Matthew Ireland Brown sat in the back of the 11th Judicial courtroom, waiting for his arraignment to start. As he got up and took his seat in the defendant’s chair, Judge Jim Shirley did a double-take. “I thought you were a lawyer,” he said. Brown wore a suit, tie and carried himself with almost military bearing. ‘I wish I was,’ he replied.

Brown faces allegations of domestic battery with substantial bodily harm, first offense. He says he is not guilty.

If the State proves otherwise, Brown could get one to six years in prison with fines up to $5,000. However, he is eligible for probation at the discretion of the court. Twelve Pershing County residents will decide his guilt or innocence on Sept. 13, 14 and 15.

Steve Cochran may call in a medical expert for the defense. In the meantime, the judge reminded the defendant to have no contact with the alleged victim.



Michael James Gonzalez, 31, from Georgia, admits to kicking Deputy Robert Abernathy in the face at the Pershing County jail on Nov. 4, 2020. Gonzalez did not use a weapon or inflict substantial bodily harm. On Monday, he came to court to hear his sentence. 

The gross misdemeanor carries a range of punishments, including up to a year in jail and fines of $2,000. Probation is also a possibility, at the discretion of the court. 

Reno defense attorney Jenny Hubach participated in the hearing by phone. 

The defendant’s parents, both disabled, attended the hearing. The elder Gonzalez is a Vietnam veteran. The couple need their son to help them move to Georgia from Arizona in August, Hubach explained. Michael Gonzalez intends to relocate with them, she added.

Hubach emphasized that she did not condone her client’s behavior but gave her perspective of the day’s trajectory. “We have a young man traveling. He stopped to use the MacDonald’s restroom, and it was out of order. Things went downhill from there.”

“My understanding is one of the employees made a citizen’s arrest and put him in a chokehold which had a dramatic impact on Mr. Gonzalez’s continued behavior,” said Hubach. She added that her client had no prior felonies and no criminal activity whatsoever for the past ten years. He spent three weeks in jail after his arrest.

Hubach asked the judge for leniency. She offered the option of sentencing the defendant to time-served (three weeks) with a $2000 fine.

DDA Todd Banks said Gonzalez breached the workspace at the restaurant and engaged in a fight with several employees. They removed Gonzalez from the restaurant and restrained him in the parking lot until the police arrived. 

After the officers took the defendant to jail, he kicked the deputy in the face. According to the police, he appeared to be under the influence of controlled substances.

Hubach countered that there was no toxicology report proving that her client was on drugs or had a substance abuse problem. To be sure, she sent him to Reno’s Northern Nevada Evaluation Center, and they said he did not need substance abuse treatment. 

The DDA said the court had already shown Gonzalez mercy by allowing him to plead to a non-felony offense. He asked for a sentence that would include six months of jail time. 

Deputy Abernathy was out of the county and unable to give a victim impact statement.

The judge gave Gonzalez 364 days in jail, suspended, with 22 days credit for time served. He will serve court-supervised probation for one year. 

“I’m going to allow you to help your parents move,” continued the judge. However, Gonzalez must serve 60 days flat time in the Pershing County jail from Sept. 18 until Nov. 18. He will not be eligible for good time credits.

“I understand you were resisting arrest,” said the judge.  Gonzalez replied that he was incoherent and did not realize he was being arrested. Nor did he recognize the uniformed people taking him into custody as police. He said he felt profiled.

“I understand that, but the trouble is, it happened,” said Judge Shirley. “We take battery on police officers seriously.”



Other hearings from July 19

 
Arraignments

On Apr. 20, the PCSO booked Debony Lanier Maffett II, 26, of Georgia, for resisting a public officer with the use of a firearm. On Monday, he came to the Pershing County 11th Judicial Court from jail for his arraignment hearing.

Maffett pleaded guilty and plans to apply for diversion. “I did, in fact, attempt to take a firearm,” he said. His attorney, Steve Cochran, characterized the incident as “attempting to wrestle over a firearm or a deadly weapon.”

DDA Todd Banks did not oppose the diversion application, which would allow the defendant to withdraw his plea after completing treatment for drug addiction. Banks dropped several other charges in return for the plea.

Maffett faces the possibility of one to five years in prison and fines up to $10,000. However, both sides of the bench recommend formal probation, contingent upon Maffett’s acceptance by the interstate compact in Georgia, his home state. 

Judge Jim Shirley conferred by phone with Debbie Okuma from the Division of Parole and Probation. She participated by phone in all of the day’s hearings. They expedited Maffett’s sentencing, so he could benefit from veteran’s court sooner. 

The judge gives his decision in a sentencing and eligibility hearing on Aug. 16. In the meantime, Okuma will begin processing the interstate compact. 



Serafina Gomez came to court from jail for arraignment on charges of child abuse, a gross misdemeanor. She denies the allegations. The judge revoked her OR release and set bail at $2,000 cash or bond. He set a jury trial for Sept. 27, 28 and 29.

Sentencings

Dylan Michael Garretson came to court from jail. Several family members demonstrated their support by attending the hearing. The Pershing County Drug Court will no longer accept the defendant, so the judge found a program in Washoe County that specializes in opiates. However, Garretson would need to live in Reno. “It’s not a good area for me,” he said.

“I feel like I’ve done my time. I have a job waiting for me, a family and another daughter on the way. I’m ready to be back in society providing for them,” said Garretson.

The judge agreed. He gave the defendant a suspended sentence of 12-32 months with 153 days credit for time served. He will serve 18 months of probation. Garretson must obtain a substance abuse counselor and attend NA meetings. He is also subject to random testing for controlled substances, marijuana and alcohol. 



Bruce Lee Malonson, of North Hollywood, Calif., did not show up for his sentencing for involuntary manslaughter, a Category D felony. Malonson’s attorney, Steve Evenson, said his client was recently released from the hospital. The judge issued a bench warrant for Malonson’s arrest.

The charges stem from a rollover accident near Lovelock on Mar. 5, 2018. Malonson’s passenger died at the scene. He faces the possibility of one to four years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.

Review hearings

The judge conditionally granted Justin James O’Kelley early release from probation. He made it contingent upon payment of court and supervision fees. O’Kelley participated in the review hearing by telephone.

John Routsis of Reno, the preferred lawyer of Burning Man, came to court with two clients who completed their diversion programs. They each withdrew their guilty pleas, and the judge dismissed their cases. “I learned a lot,” said one of the defendants. He added that hearing other people’s stories was helpful.

“I learned that I needed to take my life in another direction,” said the other defendant, now planning to become an EMT.

Routsis said there would be no Burning Man this summer for the second year in a row. “I think there will be people out there because there’s a bunch of people going. It will be interesting to see what happens with the whole thing.”