Adam Cole Kucera
Adam Cole Kucera
When Adam Cole Kucera, of Mankato, Minnesota, envisioned his 2014 trip to the Black Rock Desert he may have thought of Burning Man’s costumes, art, and Festival atmosphere. Instead, his choices and Nevada law led the thirty-year-old to an eight-day trip in the back of a transport van. He spent much of the ride locked in a 3 X 3 box to protect him from the other prisoners.

Originally, Kucera faced gross misdemeanor charges stemming from his arrest on the playa three years ago — furnishing a dangerous drug without a prescription and possession of a controlled substance. But he twice failed to appear in court as scheduled. So the 11th Judicial presided over by Judge Jim Shirley, provided the transportation for his appearance on Monday.

Kucera entered the Courtroom in jail-house stripes looking no match for acquaintanceships forged in the back of transport vans. Public Defender Steve Cochran and Deputy DA Jack Bullock debated his fate. Judge Shirley heard their arguments. Lisa Brannon represented Parole and Probation (P & P).

The State was now free to argue against the plea agreement reached before Kucera’s no-shows, Cochran began. Had Kucera shown up, the Judge might have fined the Minnesotan $2,000 on each of the two counts and sent him home, poorer but still free. Now, if the Deputy DA prevailed, Kucera would spend the next couple of years in the Pershing County jail – an upward deviation from P&P’s recommendation of 120 days.

“The defendant has thumbed his nose at the system,” said Bullock. “He refused to come to Court when he was supposed to. This was not the first time we extradited him.” He asked for 364 days in jail for each count, to be served consecutively (one after the other).

Cochran pointed to the economic cost of housing his client for a lengthy period. He gestured toward the young man and said, “He has been in custody for three weeks – since February 7. Incarceration isn’t going to help him or protect the community.”

Now it was the defendant’s turn to talk.

“I was not able to be here for reasons beyond my control,” he explained before describing a car accident that left him with a banged up head, injured left hand, and paranoid thoughts. Doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia and traumatic amnesia and prescribed psychiatric meds, he said. “I’m not trying to shun responsibility. I would have been here if I could have. I’m willing to jump through any hoops to avoid further incarceration.”

When Kucera spoke about his 1, 576 mile one-way ride to Lovelock his emotions surfaced. “I could not see,” he said. “I could not lie down.” He finished by saying that he planned to start at the University of Minnesota in the Fall.

“You present a conundrum for the Court,” said Judge Shirley. “You failed to appear twice. I understand things happen, but you should have called your lawyer right away. The trauma you experienced in the transport van was your own doing. If you had contacted your attorney, he could have come to me, and you would have prevented that experience. At arraignment, I tell every defendant to stay in touch with their lawyer.”

The Judge sentenced Kucera to 364 days in the Pershing County Jail on the first count and 180 days on the second to be served consecutively. But he suspended both sentences and gave Kucera court-supervised probation to be served in Minnesota. The probation will not exceed 36 months. Also, he’ll pay for the cost of his extradition ($1,800.65), court fees, and fines ($2,500).

The Court will require Kucera to send proof of school enrollment within thirty days, submit to urinalysis twice a week, refrain from alcohol and controlled substances, and sign a release of information to prove he is getting mental health counseling.

“If you violate any laws you are subject to arrest and can be brought back here,” the Judge said to the visibly relieved defendant.