Gambling Addicted Priest tried in court of Public Opinion
Las Vegas Review Journal’s Jane Ann Morrison post on the fate of Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe, convicted of Federal mail fraud related to his admitted gambling addiction, displayed a notable bias and an even more notable lack of understanding of the disease nature of compulsive gambling.
Morrison’s position on how “Justice” should be meted out for the Monsignor coupled with subsequent comments from RJ readers were notable angry; seemingly seeking a pound of flesh in lieu of jurisprudence. After numerous thwarted attempts to post my opinion following RJ submission protocol, I decided to use this forum to express my opinons. Ms. Morrison’s article is attached.
Ms. Morrison is absolutely correct when she states that Monsignor Kevin McAuliffe should not receive special treatment under the law. What he should receive is fair sentencing under the law based upon the case at hand. It seems that Ms. Morrison and many RJ readers have already determined Monsignor McAuliffe’s fate.
I know Jane Ann to be a fair and well-informed journalist. However, in this case her statement that “sentencing guidelines say gambling addiction is no reason for a judge to reduce a sentence” is not entirely accurate. While there may be no such guidelines for Federal cases, Nevada legislation provides for Problem Gambling Diversion in sentencing to include a rehabilitation program for problem gamblers who have committed a crime in furtherance of their gambling addiction. Notably, just yesterday, District Judge Donald Mosley invoked this statute (NRS 458A) in his ruling on a high profile case involving a local attorney: sentencing the defendant to three years of daily counseling, attendance at Gamblers Anonymous meetings and full restitution to the victims. This was the first time the 2009 law was implemented in Clark County, so the oversight is understandable. The difference here is Federal jurisdiction vs. District Court, but the principle is apposite. The American Psychiatric Association and the Nevada Legislature recognize compulsive gambling as a mental disorder worthy of consideration in sentencing.
Compulsive gambling is a diagnosable and treatable disease as indicated by the American Psychiatric Association’s guiding diagnostic tool, the DSM-IV. Yet any indication of compulsive gambling as a factor in perpetrating a crime is at the very least overlooked or viewed with skepticism, and more frequently met with disparaging remarks, disdain and loathing as witnessed by comments posted by my fellow RJ readers.
Monsignor McAuliffe suffers from a medically recognized mental illness. Does this make him above the law? Certainly not. Is it relevant to consider the disease of compulsive gambling in sentencing? Absolutely!
If Monsignor McAuliffe is taking his illness and his recovery from compulsive gambling seriously, as I’ve heard he is, he will no doubt participate actively in the 12 Step Program of Gamblers Anonymous as well as mental health therapy. An important part of recovery from compulsive gambling includes making amends AND paying restitution. Regardless of tomorrow’s sentencing, I am confident that Judge Mahan will hear the facts and make an appropriate decision regarding how to best achieve a positive outcome. In my opinion, the goal would be to achieve the best outcome for all: restitution to the victims of the gambling related crime, rehabilitation for the Monsignor, and healing for his parishioners and the community. Let’s wait for the judge’s decision before we sentence the Monsignor in the court of public opinion.
I have had the pleasure of meeting Ms Morrison when she was honored at the Las Vegas Women of Distinction Awards luncheon which I chaired. I found her to be a professional journalist and an integrous individual. Thus I must attribute the bent of this article to perhaps a personal bias on her part, or simply a need for greater understanding. Hopefully she will accept my invitation to join me at the Nevada Conference on Problem Gambling, April 12-13, 2012.