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George Knapp: Shame on Florida

<p>George Knapp</p>

George Knapp

A long time Nevada prison inmate named Fred Steese is due for a break, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to get one. Steese served 21 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. He was convicted in 1992 for killing a guy who had a poodle act at the Circus Circus. On the advice of his attorney at the time, Steese entered a guilty plea to avoid a death sentence, figuring he would clear his name on appeal. It didn’t work out that way — until just a few months ago, when Judge Elisa Cadish ruled that Steese could not have committed the murder because the evidence shows he was not in Nevada at the time.

But instead of being freed — at last — Steese is now on his way to Florida, where prosecutors say he needs to serve three more years behind bars for a parole violation that occurred more than 25 years ago. Steese, who is intellectually challenged, committed some lesser crimes in Florida and served his full prison sentence, but after he was released, he failed to report to his parole officer. The main reason he never bothered to settle that matter is because he was wrongly behind bars in Nevada.

As far as Florida is concerned, it doesn’t matter one bit that Steese served all those years for a crime he did not commit. That enlightened state wants its pound of flesh. Despite a passionate letter from DA Steve Wolfson and additional background from other law-enforcement folks here, Florida simply could not wait to get its hands on Fred. Earlier this week, a couple of Florida agents picked up Steese from the local jail and transported him back to Florida.

At some point during the next 45 days, there will be a closed-door hearing that will decide his fate. Based on a recorded statement obtained by my Channel 8 I Team colleague Colleen McCarty from a downright haughty official in the Sunshine State, Florida isn’t going to settle for anything less than Steese serving every single day that he supposedly owes them for the procedural violations a quarter century ago.

I don’t think I need to explain how ridiculous, hard-hearted, and vindictive this appears. Calls to Florida’s governor have been referred to the Parole Commission, and we already know how they feel about this. It will cost Florida taxpayers a bundle to keep him behind bars for the next few years.

But more importantly, it simply seems unfair in the big scheme of things. I sure hope someone here in Nevada can get through to the decision-makers in Florida and appeal to their better nature. Fred Steese is no saint, but he’s paid for his mistakes, many times over.


Say, was that Pat Mulroy up in Carson City earlier this week, leading a posse of five or so water minions into the office of Sen. Mike Roberson? It is entirely possible that the Southern Nevada Water Authority honcho met with Roberson in hopes of cutting a deal to stop his plan to put the SNWA under control of the Public Utilities Commission, a move that will bring an end to life on Earth and send all of our souls hurtling toward eternal damnation, or something like that, according to SNWA. The word is that Roberson isn’t budging and isn’t dealing. I’d say the next visit he gets should be where things become truly interesting. … Had the pleasure of speaking with the ageless Steve Lawrence the other day. The classy crooner has lived in Las Vegas for many years. In fact, he and his wife, Edye Gorme, were married 50 years ago at the long-gone El Rancho hotel, the first major resort on what would become the Strip. Lawrence told me he recently finished recording a new album. … To those who say the sequestration budget cuts won’t hurt, please explain your theory to veteran cop Tom Keller, who is one of three employees at the federal public defender’s office being let go because of draconian cuts. Another local victim is the Aviation Nation air show, which generates millions each year for the local economy but which has been axed because of a slashed budget at Nellis. You wanted it, budget-cutters, you got it. … Knappster continues to get interesting e-mail from cabbies, including one from an angry striking driver who says he will expose the fact that he once saw me in the Office Bar back in the late ’70s, and I was “sucking down drinks” at the time. At great risk to my personal credibility, allow me to make a candid admission. I did, in fact, sit on a barstool at the Office Bar back in the ’70s. But it was just that one time. And I have since learned the error of my ways. Honest. … I also heard from other drivers who were not quite as obnoxious regarding the ongoing strike. As mentioned here previously, there have always been way too many cabs on the street at any given time, making it very hard for drivers to earn a decent living. Now, in response to a strike that has had no noticeable effect on taxi transportation in town, local companies have seized the opportunity to squeeze even more out of their hard-working drivers. At the companies that are not on strike, management has ordered drivers to work a mandatory six days a week, 12 hours per day, because they consider the strike to be “a special event” under terms of the current contract. Drivers tell me they are ready to keel over after keeping up with this ridiculous schedule for the past few weeks, and they predict someone is going to get killed when a driver falls asleep at the wheel. This kind of reaction by the industry perfectly exemplifies the towering greed of the local cab titans and their complete disregard for the welfare of their drivers.

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