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Judge dismisses case against Nevada’s fake electors for lack of jurisdiction


Judge dismisses case against Nevada’s fake electors for lack of jurisdiction

Jun 21, 2024 | 4:21 pm ET
By Dana Gentry
Judge dismisses case against Nevada’s alleged fake electors for lack of jurisdiction
Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald in 2020. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Clark County Judge Mary Kay Holthus on Friday said she lacked jurisdiction to try the state’s case against Nevada’s alleged fake electors – six Republican leaders who cast electoral votes for Donald Trump in December 2020, although Joe Biden had won the state.   

“If it’s not here, it’s not here,” Holthus said following arguments from Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office and from Las Vegas attorney Richard Wright, who represents State Republican Party chairman Michael McDonald. “I don’t see any way I have jurisdiction over this case.” 

Ford, who was at the prosecution table, told the judge he will immediately appeal her ruling to dismiss. 

Six Republicans – McDonald, national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, Clark County Republican Party chair Jesse Law, state party vice chair and Storey County clerk Jim Hindle III, Shawn Meehan, and Eileen Rice – faced felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing, and uttering a forged instrument.

On Dec. 14, 2020, the six held a ceremony in Carson City where they cast their electoral votes for Trump. The event coincided with similar efforts in other states in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the election for Biden on Jan 6, 2021. 

Some 84 individuals in seven states falsely claimed their electoral votes for Trump. Arizona and Michigan are prosecuting their alleged fake electors, while those in New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are not facing charges. Three electors have been charged in Georgia, however, others made deals for immunity.  

Ford’s office argued that although the ceremony took place in Carson City, the documents were mailed to Nevada’s chief federal judge in Las Vegas. However, the documents were forwarded unopened to the court’s official address in Reno. Prosecutors also argued two of the Republicans – McDonald and Law – reside in Las Vegas, and the state party’s official address is in Las Vegas. They also maintained then-Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske was in Las Vegas at the time. 

The arguments failed to sway Holthus. 

“I don’t know why we are all here struggling,” she said, calling the state’s arguments for Clark County jurisdiction “insufficient.”

Wright suggested Ford brought the case before a Las Vegas grand jury for political reasons – to take advantage of a jury pool laden with Democrats. “You don’t need the weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” he said, quoting lyrics from Bob Dylan. 

“The judge got it wrong,” Ford said before hastily leaving the courtroom through a back door. 

Ford, a Democrat, initially said Nevada lacked the explicit law required to prosecute the alleged fake electors. 

“With it on our radar, we ascertained that current state statutes did not directly address the conduct in question — to the dismay of some, and I’m sure, to the delight of others,” Ford testified during a hearing in May 2023 on a bill that would have prohibited individuals from creating or serving on a false slate of electors. Gov. Joe Lombardo, a Republican, vetoed the legislation. 

Defense attorneys were also prepared to argue that emails from Trump’s 2020 campaign attorney Ken Chesboro included exculpatory evidence, however the lack of jurisdiction rendered that issue moot.

Attorney Monti Levy, representing Rice, noted after the hearing she wrote the motion challenging jurisdiction. She says she’s confident the state’s appeal will fail.

“It’s clear that no acts occurred in Clark County,” she added.