Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 | 4:25 p.m.
The Nevada Attorney General’s office dropped six felony counts against former Assemblyman Morse Arberry today in exchange for his guilty plea to a misdemeanor for depositing $120,000 in campaign checks into a personal account.
Arberry’s sudden guilty plea in Justice Court to “fraudulent appropriation of money” comes with an agreement he pay back $121,545 that investigators said he diverted from his campaign accounts to his personal account, according to Jennifer Lopez, spokeswoman for Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. He received a six month suspended sentence.
“Morse Arberry has accepted responsibility for his conduct,” Lopez said in a statement. Masto did not respond to requests for comment.
Arberry and his attorneys never presented a defense against the allegations, which were investigated by the Nevada Secretary of State’s office before being turned over to the Attorney General. The Attorney General’s office would not say what defense he would have presented.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said he would not second-guess the decision to accept the plea. “It’s their responsibilty for evaluating the case, prosecuting it and cutting plea deals where appropriate,” he said.
Another politician, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “This case was presented as a slam dunk and the attorney general went incredibly soft on a fellow Democrat.” For other Nevada politicians, “there’s no disincentive to do exactly what he did.”
Arberry was prevented from running again after the 2009 session, but resigned to seek a lobbying contract for Clark County judges. He solicited the contract with Clark County district courts while still technically chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee. He agreed to pay a $750 fine to settle a complaint with the Nevada Commission on Ethics.
He agreed to pay back $100 a month. He also agreed to a $1,000 fine.
The plea agreement was first reported by columnist Jane Ann Morrison.
Arberry’s attorney, Mark Bailus, did not return calls for comment.