Disbarred attorney convicted of third felony stalking
January 18, 2013
A jury of eight women and four men deliberated for nearly four hours Friday before finding a disbarred attorney guilty of his third charge of felony aggravated stalking.
Michael Charles Meisler faces up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing March 11 by District Judge Michael Gibbons.
Following the verdict, Gibbons revoked Meisler’s $50,000 bail as the defendant was handcuffed and returned to Douglas County Jail where he’s been held since his arrest Dec. 15, 2011.
Meisler acted as his own attorney in the proceedings, but told Gibbons that standby attorney Kris Brown will represent him at sentencing.
She indicated Friday it is likely Meisler will appeal the verdict.
As the jury forewoman read the verdict, the victim began to cry.
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She had testified for nearly eight hours Wednesday and Thursday under questioning from prosecutor Tom Gregory and Meisler.
“I am so proud of the people in this building (the courthouse), and the support they have given me for the past 13 months,” she said after the verdict. “They recognized I wasn’t ‘crying wolf’ and they were with me every step of the way, even the opposing attorneys when Mr. Meisler allowed them to represent him. This community can be very proud of everyone in this building, and feel safe that they are all watching out for us.”
The 60-year-old woman said she was relieved and overwhelmed at the conclusion of the four-day trial.
Gregory, Douglas County chief deputy district attorney, and co-counsel Karen Dustman prosecuted the case.
“I’m very, very happy (for the victim),” Gregory said. “She’s been through a lot, especially when Mr. Meisler was allowed to ask her questions. How hard was that for her?”
He said the fact the jury deliberated for almost four hours “told me they were doing their jobs giving the evidence a thorough review and not rushing their decision.”
The jury had the option of finding Meisler innocent, or guilty of stalking without the aggravated enhancement. Either one of those verdicts would have meant the 61-year-old would have gone free, as he has been in custody for 13 months.
Outside the presence of the jury, Gibbons determined Friday that Meisler had two prior felony stalking convictions stemming from charges that were filed in Florida where he served prison time.
The jury was not allowed to learn of Meisler’s prior convictions.
The victim testified during the trial she was so terrorized by Meisler, she now sleeps with a loaded gun under her pillow and lights on.
She said she dated Meisler on and off for about eight months from March 2011 to just before Thanksgiving that year when she broke it off.
Between Nov. 15 and Dec. 14, 2011, Meisler sent multiple letters, text messages, newspaper clippings and other writings, and left messages for the woman in her home, taped to the garage and on her car at work.
The notes contained references to her teenage son, and what harm could come to him as well as the victim.
The messages said, “Kill me if you can,” “you deserve everything coming to you as a result of your callousness,” “yours was a fatal decision,” according to the criminal complaint.
Meisler, who claimed to have 35 years as a lawyer, was licensed to practice law in Florida, New Mexico, the District of Columbia and Costa Rica before he was disbarred for similar stalking convictions in Florida.
He petitioned Gibbons for permission to represent himself which the judge granted.
In order to convict Meisler of aggravated stalking, the prosecution had to prove that the victim was in fear of her life.
“The crime of stalking is about fear, instilling fear in the victim,” Gregory said in his closing argument. “The scariest part to most of us is that your family member is put at risk, your teenage son. The Nevada Legislature says this constitutes the crime of stalking.”
Gregory said Meisler committed all the elements of aggravated stalking in a single day – Nov. 22, 2011 – when he entered the victim’s home without permission, left pornographic pictures under her bed pillow along with threatening notes to her son and a friend who was expected that day.
“Is this a course of conduct meant to instill fear? Absolutely,” Gregory said. “If that’s all he’d done, we’d still be here (in court).”
But Meisler’s actions continued in spite of a temporary restraining order until he was arrested Dec. 15, 2011.
Meisler insisted the state failed to prove who sent the emails, text messages and mail, or that he entered her house without permission.
He also said the victim couldn’t claim that she was in fear of death or substantial bodily harm as required by the statute.
The prosecution provided a video from a hearing where the victim obtained a temporary protection order when Meisler admitted being in her house on Nov. 22, 2011, and leaving the messages.
He admitted he was angry over the breakup, but insisted the emotion was honest.
“There is enough evidence before you to create reasonable doubt. The defendant (Meisler) may have been involved in stalking. The defendant may have used extravagant language that may have resulted in fright, harassment or intimidation,” Meisler said.
“But she testified on multiple occasions she was not in fear of substantial bodily harm or death. Each and every piece of evidence the state put forward is opinion. It’s conjecture. I respectfully ask you to find the crime of aggravated stalking has not been committed.”
At the conclusion of the trial, Gibbons retrieved paperwork from Meisler that contained personal details about the victim that he was entitled to for his defense.
That information now goes to Kris Brown as Meisler’s attorney.