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Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Ghost writer's conviction reversed by Ninth Circuit Court
of Appeals.   Rick Rizzolo “raises the specter of the
debtor’s prison this country long ago outlawed.”
Rizzolo's appeal scheduled for March 19

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 20, 2012

In 2009, convicted racketeer Rick Rizzolo played a trick on the United States Federal Court by pretending to be his own attorney and professing to personally author over a dozen court documents that successfully stalled beating victim Kirk Henry's lawsuit for over a year.

Rizzolo's antics cost Henry and the U.S. Attorney tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees responding to bogus documents.

To perpetrate the fraud, Rizzolo engaged the services of jail house lawyer James "Spud" Kimsey who secretly authored the documents Rizzolo signed.

Instead of going after Rizzolo for signing his name to the documents, prosecutors went after “Spud” Kimsey for allegedly practicing law without a license — and now are paying an embarrassing price for doing so.

Following a bench trial in August 2010, U.S. District Judge Philip Pro found Kimsey guilty of criminal contempt and ordered him to spend three years on probation and perform 150 hours of community service. Judge Pro's errors? Not allowing the case to be tried before a jury as Kimsey requested, and convicting him under the wrong rules -- rules that apply only to real attorneys.

Spud's case sparked the interest of United States Public Defender Franny Forsman. At taxpayer expense, the veteran defense attorney appealed, and on February 8, 2012, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Forsman's pleadings and overturned Kimsey's criminal contempt conviction.  UNITED STATES v. KIMSEY now sets a dangerous legal precedent, inferring that almost anyone with minimal legal experience can practice law without a license and ghost write and file court documents on another's behalf, as long as they don't claim to be a licensed attorney.

However, in this case, the court overlooked the fact that Rizzolo fraudulently signed most of the ghostwriter's documents as his own!

In December 2009, I wrote that the government prosecuted the wrong person for Contempt.  Instead of prosecuting Kimsey, I opined that RIzzolo should have faced additional charges for knowingly allowing a non-lawyer to file bogus court filings including a motion asking that Kirk Henry’s attorneys be disqualified; subpoenas commanding Henry’s attorney appear for a deposition at one in the morning; one commanding a Federal Magistrate Judge to testify; and another subpoena commanding Steve Miller to testify. All were dismissed, but their filing added months to Henry's case.

One of the first and most disturbing motions Kimsey authored bearing Rizzolo's signature stated: "Court submissions by pro se litigants' are to be construed liberally and held to less stringent standards than the submissions of the lawyers in opposition, being provided wide latitude, including but not limited to, unfamiliarity with rule requirements."

Here Rizzolo informs the court that as a pro se litigant, he is entitled to special privileges not afforded licensed attorneys. He then proceeded to take full advantage of the court's leniency without being held liable for his actions.

Even though Kimsey caused havoc on Rizzolo's behalf, I believe the government pursued the easiest target; an ex-con, outlaw biker/paralegal who’s kept his nose clean for the past fourteen years. The government let the real culprit get off, and its mistake let Rizzolo make a mockery of the federal court.

Now the government has egg on its face, and many hope its error of going after the wrong man is not a harbinger of further rulings by the Ninth Circuit Court in cases involving Rick Rizzolo.

Here are excerpts from the embarrassing Ninth Circuit Court OPINION:

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada
Philip M. Pro, District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted
August 31, 2011—San Francisco, California
Filed February 8, 2012
Before: Marsha S. Berzon and Jay S. Bybee, Circuit Judges, and James L. Graham, Senior District Judge.*
Opinion by Judge Berzon

James Edward Kimsey (“Kimsey”) has in the past engaged in the unauthorized practice of law as well as other dishonest activities involving the legal system. Alluding to his recent exploits, the government characterized Kimsey as a charlatan. Whether that is so or not, our legal system does not punish people simply because they have been proven unscrupulous in the past and are continuing to engage in dubious activities (emphasis added).

Here, the government may have proven that Kimsey is, if not the Devil, no saint. But it has failed to persuade us that Kimsey was in criminal contempt under the applicable federal statute.

Kimsey now appeals his conviction on four grounds, contending that: (1) he was denied his statutory right to a jury trial; (2) he could not be prosecuted for criminal contempt under 18 U.S.C. § 402 on the basis that he did not comply with Local Rules 10-1 and 10-2; (3) § 7.285 is unconstitutionally vague as applied to him; and (4) he did not violate § 7.285. We reverse Kimsey’s conviction based on the first two points and so do not reach the latter two.

A. “Ghostwriting”
In 2008, Frederick Rizzolo (“Rizzolo”) became embroiled in a contentious, scorched-earth lawsuit, in which eighteen lawyers bombarded each other and the district court with over 500 pleadings. Plaintiffs Kirk and Amy Henry (“the Henrys”) initiated the suit after Kirk’s fateful visit to Rizzolo’s Crazy Horse Too “gentleman’s club” in Las Vegas, where Kirk was attacked so ferociously that he became a quadriplegic. The Henrys sued Rizzolo and others for damages, and sought attachment of assets that Rizzolo and his wife had allegedly concealed through a collusive divorce and through various cash transactions with third parties, involving millions of dollars.

On January 22, 2009, Rizzolo’s attorneys withdrew from representing him. From then until October 6, 2009, Rizzolo proceeded without an attorney. During that period, Rizzolo initially filed documents that bore the stamp of a pro se litigant.

Those documents, styled as filed by “Frederick J. Rizzolo, Pro Se,” sought, among other things, stays of discovery, dismissal, summary judgment, and disqualification of the Henrys’ attorney. A number of the filings raised legal arguments and cited precedent.

At the same time, the evidence also indicated that Kimsey had provided Rizzolo with legal assistance so substantial as to mimic those an attorney would offer.

Concluding, based on these findings, that Kimsey had engaged in unauthorized practice of law on behalf of Rizzolo, the magistrate ordered Rizzolo to cease using Kimsey’s services and struck the eight documents Kimsey had prepared.

In the case before us, Kimsey was convicted of criminal contempt of court in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 402. The contemptuous act for which the district judge convicted Kimsey, who is not a lawyer, was the “ghostwriting” of eight pleadings for a pro se litigant in a civil lawsuit.

Kimsey argues that Rules 10-1 and 10-2 apply only to attorneys and therefore do not apply to him, because he is not a lawyer.

Kimsey could not be convicted under that provision even if he violated the local rules.

For the foregoing reasons, we reverse Kimsey’s conviction.



Is Rick Rizzolo in "Debtor's Prison?"

In his latest 16 page REPLY BRIEF filed on Feb. 13, Rick Rizzolo once again claims he owes beating victim Kirk Henry nothing, and asks the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn his nine month prison sentence (currently serving in Taft Federal Prison) and two year extension of parole for violating the conditions of his supervised release.

In Rizzolo's Reply Brief, attorney Dominic Gentile argues:

"Further, Appellant Rizzolo continues to maintain that under the express terms of the binding plea agreement in this case, Mr. Rizzolo was not even obligated to pay restitution to the Henrys in the first place and that that commitment was binding solely upon the Power Company, Inc. – an independent person both in contemplation of law and under the terms of the plea agreements in this case. And the government’s repeated characterization of that corporation as 'closely held' does nothing to change that fact."

Missing from Gentile's Reply Brief is the following page from Rizzolo's signed binding plea agreement stating that his obligation to pay Henry $9 million is not contingent upon the realization of sufficient proceeds from the sale of the Crazy Horse Too:

In addition to claiming to owe Henry nothing, Rizzolo is asking the Ninth Circuit Court to reverse the lower court for allowing attorneys for Henry to testify at the sentencing hearing characterizing Rizzolo as a “gangster” and a “professional criminal” hell-bent on “cheating the squares,” and for influencing the court to jail him in "debtor's prison."

Gentile chastises the lower court for allegedly: "...allowing counsel for a civil creditor in an unrelated case to whom a criminal defendant has not in fact been ordered to pay criminal restitution to harangue the court in a vociferous effort to see to it that the latter is jailed for non-payment of that civil debt for the express purpose of coercing him to do so by and through the pain of physical confinement 'raises the specter of the debtor’s prison this country long ago outlawed.'”

Rizzolo ( photo by Mike Christ) also brings back the old argument that the government should have run his strip club in order to preserve its (highly inflated) value.

"...absent the negligence; indeed, deliberate indifference, demonstrated during the government’s receivership of the Crazy Horse Too – therefore a multi-million dollar enterprise – as a direct and un-attenuated result of which slipshod stewardship this very valuable asset was allowed to waste into worthlessness, a proper sale of the club would have netted sufficient proceeds to very easily and timely compensate the Henrys as anticipated by all concerned, with change left over," as stated in Rizzolo's latest Response.

Not mentioned is the fact that no legitimate buyer came forward to purchase the club, only persons associated with Rizzolo who feigned interest during the years the club was on the market, and none of the purported buyers proved to have any funding.

At the end of Rizzolo's Response, he states that the district court “forgot about” the initial one million dollar payment he made to the Henrys. Not mentioned is the fact that the payment was made by Farmer's Insurance Company from the Crazy Horse Too's umbrella insurance policy, and not one cent came from the Rizzolo's personal fortune hidden in the Cook Islands to avoid seizure by Henry or the IRS.

Based on the surprise decision in the Kimsey case, I consulted a veteran criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the Federal Court system. He told INSIDE VEGAS; "The Kimsey appeal was based on opinion -- the opinion that he was not trying to pass himself off as a real attorney. The Rizzolo appeal is based on irrefutable facts. He clearly violated the conditions of his parole by not reporting millions of dollars of income."

The Ninth Circuit Court is scheduled on March 19, 2012 to hear Rizzolo's appeal of his additional nine month prison sentence and two year parole extension.

The Government's Jan. 26, 2012, response to Rizzolo's APPEAL:

Rizzolo's Feb. 13, 2012, REPLY to the Government's Response:


* If you would like to receive Steve's frequent E-Briefs about Las Vegas' scandals, click here: Steve Miller's Las Vegas E-Briefs

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