A felon who hit a legal jackpot last year has flushed away his good fortune and landed himself back in prison, 10 months after a case-sinking error by federal prosecutors allowed him to walk free on a string of armed robbery charges.
Last year, Brian Wright escaped what could have been a more than 100-year prison sentence if a jury found him guilty of stealing more than $1 million in jewelry from area stores. The case never went to trial. Instead, Wright received a sweetheart plea deal and was released from custody immediately. All he needed to do was stay out of trouble.
But that has proved difficult for Wright. His probation officers say the phone number he provided them was linked to more than 200 escort service advertisements. The woman he describes as his girlfriend was arrested on prostitution charges. He missed three drug tests. When he did show up, he tested positive for methamphetamine and marijuana.
“Furthermore, Wright has been unable to provide any employment verification or source of income, yet he is driving around in a BMW,” a probation officer wrote in a recent court filing.
As a result of those sweeping allegations, a federal judge in February sentenced Wright to 21 months in prison for numerous probation violations. Among other things, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon found that Wright violated the terms of his release by committing another crime — namely, pandering.
Wright addressed that allegation in a letter filed this week in federal court in Las Vegas. In it, he wrote, “There was no girl that ever said I was there (sic) pimp or that they gave me money from prostitution.”
An undercover prostitution sting at the Bellagio last fall led Las Vegas police officers to Wright, after he was recorded on jailhouse phone calls speaking with Madison Lyman, who was being held on charges of soliciting prostitution.
“Recorded jail calls between Lyman and Wright reveal that Lyman was working for Wright at the time she was arrested,” a probation officer wrote in a February arrest warrant application. “Additionally, the phone number that Wright reports to the undersigned officer has been connected to over 200 escort service advertisements on websites such as backpage.com and craigslist.com.”
The Lyman arrest led Gordon to find Wright guilty of violating another condition of his supervised release that prohibited him from associating with criminals.
In the March 14 letter, which was sent to the court but addressed to his court-appointed lawyer, Wright wrote, “My p.o. never told me to stay away from my girlfriend.”
FAILED DRUG TESTS
The probation officer wrote in a legal filing that he was unable to make contact with Wright at the address he provided. But, the officer wrote, Wright was observed coming and going from various hotel rooms located at the America’s Best Value Inn on Tropicana Avenue.
“I never changed address because I never moved, just because I may frequent an address does not mean I live there, this whole violation was a set up and im (sic) being harassed,” Wright wrote.
The terms of Wright’s supervised release required him to submit to frequent drug tests. Wright contends that the “drug test for meth was manufactured.” He claims his probation officer “lied and changed the paper.” The positive marijuana tests, he argues, resulted from the fact that he used marijuana two days prior to his sentencing.
Wright, who insists he is innocent and accuses the government of misconduct, has appealed his sentence and wrote that he hopes the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will correct this “tragedy of justice.”
His San Francisco-based, court-appointed attorney, Mark Eibert, did not return a voicemail message requesting comment. Wright’s letter does not use Eibert’s last name, but opens with the line “hey mark.”
“As I said before, this whole case is a mess, the government screwed up big in the beginning of my case and had to let me go and they basically are harassing me to get some time out of me that they couldn’t get at first,” Wright asserted.
Right before the case was supposed to go to trial last spring, prosecutors enraged a federal judge by failing to submit evidence and witness lists in a timely fashion. Judge Gordon, in a punishing decision for the government, told prosecutors he would give them only one day to present their case.
Defense lawyers rarely have the upper hand in plea negotiations, but that’s what happened when Wright’s prosecutors started to realize the challenges of complying with Gordon’s orders. Wright walked away with a single illegal firearms conviction, and the armed robbery charges were dropped.