A law enforcement official and domestic abuse advocate are criticizing a deal granted by a justice of the peace that allowed an Elko County sheriff's deputy to avoid prosecution for domestic violence - a crime that could have cost him his career if convicted.
"This is a major failure in my eyes," said Yvette Waters, director of the Committee Against Domestic Violence and Harbor House in Elko.
Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Kolsch was granted a "civil compromise" as an alternative to prosecution last week by Elko Justice of the Peace Molly Leddy, the Elko Daily Free Press reported.
It's the first time a civil compromise has been used in Elko County for a domestic violence case, District Attorney Gary Woodbury said.
The civil compromise means the district attorney's office cannot prosecute Kolsch as long as he adheres to certain conditions, including attending weekly counseling sessions for a year, the newspaper reported.
Leddy gave several reasons for granting the civil compromise, including Kolsch's 25 years in law enforcement and that he would lose his job if convicted.
The judge said Kolsch also showed he was willing to participate in counseling and noted that "he did say he did not intend to physically harm his wife" during the October incident.
Leddy added there was no evidence of past violence and injury to the victim was minor.
Under federal law, Kolsch would have been unable to carry a firearm if he had been convicted of domestic violence.
Sheriff Neil Harris said the judge's decision undermines public trust.
"How many people has she had come before her on domestic violence charges and have been found guilty and this was never offered to them?" he said.
Harris said the sheriff's office did not ask the judge to give Kolsch special consideration.
"I have an obligation and the people who work here have an obligation to be held to a higher standard," he said.
Harris said he will review the judge's ruling before determining whether Kolsch can be disciplined administratively.
Waters said the ruling sends a message that an abuser can escape prosecution depending on their job.
"In a domestic violence call officers are mandated by law to make an arrest," Waters said. "Our law officers did their job correctly and treated this as any other case.
"The district attorney's office looked only at the evidence. But we have a judge who looked at it as being a law enforcement officer," she said.
"People need to remember these (judges) are elected officials," she added. "These are the people who are supposed to enforce the law."