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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:

The Weak Link
Clark County DA David Roger 

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
June 7, 2010

LAS VEGAS - It's 108 degrees on the Las Vegas Strip, and a half dozen men and one pregnant woman stand in a line in front of the Holiday Casino handing out fliers written in a language they probably cannot read or understand.

The group wear orange T-shirts with the words "GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS" printed on the front and back. The fliers they shove at passersby have a photo of a scantily clad female with a phone number printed underneath. The sidewalk and gutter nearby are littered with discarded fliers blowing in the hot desert wind.

As the handbillers indiscriminately shove their fliers at men, women, and sometimes couples with children, several mobil billboards slowly pass by on the four lane boulevard. Their message boldly states "Hot Babes Direct To You 24 Hours, 7 Days. Girls That Want To Meet You."

This goes on each day and night in the new Las Vegas where our slogan is "What Happens Here, Stays Here," and two mob museums are slated to open in 2011. Meanwhile, the June 3, 2010 Las Vegas Review-Journal headline sadly proclaimed; "Officials:  Businesses not sold on Nevada," this, while our local unemployment hovers around 14.2%.

RJ Capitol Bureau reporter Ed Vogel wrote; "Too many business owners think about Nevada only as a place to gamble, not as a place where they could relocate their businesses, two economic development officials told legislators Wednesday."

 Las Vegas SUN photo by Leila Navidi from the story: "County takes aim, again, at Strip handbillers"

No wonder businesses are not sold on Nevada, and our unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation!  Parts of the Strip are beginning to resemble Avenida Revolución in Tijuana!

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution is quite clear when it comes to the kind of messages that can be disseminated on public sidewalks and streets.

Our right to use public sidewalks to disseminate religious or political information is sacrosanct, as long as we do not litter, or cause obstruction to passersby.

What is going on currently in our town is far from protected speech and deserves to be tested in our state's and nation's highest courts, but the one person who can stop this scourge overnight has consistently turned his back -- Clark County District Attorney David Roger.

Several attempts have been made by Las Vegas Metropolitan Police to arrest the mostly illegal alien handbillers for various crimes including obstructing pedestrian traffic and littering, but the LVMPD Requests for Prosecution never make it past Roger's desk. The DA steadfastly proclaims that the handbillers are protected by the First Amendment. He's so wrong! And his insistence keeps this case from being properly tested in Federal Court.

According to Wikipedia:

"Commercial speech is speech done on behalf of a company or individual for the purpose of making a profit. Unlike political speech, the Supreme Court does not afford commercial speech full protection under the First Amendment. To effectively distinguish commercial speech from other types of speech for purposes of litigation, the Supreme Court uses a list of four indicia:[39]

The contents do no more than propose a commercial transaction.
The contents may be characterized as advertisements.
The contents reference a specific product.
The disseminator is economically motivated to distribute the speech.

The Court first proposed a limitation on the First Amendment protections of commercial speech in Valentine v. Chrestensen, 316 U.S. 52 (1942), when it upheld a Florida ordinance forbidding the "distribution in the streets of commercial and business advertising matter."[41] Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Roberts explained:

This court has unequivocally held that streets are proper places for the exercise of the freedom of communicating information and disseminating opinion and that, though the states and municipalities may appropriately regulate the privilege in the public interest, they may not unduly burden or proscribe its employment in their public thoroughfares. We equally clear that the Constitution imposes no such restraint on government as respects purely commercial advertising."

In 1987, I was elected to the Las Vegas City Council.  A main part of my political platform was a promise to rid Downtown of sidewalk solicitors.

In those days, tourists could not walk one block on historic Fremont Street without having someone yell at them about offers of free gifts for attending time share presentations. Several steps later, someone would shove a handbill into the tourist's hands, most of which promptly ended up on the sidewalk or in the gutter. Merchants had had enough, and filed complaints with the City Attorney. However, no action was taken until my election.

Within a week of being being sworn in, I didn't ask, I ordered the City Attorney to begin prosecuting the solicitors for disturbing the peace, littering, and any other laws he could find to rid Downtown of this blight. I instructed him to take the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be, because such commercialism is not protected speech. I didn't hold back the fact that if he refused, I would call a press conference and expose him in the court of public opinion.

With the City Attorney's full cooperation, the solicitors disappeared from Fremont Street within days of the first misdemeanor arrests.

My second task was to rid Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip) of the escort service news racks.

Since they contained purely commercial material, that was an easy task until my counterparts on the Clark County Commission protested our efforts within their jurisdiction. Then-County Commissioner Paul Christensen told reporters that I was acting outside my authority, and that the news racks contained protected speech. (Most of the Strip is located in un-incorporated Clark County outside the Las Vegas city limits.)

Christensen also called me a hypocrite because my family owns the land under Club Paradise, a local gentleman's club that has nothing to do with escort services, Strip news racks, or handbillers.

I called Christensen's bluff by organizing a citizen protest to empty the Strip news racks each evening and deposit their contents at the Republic Services disposal site.  We did so in a parade of pick up trucks manned with citizens who would open the unlatched doors of the dilapidated racks and confiscate all the free fliers. Of course the news media covered every evening's effort, and our volunteer forces were bolstered by the coverage.

But what concerned me most was how county officials responded to city residents taking charge of their problem. Many came to the defense of the escort services by saying city residents had no right to intervene in county business.

Based on those words, we multiplied our efforts and the war of words and interpretation of the First Amendment went on for over four weeks. Only after we began noticing a fleet of white panel trucks following our citizen brigade with employees of the escort services dutifully refilling the emptied racks, did we begin to lose our fervor.

Our effort ignited a firestorm of support, and demands were made upon then-Clark County District Attorney Rex Bell to follow the lead of the Las Vegas City Attorney and rid the Strip of the non-First Amendment protected material and handbillers.

Rex Bell refused, and our effort on the Strip finally fizzled as the heat of the summer engulfed the town. However, on the other side of Sahara Ave. where the city limits begin, the problem had been completely eradicated and stayed that way until I left office in 1991; one of the reasons I was voted "Most Effective Public Official in Las Vegas" at the end of my term.

Something highly suspicious happened right in the middle of my clean up effort, something that may currently be being replicated in Clark County.

I received a call from the late Ralph Petillo, the then-publisher of Panorama Magazine, a weekly newspaper that flourished with ads for escort services.

Petillo invited me to visit him and a man named Michael Washington. Washington was infamous for being the owner of at least fifty local escort services, and was later convicted of pandering.

I informed Petillo that I did not want to meet such a person. Petillo then told me that Washington had $10,000 cash that he wanted to give me, and more would follow if I stopped harassing his businesses. I refused the offer.

That said, today I believe the same type of bribery is rampant within the Clark County Government Center -- bribery intended to lure certain weak officials into turning their backs at what could be an easily remedied problem.

Littering is illegal. So is the harassment of tourists by persons of questionable legal status in our country.

With the exception of the recent noble efforts of County Commissioner Steve Sysolak, our town has returned to square one of this problem. And, no one has yet mentioned that many of the "escorts" reportedly practice unprotected sex (allegedly for an extra fee), and may be spreading sexually transmitted disease and HIV to our tourists. I wish him luck, but without any back up from the District Attorney, his chances of success are nil.

Where is DA David Roger at a time like this when we really need his help? Is he having lunch each week with Michael Washington?

But this is not the only problem we've experienced over the years with our local DA's.

In 2002, Outgoing DA Stewart Bell (no relation to Rex Bell) raised eyebrows when he refused to prosecute several of racketeer Rick Rizzolo's employees including those involved in the 1995 beating death of Scott David Fau. On May 24, 2001, police submitted a request for prosecution of  four of Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too topless bar employees charged with robbery, battery and conspiracy to commit robbery and coercion in the case of Kenneth Kirkpatrick.

Police submitted the case to prosecutors who obtained warrants for four Crazy Horse Too employees. Joseph Melfi, Peter Pachio, Phillip Salemi and Mark Tenzer were charged with robbery, battery and conspiracy to commit robbery and coercion on Kirkpatrick.

Stewart Bell took no action.

On October 4, 2001, LV Metro asked the DA to prosecute a Crazy Horse Too manager for the Sept. 20, 2001 attempted murder of Kansas tourist Kirk Henry.

Detectives spent about two hours searching the Industrial Road bar following Henry's beating and left with credit card receipts, personnel information and a few security camera videotapes, said Lt. John Alamshaw of Metro's robbery unit. Even after Metro conducted a raid and gathered incriminating evidence, Stewart Bell did nothing. At the time he was successfully running for a seat on the district court bench.

In November 2002, immediately after the election but before the swearing in, I interviewed outgoing DA Stewart Bell on a local TV talk show I was guest hosting. I asked him what happened to the Fau and Henry cases? He responded saying, "There is probable cause to prosecute, but I will let my successor make that decision."

Prior to his election in 2003, David Roger was a Deputy District Attorney. He prosecuted the accused killers of casino titan Ted Binion. After his election as DA, Roger's convictions were overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court. But the initial victory catapulted Roger into the DA's office.

This is the same David Roger who granted immunity to confessed heroin dealer Peter Sheridan in trade for testifying for the prosecution in the Binion case. Sheridan admitted in open court to selling  black tar heroin to Binion, but because David Roger intensely wanted to win the trial at any cost -- then catapult the victory into a successful run for DA -- he let one of our town's biggest slime balls walk out of the courtroom a free man after Sheridan bragged to the jury that he sold Ted Binion a dozen balloons of heroin the night before he died.

During his 2002 District Attorney campaign, Roger gladly accepted the donation of a campaign headquarters from local mob lawyers Dean Patti and Tony Sgro, along with the fund raising efforts of their best client Rick Rizzolo.

After being sworn in, David Roger soon dropped all actions involving Rizzolo including the Henry and Kirkpatrick cases, a lack of response that troubled dedicated street cops like Lt. Alamshaw.

In 2002, Roger accepted $50,000 for his political campaign raised by Rick Rizzolo, this while Metro Police had the Henry and Kirkpatrick cases waiting on the outgoing DA's desk pending prosecution.

Based on Rogerís obvious malfeasance, the federal government in 2003 was forced to take over the cases and conduct the investigations and prosecutions that convicted Rick Rizzolo and 16 Crazy Horse Too employees, along with the seizing of the former topless bar and its real estate.

On June 22, 2007, a local businessman was severely beaten inside Treasures Gentleman's Club.

Following receipt of an 83 page Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department DECLARATION OF WARRANT/SUMMONS regarding the beating of Michael Grasso, DA Roger continued his pattern when crimes involve politically connected strip clubs like Treasures, or adult businesses including massage parlor brothels and escort services.  Roger closed the Grasso case even though Grasso's assailants were professional kick boxers capable of causing fatal injuries.

On September 13, 2008, Ralph Rizzolo, brother of Rick Rizzolo, allegedly tried to commit suicide by crashing a Mercedes at high speed into the shuttered Crazy Horse Too building. At the time, the building was under forfeiture by the United States Marshal's Service, and Rizzolo did substantial damage that had to be repaired at taxpayer's expense. Even though Ralph Rizzolo was found to be driving under the influence, and damaged public property, David Roger did not prosecute.

In January 2009, police requested that Roger vigorously prosecute Rick Rizzolo's son Dominic Rizzolo for stabbing a man during an extortion attempt. Again, DA Roger refused, and Dominic got off with probation.

In the case of Michael Galardi, the former owner of several strip clubs that donated to Roger's campaigns, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Galardi accused Roger of accepting $20,000 in unreported cash, though Roger steadfastly denied the accusation. After turning government witness, Galardi was convicted for bribing public officials and served a reduced sentence. His testimony in court was never disputed.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger obviously cares more about where his next political campaign contribution will come from than for the safety and well being of the public he was elected to serve.

And people wonder why businesses are not sold on Nevada?

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