Vadim Marmer, 35, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to possession of controlled substances (psilocybin mushrooms).
Vadim Marmer, 35, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to possession of controlled substances (psilocybin mushrooms).
The Pershing County 11th Judicial Court met on Monday, Nov. 9. 

Defendants used to sit in the back of the courtroom and gauge the mood of the judge as he presided over other hearings. Some brought friends and family members for support. Now, everyone goes it alone, flanked only by their defense attorneys.

The county is one of the least stricken by the coronavirus in the state with 33 cases. However, statewide the surge continues to spread.

Vadim Marmer, 35, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty to possessing a controlled substance. Law enforcement arrested him with two doses of psilocybin mushrooms at Burning Man last year. Under Nevada law, probation is mandatory for the Category E felony, depending on a defendant’s criminal history.

In exchange for the guilty plea, the DA’s Office recommended informal court supervision and the Pershing County Out of State Drug Court program. Marmer requested diversion, the chance to withdraw his guilty plea once he completes all the requirements. If accepted, he’ll pay $200 a month for the opportunity.

In May 2019, Denver became the first U.S. city to decriminalize “magic mushrooms.” Ann Arbor, Santa Cruz and Oakland, Calif. followed.

Last week, the State of Oregon legalized psilocybin for regulated use by adults in a therapeutic setting. It must be stored and administered at licensed facilities. 

As the defendant discovered, Nevada’s laws are less forgiving. All drug possession cases are treated as felonies in Nevada, with the exception of those involving marijuana. The Burning Man website warns that possession of even a cap or stem of a psilocybin mushroom is an automatic felony charge.

Judge Jim Shirley accepted the guilty plea but did not enter the conviction because Marmer requested diversion. He set sentencing for Jan. 4, 2021, and will allow the defendant to appear via telephone.

Other cases

Jennifer Marie Montes, 38, came to the 11th Judicial Court for sentencing. She previously pleaded guilty to embezzlement. Montes’s attorney, Steve Evenson, asked the judge for a continuance due to a delay in the presentencing investigation report. He said he received the PSI about eight legal hours before court.

The Division of Parole and Probation prepares a PSI for people convicted of felonies. The document summarizes the defendant’s social and criminal history. An in-depth interview with the defendant gives background information useful to the sentencing judge. 

“I don’t see why we can’t proceed with sentencing today since the State recommends probation,” countered DDA Banks. He noted that, as of last spring, the PSI no longer makes recommendations on sentencing.

“The trajectory of our defense as related to the sentencing changed in light of what is in the report,” Evenson replied. “We’ve decided to go a different route in terms of what we’re going to ask the court to do, and we need the time to prepare to do that. I ask the court for a continuance in the 35-40 day range.”

The judge continued the sentencing until Dec. 7 at 1 p.m.

Bruce Lee Malonson, 64, of Calif., failed to show up for his sentencing hearing. He previously pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, causing a death.

Judge Shirley issued a no-bail bench warrant for Malonson’s arrest and transportation to the Pershing County jail.

Timothy Lee Bradley, 41, came to court from jail, represented by Steve Cochran. On Dec. 2, Bradley admitted to violating his probation. With Cochran’s help, Bradley has been applying for placements that offer a high level of supervision and care.

“We don’t have a plethora of options,” said Cochran. “In the meantime, Mr. Bradley is eager to be released from jail in light of the amount of time he’s spent in custody for this violation.” He has 229 days of credit for time served.

“While I have compassion for the defendant, he has shown himself unable to paint within the lines of society,” said Todd Banks, the DDA. “The State sees no reasonable situation today where Mr. Bradley returns to society.”

Bradley apologized to the judge. “If you’re willing to give me another chance, I’m willing to prove myself differently than last time when I ended up in prison,” he said. “I’m also willing to have more counseling.”

“I accept your apology, but you have needs that are hard to meet in the community,” said the judge. He   scheduled a follow-up hearing for Dec. 7 and remanded Bradley to custody.