Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the disposition of Whitmer’s Florida case. We regret the error.
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The chair of the Nevada State Democratic Party was charged with grand theft in the 1990s and was ordered not to handle money at work without a probation officer’s approval, documents the 8 News Now Investigators obtained said.
Judith Whitmer was elected party chair in 2021. In 1996, authorities in Seminole County, Florida, charged Whitmer, then 40 years old and known as Judith Sprayberry, with organized fraud and grand theft for cashing fraudulent checks in other peoples’ names from her employer, records showed.
Though the party’s central committee elected Whitmer in 2021, her criminal history was not made public until the 8 News Now Investigators’ reporting Monday. Whitmer is up for re-election at the party’s central committee meeting this Saturday.
“This is not a student council election,” attorney Bradley Schrager said. “Those people, certainly the membership of the Democratic Party, deserve to know to whom they are giving those contributions and full information about their backgrounds.”
Whitmer pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of grand theft between $750 and $5,000, records showed. Nolo contendere means a defendant accepts a conviction but does not admit guilt.
When Whitmer pleaded nolo contendre, a judge withheld the adjudication, sentencing her to probation. When 8 News Now asked Whitmer for comment on her conviction in Florida, when her name was Judith Sprayberry, at no point did she, nor the Nevada State Democratic Party, acknowledge her conviction was adjudication withheld.
Florida law allows judges to rule a felony adjudication withheld, meaning there is no admission of guilt on one’s record, however, the charge remains on one’s record.
“Frankly, I don’t care what she did 25 years ago,” Schrager said. “People are permitted to make mistakes. I think this is an unfortunate thing to come to light now but I think for this election people will have the information.”
Whitmer, the head of the more liberal faction of the state Democratic Party removed more than 200 members of the party’s central committee weeks before this weekend’s vote.
“As Democrats, we believe that the same rules should be applied to everyone without exception or partiality,” Whitmer said in a statement two weeks ago. “Our bylaws state that ‘any member who fails to submit proxy designation in advance for two regular meetings during a two-year term shall be considered to have vacated his or her membership,’ and a reminder of this requirement is included in every SCC notice. Even further, members have the option to submit a timely request for an excusal of their absence even after a missed meeting.”
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager, one of those booted, said his removal came without warning.
“We are deeply disappointed by recent events that reinforce our concerns over the past two years that Chair Whitmer is not up to the task of managing basic operations and supporting Democratic campaigns in the most competitive battleground state in the country,” Yeager said in a joint statement with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro released Feb. 14. “These controversies include an unprecedented turnover in officers and staff, attacks on our former Lieutenant Governor and the undermining of other elected officials, a purge of 40% of state central committee members this month without warning, and a complete failure to address systemic problems with electronic registration and voting at recent state party conventions and meetings – including for next month’s officer elections.”
Yeager, Cannizzaro, the state’s top elected Democrats, and all Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation have endorsed Assem. Danielle Monroe-Moreno to succeed Whitmer.
Yeager tweeted last week his central committee position was reinstated.
“Any time you are removing people, especially just before a contentious chair’s election, the process for examining someone’s eligibility ought to be absolutely transparent,” Schrager said.
A spokesperson said she would agree to an interview last week. Whitmer then sent a written statement declining to go on camera. She did not deny her criminal history and did not correct 8 News Now when asked about a felony conviction.
“As Democrats, we believe that neither poverty nor the challenges that come with it should disqualify anyone from anything,” she said. “Like millions of Americans, I found myself in an impossible situation as a young woman but I’m proud to have emerged from those circumstances and built a better life for myself, my children, and my grandchildren. That’s the promise of this country, and it’s what our party is proud to fight for.”
Whitmer continued, “I was elected by people who were tired of their voices not being heard and my focus will remain on continuing to fight for them, for a better party, and for a better Nevada for us all.”
The central committee vote for all party leadership positions was scheduled for Saturday.