Arraignment for Ken Higbee of Alamo has been set for Aug. 11 in the
7th Judicial District Court before Judge Gary Fairman at the county courthouse in Pioche.
District Attorney Daniel Hooge said this will be the time when Higbee, on advice of his lawyer, Bret Whipple of Las Vegas, will either plead guilty or not guilty to the charges filed against him. “It doesn’t take very long, in and out in just a few minutes,” Whipple said.
However, Whipple said he believes there is a conflict with Judge Fairman because he was the lawyer who represented Higbee in a divorce case a number of years ago. Whipple thought his office had notified the district court of the conflict but has not heard as yet what the result is going to be.
If the conflict is upheld, Fairman would give way to Judge Steve Dobrescu or one of the senior judges in Las Vegas serving the southern Nevada region.
Higbee was charged in April in Meadow Valley Justice Court by the Nevada Department of Public Safety with a 225-count criminal complaint alleging he stole about $122,000 from the Lincoln County School District, involving dozens of counts of forgery and misconduct, plus one felony theft charge. The documents claim, “The embezzled funds were used to purchase a variety of items, including, but not limited to, sports equipment, sporting good items, sports clothing and shoes, tools, welding equipment, household items, electronics, and various other items, including some that were for personal use.”
At the preliminary hearing at the end of May in Meadow Valley Justice Court before Judge Mike Cowley, following the presentation of the prosecution’s case and witnesses, Whipple decided not to present his case at that time, rather choosing to wait until Cowley reviewed the evidence and ruled if there was enough to proceed to trial. Cowley subsequently decided to bind the case over to District Court
Whipple said Higbee will plead not guilty at the arraignment. He maintains Higbee is innocent and “never put a dime in his own pocket. Everything he did was not for him personally, but for the community, involving all of Lincoln County, the school district, even the gymnasiums. I don’t know of anybody that isn’t now, or hasn’t at some time, benefited to some degree.”
Hooge thought a trial date might be set for sometime next spring.