INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
February 24, 2003
Judge Joseph Bonaventure autographs book about
a case that's still active in his court
Rick Tabish and Sandra Murphy
Las Vegas Judge Joseph Bonaventure 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 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 in downtown Vegas. While there, the Judge, Prosecutors
David Roger and David Wall, and even the Judge's law clerk Joe Lasso, happily
autographed dozens of books entitled "Murder in Sin City," a paperback
telling one side of the story of the death of former Horseshoe owner Lonnie
"Ted" Binion - a side that heavily favored the current owners of the Horseshoe.
At a time when the Defendants in a case under his jurisdiction are actively
seeking an appeal before the Nevada Supreme Court, and knowing the possibility
that the Court will remand 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, he, his Law Clerk, and the Prosecutors should have
absolutely refused to accept an 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 on page 284 of the book that the
Judge, Prosecutors, and Law Clerk willfully 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" where the judge signed "Judge Bonaventure"
to dozens of books, a spokesperson said his participation was an unplanned
coincidence. According to the spoksperson, the Judge along with Roger,
Wall, and Lasso were just passing through the casino when the Judge was
stopped and asked to sign a few books. It must also have been a "coincidence"
that both Roger and Wall were planning to run for higher office and that
the Horseshoe is a well known political campaign contributor. In November
2002, David Roger was elected District Attorney, and David Wall was elected
District Court Judge.
Before the Judge arrived, Becky Behnen the producer of the event was
heard saying the Judge was expected "at any minute." Therefore it
was obvious that the Judge's presence was premeditated and far from "accidental"
as his representative disingenuously claimed in media interviews.
Becky Behnen, the estranged sister of the late Ted Binion, currently
owns the Horseshoe. The relationship between the Binion siblings was strained
and bitter prior to Ted's untimely death that was initially diagnosed to
be the result of a lethal overdose of narcotics.
In 1996, Binion was forced to forfeit his interest in the Horseshoe
Club by the Nevada Gaming Commission because of his involvement with drugs
and underworld figures. It also bears mentioning that in a 1997 police
report, Ted Binion accused Becky's son Benny
Behnen of a drive-by shooting
at his former Palomino Lane estate. Benny was the subject of an IRS lien
that was filed on January 30, 2003.
Following Binion's funeral, Becky Behnen encouraged District Attorney
Stewart Bell to disregard the coroner's report and open a murder investigation
that later resulted in the convictions of Sandra Murphy and Richard Tabish
for first degree murder. Following the nationally televised trial, Bell
was elected District Court Judge.
Had Murphy who was Binion's live-in girlfriend not been convicted of
his murder, she would have inherited a large portion of Binion's multimillion-dollar
estate including his mansion where it was suspected that he had buried
treasure. Because of her conviction, Binion's entire fortune went to his
Regarding the alleged sexual incident between Murphy and Tabish, according
to the Defense attorneys who were present at the conference where the episode
allegedly occurred, the book's description was blatantly untrue and totally
fictitious - something added at the last minute to promote sales of an
otherwise bland book. It is also ludicrous to say that attorneys would
tolerate such an act occuring in their presence especially when police
officers were standing by just outside the door of the conference room.
Judge Bonaventure should have avoided promoting and publicizing what
became known as the "Fellatio book," a book that demonized litigants currently
in his court. His book signing action showed a clear bias in an ongoing
case, but the local media took little interest - as usual.
Even if Judge Bonaventure claims that he was not aware of the sexual
act described on page 284, as a long-time member of the judiciary he should
have done his due diligence and reviewed the content before adding his
autograph thereby endorsing the book's veracity. Furthermore, he did this
at a promotional event held in a casino owned by the sister of the man
the Defendants are accused of killing, while the same Defendants are appealing
their conviction and may be granted a new trial in his court.
Murphy and Tabish are basing their appeals on purported judicial and
jury misconduct, and a recently disclosed FBI affidavit telling of a 1999
federal wiretap possibly implicating others including Binion family members
in the casino owner's death.
Also of interest was that immediately following the trial, the majority
of the jury members were seen at the Horseshoe having dinner with the Behnen
family who had paid
several witnesses up to $20,000 each to testify.
An attendee at the Horseshoe book signing described Becky Behnen and
Judge Bonaventure's actions: "I was the second one in line and when Becky
(Behnen) arrived, she said 'Is the judge here yet?' and when he did arrive,
he was halfway to the door when he was overcome by autograph seekers. He
stayed for approximately 15 minutes outside the room until Becky said the
autograph party was about to start, then he came in and just stood around.
The book's author had thanked the judge for coming but the judge didn't
sit down with him. The author said he saved him a book, but the judge said
'no thanks.' Becky Behnen signed my copy after the judge signed."
Another book about the case, "Death in the Desert" by Cathy
Scott, is considered to be objective and not favoring either the prosecution
or the defense. Nonetheless, Judge Bonaventure did not "coincidentally"
appear at the book signing party held for Ms. Scott.
According to Canon 2, "A judge shall act at all times in a manner that
promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
By his actions, Las Vegas Judge Joseph Bonaventure is thumbing his nose
at the Judicial Canons.
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com