Jerry Nann Meador will be about the first individual expected to join the newly created diversion program. The three-year plan is meant to treat problem gamblers who have non-violent convictions. It was only two weeks earlier that court officials put the treatment mechanism in place.

Meador’s defense lawyer Dayvid Figler, pushed for Meador to be accepted into the program. After the judges ruling, Figler told reporters he was “elated” for the decision.

“It’s going to be a lot of work for her over the next 36-months,” Figler said. “This is a confirmation that gambling is a serious problem in our town.”

Meador who is 56 didn’t say much. She wept as she left the courthouse.

But not everyone was happy.

Aaron and Rhonda Hawley

The order which kept Meador from spending more time behind bars was not good news for the Hawleys, owners of the North Las Vegas plumbing business where Meador stole the money.

The Hawleys knew Meador for decades and thought of her as a close friend. That came to an end when they learned of her crimes. They still do not believe gambling caused her to turn into a thief.

“The judge’s ruling has set a new low bar,” Rhonda Hawley said following the ruling. “It does not have to do with gambling. She gambled because she had the extra money.”

The Hawleys understand Meador will have trouble paying restitution if she were behind bars. But even as a free woman, they don’t believe she will be able to repay them.

Meader had worked for the Hawleys for almost 25 years. First an office manager she was later promoted to bookkeeper.

Prosecutors said almost $550,000 was stolen, but think Meador took as much as $900,000. She wasn’t charged for the full amount as some money was stolen long enough ago the statute of limitations expired.

Meador told the court she spent the money on video poker and slot machines. She made credit card payments along with covering cell phone and satellite TV bills as well as several trips to Disneyland.

A different judge had vacated Meador’s conviction to see if she was eligible for the treatment program instead of serving a four-to ten-year sentence in Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center.

New Program

Specialty court programs began in Nevada in 1992. Each program is targeted at individuals facing criminal charges which may have arisen from addiction. Once in the program, a judge orders intensive counseling, retains oversight and can monitor the convicted s’ behavior via reports from the therapists.

Chief District Judge Linda Bell inaugurated the gambler court after she attended a working group created by Steve Wolfson, Clark County District Attorney. The group is made up of lawyers, judges and addiction experts.

The Takeaway

“If you don’t create a gambling diversion court, nothing is done to address the underlying problem,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney.

The nation’s first gambling treatment court opened in Buffalo, NY in 2001. Modeled after other courts which accept alcoholics and drug abusers, participants must have been convicted of a nonviolent crime due to addictions.