Pahrump Justice of the Peace Kent Jasperson has recused himself from hearing the case of suspected drunk driver, Ashley Winn, who allegedly killed a woman and injured a man last month.
Jasperson would have heard Winn’s case in justice court, which involves the preliminary hearing, before likely being sent to the Fifth Judicial District Court, where judges Kimberly Wanker and Robert Lane preside.
Jasperson explained that the perception that there was a special handling of Winn’s arrest was the main factor behind him removing himself from the case.
Those allegations were made after Winn was released on her own recognizance from the Nye County Detention Center just hours after she was transported there by the Nevada Highway Patrol and before she was fully booked on a trio of charges related to the deadly Sept. 24 crash, according to the arrest report.
In that crash, Winn allegedly ran a stop sign while drunk, striking a vehicle, killing Christine Weir, 33, and seriously injuring her fiance, Brian Choiniere, in the process.
Those actions led to family members of the victims and Pahrump residents wondering if there were special considerations involved, as they learned that Jasperson and Winn had a connection.
Jasperson and former Undersheriff Rick Marshall worked together at the sheriff’s office in the past and openly supported each other’s campaigns for public office. Rick Marshall’s son, Joey Marshall, who is a deputy with the sheriff’s office, has a child with Winn.
“It is because allegations were made, even though they were not true, that she (Winn) was receiving preferential treatment,” Jasperson said. “Because of that, in regard to the ethical obligations that I am bound to under the canons, which are the rules that govern the judicial officials in the state of Nevada, it would create an appearance of impropriety if I was to hear the case, after the allegations were made.”
Jasperson said that Judge Richard Glasson from Lake Tahoe would replace him on Winn’s case.
“Since the development of all this has taken place I have recused myself from hearing the case,” Jasperson said. “It is now going to be heard by a visiting judge from another part of the state.”
Nye County Justice Court and Judge Glasson are in the process of coordinating a date for him to come to Pahrump and hear the case. Jasperson did not have a timeframe in which that could occur.
Jasperson explained that, although not too common, visiting judges are called upon to take over cases where a conflict of interest is present, especially when it’s a high-profile case.
“I’ve gone to Beatty and Tonopah to hear cases, in fact I’m going to Tonopah next week to hear a case for a judge up there because she has a conflict,” he said. “So yeah, it’s something that happens. Not regularly, but it does happen throughout the state.”
Jasperson wouldn’t comment on the reasoning behind releasing Winn, after she admitted to drinking whiskey up to an hour before the deadly crash in the arrest report.
He did touch on his and Rick Marshall’s relationship, reiterating his initial stance that there was nothing fishy going on.
“I’ve never given anybody preferential treatment because of who they are or who they may know. I’ve treated everybody fairly and the same.” Jasperson said. “I’ve known Rick for a long time. I was working at the sheriff’s office when he got hired.
“Just because we know each other and may be friends, that doesn’t mean anybody is going to get any special treatment because of it.”
Winn has since bailed out of jail after being formally charged by the Nye County District Attorney’s office on a single count of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, resulting in death. Her bail amount was $50,000, a reduction of her original bail of $200,240.
Choiniere has since been released from UMC and has even attended a couple of fundraisers the victims’ families have been running to raise money for funeral costs.
Contact reporter Mick Akers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.