A Vegas/New York character and a crazy car chase

Funny thing.  If you’re from the East Coast you’ll get this.  Back where I come from, if your name is Myron Leavitt, you ain’t Irish; meaning, that’s a pretty obvious Jewish name.  Here in Vegas, there is a respected family of lawyers so named.  A Mormon family.

This really confused me when I first moved out West.   If someone had an Irish name, I might ask, “so what County are your people from”, and they’d name some place in Montana or Colorado.  They were clueless about their roots.   When you’re the son and grandson of Irish New York cops, it’s hard not be conscious of ethnicity.  Not so out here.

Well, I recently heard that, sadly, Herb Sachs passed away at 83.  Now that’s another very obvious Jewish name – in New York, at least.   And, Herb Sachs was, indeed, the real McCoy, if you will.  He loved to tell you he was from New York, especially if you were from New York (not that he was a schmoozer or anything).   Without any prompting he would tell you he had been an Assemblyman in Nassau County, Long Island.  If you are from there, you know that is not necessarily a badge of honor.

When he wasn’t in court, he often had a little poodle, reportedly named Max, in his arms.    He and Max had similar hairstyles, and Herb had a matching mustache.  Hey, anyone who loves dogs can’t be all bad, right?

Herb’s passing gives me an excuse to reminisce about a Las Vegas character, and a Vegas case, which, as usual, literally took some crazy turns.

A fellow named Douglas Dotson had a warrant for a violation of his supervised release (probation) on some minor Lake Mead offense.  As a Federal Recreation Area,  the U.S. Attorney’s Office has jurisdiction over any criminal conduct committed there.

So the U.S. Marshal’s, guys like Raylon Givens (Justified) were looking for Doug.  They went out to his very modest home – something in the order of a trailer with a dirt floor (I never had the pleasure).  They knocked and announced, and were met with a shotgun pointed at them.  After an hour-long standoff, the troops retreated, determining that there would be a better, and safer,  opportunity to grab up Doug.

The Marshals came in to tell me about this incident.   One was John Shoemaker, a friend whose wife was a fellow AUSA –  just a fine couple.   I was…….upset.    I immediately drew up a complaint charging Dotson with Assault Of a Federal Agent (pointing a shotgun is good enough) , and Use of a Firearm during said offense (requiring an additional 5 years consecutive imprisonment).

Well, Doug got spotted a few weeks later, in a car with his sister.  Sometime during the course of  a high-speed pursuit, they decided to head to the studios of Channel 13, the local ABC affiliate.

Being the keen reporters they were, the Channel 13 staff heard on their police monitors that a chase was heading right toward them.  So they dispatched a camera team to their parking lot in the hope of possibly catching some dramatic footage of the pursuit.  Well, not only did they get the chase on video, they got the Dotsons’ crash into a news van and followed the cops as they chased him, on foot, through their studios.  They also caught the dramatic apprehension on tape.

I used the footage during his trial, which as is often the case, should never have taken place.   I offered Herb to plead to the assault, in return for which I’d drop the gun charge, and the 5 year consecutive mandatory minimum.

No deal.   Result: trial, convictions on both counts, and about 10 years in federal prison.

Headline - Dotson 4

Mr.Dotson’s defense was that he did not realize the people attempting to arrest him were cops.  Unfortunately, Doug’s boss testified that he had told him he was wanted and that if apprehended he would take someone with him.  He added that he would “stick a gun down a cop’s throat and blow Satan out”, not exactly endearing him to the jury. 

Herb was incredibly irritating during trial.  I believe it was unintentional.  Part of it was probably because I had just been away from New York too long, I was no longer used to the “city” attitude.  One of my victim/Marshals was a guy named Kupinski.   Deputy U.S. Marshall Kupinski.   Herb referred to this guy, about a hundred times as “Officer Carpinksi“.  What was this, West Side Story?   It drove me nuts.

After a while I began to object, suspecting Herb was screwing with the guy.  In hindsight, I don’t think he was.   But on a bathroom break, he and I found ourselves together in the men’s room.  He began chewing my ear off, even as I tried to relieve my  coffee engorged bladder.  I firmly instructed him  (which I kind of regret) not to communicate further with me during the course of the trial.

The case also resulted in an editorial criticizing my office for charging the Use Of Firearm count. It was entitled “The Protected Class”, and insinuated that the charge was only brought because the victims were members of law enforcement.  There were letters to the editor in response, and my boss, the U.S. Attorney, wrote the paper her own response, which, to the RJ’s credit, was printed.  She accurately informed that in the vast majority of such cases the victims are civilians.

Ironically, Herb was buried in a Jewish cemetery on Pinelawn Road in Farmingdale, on Long Island.  A sad place, where I used to ride my bike as a kid.  Right down the road is Pinelawn National Cemetery, and St. Charles, a Catholic resting place.  So many old friends of mine are now Herb’s neighbors.

Rest in Peace, Herb.  You were one of a kind

.herb sachs


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