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Vegas official pleads guilty

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By David Giuliani

A top city official has pleaded guilty to a felony assault charge in connection with attacking a man at a local bar.


Ken Garcia, 45, the city’s utilities director, admitted to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a fourth-degree felony.


Garcia will be on supervised probation for 18 months. He must write a letter of apology to the victim and pay the victim’s costs associated with the attack.


If Garcia complies with the conditions of a plea agreement, District Court will grant Garcia a conditional discharge, meaning he won’t receive punishment.


Garcia remains on the job, heading the city’s natural gas, water, wastewater and solid waste departments.


The assault charge stemmed from an April 13 incident in which Garcia struck Rick Nelson in the head with a beer bottle. Witnesses testified that Garcia was the attacker. They said the two men fell into a booth while Garcia continued to hit Nelson.


Garcia had come to the bar with Las Vegas resident Kiki Arellano, a San Miguel County employee, who testified that Nelson had been staring at her. That made her uncomfortable, causing her to leave, she said in court.


That apparently prompted Garcia to attack Nelson, who has served time in prison. It happened after Arellano had left.


City Attorney Dave Romero said the city hadn’t decided how to respond to Garcia’s admission of guilt. He said he would examine the case and see how the city’s merit ordinance applied.


Garcia, meanwhile, is continuing with his responsibilities. On Tuesday, he and other city officials made a presentation to the West Las Vegas school board on water rights.


Garcia and his attorney, Gerald Baca, didn’t return calls for comment.
District Attorney Richard Flores said Garcia’s behavior was unacceptable, contending that the official attacked Nelson for no apparent reason.


“While it is true that Mr. Nelson has been a defendant before and has served time in prison, he, too, should be afforded the protection of our laws like any other victim,” Flores said in a statement.


“The District Attorney’s Office is committed to protecting victims and prosecuting those who commit harm on others. This includes government officials. If a public employee violates the law, he or she should answer to their actions in the same manner as everyone else,” the DA said in the statement.


Garcia was hired as utilities director in early 2009. He served as interim city manager for a brief time shortly after becoming director.