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Assembly casts historic vote to expel troubled lawmaker Brooks

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Cathleen Allison / AP

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, votes in an emotional and historic proceeding to expel Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Updated Thursday, March 28, 2013 | 4:35 p.m.

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Nevada Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, hugs Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, following an emotional and historic vote to expel fellow Assemblyman Steven Brooks on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

2013 Legislative Session - Assemblyman Brooks

Assemblyman Steven Brooks is sworn in along with the rest of the assembly on the first day of the 2013 legislative session Monday, Feb. 4, 2013 in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

In a voice vote masking how each individual lawmaker sided, the Nevada Assembly made the unprecedented decision to expel one of their own — troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas.

The decision came after hours of closed door deliberations and a three-hour long closed hearing on the evidence surrounding Brooks, including his two arrests, an involuntary psychiatric evaluation, an attempt to buy a high-powered rifle and a string of erratic outbursts.

A majority of "yays" sounded in the chamber after several speeches, some tearful, on the reasons to expel him. Only a handful of "nays" were heard. A crying Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick then declared Brooks' seat vacant.

"The truth is we did not feel safe having him in this building," Assembly Majority Leader William Horne said on the Assembly floor just before the vote.

In a phone call with the Las Vegas Sun after the vote, Brooks declared himself an "open book" and ranted for about 45 seconds before hanging up.

"You tell those sons of bitches they are going to have to look me in the eye when they try to kill a crazy man again," Brooks said, adding that he was on his way to the Legislature. "I have never been crazy, but they are trying to drive me that way. They are all going to jail. I got all their secrets. If they put one finger on me, they are going to jail for five years. I am going to commit a Legal 2000 on William Horne as soon as I get there."

A Legal 2000 allows authorities to hold someone who may be a danger to himself or others. Brooks was taken in for mental health evaluation under the auspices of a Legal 2000 in January.

"How dare they?" Brooks told The Associated Press in a separate phone call immediately after the vote. "I've been convicted of nothing ... They won't let me testify at the Grant Sawyer Building, and they sent 100 police officers to arrest me.

"Let me ask you, how can they do that?" he added.

His lawyer, Mitchell Posin, said he was "disappointed" and surprised, "especially because I was recently told it wasn't going to be heard today."

Before the vote, Horne said an investigation conducted by the special counsel revealed Brooks is "volatile, prone to angry outbursts and" potentially violent.

Speaking for Republicans, Assemblyman Wes Duncan, R-Las Vegas, agreed, noting that Brooks attempted to buy a "a rifle with scope, night vision goggles and a bullet proof vest."

Assembly Democrats struggled late Wednesday with making a decision on the Select Committee's recommendation to expel Brooks from the Legislature.

The difficulty of that decision became apparent as some lawmakers openly wept and others sat quietly with somber expressions.

Only Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, who sat on the Select Committee that investigated whether Brooks was fit to serve, explained that she would be voting against the expulsion. Her voice halted repeatedly as she gave her floor speech.

"Courage is something found. It’s not given," she said, adding that she has received emails calling her a racist for seeking to protect Brooks against expulsion. Both lawmakers are black.

"I cannot move for that action of expulsion. I cannot move for that action because I believe in the human form and all its frailties and faults. I also believe in the power of human recovery."

Both Horne and Duncan noted that Brooks hasn't appeared to be willing to seek help for his "mental health issues."

"There was paranoia, there was mood swings, there were violent outbursts," Duncan said. "There was a propensity for violence that I saw in those documents that would give everyone here pause.

"And there was no inclination from Brooks that there’s an understanding on his part that he needs help or that he’s moving in a direction of getting that help."

Horne said he has grown only more wary of Brooks.

"As I stand before you today, I do not feel any more comfortable than I did at the beginning of the investigation," Horne said. "I actually feel less comfortable. I did not receive assurances that he is capable of controlling his angry outbursts or that his outbursts will not become violent."

The Assembly vote came after a committee of three Republicans and four Democrats recommended Brooks' ouster following a three-hour hearing behind closed doors late Tuesday. In that meeting, the Select Committee reviewed two 25-page investigation reports and nearly 900 pages of backup material gathered by independent counsel Mark Ferrario.

Those reports have remained confidential and have not been shared with the public or with the lawmakers not on the Select Committee. The secrecy surrounding the proceedings concerned both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

A two-thirds majority vote was needed to expel a member.

Also on Thursday, the Nevada Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit Brooks had filed challenging Horne’s decision to place him on administrative leave and ban him from the building.

The justices, however, decided not to delve into the actual question of whether Horne had the authority to issue such a ban. Rather, the court noted that Brooks sued the wrong entity. Brooks named the Legislature as the respondent in the case, not the Assembly.

Since the beginning of the year, Brooks has been arrested twice — once on accusations he threatened Kirkpatrick and a second time on charges of domestic battery and resisting an officer. He has also be involuntarily detained for a psychiatric evaluation, denied the purchase of a rifle by state authorities and kicked out of a Reno casino for causing a disturbance. Brooks also has exhibited erratic behavior at the Legislature before leaders made the decision to ban him from the building.

Kirkpatrick pointed out that information, which has been widely reported by news outlets in the past three months, is largely what lawmakers are using to form an opinion on whether to oust him.

"You've put a lot of information out there," Kirkpatrick told reporters after the caucus meeting. "Do (lawmakers) have to at some point trust their colleagues? We trust our colleagues all day long every day."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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