UPDATE: The preliminary hearing scheduled for Feb. 27 has been postponed until March 5 in Pahrump.
The four individuals arrested on sexual abuse charges relating to minors were formally arraigned before Pahrump Justice Court Judge Lisa Chamlee.
Eric Garcia, 39; Mickey Cagle, 30; Danny Hicks, 50; and Vicki Bachli, 49, are all accused of a range of crimes, including sexual assault and lewdness with a minor under the age of 14 to acts of bestiality, following the execution of a search warrant at a Pahrump residence on Feb. 5.
All four defendants have been assigned defense attorneys and were arraigned on Feb. 13.
Following their arrests, bail amounts ranged from $50,000 to $200,000.
Prior to comments from defense attorneys, Chamlee pointed out that the initial bail amounts were based upon the charges the defendants were originally booked on.
“In accordance with the law, I’m going to set bail according to what each defendant has been charged with,” she said.
During the 8 a.m. hearing, Nye County Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirk Vitto brought up the issue of bail relating to the defendants and their respective attorneys.
“I think that the defense can make a compelling bail argument,” Vitto told Chamlee. “They will be arguing that they are local, and they don’t have any criminal history, and that any bail is effectively no bail, and that the bail currently set is a bail figure that they probably can’t meet. I anticipate that will be the argument. That being said, there are some points that I want to make.”
Vitto’s first point was associated to a similar case in Tonopah.
“There’s a case in Tonopah that is currently set for district court trial, where there are only two victims,” he said. “The allegations include allegations that are currently before the court, and his bail is set at $500,000. Here we have intertwined allegations involving more than two victims, and more serious charges, and frankly, as we learn more and more about this case, we anticipate more charges, even some that are potentially more serious. These charges, even though they are merely allegations, are viscerally disturbing and heinous. We want to protect the community, we want to protect the defendants from themselves and others, and obviously we need to protect the children.”
Also during his statements in relation to the case, Vitto broached the subject of capital punishment.
“This isn’t a capital case and frankly, we could make the argument that perhaps it should be,” he said in part. “The majority of these charges are category “A” felonies, some of which carry a higher penalty than many murder sentences. Judge, each of the people before the court currently, is facing 35 years to life in prison. The penalty is more significant, or more than some instances of murder.”
Additionally, Vitto’s argument took into consideration the possibility of the defendants fleeing the state, or attempting to make contact with the victims if released on bail.
“We have a firm basis upon which to substantiate the adverse effect of contact after these offenses were discovered,” he said in part. There is the potential for witness tampering with young, impressionable minds. Each of these defendants are facing the very real potential, the very real possibility of spending the rest of their days locked up. As that reality sinks in, they are faced with and will contemplate choices and alternatives.”
Vitto also offered up what he personally thought was a fitting bail amount for the defendants.
“Having started in my mind as $1,000,000 as inappropriate bail, in context, under the facts and circumstances as they are presented to the court today, considering the case in Tonopah that I mentioned earlier, which is $500,000 bail, I can’t consider a bail less than $500,000 as being appropriate. I think $1,000,000 is probably more appropriate. If my math is correct, a $500,000 bail figure, cash or bond, would require $75,000 cash to bond out. I think nothing less than $500,000 is appropriate.”
Representing defendant Eric Garcia, defense attorney Thomas Gibson flatly countered Vitto’s argument in regard to the bail amount.
“We don’t have any proof here, all we have right now are allegations based on police reports and we all know that anyone who has ever done a trial, when you read a police report and what happens on the witness stand are two different things,” Gibson told Chamlee. “Case in point, how many times have you had a jury trial and your client was convicted of a lesser charge? At this point, judge, I would ask that the court actually use presumption of innocence in this matter when considering bail.”
Gibson also referenced Vitto’s capital punishment comments, as he requested a reduction in bail.
“They are local in the community, they have family and friends here, and they have strong ties to the community,” he said in part. “I would ask the court to set this matter realistically at $50,000 for my client, and then after the preliminary hearing, we could reassess after we’ve heard the evidence or lack thereof.”
During his remarks, Daniel Martinez, representing Danny Hicks, considered the bail amounts unconstitutional.
“What the state is asking for today, I will make the argument that it is absolutely unconstitutional,” he argued. “The defendant has a right to a reasonable bail. When you set the bail at $1,000,000, or $500,000, that is not reasonable. I think that $50,000 is more than appropriate, and I ask for a bail reduction based upon that, judge.”
Ronni Boskovich, representing defendant Vicki Bachli, considered the bail amount for her client as unreasonable.
“A bail of $500,000 or $1,000,000 is unreasonable in this matter,” she said. “My client’s bail is currently set at $50,000, and she still hasn’t been able to post that to date. They are innocent until proven guilty. Once we get to the preliminary hearing and determine what kind of evidence comes out, we can certainly address bail again at that time.”
Additionally, Boskovich argued that her client would not be a flight risk if released on bail.
“My client has zero criminal history, she has lived in Pahrump for at least the last 10 years, I believe,” she said. “She is not a flight risk and she has no intention of leaving. She understands the charges that she is facing and she understands that she needs to stay here and face those charges. At this time, I would ask that her bail remain at $50,000. I believe that is a reasonable number given everything that she has been charged with, in comparison to what the state is asking for.”
As defense attorney Jason Earnest spoke on the matter, he urged Chamlee to address his client’s situation independently.
“Judge, you have four people listed on the complaint,” Earnest said in part. “Four people who are presumed to be innocent. Some of them might be more innocent than others. I would like you to address my client separately. My client has resided here in Pahrump since 2009, and he is gainfully employed…as a dishwasher. I won’t get into the facts of the case, but he’s absolutely innocent. He professes his innocence. Bail is to be set based upon not presumption of guilt, or punishment, but to assure that the defendants appear for court. I’ve got a guy who has lived here for quite some time, and is gainfully employed. I have a guy here who wants his day in court. He is much more of an asset to be out than he is in. I don’t expect an own-recognizance release on this. If you set his bail at 20 grand, he’s not getting out because he’s a dishwasher at Lakeside. He doesn’t have the money. I definitely don’t want you to increase it.”
Prior to setting the bail, Chamlee voiced a few concerns regarding the amount for each defendant.
“The defendants are facing a substantial number of years in prison if they are convicted of these offenses,” she said. “If you have a heavy sentence that you are looking at upon conviction, I know that does substantially increase the flight risk. That is a big part of the decision I’m going to make in each of these individual’s cases of bail.”
In the end, defendant Garcia’s bail, which was originally set at $200,000, was raised to $800,000 cash or bond, while defendant Bachli’s bail was increased to $500,000 cash or bond, from the original amount of $50,000.
Defendants Hicks and Cagle’s bail was set at $250,000, and $200,000 cash or bond respectively.
Due to scheduling conflicts with defense attorneys, who are juggling other cases, Chamlee issued a primary setting for the defendants’ preliminary hearing on Feb. 27, at 1:30 p.m.
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at email@example.com.