It’s been a long, hard road for six and a half years for several folks in the Virgin Valley. And the people who took that road spent more than a few tears, a few sleepless nights and a few days wondering if they were ever going to see the end.
They did, last week when Virgin Valley Water District former hydrologist Michael Johnson and Robert Coache, retired Deputy State Engineer with the Nevada Division of Water Resources, were sentenced to a minimum of three years in prison for crimes committed against you.
It was a sweet victory for those who believe in justice.
And without asking them, but knowing what I went through, I can honestly say there was always a time when we doubted ourselves, doubted whether it was worth it and yes, shed a few, a lot, of tears over the anguish of what we were going through.
I owe no allegiance to Bo Bingham or his law firm of Bingham and Snow. But I do know this from reviewing hundreds of hours of court videos and hundreds of thousands of pages of publicly available documents. He and his law firm are almost solely responsible for the justice you, the water district ratepayer, received last week. From the beginning in early 2010, Bingham heard information he didn’t think sounded right. He wasn’t afraid to blow the whistle. He wasn’t afraid to pursue what he felt was a wrong against you.
I also realize, after six years of following this case, that Bingham and his attorneys never sought personal gain. They merely sought justice for you, the water district ratepayer.
What no one knew, and I didn’t know until a couple weeks ago, were all the nights that Bingham spent on the couch in his office, working late into the night to prepare legal replies to a court motion filed by the defendants that only delayed justice. And no, you, the ratepayer, never paid for a lot of those hours. You never paid for the anguish that was spent by Bingham and his team to help bring you justice.
But not only did he and his team return some of the ill-gotten gains to you the ratepayer, but as Clark County Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo said, the successful criminal prosecution wouldn’t have been possible without Bingham and his team’s help. You owe them a debt of gratitude.
But they weren’t the only ones who fought for you.
Ted Miller, former VVWD board member and president, also believed something was wrong. He was alerted to that by Kraig Hafen, former VVWD board member. Both of these gentlemen stood by their beliefs and fought for you. The next time you see any of these men, you need to shake their hand and tell them thank you. They deserve no less and they deserve so much more.
I owe no allegiance to Hafen or Miller either. In fact, what almost no one knows is that the three men I just named were the subject of some of my most harshest words over the last six years as I sought the truth. While you didn’t read the words I spoke to them (and thank goodness most of you didn’t hear the conversations else I would be reviled to hell), I never gave them an easy day as I fought for the truth about the water district civil and criminal cases as they played out over the last six years.
There were a lot of tears shed by all us involved who were castigated, vilified, and falsely labeled over the years.
I began reporting on this case in August 2011 when I first started the Mesquite Citizen Journal online newspaper. I didn’t do it lightly or through anything other than a belief that something was wrong.
From there, I obtained thousands of pages of legal documents and hundreds of hours of court videos in nothing more than an attempt to obtain the truth. Who was lying? Who was telling the truth? What was the common land in between?
I reported on this case when all other established media didn’t want to spend the enormous amount of time necessary to get to the truth.
Through the years, I was castigated at times as nothing less than a charlatan, a liar, a shill. But the more I read, the more I listened, the more I explored, the more I discovered the truth.
You, the ratepayer, were robbed and taken advantage of.
I was viciously attacked through the years simply because I wrote about the crime. I was personally dragged through court simply because I tried to inform the public about the case. In fact, right up to the end, I was served with a subpoena during the criminal trial all in an attempt to shut me up. That’s why I wasn’t able to provide the public with ongoing updates last November during the active criminal trial. The defendants’ attorneys used a legal manipulation to prevent me from doing so. They owe you an apology.
The irony is that the defendants’ lawyers tried using articles I had written as part of their defense at the sentencing hearing. The judge didn’t buy it. I love him.
In the end, justice was given to you the water district ratepayer, even though you will end up paying for it for years.
My only regret during all the years of all the tears you never saw is that my husband wasn’t here to celebrate with me the victory that you the ratepayers so deserved. He saw all the tears of anguish but none of the tears of justice.
[Publisher’s note: Ellestad is a member of the Virgin Valley Water District Board of Directors.]