- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 29, 2016

LAS VEGAS (AP) - A Las Vegas grandmother who went to prison for stealing more than $500,000 from the plumbing business where she kept the books is invoking a little-used state law to seek placement in a court diversion and restitution program.

A lawyer for Jerry Nann Meador, 53, said outside court Wednesday the effort may be only the third time that a state court judge in Las Vegas has been asked to follow provisions of a 2009 state law that lets judges sentence nonviolent problem gamblers to treatment and a restitution plan instead of prison.

“This is a person this law was absolutely designed to help,” attorney Dayvid Figler said ahead of a Wednesday court hearing for Meador. “The Legislature said a court shall stop and evaluate and see if it’s better to get the person treatment and rehabilitation, so they don’t get lost down the hole of problem gambling.”

“This is a bigger issue in a community that relies on gambling,” he added.

Carol O’Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, said few judges in the state with the most legalized gambling appear to know the law lets them create a structured sentence to avoid putting people with a diagnosed mental health disorder in prison.

“Treatment diversion does not mean they get out of jail free,” she said. “This law was very narrowly written to be a safety net for those folks.”

O’Hare was a key proponent of the 2009 law when it passed. She said some judges in Reno and rural communities use the measure and monitor defendants’ progress.

“Lacking a gambling addiction, grandmothers don’t steal,” O’Hare said. “This is a fully treatable disorder. The win-win is that we get them treatment so it doesn’t happen again, they get to be a productive member of society, and the victim can get restitution.”

O’Hare pointed to the case of Las Vegas attorney Douglas Crawford, who was convicted of theft in 2012 and disbarred, but was spared prison by then-Clark County District Court Judge Donald Mosley and ordered into treatment.

Crawford, who won his law license back and is again practicing family law, wasn’t immediately available for an interview Wednesday, but said in an email that he’s currently paying $10,000 per month toward restitution in his case. His progress is now monitored by Judge Kathleen Delaney.

Another Las Vegas case involved Daniel Ortega, who was convicted of attempted theft and sentenced to diversion in 2015 by Clark County District Court Judge Eric Johnson.

Figler said Ortega, who is represented by Figler’s law partner, Kristina Wildeveld, is complying with terms of his treatment and restitution program and is due next week for a periodic court appearance for Johnson to assess his progress.

Figler acknowledged it is unlikely that Meador can ever repay all that she stole from her former employer. But he called a promise of ongoing restitution a key element of gambling addiction recovery.

O’Hare said some confusion resulted after the law was passed because a central diversion court wasn’t established to handle gambling addiction cases.

Various courts in Nevada operate nearly 50 diversion programs focusing on mental health, veterans, drug, alcohol and youth offender cases. They’re funded through the state Supreme Court budget.

Meador, who uses the name Nann, has been in prison since January 2014, serving a four-to-10 year sentence for felony theft.

Clark County District Court Judge Jessie Walsh last month threw out Meador’s conviction after Figler invoked the Nevada law.

Figler and prosecutor Ryan MacDonald said Wednesday they have a tentative agreement to move Meador to house arrest so she can begin treatment for gambling addiction while prosecutors appeal the reversal of her conviction to the Nevada Supreme Court.

A July 11 hearing is scheduled for Walsh to review that custody plan.

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