A temporary judge who took the plea before reporters arrived sentenced Neil to 15 days in the Clark County jail and 15 days on house arrest under terms of an agreed-upon plea deal that spared him a trial on a misdemeanor driving under the influence charge. Neil could have faced up to six months in jail if convicted.
Court officials said the 49-year-old rocker was ordered to begin serving his sentence Feb. 15, a week after his 50th birthday.
Neil and his lawyers, Richard Schonfeld and David Chesnoff, appeared 90 minutes early before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Pro Tem Gerry Zobrist, court officers said. Media members arriving for a scheduled 9 a.m. plea learned that Neil had come and gone.
“My understanding is he came in early and they just moved it up,” said court spokeswoman Mary Ann Price, who was in the courtroom for Neil’s appearance.
Neil said nothing more than “guilty” to the charge against him, Price said. He was also fined $585 and ordered to attend drunken driving abatement school and to view a victim impact video online.
Chesnoff told The Associated Press the case was moved up at his request because he was due in family court across town on another case.
“There is no preferential treatment,” Chesnoff said, noting that the judge – not the prosecutor – granted the time change. “I got the normal professional courtesy a lawyer gets when he has a scheduling conflict.”
The attorney also referred to a prepared statement on Neil’s behalf issued after the plea deal was reached Jan. 18. It said the rocker took responsibility for his actions and would learn from the experience.
Clark County District Attorney David Roger denied Neil got a break. He pointed to the sentence of 30 days of jail and home detention.
“He pled guilty to DUI,” Roger said. “The vast majority of people facing a first offense DUI in Nevada don’t face jail time.”
Judges exercise discretion in scheduling, and other cases involving other defendants and lawyers at the Clark County Regional Justice Center have been heard before or after published times.
But allegations of preferential treatment have been made before against Roger and Chesnoff.
Chesnoff is an A-list Las Vegas defense lawyer whose clients have included celebrity socialite Paris Hilton, the Hells Angel motorcycle club, boxer Mike Tyson, entertainer Bruno Mars, recording mogul Marion “Suge” Knight and other local and national notables.
Roger is a low-key law-and-order prosecutor perhaps best known for winning felony convictions against O.J. Simpson and five accomplices in a 2007 armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers in a Las Vegas casino hotel room. Simpson is serving nine to 33 years in state prison.
Roger won a third term in November despite an opponent’s efforts to link campaign contributions from Chesnoff to a plea deal by Hilton last September that reduced a felony cocaine possession charge to two misdemeanors.
Hilton, 29, was sentenced to one year probation, fined $2,000 and ordered to complete a drug program and 200 hours of community service.
Chesnoff said Wednesday he has a constitutional right to back candidates for public office.
“I supported David Roger from the first time he ran for office, and I will continue to do so,” Chesnoff said. “He is a fine district attorney.”
Neil’s plea came after police said he was stopped in his black Lamborghini sports car late June 27 after leaving the Las Vegas Hilton.
Neil is the front man for a four-member heavy metal band known for bad behavior, hard partying, famous girlfriends and hard-driving hits like “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Dr. Feelgood.” He and his fourth wife, Lia, live in Las Vegas, where Neil also owns tattoo shops and two bars. One is at the Hilton.
Neil pleaded guilty to drunken driving before, in a 1984 crash in Redondo Beach, Calif., that killed his passenger, Nicholas Dingley, a 24-year-old drummer with the group Hanoi Rocks.
Neil, then 25, wasn’t injured. His conviction on manslaughter and drunken driving charges got him 20 days in jail, and he agreed to pay $2.5 million in restitution to victims.