User-agent: * Allow: / Legal news, political opinion, Satire, and lawyer thinking by Tim Paynter, Attorney at Law: Las Vegas attorney Noel Gage takes Alford Plea Felony Obstruction of justice

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Las Vegas attorney Noel Gage takes Alford Plea Felony Obstruction of justice

Noel Gage violates sworn oath
Client Melodie Simon loses out

Have you ever suspected your attorney is in bed with the attorneys from the opposite side? Doesn’t it seem suspicious when the pro and the con in a civil case, the prosecution and the defense, in a criminal case, all get together, smiling and goggling in private conversation while you sit wringing your wrists?

Is your attorney in bed with the other side?

The answer is, in most cases he or she is not. Most attorneys learned the hard way, being a dick to the opposing counsel is unprofessional and usually ends up hurting the client in the long run. What the client does not realize, underneath all of the cooing, there is lawyer rage seething, and waiting to be vented if necessary.

That is not the case with Las Vegas medical malpractice attorney Noel Gage of Gage and Gage, llp if allegations are true. He is accused of selling out to defense counsel in his representation of a patient who walked into surgery and was wheeled out a paraplegic.

"Who pays, the patient who will never walk or the wealthy surgeon?"

Something went terribly wrong when Melodie Simon went in for back surgery. According to evidence, Dan Burkhead, the anatheseologist, was responsible for puncturing a sac protecting Simon's spine. Extensive internal bleeding caused the nerves to push up against the spine and turned the one-time Olympic volleyball player into a paraplegic.

Still, the majority of the damage might have been prevented if Surgeon Mark Bradley Kabins had gone into immediate action rather than continue with his fishing trip. He waited 11 hours to perform emergency surgery even though he knew internal bleeding was causing the paralysis.

The problem in Melodies case is, the doctor’s defense counsel was not the only attorney she was battling during legal proceedings against spine surgeons John Thalgott and Mark Kabins. The government alleges her attorney made a deal with defense counsel for a lower settlement than would normally have been agreed to against the physicians. In exchange, attorney Gage was promised lucrative future cases.

Gage brought suit against spine surgeons John Thalgott and Mark Kabins on behalf of Melodie. After suit was filed, a self proclaimed "legal expert" approached Gage and offered to send him a lucrative case if he took the pressure off of the surgeons and put the blame onto the back of Anathesiologist Dan Burkhead. In fact, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Schiess, three days after the medical expert sent Gage a case that ultimately settled for $18 million, attorney Gage turned began to focus on the anathesiologist. Subsequently, little effort was spent on the surgeons.

Gage won the suit against Burkhead and Sunrise Hospital and medical center, where the surgery was performed. Melodie Simon received a $2.3 million settlement. Her net after fees and costs was 1.3 million which she claims won't cover her medical costs over her life.

After attorney fees and costs, Simon received $1.3 million, which she testified will never cover the costs of her medical needs.

"Gage would have spent the rest of his life in prison"

If Assistant US Attorneys Steven Myhre and Dan Schiess had been able to prove their case Gage would have spent the rest of his life in prison. Even at age 71, that might have been a lot of years. What they got instead was a handout. Gage is going to plead guilty to felony obstruction of justice charges and return the attorney’s fees of $702,600 back to the paralyzed woman.

That is what they call a special type of plea bargain called an "Alford Plea".  The plea is named after the 1970 United States Supreme Court decision of North Carolina v. Alford. It allows the accused to plead “no contest” to a lesser charge. He maintains his innocence to the original charge, admits he would probably be found guilty of the more serious original charge and accepts the lesser charge to be entered against him.

"The second degree murder charge avoided the death penalty"

The Alford Doctrine originated when Henry Alford allowed a second degree murder charge to be entered against him when he was almost assuredly guilty of a first degree murder charge. The second degree murder charge avoided the death penalty and allowed him to get out of jail early, which in his case was 30 years.

The plea does two things for the attorney. Gage is a prominent attorney in Las Vegas. He is subject to discipline from the Supreme Court attorney ethics committee. If he has not admitted he has done anything wrong the ethics charges are harder to make stick. They will probably still take his license. It also helps Gage should his client wish to sue him in civil court. Again, he has not admitted to any wrong doing.

If Gage were going to prison maintaining his innocence might not have been quite as important. That is likely where this plea falls so short. Gage will not likely go to jail, even though the judge admonished counsel the penalty could be up to 20 years. However, since the doctors who participated with Gage did not go to jail, Gage likely won’t go to jail, either.

Attorney Noel Gage gets off easy by taking an Alford Plea to Obstruction of justice after selling out Melodie Simon. Ms. Simon is a paraplegic with a lot of money and not much else thanks to two spinal surgeons, John Thalgott and Mark Kabins, who also got off easy. All three of the professionals will have their chance to make another million and won‘t likely spend a day in prison. Melodie Simon won’t have another chance to walk or move her arms or legs or do the boogie, she is damned to her eternal set of iron bars.

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