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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

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:

Vegas Judge should be sanctioned
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
June 16, 2003
  "Judge Bonaventure" autograph                  Judge signing paperback                     Rick Tabish and Sandra Murphy
Clark County (Las Vegas) District Court Judge Joseph Bonaventure, on August 11, 2001, may have violated Canon 5 of the Nevada Code of Judicial Ethics: "not maintaining the dignity appropriate to judicial office." He may have also violated Cannon 2 that states: "A judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the judge's activities. A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

Judge Bonaventure, the judge currently presiding over the appeals of Sandra Murphy and Richard Tabish, attended an August 11, 2001, book signing at the Horseshoe Casino. While there, the judge, then-prosecutors David Roger and David Wall, and even the judge's law clerk, Joe Lasso, autographed dozens of the books entitled "Murder in Sin City," a paperback telling one side of the story of the mysterious death of former Horseshoe owner Lonnie "Ted" Binion. Murphy and Tabish were convicted of first degree murder, but after additional evidence surfaced are now appealing their convictions.

A statement printed on page 284 of the book gives emphasis to the reason Judge Bonaventure should have voluntarily removed himself from this case.

At a time when the Defendants in a case under the jurisdiction of Judge Bonaventure are actively seeking an appeal before the Nevada Supreme Court, and knowing the possibility of the Nevada Supreme Court remanding the case back to his court for further judicial review, Judge Bonaventure should have been acutely aware that it would be totally improper for him to participate in the promotion of a book about the case. Therefore, Judge Bonaventure, his law clerk, and the prosecutors should have absolutely refused to accept the invitation to appear at the promotional gathering, and especially should have refused to participate in the undignified act of personally autographing and subsequently promoting the sale of a book that demonizes through the alleged description of illicit sexual acts the defendants in a case that is still active in his court.

The following statement is contained in the book that the Judge, prosecutors, and law clerk autographed:

"But the most enjoyable privilege might have been having sex with Murphy right under the noses of the guards. At one session, while the lawyers and other defense team members were talking with the two defendants, Murphy was observed slipping to her knees under the table and giving oral sex to Tabish. Defense team members could hardly believe their eyes as other team members continued the discussion as if nothing unusual was happening. The corrections officers, sitting outside the boardroom, apparently never saw Murphy disappear under the table."

Following the "Autograph party," a spokesperson for the judge said his participation in the book signing was an unplanned coincidence and that he (along with Roger, Wall, and Lasso) were just passing through the casino when the judge was stopped and asked to sign a few books.

Before the judge arrived, Becky Behnen, the producer of the event, was heard making statements to the effect that the judge was expected "at any minute."  Therefore it is obvious that the judge's presence was premeditated and far from "accidental" as his representative disingenuously claimed in media interviews.

According to the defense attorneys who were present at the time of the alleged sexual incident, the described incident did not occur and the book's description of the incident was blatantly untrue and totally fictitious. It is ludicrous to believe that officers of the court would tolerate such an act to occur in their presence especially when police officers were standing by just outside the door of the conference room.

Judge Bonaventure should have avoided being a party to promoting and publicizing the sale of what has been described as the "Fellatio Book," a book that is totally designed to degrade and demonize litigant he still has jurisdiction over.  His action showed a clear bias in an ongoing case before his court.

Even if Judge Bonaventure claims that he was not aware of the illicit sexual act described on page 284 of  the paperback, as a long-time member of the judiciary he should have done his due diligence and reviewed the entire content before adding his autograph to dozens of copies thereby endorsing the veracity of the book's contents at a promotional event in a casino owned by the sister of the man the defendants are accused of killing. This, while these same defendants are appealing their conviction before the Nevada Supreme Court and pleading to have a new trial scheduled in Judge Bonaventure's court.

Furthermore, he should have avoided using his official title, "Judge Bonaventure," as his autograph.

The judge's action had the appearance of impropriety and did nothing to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.  Judge Joseph T. Bonaventure should be severely sanctioned for his careless public action that brought disesteem upon the Nevada judiciary.

Copyright © Steve Miller

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