to function at a high level, working side by side with narcotics officers and fellow prosecutors, and no one suspected a thing. Is that why he needed to serve nine months of hard time — because he fooled everyone? This was a first offense involving a very small quantity of drugs. He didn’t shoot anyone or mow them down with his car. He didn’t steal from his clients or the public. He screwed himself, not others, because he has a sickness.

To my knowledge, I have never met Schubert, so this is not being written to help out a pal. It just seems to me that he deserves the same kind of treatment that any other first-time minor-league defendant deserves, but that’s not what he got.

I almost hope that Schubert made a run for it and is sitting on a beach somewhere, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. But that seems like a real long shot. It seems unlikely he would simply abandon his two kids by running to a far-off land. Given the descriptions of how low he was feeling when he disappeared, there’s a better than even chance this story will have a very unhappy ending. Even if he is found alive, or turns himself in, he will likely face even more exaggerated wrath from a legal profession that should have trouble looking at itself in the mirror.


A Tuesday night fundraiser for injured police officers was a major success, largely because of the guest of honor. Former sheriff Ralph Lamb was the center of attention at the Green Valley Ranch shindig. Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan was the emcee and introduced current sheriff Doug Gillespie, former sheriff Bill Young, former Gov. Bob Miller, and surprise speakers Steve Wynn and Larry Ruvo, who pitched in a pile of dough to help injured officers and who regaled the large audience with side-splitting tales from Lamb’s career, notably his fist-city encounters with mafia wiseguys. The soft-spoken Lamb, who is mostly uncomfortable as a center of attention, busted every gut in the house with his low-key, outrageously understated stories about going toe-to-toe against assorted hitmen and mob gunsels. A new network TV drama based on Lamb’s career, Vegas, debuted this week on CBS, and the network is flat out predicting the series will be the first breakout hit of the season. … Congratulations to veteran R-J reporter Ed Vogel on his induction into Nevada’s newspaper Hall of Fame. Two decades ago, when Vogel still worked in Southern Nevada, he was known to TV crews as a holy terror. Woe to the photographer who accidentally shot video of Vogel for use in cutaway edits. Ed was known to flip the bird as a way to make sure his face would not appear on TV. He is a terrific talent who has mellowed over the years, though maybe not entirely. … Thanks to all of the wild horse advocates who came unglued about last week’s very mild column urging them to work together for the good of the mustangs. The comments received here go along way toward proving the original point.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at