At one point this year, Patricia Vincent faced up to 20 years in prison for hiring a company to chop down trees on national forest land next to her home to improve her view of Lake Tahoe. Instead, she ended up serving about 4 minutes of probation.
``This case is unique, no matter how you cut it,'' Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Rachow said at Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
In fairness, Vincent, 57, of Incline Village, also performed more than 80 hours of community service and paid $100,000 in restitution as part of a deal in which she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully cutting trees on U.S. land.
The short probation period was a legal technicality resulting from the fact that she had already paid the restitution and completed the community service by the time she arrived in federal court for sentencing in Reno. The plea deal dictated that upon completion of those requirements, the probation would be suspended.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Sandoval questioned why it was even necessary to include the probation as part of the sentence.
``It is unusual to request to put on probation then take it off. It would be the fastest probation I have ever imposed,'' he told Rachow and Vincent's defense lawyer, Scott Freeman.
But Rachow said that it was necessary to have a record of the probation if for some reason there developed problems with verifying completion of the community service.
So Sandoval reluctantly acquiesced.