by Andrew Kerr
- Nevada Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Sisolak’s campaign image as a single father raising two successful daughters is a lie, according to his ex-wife, Dallas Garland.
- She said Sisolak treated her like “a total prisoner” throughout their 13-year marriage and that he drove a wedge between her and her children.
- Garland said she was left with a bruised neck after an altercation with Sisolak after she filed for divorce in 2000, according to pictures and a contemporaneous diary entry.
- Sisolak’s two children dispute Garland’s account in a sworn statement, saying Garland, not Sisolak, was the aggressor.
Nevada Democrat Steve Sisolak has framed his gubernatorial campaign on an image of him raising his two daughters as a single father. But his ex-wife said that claim is “bull,” that he treated her like “a total prisoner,” and that an altercation with Sisolak in 2000 left her with a bruised neck.
Sisolak, who has been at the center of Las Vegas politics for the past decade as a Clark County commissioner, has leveraged his backstory to earn the endorsement of high-profile Democrats like former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, both of whom cited Sisolak’s experience as a single father.
Sisolak’s two daughters, Ashley, 29, and Carley, 27, have been featured throughout his gubernatorial campaign. The two have appeared in two campaign ads with their father, both of which create the impression that Sisolak raised them as a single father.
But Sisolak’s ex-wife, Lori Ann ‘Dallas’ Garland, says her ex-husband is not being truthful.
“He claims he raised those daughters by himself. That’s bull,” Garland, whose legal last name is still Sisolak, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “He did that on purpose. He didn’t raise our daughters by himself. They have a mom.”
Garland and Sisolak shared joint legal custody of their two daughters after their divorce in 2000, according to court documents reviewed by TheDCNF. Garland said it has been 10 years since she has seen either of her children, but said that she had an active role in her children’s lives until they had both had graduated high school.
TheDCNF spoke with Garland and four of her longtime friends who said they observed Sisolak making an effort to drive a wedge between Garland and her children after their divorce. All four friends spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation against themselves or their family members from Sisolak, the chairman of the Clark County Commission.
“The county commissioners in this town are very powerful,” explained one of Garland’s friends who requested to stay anonymous. “It’s alarming how much power they have and what they can do. Steve has a lot of supporters in this town, and I certainly don’t want a target on my back. I want to stand up for my friend, however I still have to live here.”
Garland also detailed an August 2000 incident that she says left a bruise on her neck and ended with Sisolak threatening to call the police. TheDCNF obtained photographs of Garland’s bruised neck taken the day after the incident and spoke with three individuals who recalled seeing her bruised neck.
Sisolak’s daughters, who were children at the time of the altercation, recently denied that Sisolak was the aggressor and put the blame on Garland.
Garland said she believes Sisolak has harbored vindictiveness against her for nearly 20 years because she “broke his political picture” when she filed for divorce.
“He said, ‘you’re going to get your divorce, but you are never, ever going to get one dime of my money, or my children,’” Garland said. “And he meant it.”
‘It’s like she’s dead’
“I was raising you on my own,” Sisolak said in a campaign ad with his daughters after touting his sub-par cooking abilities.
“Hey, you try raising your kids as a single father,” Sisolak said in another campaign ad with his daughters where he recalled taking his kids to Planned Parenthood so they could get “answers to questions daughters just don’t ask their dad.”
But Garland said she played an active role in her daughters’ lives until they had both graduated high school, and while it has been 10 years since she has seen them, she has stayed in the Las Vegas area away from her family on the East Coast in the hope she can rekindle her relationship with her daughters.
“I text them every birthday, every holiday,” Garland said. “Still do it. Nothing in return.”
“I came to this realization I may never see them again. If I don’t, then that’s OK. Because that means they’re more like him then they are like me, and I wouldn’t be able to handle that.”
Sisolak’s campaign said the gubernatorial candidate received full custody of his children in 2003, but did not provide supporting documentation. The court documents TheDCNF reviewed showed the couple shared joint custody.
TheDCNF spoke with four longtime friends of Garland who spent time with her and her two daughters following her divorce from Sisolak. They were afraid to speak publicly out of fear that Sisolak would use his political position to retaliate.
“He’s very vindictive, and very revengeful. And I don’t trust him. And I’m scared of him,” Garland said of her ex-husband, who is in a tight gubernatorial race with his opponent, Republican Adam Laxalt.
“They were under so much pressure to hate their mother that they couldn’t really show any excitement or love for her because of the ridicule and shame and anger they would face by their father,” one friend said.
“He made it impossible for those girls to ever have a relationship with their mom,” the friend added. “It’s almost like he’s proud of it. In his political ads it makes it seem like they never had a mother. It’s a lie. You guys have a mother, for him to put his girls on there and brag about the fact they went to Planned Parenthood — I don’t give him kudos of that.”
Another friend said, “Those ads are so weird. It’s almost like Dallas has never been there. It’s like she’s dead.”
A third friend told TheDCNF: “I thought he was a complete control freak. There was something wrong with him not wanting his children to have a relationship with their own mother.”
“They had a good time,” the friend added. “The kids had a good time. There was no forcing them to stay there. They would cook together, play games and do regular stuff.”
Sisolak’s political ads “make me sick,” a fourth friend told TheDCNF. “He acts like hes a single man, and I tell people he’s not a widower. She raised those children too. But people don’t know that. It’s such a misleading ad.”
“People are waiting for this story to drop,” the friend added. “People know he has a wife and helped raise his kids. How come nothing bad has come out? I just think everyone is a little afraid to speak up. So it’s about time. It is about time.”
The Sisolak campaign firmly stated that Garland bears sole responsibility for being alienated from her children based on assessments made by her children’s psychologist, Dr. Louis Mortillaro. The psychologist was assigned to the children by the judge who presided over Garland and Sisolak’s divorce, Judge Steven Jones.
Jones finished serving a two-year prison sentence in 2017 for using his position to further an investment fraud scheme that tricked victims into investing millions in projects that never saw returns. Jones was found guilty of using his position as a judge to help persuade victims to invest in projects.
Mortillaro filed a letter to Jones in June 2003 in which he stated Garland “terminated individual and conjoint counseling with her two daughters” in June 2001 and that her children “fear[ed] that [Dallas] will both emotionally and physically abuse them.”
Mortillaro’s assessment of Garland was a critical factor in Jones awarding Sisolak full custody of his daughters in 2003, according to the Sisolak campaign.
But Garland said she did attend regular counseling sessions with Mortillaro throughout that time frame. She provided bank statements showing bounced checks related to her visits with Mortillaro on four occasions in 2002. She also provided invoices for eight “individual psychotherapy” sessions between November 2003 and August 2004.
Mortillaro died on Sunday.
‘I was like a total prisoner’
Garland said Sisolak became “very controlling” over her life shortly after their marriage in 1987 following a two-year courtship.
“I had to be home by a certain time. I had time limits to do everything. I couldn’t go out with my friends anymore,” she said. “I was like a total prisoner.”
A longtime personal friend of Garland, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation by Sisolak, said Garland became increasingly “isolated” as her relationship with Sisolak progressed.
The friend recalled one incident in particular where Sisolak made clear that Garland could only be visited at his home.
“He more or less just let me know that was the place I would be visiting my friend and not to expect really anything else,” her friend said. “The closer they became, the more isolated she became.”
Despite her misgivings, Garland said she tried her best to salvage her marriage with Sisolak for the sake of her two daughters, Ashley and Carley, who were born in 1988 and 1991, respectively. But Garland said she came to realize during a marriage counseling session in the mid-1990s that her husband viewed her as nothing more than an incubator for his children.
“Steve was never in love with me,” Garland said. “He picked me to have his children. He didn’t deny it either to me. Not even to my face. I was a surrogate but I didn’t know it.”
Garland said she reached her breaking point after 13 years of marriage. She filed for divorce in January 2000 to break away from Sisolak, who she said responded by doing everything within his power to alienate her from her daughters.
“I tried to never have a confrontation with him in front of the kids,” she said. “He always made it in front of the kids. He manipulated those kids into thinking I did all kinds of crazy shit.”
‘Steve would have went to jail’
Garland detailed an incident in August 2000 in which she says Sisolak threatened to call the police on her after he allegedly left her with a bruise on her neck.
Garland provided The Daily Caller News Foundation with pictures she said her lawyer took of her bruised neck, along with entries of her contemporaneous diary detailing the altercation. Three of Garland’s longtime friends told TheDCNF they personally saw her bruised neck after the incident.
The altercation occurred on Aug. 24, 2000, the day after she moved out of their marital home, according to an entry in her contemporaneous diary, which was reviewed by TheDCNF.
Garland wrote in the entry that she returned to the house that evening after picking up her two daughters from the local community center to retrieve her make-up, which she had forgotten to pack the day before.
Garland wrote that she tried to follow her kids as they entered the house through the garage, but Sisolak blocked her at the door. Garland tried to push her way past Sisolak after he told her to provide a list to his lawyers of the things she wanted to collect, the diary entry read.
Garland told TheDCNF there was no court order at the time that prevented her from entering her house.
“I tried to push the door open. I told him I’m not leaving without my makeup, it’s not like I was going to do anything else, I just wanted my makeup,” she said. “He was trying to shut the door. He had his arm out and had it up against my neck pushing me and trying to shut the door.”
Garland said she and Sisolak pushed against each at the door for a few moments until, she charges, her ex-husband suddenly “stumbled back on purpose and fell on the floor,” allegedly claiming to be injured while yelling at their daughter, Carley, that she had to stay away from her “dangerous” mother.
“Our daughter, Carley, was crying hysterically, yelling, ‘Daddy, please just let Mommy have her makeup,’” Garland said.
Garland said she walked over her ex-husband, who she said was groveling, grabbed her makeup from the bedroom and left the house without any further incident.
Garland wrote in her diary that her two daughters begged her not to get their father in trouble by telling their court-ordered psychologist about the incident.
“When I got back to the garage I told Carley I was sorry & that I wouldn’t get her dad in trouble,” the diary entry reads. “I told Steve I was sorry too.”
Garland denies ever forcing Sisolak onto the ground. She claims his fall was nothing more than a theatrical ploy to make her look bad in front of their child. Garland said Sisolak was 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds at the time of the incident, over double the weight of Garland, who was about 100 pounds.
“I think what Steve was trying to get me supervised visitation. He was trying to say there was domestic violence — that I hit him,” Garland said.
Garland said she learned through her lawyer the following day that Sisolak was threatening to call the police on her. She said the threats stopped after she had her lawyer send Sisolak a picture of the bruise on the right side of her neck.
“Steve would have went to jail, because he didn’t have a mark on him,” Garland said.
TheDCNF contacted the attorney Garland said took a picture of her bruised neck, Jon Norheim, who declined to say if he recalled taking the photo.
“I’m sure that whatever happened in her life was incredibly important and memorable to her and she would have a really good memory of it, but I did a lot of cases and they were all similar, and my recollection of 18 to 20 years ago is pretty poor,” Norheim told TheDCNF.
The Sisolak campaign did not deny that a physical altercation occurred between Garland and Sisolak in August 2000. The campaign provided sworn statements from Sisolak’s daughters signed Oct. 17, 2018, that, put together, share similarities with the account of the altercation detailed in Garland’s diary, with one key difference — that it was Garland who had injured their father.
The sworn statements of Ashley and Carley Sisolak — who were, respectively, 13 and 10 at the time — detailed a physical altercation that occurred on August 24, 2000, nearly 20 years prior, at 7 p.m. when Garland arrived at their home to retrieve her makeup before Sisolak stopped her at the garage door, just as described in Garland’s diary.
The daughters’ sworn statements differ in that they say it was Garland who was the aggressor against Sisolak. Ashley said Garland “battered” her father, who she said slipped on a rug and fell to the ground after Garland pushed him.
Garland said there couldn’t have been a rug near the garage door for Sisolak to slip on.
“You couldn’t put one there because if you did you couldn’t open the door,” she said. “Believe me, I tried. I lived in that house. There was no way to put a rug in that room.”
Garland said Sisolak wore a neck brace in public for weeks after the alleged assault, while she tried to stay silent about the alleged incident.
TheDCNF spoke with three longtime friends of Garland who saw her bruised neck in the days after the incident.
“There was a nasty bruise on her neck,” one friend said. “She didn’t talk about it. She didn’t say anything. I saw it.”
“And Steve wore a neck brace for six weeks, which, I’m not going to lie, we thought was hysterical,” the friend added. “It was just so farcical that you had a hard time taking it seriously.”
“The guy is huge,” another friend remarked. “If he’s claiming that Dallas, at barely five feet, can do anything to harm his physical body is ridiculous. The difference in those two in their stature is night and day.”
None of the three friends who personally saw Garland’s bruised neck were willing to speak publicly out of fear for their careers or the careers of their family members if they spoke out against Sisolak due to his current position as chairman of the Clark County Commission.
Garland said the bruise on her neck healed after about a week and added that she doesn’t believe the assault has damaged her psychologically. But Garland said being isolated from her children has had a lasting impact.
“Bruises and stuff, that’s no big deal,” Garland said. “That incident was nothing compared to what I lived through without my kids.”
“He’s taken the most important thing in my life, and that was my daughters. I can’t get back that time,” she added.
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