Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Steve Dobrescu, in Ely, has dismissed the charges against former Pahranagat Valley football coach Ken Higbee.
In issuing his written ruling April 19, the judge said in the state’s case, “Exhibits 1-5 were not properly authenticated and contained many separate sheets upon which hearsay and legal conclusions were typed.”
He also stated, “An amended complaint was filed one judicial day prior to the preliminary hearing (May 30, 2017) and the petitioner (Higbee) was not advised of the amended complaint or the charges contained therein as required by NRS 171.186.”
As reported in the Las Vegas-Review Journal, Higbee was charged in April, 2017 with a 225-count criminal complaint that included forgery, misconduct, and theft.
Higbee’s attorney, Bret Whipple, of Las Vegas, said, “In my opinion, there was just no evidence to support the allegations.”
Higbee, 51, entered a plea of not guilty August 11, 2017.
Whipple said some allegations made were “very vague, very general. At the end of the day the preliminary hearing required some showing of probable cause, or some showing of wrongdoing and they weren’t able to do it (225) times.”
In his written comments, Dobrescu said, “The court has read the entire transcript” and found, as reported in the Review-Journal, “that the evidence, which included receipts of sports equipment and documents from the schools, were admitted without proper authentication or foundation.”
In a footnote, he wrote, “The true irony is that by failing to properly present its case, the State has wasted an enormous amount of judicial resources.”
In his 22-year coaching career at Pahranagat Valley, Higbee led the Panthers to 11 NIAA 1A state championships and set state records in the number of undefeated seasons (8) and consecutive game winning streaks (104) before losing to Spring Mountain in the 2016 championship game.
Pahranagat Valley’s 104-game win streak is a national record for eight- man teams.
Current PVHS coach Brett Hansen said Higbee had planned to retire after the 2016 season, following the graduation of his son Christian in 2017.
Last fall, under Hansen, the Panthers again went 12-0 and recaptured the 1A state title from Spring Mountain.
Whipple stated in the Review-Journal article that no warrant was ever issued for Higbee’s arrest.
He said the case was dismissed without prejudice which means the prosecution could choose to refile charges, but added, “The judge even said it’s a colossal waste of time and I think it’s appropriate. How much more can you punish this guy? You can’t take blood from a stone. He was lambasted and lost his job, also his home and reputation.”
Whipple concluded, “He’s had a horrible thing happen to him and all he was trying to do was put his heart and soul into [it] and help the community.”
District Attorney Daniel Hooge said he does plan to refile charges against Higbee, but did not give a time when he might do so.
He said, “Judge Dobrescu had problems with the way the evidence was marked. But there was evidence, over 2,000 documents thereof, with testimony from 20 witnesses and other experts.”