Longtime Pahrump resident and manufactured home business owner David Cleveland is speaking out on his 11-year prison sentence for a fatal Thanksgiving Day DUI back in 2006.
After his release from prison on Feb. 22, Cleveland will remain on house arrest until early 2021.
He was convicted of driving under the influence for a fatal head-on crash which killed 27-year-old California resident Jeremy Moon and seriously injuring two others more than 11 years ago.
Moon and his family were in Pahrump visiting relatives for the holiday.
Cleveland spoke to the Pahrump Valley Times about his incarceration at no less than a half-dozen correctional facilities and provided details related to the crash and his time in prison.
Since his release, the central thoughts on Cleveland’s mind, he said, were that of regret, sympathy and sorrow for the Moon family.
At the time of the fatal collision, Jeremy Moon and his wife Anna were raising their 11-month-old son, Ian Michael Moon.
Furthermore, by simple observation, Cleveland appeared to be consumed with regret and a degree of shame as he spoke.
Those emotions, however, were tempered with the ambition of renewal and hope for the future.
“I am so sorry for that violent wreck,” he said with anguish.
After a few moments of silence, Cleveland continued his thoughts.
“I am so sorry, I am so sorry, I am so sorry, and I just don’t know what more I can say,” he said. “I have asked for their forgiveness. They said they have forgiven me, but I just don’t see that. I am not trying to minimize the situation. It’s a tragic situation, and I know the pain. I don’t know what else I need to do. I spent the last 11 years dedicating my life to changing myself, and I am not the same person I was 11 years ago. I am totally different.”
Urge to communicate
During the conversation, Cleveland also expressed his desire to actually speak to Jeremy’s immediate family.
“I wish I could talk to Mr. Moon the way I’m talking to you right now,” he said. “I wish I could talk to Anna and especially Ian. I know it’s not advisable or proper to do such a thing, but I would just like to talk to them.”
Additionally, Cleveland said he heard directly from the Moon family during the parole board hearing.
“I listened to Ian about not being able to go fishing with his dad, and that just tore me up,” Cleveland said. “The fact is, he can’t do all of the fun things with his dad, and I understand that there’s a lot of tragedy there.”
Each Thanksgiving Day, Cleveland said, is especially a painful time for him, as he also acknowledged how the Moon family must feel each year, without the presence of Jeremy.
“The Moon family cannot enjoy Thanksgiving Day and neither can I,” he said. “Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying, because I am certainly not a victim, but I too have gone through some pain over all these years. Last November 23rd was Thanksgiving Day. I woke up in the morning and got on my knees to pray as I did each morning. I asked the Lord to pray for the Moon family. I wept for a long time that morning.”
The issue of restitution to surviving family members was another issue Cleveland spoke of, as claims were leveled that he did not pay the remittance in full.
Cleveland, in fact, provided documentation, including copies of checks endorsed to the Richard Harris Law Firm to support his counterclaim.
Total restitution amounted to more than $180,000, where at least part of the monies was paid the day Cleveland pleaded guilty to the charges, according to Nye County parole and probation documents.
Two checks, totaling $73,313.45, and $37,686.55 respectively, were disbursed as payment for restitution.
“I have paid my restitution in full,” Cleveland said.
Aside from restitution, an official settlement agreement also showed that Cleveland’s automobile insurance policy provided a monetary settlement.
That agreement was filed with the court on July 23, 2008.
Support from the church
It would be safe to say that retired Pahrump Central Valley Baptist Church Pastor Ron Fairbairn knows a thing or two about honesty, as it was he, who counseled Cleveland throughout the court and parole proceedings.
Before speaking about Cleveland’s case, the pastor first offered his condolences to the Moon family.
“My heart goes out to Jeremy Moon and his family and I know so does David’s,” he said. “The family has truly suffered, and I understand that. I will say that David served his time, and I was with him during the parole board hearing. As far as the payment of restitution is concerned, there were two checks that I gave to the attorney.”
Additionally, Fairbairn said Cleveland began to embrace the teachings of the Bible not long after his incarceration.
“Every week David lived for the Lord, and he’s done that for years,” Fairbairn said. “Through our church, he has helped families out on many occasions and he actually sent money to families who were in need while he was incarcerated. There’s a halfway house in Las Vegas, and David paid for one of the men who was released to go to the halfway house. He provided a $500 donation.”
As part of a stipulation for release, all inmates are required to complete a parole board questionnaire for caseworkers in the Nevada prison system.
The questions pertain to the inmate’s experiences throughout their time behind bars.
One such question was whether the inmate “felt guilty or sorry for their offense,” and how the inmate has adjusted to a life behind bars.
“I have focused my energy on helping other inmates to do good and changing the path of their life through assisting in Christian studies,” Cleveland noted in his written response. “I have conducted Bible studies an average of four times a week since May 2011. The correctional officers said they could see that I had an effect on the entire camp. When I left, the whites were smoking with the blacks and you just don’t see that much in prison. I didn’t have any problems with other inmates while I was incarcerated. In fact, they all called me ‘Rev,’ and I learned a lot about patience.”
Regarding what landed him in prison, Cleveland’s response on the questionnaire was again that of regret.
“I am guilty and so ashamed of my crime, which happened 11 years ago this past November,” he said. “Every year, on the anniversary of the accident, I am brought to tears from the gnawing sense of remorse. I hate to imagine the pain of the loss of a husband, father.”
On the morning of the fatal crash, Cleveland said he offered a person a ride home after spending several hours at a local bar.
Though he insisted that he was not drinking, Cleveland did admit that he was using cocaine.
“I was gambling and I won a bit of money,” he recalled. “I was dressed in a suit because I had a Thanksgiving dinner planned with my general manager in Las Vegas. This young man that I met needed a ride home and he lived at the end of Kellogg Road. I had a blood draw and I was 10 nanograms over the legal limit for cocaine. A nanogram is just a trace.”
Even though he admitted to using cocaine, which is considered a stimulant, Cleveland said he was physically exhausted while driving the person home sometime after 6 a.m.
He also said the vehicle he was driving, a 2006 Jeep SRT-8, was equipped with anti-roll and anti-swerve technology.
The fatal crash occurred along the 4600 block of South Homestead Road.
“I fell asleep behind the wheel and when I went off-road, the vehicle forced its way back on the roadway, and I over-corrected,” he said. “I’m not going to blame the vehicle because I was totally at fault. I accept responsibility for it. I had cocaine in me, and that was the under the influence charge.”
Even though Cleveland’s driving privileges remain revoked until the year 2020, he noted that he may never get behind the wheel of an automobile again.
“I’m just not really comfortable in doing that and I don’t really think I have that right any longer,” he said. “I just wouldn’t feel right in doing it because that’s a privilege that I should no longer have. One thing is for certain. I will never drink or do drugs again. In fact, After being a smoker for 40 years, I quit smoking while I was in prison. I figure if I can do that, I can do almost anything. I am always reminding myself that there are consequences for what I did.”
Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @pvtimes