A preliminary hearing for Ken Higbee of Alamo was set to begin May 30 in Meadow Valley Justice Court in Pioche.
County District Attorney Daniel Hooge said this will be a “probable cause hearing.” At this time the DA will present all the charges and evidence gathered during the investigation before Judge Mike Cowley to determine whether there is probable cause to take it to trial. Higbee is facing dozens of forgery and misconduct charges, which accuse him of stealing about $122,000 from the Lincoln County School District.
On April 10, a 225-count criminal complaint was filed that includes one count of theft, according to records from Meadow Valley Justice Court.
Hooge said each of the counts will be presented to Judge Cowley, one by one, and the defense will also have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and challenge the evidence. “The hearing will probably take all week, or more,” he said.
Defense attorney Bret Whipple said in a telephone interview with the Record that he intends “to call a number of defense witnesses ourselves to preserve the testimony and show that Ken did nothing wrong.”
In an article published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal in April, Whipple said, “They’re really making a mountain out of a molehill. At the end of the day, he (Higbee) never put a dollar in his pocket. It’s truly outrageous.”
Court records show Higbee, suspended by the school district as principal of C.O. Bastian High School in Caliente and football coach at Pahranagat Valley High in Alamo, was charged with 76 felony counts and 149 gross misdemeanor counts.
As stated in the criminal complaint, Higbee was entrusted with a debit card, credit card and checkbook to spend for the benefit of the C.O. Bastian students, but instead used the cards and checkbook to deprive the students of funds. The incidents are alleged to have occurred between January 2012 and December 2015.
The Review-Journal article noted that Sgt. Jeffrey Jourdan of the Nevada Department of Public Safety prepared a lengthy statement in support of the complaints filed.
“The embezzled funds were used to purchase a variety of items, including but not limited to sports equipment, sporting goods items, sports clothing, sports shoes, tools, welding equipment, household items, electronics, and various other items,” including some that were for Higbee’s personal use.
Whipple has countered that while his client may have transferred some of the purchased items to Pahranagat Valley High School, “he never put a dime in his pocket. Everything he did was not for him personally, but for the community.”
Whipple said Judge Cowley will likely find there will be enough evidence to go to trial. “Preliminary hearings are 99 percent of the time bound over to district court, because of probable cause due to slight or marginal evidence.”