Sorry to break the news, but the great courthouse romance has fizzled. Black-robed Romeo has gone his way, and hunk-hunting Juliet has gone hers. Judge Steve Jones and former deputy DA Lisa Willardson are no longer a couple.
I know what you’re thinking. What is this crazy world coming to when a couple of love-struck kids like them can’t make it? Alas, it was not meant to be.
In case you don’t remember, Willardson was flat-out fired once the word of her fling with the judge went public. And after Judge Jones ordered the two prosecutors who had spilled the beans barred from his court, a complaint was filed with the Judicial Discipline Commission. It is important to note that the complaint is still under investigation, and so you would think the judge would be on excellent behavior. You would think.
My KLAS Channel 8 colleague Colleen McCarty recently dug up some info that everyone at the courthouse is trying their best to ignore, but it is not going away. See, a new position has opened up. The courthouse wants to hire a new hearing master. In the past, the position was the equivalent of a senior attorney (Clark County still lists it as such), and the minimum requirement for such a job was to have eight years of full-time legal work, four as an attorney. That would only make sense, right?
But back in May, Jones quietly began lobbying his fellow judges to lower the requirements — in fact, to drop it to the lowest possible standard. Now the only legal experience needed for this senior hearing master position is that the applicant must have been a member of the bar for five years. No requirement that they have any actual legal experience — just be a member of the bar. Few at the courthouse will talk about this publicly, but from some angles it certainly appears that Jones lobbied to lower the standard so his girlfriend — oops, former girlfriend, Lisa Willardson — could qualify. What’s worse is that the court has decided that it will not release the names of any applicants, not even the three finalists. So, on the off chance that Lisa makes it into the final three — and wouldn’t you know it, Jones is on the screening panel — the public won’t be told.
Jones told McCarty he sees no conflict in being on the panel that will make the selection, even if Lisa is a finalist, since the two are no longer, you know, doing the deed. And his fellow judges have once again given Jones wide berth to get away with crap like this.
I guess it is true what Pablo Cruise used to say: Love will find a way.
HAJDAR THE LONG-HAULER
You might recall reading about Knappster’s taxicab adventure back in May. After returning from New York, the Viking and I jumped into a cab, asked to be taken to our home and quickly found ourselves going in the opposite direction. We got into a bit of a nasty discussion about this apparent long-hauling and ended up being dumped at a hotel by the furious driver, who repeatedly yelled at us to “get the fuck out of my cab.”
Although his taxi license was obscured, I wrote down a name … Hanjour … and the taxi number, then filed a detailed complaint with the Nevada Taxicab Authority. True to its word, the TA appointed a seasoned investigator to the case, Mike Ferriolo, who interviewed the driver and complainant. The driver’s real name, it turns out, is John Hajdar, and he works for Nellis Cab. The TA believes that the foul-mouthed, ill-tempered Mr. Hajdar committed five separate violations when he attempted to take us the long way. He also spent much of his time yakking into a cell phone during the key moments when he should have been asking for permission to take us the wrong way.
TA records show that Mr. Hajdar has three previous citations for other violations, for which he has paid a whopping $140 in fines. I’m hoping the TA asks for a bit more this time. It sure seems that Happy Hajdar has little respect for the rules laid down by the state, and even less respect for the travelers who are the lifeblood of our economy. Miniscule fines may not be enough to get the message across that long-hauling is not acceptable.
HBO SHOWS TRUE CLASS
HBO Sports has always done a classy job in its telecasts of boxing cards here in Las Vegas, and has played a huge part in maintaining our reputation as Boxing Capital of the World. But the gesture it extended last weekend proves that this cable network has a heart.
A veteran audio engineer named Paul Hoggatt died Friday night after a brief but brutal bout with cancer. Paul is well-known within the local TV production fraternity and was universally loved. He’s been a key part of HBO’s boxing specials almost since they began, and while he was listed as an audio guy, he filled several niches. Paul’s death came just a few hours before the broadcast of a major fight card from Mandalay Bay. Someone at HBO had their stuff together because it put on a stirring tribute during the broadcast. Although Paul was certainly unknown to the millions of boxing fans, HBO had its ring announcer speak in glowing terms about his contributions to the program, then the audience listened quietly as the bell was rung 10 times and photos of a smiling Paul flashed on the giant screens. It was a tribute worthy of a celebrity athlete, and they did it for a regular guy. Goosebumps.
When the full story of the human foibles behind the death of Buddy the chimp is finally told, people might think they are reading about a TV soap opera. Buddy and his lifelong companion, CJ, found themselves in the middle of a war between humans, one that almost certainly contributed to the escape that led to Buddy being shot down in the street. Would you believe that a battle is still raging between rival factions over just who should be given possession of Buddy’s cremated remains?
GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.