'Swift Justice' no end to woman's legal woes (with video)

Civil settlement doesn't vindicate mother of accusations she stole blind son's debit card

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

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Hazel E. Trent of Vancouver thought her legal troubles were over when a celebrity judge ordered her in an episode of CBS' "Swift Justice with Jackie Glass" to pay her blind son $5,000 for allegedly stealing his debit card and spending his money without his permission.

The binding arbitration on the reality court show resulted from a civil suit her son, Michael Trent, had filed Sept. 28, 2011, in Clark County District Court.

During filming on Dec. 8, 2011, a disgusted Jackie Glass gave her "verdict," telling Trent: "You did this, and shame on you, taking advantage of a blind man. You're lucky you haven't been locked up by authorities, because that's actually what you deserve."

Trent silently listened to the ruling, looking at the judge with a hurt expression, while Trent's cream-colored service Chihuahua, Max, slept peacefully by her side on a podium.

Glass' prophetic words almost reached fruition on Tuesday. Trent wasn't locked up, but Clark County authorities decided it was time she faced criminal charges. Last month, the sheriff's department wrapped up a criminal investigation of the accusations against her. She was summoned Tuesday to appear before Clark County Superior Court Judge John Nichols on suspicion of second-degree identity theft and second-degree possession of stolen property.

"I already went to court on this with Jackie Glass," Trent protested.

"That was a civil matter," Nichols replied.

Nichols appointed Vancouver attorney Barry Brandenburg to defend Trent and scheduled her arraignment for May 28. She has to return today to the sheriff's department to be booked into jail and then released on her own recognizance.

Max, dressed in the same powder blue service vest he wore on "Swift Justice," appeared with Trent on Tuesday in court. She told Nichols that he is "a spoiled service dog." The dog stayed awake for this proceeding and even elicited some smiles from amused attorneys assembled in the courtroom for a long docket.

Later, she said she needs Max because she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which can interfere with her breathing, as well as rheumatoid arthritis. The dog alerts others if she has breathing problems.

She said she was "totally surprised" by the criminal summons because she thought the dispute was resolved. She declined to discuss her guilt or innocence because she wanted to meet with her attorney first.

"I'm getting a lawyer to fight this," she said.

Michael Trent reported the alleged crimes to the sheriff's department in November 2011. Clark County sheriff's Detective Thomas Mitchum said he launched an investigation at that time, but other pressing cases delayed referral of the case to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Trent had been staying at her son's apartment on and off at the time of the alleged crimes, according to a probable cause affidavit. He said she stole his debit card from his bedroom during one of her stays. She made 16 debit withdrawals, totaling $1,374.74, in both Vancouver and Portland, court documents say.

Trent said she and her son agreed to resolve the civil case on "Swift Justice" because they would get to go to Los Angeles for the show. She said her son had never been on a plane before, and he wanted to have the experience. Michael Trent, 33, now of Centralia, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

In the episode that aired Feb. 2, 2012, Glass said she awarded Michael Trent the maximum amount she was allowed, "which won't make you whole."

In her "Final Thoughts" segment at the end of the episode, the judge appeared furious.

"Shame, shame on a mother taking advantage of her son, especially if he's blind," she seethed.

Glass, a judge from Clark County, Nev., is known for sentencing O.J. Simpson in 2008 to 33 years in prison for an armed robbery.

"Swift Justice with Jackie Glass" was discontinued on April 25, 2012.

Paris Achen: 360-735-4551; http://twitter.com/Col_Courts;http://facebook.com/ColTrends; paris.achen@columbian.com