LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada judge on Wednesday pushed back to next March a trial date for a former Las Vegas-area elected official who remains jailed and has been serving as his own defense attorney in the killing of an investigative reporter more than a year ago.
Robert Telles, once the Democratic county administrator of estates, used his court appearance to inform Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt that he hired another lawyer, Gary Modafferi, to assist in his murder defense.
Modafferi, a defense attorney in Las Vegas for 12 years, was not in the courtroom. He told The Associated Press by telephone that he has, since August, been advising Telles on constitutional matters including how police gather evidence. Modafferi said he does not plan to argue matters in court.
Telles has pleaded not guilty in the September 2022 killing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter and had insisted since his arrest that he wanted the earliest possible trial date. But after Telles sought a delay, the judge pushed back the Nov. 6 trial date to March 18.
Telles has complained that he has not gotten all the evidence he should receive from the police investigation of German’s killing.
That investigation has been slowed by a court order the Review-Journal obtained to block investigators from accessing what the newspaper maintains could be confidential files on the slain reporter’s cellphone and computers. The newspaper argues that names and unpublished material that might be on German’s devices are protected from disclosure by the First Amendment and Nevada state law. Police say their investigation won’t be complete until the devices are searched.
The state Supreme Court on Oct. 5 approved letting Judge Leavitt appoint a two-person independent team to screen records for confidentiality before they are opened by police. Leavitt on Wednesday delayed appointing the two screeners — a retired U.S. magistrate judge and a former Clark County district attorney now serving as counsel for the Las Vegas police union — pending confirmation that they have agreed to the task.
Telles, 46, is an attorney who practiced civil law before he was elected in 2018 as Clark County administrator. He was stripped of his position and his law license was suspended following his arrest. He could face life in prison if he’s convicted of killing German. Prosecutors decided he won’t face the death penalty.
German, 69, spent more than 40 years as an investigative reporter in Las Vegas. He was found stabbed to death months after writing articles critical of Telles and his managerial conduct and Telles lost his Democratic primary bid for reelection.
Prosecutors characterize evidence against Telles as overwhelming, including DNA believed to be from Telles found beneath German’s fingernails and videos showing a man believed to be Telles walking near German’s home about the time of the killing.