Judge McGee admits shame

Family Court Judge Charles McGee, arrested Dec. 9 for drunken driving and failure to maintain a driving lane, said last week the arrest was his most shameful moment.

Speaking Thursday morning before a group of 50 people being honored by Tru Vista, a family support organization he founded, McGee said life is filled with high and low moments that can affect the fate of drug offenders who come before him in drug court. By way of illustration, he mentioned incidents in his own life that represented anger, shame and despair, recollections that brought a hush to the crowd.

The moment of despair, he said, came in the city of Hue during the Vietnam War, when he entered a church filled with the bones and skulls of war victims stored behind chicken wire.

“That for me was the depth of despair,” he said.

His angriest moment, he said, came when he had to go to Washoe Medical Center, where an infant placed temporarily with foster parents was dying of shaken-baby syndrome at their hands. The child had been placed with the foster parents while the real parents went through drug rehabilitation. At the hospital, he had to restore parental rights to the real parents so they could order life support to be shut down for the “cherubic little figure.”

He then turned to his DUI arrest: “Probably the biggest moment of shame was last December when, for reasons I still cannot fathom, I made the front page of the Gazette-Journal five times. … That was my greatest moment of shame.” (In the context of his remarks, McGee’s “fathom” comment referred to his drinking, not the newspaper’s heavy coverage.)

McGee’s arrest prompted calls for his resignation or recall from a group of fathers angered by his child-support or child-custody decisions against them in Family Court (RN&R, Jan. 22) and by the Reno Gazette-Journal. Eight months prior to his arrest, he had gone to a California rehabilitation clinic for three months of treatment for a drinking problem. The arrest drew particularly heavy attention, both in and out of Nevada, because of his role in starting the Drug Court in Washoe County and speaking on its use across the nation.

McGee pleaded guilty to a single DUI misdemeanor and was sentenced by Justice of the Peace Fidel Salcedo to two days in jail, $700 in fines, attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five days a week, daily breath tests, attendance at a DUI victims’ panel and abstinence from drinking. At the sentencing McGee apologized to those he disappointed.