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The Nevada Independent

DA’s race: Gambler’s case folds quietly, and now Wolfson is fielding accusations

John L. Smith
John L. Smith

Following this week’s recall of a no-bail arrest warrant and dismissal of felony charges against a gambler accused of theft and cheating at Resorts World Las Vegas, Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is now being accused of “catering to the donor class” by an attorney challenging his incumbency.

Cipriani, who calls himself “Robin Hood 702” on social media and has a history as an FBI informant, on Wednesday agreed to plead guilty to disorderly conduct in connection with an incident last year at the casino-resort. He also agreed not to mention Resorts World  employees associated with the casino on social media for one year. He had faced theft and cheating charges that threatened to send him to prison for several years.

Attorney Ozzie Fumo, a former Assemblyman running against Wolfson in the Democratic primary, questioned the original charges and called the silencing of Cipriani’s speech on social media constitutionally questionable.

“What really troubles me is his suppressing his First Amendment right to speak, and I think the district attorney should not be the propaganda arm of any casino, especially a casino that’s a heavy donor to his campaign,” Fumo said. “There’s just an appearance of impropriety, and it reeks of corruption, in my opinion.”

Cipriani, a California resident, was arrested Nov. 19 at Resorts World and charged with larceny — specifically stealing the cell phone of convicted scammer Robert Alexander. Cipriani turned in the phone to a casino official. He was later charged with cheating at gambling after changing a blackjack bet. Cipriani claimed his real trouble began after he repeatedly informed Resorts World management of the presence of several felons gambling at the casino and criticized company officials on social media.

“I’ve never seen a district attorney’s office try to suppress somebody’s First Amendment rights,” Fumo said. “I’ve seen them say, ‘Stay away from a casino,’ have a stay-away order where you can’t enter the property, but never that you can’t talk about them, or tweet about them, or get on social media about them. This is a first, in my opinion.”

Wolfson offered a sharp retort.

“First of all, he voluntarily agreed to these conditions,” Wolfson replied. “These were conditions that were originally imposed as part of his release on bail. And the reason that these conditions were brought up is because of his consistent harassment and potentially intimidation of a variety of people — the victim in the case, Mr. Alexander, as well as four or five employees at the hotel, a few of them that had nothing to do with this case. His consistent tweeting, his consistent harassment and intimidation and disparaging of their character caused us to seek this as a condition of his release on bail. Then when he continued to violate these conditions, we felt it appropriate to make this a condition of the plea agreement, which he agreed to. Nobody forced him to do this.”

Fumo also called out the district attorney for his decision not to pursue serious narcotics charges against tech billionaire Henry Nicholas following his 2018 arrest at Encore in Las Vegas in a case involving heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and several psychedelic substances.

“Any other person who was caught with that amount of drugs is looking at 10-to-life,” Fumo said.

Nicholas and an associate in 2019 were allowed to avoid admitting guilt by entering an Alford plea to two felony drug possession charges. They agreed to a list of conditions, including serving 250 hours of community service, pursuing drug treatment, serving “informal probation” and agreeing to donate $1 million to Las Vegas-area drug treatment programs. Wolfson stated that the plea bargain has helped enable the treatment of hundreds of Southern Nevada residents.

The case was defended by attorney David Chesnoff, a generous contributor to Wolfson’s campaign.

Wolfson said the case was complicated by the potential suppression of key evidence, and the settlement was in the best interests of justice. At the time of the Nicholas settlement, public defenders in Clark County decried the deal as unfair to other similarly charged defendants.

Wolfson also recoiled at the accusation that his office plays favorites with celebrities and the wealthy, reeling off several examples that included Scott Gragson, who was convicted of felony DUI and is serving a lengthy prison sentence, and boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, who served 90 days for a misdemeanor domestic battery conviction.

Fumo also said Wolfson had failed to provide DA’s staff for the Veterans Treatment Court, a specialty court designed to serve U.S. military veterans involved in the criminal justice system.

Wolfson said personnel shortages have prevented his office from fully staffing veterans court, but that he expects to be able to add attorneys in the coming months.

“Are we physically in the court? No. Because we are short-staffed right now,” Wolfson said.

“He’s so concerned about protecting the casinos that he’s not protecting the victims in Clark County,” Fumo said. “What he’s doing is, he’s looking out for the donor class and not the citizens of Las Vegas, or Clark County.”

Wolfson countered, “My opponent is misinformed, uninformed, and frankly his campaign is drowning, and he’s reaching for life lines based upon information that is false, and based upon the fact that he’s so uninformed.”

John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR.


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