ELKO — Jim Pitts filed for re-election for a third term in office as Elko County sheriff on March 16.
He defends his position against a challenger from within the department, Sgt. Aitor Narvaiza, who filed March 12.
“It is what it is,” Pitts said. “I think my past proves how I can do the job.”
Pitts said he hoped the race would not divide the department and that he would stay focused on his priorities for another four years if elected.
“We’re proud,” Pitts said of his accomplishments to date. “We’ve got a lot of things we want to do to move forward.”
Pitts’ priorities for another term would include increasing school safety by adding more school resource officers; building on a volunteer program that allows senior citizens to work at the sheriff’s office; strengthening suicide prevention; providing mental and drug and alcohol counseling in the jail; and getting more personnel in the detectives’ office and in Spring Creek.
He also highlighted the accomplishment of his tenure. Topping his list was adding a detective to the narcotics unit and assigning deputies to patrol the rural areas of Midas, Mountain City, Taylor Canyon, Jiggs and Ruby Valley. Pitts also pointed to his efforts with the Spring Creek Association to add an animal control officer.
Other achievements include starting a sheriff’s office Facebook page and weekly publishing of Elko County’s most wanted list.
Pitts’ wife, Mary, joined him at the county clerk’s office on his filing day.
“Are you sure you don’t want to retire?” she asked, jokingly, right before he signed the paperwork.
“Too young,” Pitts responded.
Pitts has more than 35 years of law enforcement experience. When he first ran for office, he won the race against incumbent sheriff Dale Lotspeich.
ELKO – An Elko man accused of calling in a bomb threat to the courthouse last year was sentenced Friday to three years in prison and ordered to pay restitution to the county.
Casey D. Overacker, 34, was sentenced by visiting Senior Judge Steven Elliott in Elko District Court to the maximum penalty for attempting to communicate a bomb threat, a category B felony.
He will be eligible for probation in one year and received credit for 164 days served in the Elko County Jail, and was ordered to pay $6,327.41 in restitution.
Overacker was arrested Oct. 4 and charged with making a bomb threat on June 19, the day his girlfriend, Shawna Parker, was scheduled to appear in court.
The bomb threat was called in to the Elko County Clerk’s office and forced the evacuation of the courthouse complex for one hour while law enforcement swept the building for a device.
According to court documents, the phone call was traced back to Overacker, who was associated with Parker on social media. She failed to show up for her hearing in court that day.
Overacker intended to plead no contest in a plea deal that reduced the charge on Dec. 5, but Judge Al Kacin recused himself from the proceedings, saying he could not be “fair and impartial in this case” because the threat disrupted court operations that day, including his own court.
“I don’t think you want me to be the judge because that angers me greatly,” Kacin said at the arraignment.
Elliott heard and accepted Overacker’s no contest plea on Dec. 22.
Attorney Jeff Kump, representing Overacker, asked for probation and long-term commitment to a drug rehabilitation program and said his client did not remember making the phone call to keep Parker from attending drug court.
“His girlfriend was due in drug court and she was hysterical that she would test positive,” Kump said. “It was stupid and he knows that.”
Suzette Cochran, Overacker’s mother, was called by Kump as a witness of mitigation. She said her son had a “productive work history prior to his addiction problems.”
“He is not a bomber or a terrorist. He is not violent or some one-dimensional career criminal with no redeemable qualities,” Cochran said.
“He’s a good person who has done a terribly foolish thing while under the influence of narcotics. Nevertheless, he tells me he accepts responsibility for this and is remorseful,” Cochran said.
“While a bomb threat is a serious offense, he should not be made an example of for all of the other people who have called in bomb threats or might in the future,” Cochran said. “He should not be thrown away or given up on.”
Deputy District Attorney David Buchler said the restitution represented the “one hour of lost wages of employees that were evacuated from the building that were waiting in the parking lot while the building was being cleared by law enforcement.”
Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts delivered an impact statement from the county, explaining that all city and county law enforcement were called from their patrols that day to evacuate the building and check for a device, putting calls from Spring Creek, Osino and Mountain City Highway on hold until the building was cleared.
“It’s very serious, very heinous I think, because of the potential for people getting hurt and potential death,” Pitts said.
“We had 200 employees standing in the parking lot across the street for an hour, not able to do their job,” Pitts said. “It doesn’t take into account people coming to pay their taxes, to come to court, to come to the assessor’s office.”
Pitts also recalled “a rash” of bomb threats that shut down the courthouse in the past, some for four hours.
“If we could catch every one of them … I’d be asking for restitution on every one of them,” Pitts said. “I feel it’s that serious of a crime.”
According to Elko Daily Free Press files, nine bomb threats to the courthouse occurred between 2014 and 2017. In June 2015, threats closed the courthouse three times in one week and once more the following week. Overacker was accused of one threat from 2017.
“I feel he should get the maximum penalty and pay restitution,” Pitts said.
Kump noted his client was willing to pay the restitution and when asked to speak to the court, Overacker apologized to the county and his family.
“I would like to say I do understand it’s a serious crime,” Overacker said. “I do want to apologize to Judge Kacin and Elko County for the loss that day and the expenses occurred.”
Before handing down his sentence, Elliott said the court had “to take a serious approach to bomb threats … it could actually happen,” recalling a bomb that inured an attorney walking into a courthouse in Sparks.
“I also looked at your criminal history, Mr. Overacker,” Elliott said. “It’s not like you were stoned on drugs and did something impetuous. You have a terrible criminal history of numerous misdemeanor violations through the course of your life in 2017.”
“The overall cost and danger to the public plus looking at the criminal history, I don’t feel that probation is appropriate,” Elliott continued.
After the sentencing, Cochran said the maximum sentence her son received was because of the past bomb threats.
“Sheriff Pitts said, ‘there has been a whole rash of bomb threats,’ Cochran said. “I don’t want it to look like he’s the only nitwit who’s ever done this.”
“I mean it’s a stupid thing to do, but he’s not the only person who’s done it. I believe they’re making an example of him.”
“I’m not saying he shouldn’t be punished for what he’s done,” Cochran continued. “I’m saying I feel he’s being made an example of.”
Overacker also will be arraigned next week on 18 counts including burglary, uttering a fictitious bill, and grand larceny resulting from charges filed Dec. 27 in Elko Justice Court.
This article has been corrected from the original version to state that the bomb threat was traced back to Overacker but not to his phone; that a Sparks attorney was injured but not killed by an explosive device, and that Judge Elliott cited Overacker’s “terrible criminal history of numerous misdemeanor violations … through the course of your life in 2017,” not "into 2017."
ELKO — Elko attorney Tony “Baloney” Liker put his name on the ballot for city council, filing for election March 16.
“I have three campaign promises,” said Liker, who joked with city staff and reporters that his middle name is “Baloney.”
He said he would advocate for a pay raise for police officers. He said he would support an agenda against domestic violence. He said he would be fair to everyone in the city of Elko.
For this year’s two open city council seats, Liker is one of five candidates who had filed for election as of 5 p.m. on the last filing day for nonjudicial candidates. The other candidates are Bill Hance, Jeanna Secrist, Rowena “Ro” Smith and Chip Stone.
Liker has lived in Elko for more than two years. The former prosecutor with more than 23 years of legal experience now practices mostly family law.
He grew up in a town of about 2,000 people in Kansas and is the son of a Goodyear Tire and rubber worker, who taught him to value the contributions of “all the working men and women of this country.”
The candidate says he is pro-law enforcement and pro-military. If elected, he would take a hard stance against illegal drugs and any new prostitution establishments.
“I am against illegal drugs strongly,” he said, reading from a statement. “I am not in favor of marijuana dispensaries for medical marijuana use or otherwise. Although I recognize the difference between medical marijuana and other drugs, it sends the wrong message to our kids … .”
Liker recently defended Mona’s Ranch in a hearing called after the arrest of a bartender on drug charges that included methamphetamine. Elko City Council suspended the brothel’s business license for 180 days while the business developed a plan to prevent drugs on the premises.
“Well look, I’m a lawyer,” he said. “I was hired by the brothel. I represent[ed] the brothel. But on a personal level, I am totally against brothels … . So I won’t be voting in favor of a [new] brothel, but we gotta be fair to the existing brothels that are here.”
The race for city council is not Liker’s first bid for public office. He previously sought the position of district attorney in Esmeralda County, and to be a judge or city council member in Las Vegas.
“I figure I’m like Abe Lincoln,” Liker said. “You know, Abe Lincoln ran a lot then he finally won the president … . My dad always said, if you get knocked down, knock off the dust and get back up.”