Until last summer their records were squeaky clean. Of the seven Burning Man defendants who came to Judge Jim Shirley’s 11th Judicial Court on Monday, July 22, nobody had as much as a speeding ticket.

Each defendant retained John Routsis. DDA Todd Banks argued on behalf of the State of Nevada.

At Routsis’s request, Judge Shirley waived the presentencing investigation report (PSI) in each case.

The Division of Parole and Probation prepares PSIs. They give the judge information about a defendant’s background and criminal history if any. Generally, the Division has 60 days to complete the report, which concludes with a recommendation for or against probation. It’s one tool the judge uses to make a decision.

Each defendant agreed to waive the PSI so they would not have to return to court at a later date. The judge granted the request but reminded them that, no matter the sentence, they could not object to the waivers later.

“You can’t come back and say we should not have proceeded without the PSI,” he said.

Alex Paul Newman, 39, admitted that on Aug. 26, 2018, he brought LSD to the annual festival in the Black Rock Desert. Law enforcement pulled him over and found the contraband. Newman spent one day in jail on the gross misdemeanor charge before bailing out.

Newman holds a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is close to a master’s in electrical engineering, said Routsis.

The judge sentenced Newman to one day in jail with one day’s credit for time served. He must pay a $2,000 fine and $238 in court fees.

With one exception, the rest of the defendants pleaded guilty to Category E felonies. However, in each case the judge suspended the proceedings without entering a judgment of conviction. Instead, with their consent, he placed each defendant in a 453 diversion program. If they complete its requirements, they’ll avoid black marks on their records.

DDA Todd Banks explained that E felonies are punishable by one to four years in prison, fines of up to $5,000 or a combination of both. However, under Nevada law due to the defendant’s absence of criminal records, their offenses all qualified for mandatory probation.

Suman Gopalrao, 28, a software engineer with an MS in computer science from the University of Southern California, admitted that on Sept. 2, 2018, he brought LSD to Burning Man. 

Chad David Raines, 41, a project engineer and IT manager, admitted that on Aug. 26, 2018, he came to Burning Man with cocaine. 

Misha Nizker, 34, also pleaded guilty to bringing cocaine to the festival.

Nizker, a software engineer at Google, graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia, said Routsis. He came to the United States from Russia.

On Aug. 28 law enforcement stopped Christiane Ferreira Da Costa, 34, originally from Brazil, at the entry gate to the festival. At her arraignment, she pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance, cocaine.

Robin Taurin Livingston, 28, admitted that on Sept. 2, 2018, he possessed a controlled substance, LSD. 

Ryan Gibbs, 35, pleaded guilty to a Category B felony and a gross misdemeanor.

“I made the terrible decision to bring controlled substances to Burning Man and got caught,” he said. He admitted to bringing 62 grams of psilocybin mushrooms to the event. The crime could have resulted in a decades-long prison term and hefty fines. Gibbs also admitted to arriving at the gate with LSD, a gross misdemeanor punishable by 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

The court fined Gibbs $2,000 for each offense and $238 in court fees, a total of $4,238.

According to the terms of their plea agreements, the rest of the defendants will serve informal probation, not to exceed three years. They’ll enroll in the Pershing County out-of-state drug court. 

“You’re consenting to do more things than would be asked of you on standard probation,” the judge told each of them. “But, if you’re successful, you can have this not come on your record as a felony.”

If they fail, three of the defendants may jeopardize their immigration status. Nizker, Golprao and Da Costa would return to the court for sentencing and risk deportation.

“I will not fail,” said Da Costa.

“From your affect and the way you are speaking, I can tell you are sincere,” replied the judge.