July 31, 2000|
Casino Owner Steve Wynn Once Again Forced To Deny Ties To The Genovese Crime Family.
By John William Tuohy
Las Vegas Casino owner tells the supreme court he's not a front man for the mob.
In a suit that might, in future, block writers who fear a law suits, from referring to leading law enforcement agencies as information sources, Las Vegas casino Steve Wynn's lawyers denied that their client is a front man for the organized crime.
The problem began in 1982 when a Scotland Yard report was compiled on Wynn who was seeking a gaming license in Great Britain. Included in the investigative 100-page report was the statement that Wynn "has been operating under the aegis of the Genovese family since he went to Las Vegas in the 1960s."
Barricade Books put out 5,000 advertising circular to book reviewers to promote the publication of "Running Scared: The Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn," and used words from the Scotland Yard report connecting Wynn to the mob, in the circular's.
Wynn's lawyers say that Barricade knew the Scotland Yard Report was false but he still used the information in circular's anyway.
Wynn sued Barricade Books publisher Lyle Stuart and the book's author, columnist John L. Smith, for libel, claiming "emotional distress" from having to answer questions from gaming regulators in New Jersey and Connecticut about his alleged ties to the Mafia.
In 1997, a jury in Clark County, Nevada, awarded Wynn $3.2 million for comments included in the circular. Lyle Stuart appealed the libel judgment to the State Supreme court.
The $3.2 million award against the publisher is, say his lawyers, five times his net worth and has put him in bankruptcy.
Before the trial in Clark County began, Smith, the books author, was dropped from the case by a District Judge and Wynn appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, as well.
Smith's lawyer, JoNell Thomas, told the court there was no basis for Wynn having any claim against Smith since Smith had nothing to do with the advertisement "He did not write it. He did not edit it. There can be no finding of liability."
Barricade's lawyers maintained that Scotland Yard is one of the leading law enforcement agencies in the world and writers should be able to refer to its reports without being sued.
However, Wynn's lawyers countered that the Scotland Yard resort was not official or publicly released and claimed that it was withdrawn before British gaming regulators could see it.
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Rose questioned whether jurors in the Clark County trial had been given proper instructions in the case. The jurors had been instructed that to prove malice in a libel case, a defendant must know what he writes was false or had "doubts" about its accuracy.
Rose said that the letter of the law reads that the rule requires "seriou s doubts" about accuracy of a statement. The single word omission is expected to lead to a decision for Stuart and Barricade Books.
Before the hearing began, Rose announced all seven justices have received, at some point in their careers, campaign contributions from Wynn's companies, and that he did not believe that disqualifies them from participating in the case.
Wynn has appeared before the Nevada Gaming Commission this month for licensing as the new owner of the $270 million Desert Inn. At that hearing, Wynn told the Commission that he intends to tear down the Desert Inn as it exists today and replace it with a 6,000-room twin-tower luxury hotel and gaming complex.
The commission granted Wynn an unrestricted gaming license and approved his $270 million purchase of the Desert Inn.
There was no mention of Asian or Caribbean gambling junkets during the trial in Clark County.
Mr. Tuohy can be reached at MobStudy@aol.com
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