13 Investigates


The revolving door of DUI justice

Investigating our pre-trial justice system
DUI crash aftermath
Garrett Ogata 2019 DUI crash
Garrett Ogata 2016 DUI arrest mugshot
Posted at 7:36 AM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 19:52:22-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A car flipped on its roof on a rocky freeway embankment after rolling multiple times, causing devastating damage to the car and significant injury to Kristin Fedon and her Uber driver.

They were traveling on the 215 beltway near Eastern Avenue on the night of Aug. 30.

"There was no screeching tires, no braking, nothing. Just slammed from the back. The windows were blowing out. If I didn't have my seat belt on I probably wouldn't be here," says Fedon.

The driver who caused the crash was only charged with misdemeanors for driving under the influence, failure to decrease speed or use due care and driving without a valid driver's license.

RELATED STORY: Get out of jail free: public safety, jail overcrowding and rights of the accused

Don't ask Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson to make sense of it. He can't.

"I believe that when people choose to drink and drive it's just that. It's a choice. And they should suffer the consequences."

54-year-old Garrett Tanji Ogata repeatedly made that choice. And he's not suffering many consequences.

Ogata, who was driving an Aston Martin that August night, is a DUI defense attorney.

He appeared on channel 13 in a paid segment back in 2010 saying this about drinking and driving, "The most important thing -- don't drink and drive. If you do drink, get a designated driver, get a ride or get a cab."

Ogata does not seem to practice what he preaches.

The crash with Kristin's Uber ride was his third DUI-related arrest.

He did not return multiple calls for comment.

A Mothers Against Drunk Driving statistic shows most people drive drunk 80 times before they get caught.

RELATED: Accused of violent felonies, but getting out of jail free

Ogata had last been arrested for DUI in 2016. He was released on his own recognizance or O-R -- without having to post bail -- and eventually found guilty.

In the Uber crash this past August, he got out of jail free again courtesy of Judge Joseph Sciscento.

Judge Sciscento was actually Ogata's attorney in a 2003 DUI case. That case was plead down to a reduced charge of leaving the scene of an accident.

"Unfortunately, when that happens, I think people have a tendency to lose the seriousness of the crime," said Sandy Heverly of STOP DUI. "When you're driving under the influence, you're a potential killer!"

Court records show Ogata was released from jail the same day he allegedly crashed into Kristin's Uber ride.

He's been free to work but Kristen -- a pilot for a major airline -- has been grounded for the last six months.

"When I crawled out of the car, I went to stand up and I couldn't," she recalls.

She's still recovering from a badly damaged knee that required surgery.

"The system has failed the people, as in me, who play by the rules."

Reached by phone, Judge Sciscento told 13 Investigates he did what he could. No criminal complaint had been filed in the case so he says he had to let Ogata out, ordering alcohol monitoring while he awaits formal charges.

But Kristin Fedon isn't waiting. She filed a lawsuit in January. It says, "According to the police report, Ogata had a blood alcohol level of .26, more than three times the legal limit," and was driving between 85-95 miles an hour when he caused the crash.

"Does someone have to kill another person before they get kept in jail?" 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asked Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Chris Jones. "Because when you look at a case like that, I think a lot of people feel like that's the direction it's heading."

"Right," Jones answered. "And that's an example of what frustrates law enforcement."

It's easy to find examples.

Kelly Louise Cruz was arrested for DUI Jan. 14 and got an O-R release. Within seven days, another DUI arrest and another get-out-of-jail-free card.

Then, there's Jacquelyn Patricia Thornton. Arrested for DUI Jan. 5 of 2019 and released on O-R the same day.

"If you've been arrested for drunk driving, that pretty much indicates you may pose a danger to the community," said Chuck Muth of Citizen Outreach. "A month later she was arrested for drunk driving a second time and a second time released on her own recognizance."

On Feb. 22 of this year, Thornton was arrested for DUI a third time.

"And again released on her own recognizance. And her trial's not even until July for the first two DUIs!" said an outraged Muth.

Samuel Ryan Grimes is yet another example. On Feb. 6 he was arrested for his second DUI and released the same day on O-R with orders to stay out of trouble, abstain from alcohol and wear a SCRAM alcohol monitoring device.

Grimes was released from SCRAM on March 5 and six days later, arrested again -- his third DUI offense.

Neither law enforcement nor the courts seem to have a solution.

"There's such a backlog of DUIs, first of all," said Las Vegas Justice Court Judge Joe Bonaventure. "And that creates issues for the District Attorney's office in proving their case."

If there's a blood draw, it has to be analyzed and prosecutors need those lab results before they can file charges.

"That takes, oftentimes, weeks or months." explains Wolfson.

The Nevada Office of Traffic Safety calls Clark County's DUI prosecution rate "dismal."

The DUI task force has made nearly 2,000 arrests since October of 2018 but they say only 30 to 40% are prosecuted.

"I have five prosecutors who do nothing but prosecute DUI cases. That tells you how many DUI cases we have," said a clearly frustrated Wolfson. "So, it's a numbers game. We can't file cases as quickly as we'd like. Plus, the offender isn't getting the treatment and the assistance they need."

Kristin Fedon is, luckily, living proof of that.

"And I almost died, so if I don't say something or do something... Maybe I could be saving someone's life down the road."

The charges against attorney Garrett Ogata could be amended but they have still not been formally filed.

The D.A.'s office had to recuse due to conflict of interest so the case will go to the Attorney General or a special prosecutor.

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