Las Vegas Sun

March 4, 2024

Legislature 2013:

Brooks banished from Legislature: ‘We did not feel safe’

Brooks expelled

Cathleen Allison / AP

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.

Assemblyman Steven Brooks - Feb. 7, 2013

Assemblyman Steven Brooks hugs Assemblyman Pat Hickey before a meeting Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

Through gut-wrenching tears Nevada lawmakers brought a conclusion to the at-times frightening saga that has gripped the Nevada Legislature for two months, voting Thursday to oust one of their own — a man they had determined is too unstable and prone to violence to continue serving as a legislator.

The decision to expel Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, followed a tumultuous two months in which legislative leaders hurriedly crafted a process for something that had never been undertaken in state history, while also working to find any other way to address Brooks’ deteriorating stability.

The tragedy of the situation clearly weighed heavily on the lawmakers who decided Brooks’ fate in the Legislature.

“It’s just sad,” said an emotionally weary Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, who chaired the select committee that recommended Brooks’ ouster. “It’s been very difficult. It will probably continue to be difficult for some time for us.”

Even those lawmakers not charged with reviewing the entire confidential report documenting the reasons for Brooks’ expulsion wrestled with casting a yay or a nay vote.

“We are getting ready to vote on 6.5 billion dollars in spending,” said Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Carson City. “And I’ll tell you that vote is going to be easier than this one. This one involves someone’s life.”

But exactly how lawmakers arrived at the decision, on what evidence they based it and the exact details of the transgressions that resulted in Brooks’ ouster have been deemed too private to reveal to the public, resulting in an uncertain precedent going forward.

The vote itself, however, set off a renewed flurry of anger from Brooks, who spat his fury at reporters in a series of erratic telephone calls in which he alternately threatened retribution to the lawmakers who ousted him and wallowed as a victim.

“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 told the Sun in a 45-second phone call that ended when he abruptly hung up. "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.”

To Las Vegas journalist Jon Ralston, Brooks lamented that he is hated at the Legislature.

"I'm the assemblyman of sorrow," he told Ralston. "Why do they hate me so much? Fill in the blank: I'm so angry I could (blank) myself."

To the Las Vegas Review-Journal, he complained that reporters were harassing him because he is black.

The phone conversations with reporters offered a glimpse into an almost everyday reality that lawmakers, legislative staff and Brooks’ family have been enduring now for months.

Click to enlarge photo

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.

Brooks, 41, is a father of four. He was set to begin his second term representing Assembly District 17 when he began to publicly unravel.

It began as early as November, when the Democratic caucus elected Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, speaker over Horne, who Brooks had favored for the position.

Leadership then declined to name Brooks as chairman of any of the committees.

Brooks began to react badly to what he saw as an unforgivable snub.

“He was just so angry,” state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas said. “I couldn’t figure out how to help him be less angry.”

The anger culminated in an erratic series of events on Jan. 19. Brooks had just been released from a mental health facility. He was spewing anger about Kirkpatrick and Atkinson wound up calling police, as Brooks’ friends and family were worried he was going to hurt her or himself.

When police found Brooks, they discovered a gun and 41 rounds of ammunition in his vehicle. He was booked on suspicion of threatening a public official — a charge that is still pending review by the Nevada attorney general who has yet to take action.

Just six days later, on Jan. 25, police detained Brooks for a psychiatric evaluation following a disturbance involving a sword at a relative’s home. He remained at a hospital for five days.

Brooks attempted to take his seat the first week of the Legislature, but acted increasingly erratic as swarms of reporters followed his every move in the legislative halls.

Legislative leaders worked to persuade Brooks to take a leave of absence and seek help for his condition. Several times he told leaders he would agree to such a leave.

Click to enlarge photo

Assemblyman Steven Brooks looks out his office door at the media assembled Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City. Brooks had invited some members of the media to his office for an interview but then declined to comment.

On Feb. 10, Brooks was arrested a second time, booked for domestic battery and charges of resisting a police officer. Horne then decided to ban him from the Legislative Building for the safety of the workplace.

Through it all, lawmakers say they worked to get Brooks help.

Sources familiar with the situation said colleagues in the Legislature had tried for months to offer help to Brooks.

The lines of communication were open between Brooks and legislators, and legislators made overtures to Brooks in hopes that he would seek professional help.

"There were no stones left unturned," said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas. "Whatever we could do, we tried."

But Brooks sometimes did not respond and at other times rebuffed the advice he received, sources familiar with the situation said.

That conduct is consistent with the public comments legislators made about Brooks' involvement in the committee appointed to consider his fitness to serve in the Legislature.

Legislators on that committee said Brooks did not want the special counsel to interview him or view his medical records. Brooks also did not attend the committee's hearing, which some legislators said counted toward his expulsion.

Brooks, however, told the Associated Press that he tried to attend the hearing at the Carson City Courthouse by going to the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas, where members of the public can testify remotely at legislative hearings.

"They won't let me testify at the Grant Sawyer Building, and they sent 100 police officers to arrest me," he said.

Since being banned from the Legislative Building, Brooks did little to set lawmakers’ minds at ease. He attempted — and was denied — to buy a rifle, night vision goggles and body armor at a Sparks sporting goods store.

By the end, Horne and other lawmakers said they were convinced Brooks was too dangerous to remain as a legislator.

“Ultimately the report from the independent counsel painted a picture of a man who is volatile, prone to angry outbursts and potentially dangerous,” Horne said on the Assembly Floor before the vote.

“The truth is we did not feel safe having him in this building.”

Following a half hour of emotional floor speeches and a voice vote that masked how each individual lawmaker sided, Kirkpatrick — speaking in a halting voice through her own tears — declared Brooks expelled and the District 17 seat vacant.

The task now, is for lawmakers to return to some sense of normalcy — pursuing the day-to-day work of passing legislation and crafting a budget before the session ends June 3. It’s work that Kirkpatrick has consistently maintained has not gone untended throughout the Brooks ordeal.

“We continue to do the state’s business,” Kirkpatrick said during a brief press conference, which she called an end to so she could go testify on legislation she is sponsoring.

“Now, I have a bill up and the chairman of taxation is not letting me off the hook today.”

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