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Lawyer wants fake elector case dismissed, says choice of Vegas venue is stretching

Richard Wright, who represents state GOP Chair Michael McDonald, accuses the attorney general of choosing Democrat-leaning territory for a trial.
Gabby Birenbaum
Gabby Birenbaum
CourtsCriminal JusticeGovernment

When Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford sought a grand jury indictment against the six Republican “fake electors” who attempted to cast electoral votes for Donald Trump in the 2020 election, he chose to bring the case in Las Vegas. 

Richard Wright, who represented the six defendants in Clark County District Court at their arraignment Monday, told The Nevada Independent in a Wednesday interview that he plans to request dismissal of the case on venue grounds, saying Ford’s choice of Clark County is a “politically expedient” move, because the county — and its pool of potential jurors — lean more Democratic than the other potential trial sites. 

Wright, a prominent Las Vegas lawyer, has previously represented Republicans in hot water. He successfully got mismanagement charges against then-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki dismissed in 2009. And he defended Nevada GOP Chairman Michael McDonald in the early 2000s, when the then-Las Vegas city councilman was facing malfeasance charges.

A grand jury indicted McDonald, Republican National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, Clark County GOP Chairman Jesse Law, state party Vice Chair Jim Hindle, Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice on two counts each of uttering a forged instrument and offering a false instrument for filing. On Dec. 14, 2020, the six held a signing ceremony in Carson City falsely pledging Nevada’s six electoral votes to Trump — despite Biden having won the state — and sent fake electoral documents to state and federal officials.

Wright, who said he will represent McDonald going forward and that the other five fake electors will have their own individual counsel, called the charges a “political indictment.” But his first step will be to file for dismissal, because he said he believes the correct venue for the case would be Carson City — where the signing ceremony took place — or Minden, where the fake documents were mailed from.

In the grand jury proceedings, prosecutors pursued several lines of questioning with witnesses to establish Clark County as a nexus of the case, including the use of the state GOP’s Las Vegas headquarters as the return address the fake electors used in sending their documents and having sent a copy of the false electoral votes to Las Vegas’ federal courthouse. Wright called the connection “stretching.”

“The venue that’s appropriate is Carson City and Minden,” Wright said. “That’s a Republican area, so I’ll be anxious to hear why the attorney general chose [Las Vegas] as the convenient forum. To me, it’s painfully obvious. Because it’s Democratic.”

Ford has not explained why he chose to file the charges in Clark County. His office did not return a request for comment on Wednesday afternoon. 

Beyond the venue, Wright said he believes the Nevada statutes that the indictment says the fake electors violated are not applicable to their conduct. He said the charges require intent to deceive the recipients of the “false documents,” such as using a forged check. The fake electors held a public ceremony and Wright said both they and the documents’ recipients knew they were not official — which Wright says does not meet the standard of intent to deceive.

He added that he agreed with Ford’s May testimony to the Legislature that current state law did not address the fake electors’ conduct.

“[It’s] trying to put a square peg in a round hole with the statutes,” Wright said.

In a press conference last week, Ford said the indictment his office eventually brought is not inconsistent with his prior statement — while no state statutes directly address fake electors, there are “generally applicable” laws that make the fake electors’ actions criminal.

Wright also said he was surprised that Ford did not bring charges against Kenneth Chesebro, the Trump campaign legal adviser who was the architect behind the fake elector schemes around the country and sent memos, press releases and proposed language to the Nevada fake electors. Chesebro was initially included as a defendant in the first grand jury transcript, but ended up cooperating with prosecutors. 

Wright narrowed in on Chesebro’s use of the word “problematic” — as opposed to “criminal” — in his 2020 memos to the Nevada GOP describing how state statute requires the secretary of state to be present at an official presidential elector ceremony. 

“I’m shocked that the attorney general lets the architect of this off the hook and goes after the people that he duped,” Wright said. “It’s ridiculous.”

Chesebro, Wright said, is a more natural witness for the defense than the prosecution.

“If he told them it was a crime, they wouldn’t have goddamn done it,” he said.


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