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Crime-and-courts
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Sex offender gets probation

ELKO – An Elko man charged with sexual assault received probation Tuesday, after an evaluation showed he was at moderate risk to re-offend.

Daniel Clay Goerdt, 29, received a suspended sentence of 10 years in prison with credit for 249 days served and was placed on probation for five years by District Judge Nancy Porter.

He was further ordered to register with local law enforcement wherever he established residency and have no further contact with the victim.

Goerdt pleaded no contest in a plea deal Aug. 30 to one count of attempted sexual assault, a category B felony, which reduced the original charge of sexual assault, a category A felony.

Under the initial charge, Goerdt could have been sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 10 years.

The sentencing came after recommendations from state officials for probation based off of the psychosexual evaluation that said Goerdt was at moderate risk for re-offending.

District Attorney David Buchler said the state “was staying silent” on recommending a sentence.

Public Defender Kriston Hill asked for probation, but if not, that the court “impose a minimum sentence.”

Goerdt was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at her residence April 1, 2015. Testimony from the victim in May revealed she had started a relationship with Goerdt that included at least one physical encounter before the incident.

At the preliminary hearing, the woman, whose age was not disclosed during the proceedings, said she invited Goerdt into her residence by text, but did not consent to sex, telling him at least 15 times “to stop and cease the sexual activity.”

An investigation following the incident by police detectives further revealed there were 2,255 text messages sent between the defendant and victim throughout their relationship, and a few after the night of the assault.

Hill said the case “reminds me a lot of the case the three of us had several years ago. I refer to it as the ‘no means yes case.’ Quite honestly there are striking similarities.”

Hill referred to the text messages and said they “were quite graphic in nature.” She also cited the victim’s interview with police detectives that came nine days after the incident where she declined to get a temporary restraining order against Goerdt as recommended by the detective.

“Your honor, it took her nine days to decide whether this is a rape or not and when she finally makes that decision in her mind, a law enforcement officer is telling her to get a TPO against this person, and she’s saying, ‘No, I’m not really worried about it, that’s not necessary,’” Hill said.

“I believe that statement more so than any other in this entire case is entirely indicative as to how she feels about this case, about my client,” Hill said. “Your honor, I think that’s incredibly telling.”

A psychosexual evaluation presented to the court reportedly showed that Goerdt was at moderate risk for reoffending, and said that his parole violations “did not involved aggressive or violent behaviors.”

“The evidence indicates that the reported incident was not predatory in nature and that poor judgment and decision making and immaturity were contributing factors,” the report said.

In the pre-sentence investigation report, the Division of Parole and Probation said it recommended probation based on the evaluation’s findings, according to representative Sara Macias.

The victim took the stand and refuted Hill’s claims about the time it took her to report the incident, explaining that she had been scheduled for that time to meet with investigators.

The woman also said she was given an option to either get a TPO or move, but that conversation was made off the record with the detective.

She read a letter to the court while on the stand, stating that during the incident Goerdt told her he was “a predator.”

She also said she had “night terrors” and insomnia for two months after the incident and has undergone trauma therapy.

“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,” she said. “I hope he has learned something from it.”

“You can’t undo the event,” she continued. “It changes who you are.”

Goerdt spoke to the court and apologized to the victim.

“I’m sorry I did that to her. I am very sorry, I wish I could take it back,” Goerdt said. “It’s my fault and I did it. … They were my actions. It was stupid of me, but I am sorry, I’m sorry for the whole mess. I’m sorry for everything.”

“I don’t wish any ill feelings toward the victim in this case,” Goerdt said. “I wish her to have a good life.”

Goerdt was convicted of rape with a victim under 18 in 2009 and served more than two years of his sentence in the Idaho State Prison. Porter said the equivalent of the charge in Nevada is statutory sexual seduction, which is punishable by up to a year in jail and considered a gross misdemeanor.

In rendering her decision, Porter explained she “gave the case a great deal of thought. I don’t want anyone in this room to think I’ve taken it lightly.”

Porter said she cited several factors to help her come to her decision, taking into account the psychosexual report’s findings, the Division of Parole and Probation’s recommendation for probation, and the DA’s recommendation for no prison time. She also said she considered the victim’s delay in reporting the incident, limited evidence and lack of collaborating evidence.

“The scariest thing a judge does in a criminal case is place somebody on probation with the fear that they might hurt someone,” Porter said. “But I can’t base my decision on personal fear, and base my decision on the objective information before me and the facts that I find.

“So I have made this decision, Mr. Goerdt, that society is safer having you treated in the community rather than warehoused in prison where you would not likely receive the treatment that you need.”

Porter also gave a final warning to Goerdt before dismissing the court.

“I certainly hope that you do not commit a crime of this nature against anyone else, ever again. You need to understand no means no, period. You don’t guess what it means. No means no.”


State-and-regional
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Help wanted: Construction leaders say they need more workers to keep up with project demands

Melissa Caron’s career has brought her inside a state prison, a demilitarization area and a hospital operating room where a doctor was performing a surgery.

The behind-the-scenes access to places normally shielded from public view helped lure the 32-year-old to the trades: She began as an electrical apprentice and, after four years of training, became a journeyman electrician. Several years later, she purchased her parents’ business, A.M. Smith Electric, Inc., and now oversees a dozen employees.

“I’m not suited for a desk job,” Caron, whose business is based in Carson City, said. “I think it’s so boring being in the same place every day.”

She doesn’t dismiss the difficult aspects of the job. Electricians can log long hours in cold, rainy and sweltering conditions, but her company provides a starting salary of $48,000 that can balloon into six figures based on experience and responsibility level.

Still, Caron has been hard-pressed to fill positions — three journeymen and two apprentices — that she’s had open for a year and a half. She chalks it up to lack of awareness about construction-oriented jobs, especially among young people who have grown up thinking a four-year college degree is the only pathway to success.

“It needs to get out there that it’s an actual career,” she said. “It’s not for losers.”

It’s a sentiment shared by others in the construction industry who feel hamstrung by a robust economy and too few workers to fill the demand.

———

Two figures strike unease in Aaron West, CEO of the Nevada Builders Alliance, as he contemplates the fate of the state’s construction industry:

Nevada construction workers age 55 or older: about 20 percent

Nevada construction workers age 24 or younger: about 7 percent

The imbalance at the opposite ends of the age spectrum spells trouble for a state that has roughly 10,000 construction openings and more expected over the coming years, thanks to job and population growth that’s spurring building projects, he said.

Build Your Future — an initiative by the National Center for Construction Education & Research meant to bolster recruitment — estimates that Nevada will need some 90,000 new construction workers over the next three years. The need encompasses everything from carpenters and electricians to pipefitters and heavy-equipment operators, all of whom fall under the umbrella of the construction workforce.

“I think too many people just think it’s swinging a hammer,” West said, referring to construction jobs. “We need everybody in all aspects. So that’s everything from designers, architects, civil engineers, material testers — through the dirt work side of it, through the vertical work side of it.”

The Nevada Construction Collaborative aims to fill those gaps. It’s a group of construction organizations that have banded together to bolster the industry in Nevada.

The group created a sleek website called BuildNV.org that essentially serves as a promotional flier for the industry. It details the various jobs, including what each pays on average, touts the lifestyle benefits of Nevada and offers a portal for submitting a resume.

The message in bold letters on the website’s home page: “Your future awaits.”

West hopes the information-heavy website corrects what he calls a “perception problem” with the industry. The recession eviscerated the state’s construction workforce, wiping out thousands of jobs and forcing those workers to find employment elsewhere. Many left Nevada. Others changed careers. And the industry earned a reputation as an unstable field.

Construction employment peaked in June 2006 with 146,400 jobs statewide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It bottomed out nearly six years later when, in March 2012, only 50,100 construction jobs existed across Nevada.

On top of that, industry leaders say they’re combating a societal notion that a four-year college degree is the best post-high school route.

“How many kids today talk about going into the trades when they’re in high school? None of them,” said Dennis Smith, owner of Home Builders Research in Las Vegas. “They’re trying to get a $200,000 techie job that doesn’t involve any physical labor.”

But securing a four-year college degree isn’t the norm for many students. Nevada’s four-year institutions have a 47 percent graduation rate, meaning less than half of their students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to data from the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Plus, roughly 70 percent of Nevada jobs don’t require a full four-year degree, said Manny Lamarre, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Innovation (OWINN). Many of the new and expanding jobs in Nevada fall into the “middle skill” category — like construction-related jobs, for instance — that require some credentials or advanced education but not necessarily a four-year degree.

“I’m always, quite frankly, concerned about the nuance that students have about what an industry means and what it takes to be successful in that industry,” Lamarre said.

———

Expanding the state’s construction workforce may come down to messaging.

Felicia Ortiz, a State Board of Education member, thinks industry leaders, state officials and educators need to boost awareness about in-demand fields such as construction. Students won’t consider careers they know little about or, in some cases, don’t know exist, she said.

“I think first and foremost, expose kids to more,” she said. “Give them the opportunity to be exposed to all the various careers that are available.”

Efforts are underway to make that happen. Lamarre said his office is partnering with employers and schools to create pre-apprenticeship programs for a variety of fields, including construction, information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing. The programs would give students on-the-job and classroom training, leading to a credential affirming their knowledge and skills.

An even simpler strategy: distributing fliers filled with photos and information about needed jobs that may entice high schoolers to give the field serious consideration. OWINN is making sure photos include women and minorities to help shed stereotypes that can sometimes prevent people from pursuing certain careers, Lamarre said.

“It’s not about forcing one way or another,” he said. “I want people to make an informed decision and, right now, our young adults don’t have all the information.”

Of the Clark County School District’s seven career and technical academies, three have construction technology programs. Each of those schools — East Career and Technical Academy, Northwest Career and Technical Academy and Southeast Tech — has anywhere from 30 to 60 seats available for the construction program, but the demand is four to five times greater, said Gia Moore, the director of the district’s magnet schools and career and technical academies.

The district doesn’t have any plans to expand the construction technology program, but Moore said she’s “open to the idea” based on community feedback.  Expansion, however, requires adequate facility space for the equipment the program entails. In other words, it’s far from  a traditional classroom with desks. The program exposes students to the construction field and grants them various certifications upon graduation, including for welding and operating a forklift.

Martin-Harris Construction Company, based in Las Vegas, also has partnered with the school district the last few years and helped educate students about the industry’s opportunities and needs, Moore said.

While the career and technical academies help address some industry needs, Moore said a more robust pipeline of formalized apprenticeships and internships for high school students likely would boost participation in high-need sectors.

“If we don’t grab these students before they graduate, once they walk across that stage, we’ve lost them,” she said.

+++

Caron’s electrical company recently took a three-month hiatus from bidding work because it simply couldn’t keep up with demand. The frequent calls for service, she said, underscore the need for more laborers across the construction spectrum.

Even so, the recession’s bruising effect on the industry isn’t lost on her, even though she disagrees with the mindset it has produced.

“Now we’re left with parents telling their kids or the younger generations that there’s no work in construction because it’s not recession proof,” said Caron, who also serves as president of the Nevada Builders Alliance. “If you are good at your job and you are successful, you will always have a job in construction.”

Hate the thought of sitting behind a desk all day? Eager to experience hands-on learning? If those questions end in a yes, Caron urges soon-to-be high school graduates or other young adults to consider the construction industry as a profession.

“If you like working with your hands and activity and constantly learning, it’s for you,” she said.


Local
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Spring Creek one of five small towns competing for Ranger Country USA

SPRING CREEK – Could Spring Creek become known as “Ranger Country USA?”

In commemoration of Polaris’ one-millionth Ranger utility side-by-side vehicle that rolled off the assembly line in Huntsville, Alabama, Polaris is kicking-off the search for “Ranger Country USA” with country music star Jake Owen.

The company stated that its national campaign is designed to celebrate the communities that have helped it reach one-million vehicles built over nearly two decades and become the best-selling utility side-by-side for nine years running.

Polaris is asking consumers nationwide to visit Rangercountryusa.com and vote for the town they believe is most-deserving of the title “Ranger Country USA.”

Spring Creek is competing with Corning, Arkansas; Darlington, Wisconsin; Pinedale, Wyoming; and Stephenville, Texas, five towns that “most embody the hard-working values of Ranger and represent the Ranger Country lifestyle,” according to Polaris.

The website features video profiles devoted to the five towns.

“We take great pride in manufacturing hard-working products, for hard-working Americans,” said Craig Scanlon, chief marketing officer of polaris. “As we celebrate the one-millionth Ranger milestone, these are the people that deserve to be recognized, because without them, there’s no way this achievement is possible.”

The winning town will receive a “Ranger Country USA” naming celebration hosted by Polaris, and an undisclosed donation. Plus, everyone who casts their vote as a part of the “Ranger Country USA” campaign is automatically entered for the chance to win an all-new 2018 Polaris Ranger XP 1000.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to tour the nation, meeting the hard-working Americans that make up these small towns,” said Owen. “Coming from a small-town myself, these are my people, and to be a part of an initiative recognizing them is incredible.”

For more information about Polaris and “Ranger Country USA”, visit Polaris.com, and follow on Facebook.com/PolarisRangerATV, on Twitter @PolarisORV and @polarisorv on Instagram. To find out more and read the official rules, visit https://rangercountryusa.com.


State-and-regional
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Candidate for BLM director responds to critics

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A candidate to lead an agency that oversees public lands totaling one-eighth of the U.S. says environmentalists mischaracterize her as an advocate of signing those landscapes over to state and local governments and private interests when in fact she’s got no opinion on the issue.

Cheyenne attorney Karen Budd-Falen and others drew dozens of protesters when she addressed a recent land-use forum in western Montana. The protesters spoke out against the small but growing movement in the West to wrest control of public lands from federal agencies.

A land-transfer advocate invited Budd-Falen to the Ravalli County event Nov. 18 but her legal work has nothing to do with the topic, Budd-Falen said.

“It’s not an issue that I was dealing with. But people just assumed that,” Budd-Falen told The Associated Press in an interview Monday.

Budd-Falen apparently is or has been among those under consideration to direct the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the Interior Department agency that oversees some 386,000 square miles of mostly arid land concentrated in a dozen Western states.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke interviewed her for the job in March, she said.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift declined to say whether Budd-Falen was still a candidate or when somebody might be nominated for the director job, which has been vacant since January. Still, many environmentalists have been calling Budd-Falen too extreme.

Her legal advocacy has laid the groundwork for those who now want the federal government to relinquish public land, said Greg Zimmerman, deputy director of the Denver-based environmental group Center for Western Priorities.

“She may say she has no opinion on it but her career has been spent propping up that ideology,” Zimmerman said Tuesday.

Budd-Falen and her husband, Frank Falen, have a firm with four other attorneys in a house in downtown Cheyenne. The practice focuses largely on ranchers and property rights — anything from easements to oil and gas leases and how to comply with government regulations.

“I do a lot of just simply regulation-explaining to private industries. There are tons of regulations out there. They are hard to comply with. And it’s not that a lot of my clients don’t want to comply. It’s how do you fill out this massive amount of paperwork to put in a water tank?”

Not water tanks but Budd-Falen’s work helping local officials write land-use plans have made her a lightning-rod candidate to lead the BLM. The plans spell out local priorities for the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and other government agencies to keep in mind in counties where federal land covers a lot of ground — perhaps half or more of the total land area.

Today, she said, too many government officials have a say in small-scale decisions affecting federal grazing allotments they’ve never seen in person.