A 15-year-old crime has come back to haunt a North Las Vegas water department manager.
Jerome Breland, 55, was the interim utilities manager for North Las Vegas, overseeing the safety of the city's water system, before he was reassigned this week to the sewage department while officials investigate a complaint regarding his 2001 conviction for poisoning children.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which first reported the complaint Tuesday, Breland was convicted of poisoning juice — intended for his son's football teammates — with ipecac, a medicine that induces vomiting, in 2000. Breland was apparently seeking revenge on boys who he thought had bullied his son.
"The children had taken a water break during a practice preceding the championship game when several of them suddenly started vomiting. Eight children went to the hospital. They ranged in age from 12 to 15, according to court records.
"Breland pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor for the offense. He was sentenced to six months of house arrest and three years of probation. The city knew about his crime — his boss at the time wrote a letter to the judge in support of Breland, saying the employee had 'a great respect for others,' according to court transcripts."
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Assistant City Manager Ryann Juden said officials received the complaint regarding Breland's previous conviction on Aug. 6.
"He's been reassigned today, just to assure people that we take it seriously and our employees take it seriously," Juden said Tuesday.
The complaint, which was made to the Division of Environmental Protection, reads:
"People convicted of child molestation should not run day cares — people convicted of theft should not work at banks — people convicted of poisoning defenseless children's water supply should not work for a water department or be in charge of water quality with access to chemicals that could be used to injure or do worse."
Some of Breland's victims, however, now in their late 20s and early 30s, are speaking up in his defense, reports the Review-Journal.
"Who is to say he is the wrong person (for the job) just because of his past? If everybody was judged on their past, 80 to 90 percent of people wouldn't be in the positions they are," says Jonathan Taylor, 30. "You have to make mistakes to get better. Mistakes are what makes you a better person."
Another player on the team, Richard Garcia, 28, says that while Breland's actions were "premeditated and malicious," the incident happened a long time ago and that he has forgiven Breland.
Garcia also doesn't want Breland to lose his job, but the almost comical dichotomy between Breland's crime and his current job as someone who oversees the safety of drinking water isn't lost on him.
"If I wasn't involved, I would read this and go what the heck?" Garcia says. "The only word I can come up with is irony."