Supreme Court Justice
Nancy Saitta's mob associations
may haunt her re-election
"Mr. Rizzolo has a
good name in the community." - Judge
Nancy Saitta, 03/26/01
(Rizzolo - AmericanMafia.com
photo by Mike Christ) (Saitta
- Los Angeles Times photo )
"The judge will do anything
I ask, whatever I present to her."
C. Swarts, CPA
"By passing judgment
without a trial, Judge Saitta can
no longer be considered
a fair and neutral arbiter."
Morris and Todd L. Bice
"I don't want anything
to do with the money."
(Rizzolo had) "taken
care of Saitta."
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
January 9, 2012
LAS VEGAS - The court system in Clark County
is intended to provide a random selection process that fairly assigns judges
to cases. This process was meant to guarantee that the same judge would
not preside over multiple cases involving the same litigant.
Scott David Fau walked into Rick
Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too topless bar just after sunrise on the morning
of August 4, 1995. Several hours later, his lifeless body was found next
to the railroad tracks behind the topless bar. According to an eyewitness,
Fau had been beaten to death by several Crazy Horse Too bouncers. No arrests
On July 30, 1997, Las Vegas attorney Randall
Pike on behalf of the victim's widow Camille and his two daughters Francesca
and Nicole, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the nightclub and its
owner Rick Rizzolo, claiming that Fau "surely must have consciously experienced
the terror of his own imminent death" at the hands of the club's employees
"who demonstrated malicious, lethal intent."
The case was "randomly" assigned to then-Clark
County District Court Judge Nancy Saitta. After a "mini-trial"
followed by very restrictive jury instructions issued by the judge, the
jury ruled in favor of Rizzolo leaving a family devastated.
Before the trial, the Las Vegas Sun
on August 1, 1997 published a story entitled "Topless
club sued over patronís death." It revealed the mind set of the club's
owners and employees that later led to the club's closure
by the City of Las Vegas, its seizure
by the United States Government, and the felony
convictions of Rick Rizzolo and fifteen Crazy Horse Too employees.
"Although the defendants had not yet been
served with a copy of the lawsuit, club executive Bart Rizzolo said he
had no recollection of the incident and suggested the lawsuit was groundless.
'There has got to be a way to get back at people who file lawsuits,' he
said. 'There has never been a suit filed that we haven't beaten and I'm
hoping our record will stay that way.' Rizzolo said the club is concerned
about the way patrons are treated. 'If a customer gets out of line, we
help the guy out, we don't throw him out,' he said."
Scott Fau was a long haul truck driver
who decided to visit the Crazy Horse Too with a fellow driver while their
rigs were being serviced at a truck depot on Industrial Road near the strip
club. The two drivers walked the several blocks to the club. Only one driver
On July 6, 2001, without notice or explanation,
Judge Saitta dismissed the Fau case just two weeks before it was scheduled
to go to trial.
Fau's attorney immediately appealed Saitta's
untimely decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, but on August 14, 2001,
before the higher court could rule, or the news media take interest, Judge
Saitta abruptly reversed her ruling and set a new trial date.
The trial was re-scheduled for March 18,
2002. On March 12, Fau's attorney asked Judge Saitta to rule on the scope
of testimony that could be presented to the jury. His request included
the reading of a declaration filed with the court by pathologist Griffith
Thomas, M.D. stating that Fau's cause of death was "blunt force trauma
consistent with a severe beating and/or positional asphyxiation."
Camille Fau, a Modesto, California school
teacher, also requested that the jury be informed of other confrontations
at the Crazy Horse Too including the October 2001 beating
of Kirk Henry which resulted in his quadriplegia; prior felony convictions
of bar employees Joe Blasko, Paul Luca, and others identified as Fau's
assailants; civil claims or lawsuits prior to and subsequent to Fau's death;
and presentation of photos of the decedent. Most important was Fau's request
to include the written transcript and taped statements of the alleged eyewitness
to Fau's beating.
Judge Saitta postponed her rulings on the
above requests and delayed the trial for the second time.
One of Mrs. Fau's most vital pieces of
evidence was the January 24, 2001, taped interview of eyewitness Dan Kennedy,
the former manager of a bookstore located next to the topless bar. The
interview was conducted by licensed private investigator Robert Maddox
and was vital to the case because Mrs. Fau could not afford to depose Kennedy,
and he later could not be located to be served a subpoena to testify at
Prior to the taped interview, Kennedy had
described the back alley beating to other tenants in the strip mall where
the Crazy Horse Too was located including garage owner James
"Buffalo Jim" Barrier who informed Mrs. Fau of the conversation. The
Plaintiff's attorney followed up by hiring Maddox to locate and interview
Kennedy who was then unemployed.
In his taped interview, Kennedy stated:
"Yeah, they're the one that beat up this Hawaiian guy out there that was
just - - the poor guy wasn't even moving, and they were kicking him, and,
um, at that point that's all. They were just kicking him around, jumping
on him, stomping on his arm. They stomped his leg. Kicked him in the stomach.
They kept - Moe was kicking him in the head, and you just watched his head
wiggle around. The manager guy would poke his head out the door, but he
wouldn't walk out. He'd just - he'd open the door and look out and then
step back in. I never seen - he didn't come out." Kennedy identified the
manager of the Crazy Horse as "Vinny or Vince." Vincent Faraci was identified
as the manager of the strip club at the time of the event.
Kennedy's description of Scott Fau's injuries
coincided with pathologist Griffith Thomas' assessment of the cause of
Making the jury aware of Dr. Thomas' written
assessment was extremely important since Mrs. Fau could not afford to hire
a pathologist as an expert witness to testify at trial.
During the trial, Judge Saitta refused
to allow the jury to read pathologist Thomas' declaration, or listen to
or read the transcript of Kennedy's taped statement.
Following less than two days of testimony
mostly from the Defendant's point of view, Judge Saitta specifically informed
the jury that they could not consider blunt force trauma as a cause of
Scott Fau's death. Based on the judge's specific jury instruction, the
jury returned after only two hours of deliberation with a verdict in favor
In the year prior to the Fau "trial," Rick
Rizzolo filed defamation lawsuits against Dan Kennedy, Barrier, myself,
and a weekly tabloid newspaper I reported for at the time. All his cases
were "randomly" assigned to Judge Saitta who had just been re-elected with
the help of Rizzolo's attorneys Dean Patti and Tony Sgro, her main campaign
fund raisers. For a while, Saitta had five consecutive cases involving
Rizzolo on her court docket, and when challenged, refused to recuse from
any Rizzolo case claiming simple coincidence in the assignment process
though it was clearly apparent something was amiss.
Several years later, the Los Angeles
Times became aware of Saitta's suspicious connection to certain local
|JUICE VS. JUSTICE | A Times Investigation
By Michael J. Goodman and William C. Rempel, Times Staff
Los Angeles Times
June 8, 2006
In Las Vegas, They're Playing With a Stacked Judicial
Las Vegas is a town where District Judge Nancy M. Saitta,
55, running unopposed in 2002, raised a political war chest totaling $120,000.
She received nearly $70,000 from 140 attorneys and law firms. All 55 lawyers
or law firms giving $500 or more had cases assigned to her courtroom or
pending before her, according to court and campaign records. Her campaign
collected donations at fundraisers hosted by lawyers, also with cases before
her. In one instance, Saitta awarded more than $1 million in fees for a
certified public accountant and his attorneys, two of whom held a fundraiser
for her while she was ruling on their case.
During the fundraiser, Saitta personally greeted about
two dozen contributors. Court and campaign records as well as interviews
show that at least 18 of the contributors were lawyers with one or more
cases pending before her at the time.
Undaunted by Rizzolo's lawsuits, I continued
reporting on violent incidents at the Crazy Horse Too, and began a series
of articles questioning Judge Saitta's objectivity. Based on my ongoing
investigations and reports, I opted to not respond to Rizzolo's attorneys
and ignored their interrogatories and subpoenas for deposition. To avoid
being forced to reveal my confidential sources, I cited NRS
§49.275, the Nevada Reporter's Shield Law, the strongest in the
However, Judge Saitta was also undaunted,
and proceeded to schedule court hearings in Rizzolo's defamation case against
me which I refused to attend. Meanwhile, I continued writing articles and
questioning why the same judge was assigned to preside over all lawsuits
involving Rizzolo, including a defamation action against the key witness
in a wrongful death case.
In the fall of 2000, Dan Kennedy called
me and stated: "I don't want the mob to get after me. I have a family."
become of Danny Kennedy?" INSIDE VEGAS, AmericanMafia.com, December
27, 2004). He was obviously being intimidated or threatened.
Because the lawsuit against Kennedy was
dropped immediately after the Fau wrongful death trial, it was suspected
that Rizzolo used Saitta's court to intimidate a witness, or worse.
On November 13, 2001, a hearing took place
regarding a Motion for Gag Order that Rizzolo filed against me. To no one's
surprise, the case was assigned to Judge Saitta. In protest, I also
refused to attend the hearings or mount a defense because I felt the action
was a blatant violation of my First Amendment rights. The Nevada
Press Association began to take notice.
To Rick Rizzolo's dismay, I continued writing
and robberies at the Crazy Horse Too.
During the Gag Order hearing, Rizzolo's
attorneys Patti and Sgro complained about my disregard for their demands
for discovery, my continuing stories and columns about their client and
his business, and how the stories and columns might prejudice future juries
in court cases involving Rizzolo. They claimed that I was a litigant in
a Rizzolo defamation lawsuit, therefore I should be silenced until the
lawsuit was over.
According to courtroom observers, Judge
Saitta seemed to agree with Patti and Sgro, and appeared poised to grant
the Gag Order, that's until several observers took seats in the back of
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
"Review-Journal editor (and Nevada Press Association President) Thomas
Mitchell attended the hearing with Mark Hinueber, general counsel for the
Donrey Media Group, which operates the daily newspaper. Also observing
the proceedings were Gary Peck, executive director of the American Civil
Liberties Union of Nevada, and ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein. 'As the
ACLU, we are clearly concerned about any restrictions on the press to report
on any judicial proceeding,' Lichtenstein said after the hearing. 'That
is such a fundamental concern that this was a case that's important to
us.' The attorney said courts have ruled that a gag on the press cannot
occur 'except in the absolute rarest of circumstances.' "
Probably in anticipation of the next morning's
statewide headlines, Judge Saitta groveled, and reluctantly denied Rizzolo's
Gag Order Motion.
But she wasn't finished punishing Rizzolo's
Next, Saitta was "randomly" assigned to
preside over Rizzolo's defamation lawsuit against Buffalo Jim Barrier.
In a July 12, 2000 Review-Journal
by John L. Smith, Barrier had accused Rizzolo of racketeering and political
corruption which infuriated the strip club owner. (Rizzolo did not sue
Five years later, Rick Rizzolo pleaded
guilty to racketeering, and was sentenced to federal prison.
I continued writing articles questioning
how one judge could be "randomly" assigned multiple cases involving the
same litigant? Again, Saitta blamed it on "coincidence." Later that year,
she was observed attending a party at Rizzolo's Canyon Gate estate and
hugging and kissing her host. I reported that also.
At Barrier's March 26, 2001 defamation
hearing, Judge Saitta opened with the amazingly prejudicial statement:
"Mr. Rizzolo has a good name in the community."
When Barrier's attorney was late to court.
Judge Saitta became angry. She sanctioned Barrier $4,500 for "inconveniencing"
attorneys Patti and Sgro, and ordered him to write them a check before
leaving the court room. Barrier complied. Rizzolo, without explanation,
later dropped his defamation suit against Barrier.
I found a confidential source at the Regional
Justice Center who explained how the same judge could be assigned to preside
over each and every case involving a selected litigant.
According to the November 23, 2009 Judgepedia
- an interactive encyclopedia of courts and judges (the information has
since been removed): "Former Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Miller writes
an article on the consistent involvement in Rizzolo's case leading to speculation
about then-District Court Judge Nancy Saitta. The fact that Judge Nancy
Saitta was presiding over five concurrent cases all involving Rick Rizzolo
raised suspicion at a local weekly newspaper. An editorial entitled "Here
comes the same judge" was published, and shortly thereafter, Judge Saitta
on May 29, 2002, suddenly reassigned four of her five Rizzolo cases to
other randomly selected district court judges. However, Judge Saitta kept
the most important case, the civil wrongful death action brought by the
widow and children of Scott David Fau. Mr. Fau was found dead behind the
Crazy Horse in 1995 after being beaten by club bouncers two hours earlier.
In each of these cases, judges are selected to preside over local cases
in a random manner. As each case is presented to the court clerk, it is
supposed to be given to the next judge in chronological order. There are
19 District Court judges. It's suspected that the court clerk sometimes
sets aside special cases that certain judges desire, and waits until that
judge's name is about to appear in numerical order, then pulls out the
set-aside case to be assigned to that judge."
After she recused from four of the five
Rizzolo cases, we didn't hear much about Judge Saitta for the next four
years. Then something untoward happened.
The Friday, July 21, 2006 edition of the
Vegas Sun told the story:
|Judge lands in middle
By Sam Skolnik
LAS VEGAS SUN
Friday, July 21, 2006
The issue in question
began on Aug. 25, 2004, when District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez heard a
motion in a long-standing dispute between the topless club and its neighbor,
Barrier's Allstate Auto and Marine Electric, over parking spaces.
Gonzalez issued her
ruling and order a month later: Barrier could park seven of his customers'
cars on an Industrial Road lot managed by the strip-club owners, and those
owners could not tow any of Barrier's cars parked there overnight.
But five days later,
on Sept. 28, an attorney for Rizzolo sent his own proposed order to Saitta's
office. The judge's clerk stamped Saitta's signature on the document, even
though it had not been Saitta's case for more than two years.
Barrier's friend Steve
Miller, a former Las Vegas councilman, thought it was proof that Rizzolo's
attorneys were trying to get an order into the record that was more favorable
to Rizzolo by finding a second judge to sign their order - one who may
have felt indebted to Rizzolo because of a campaign contribution.
Miller - a Rizzolo
critic who reportedly owns land beneath a competing topless club - filed
a complaint with the judicial discipline commission on Aug. 23. In it,
he claimed that Saitta had signed the order either because of gross negligence
or as an "apparent favor" to Rizzolo.
Rizzolo, who last month
pleaded guilty to several tax conspiracy charges that could cost him almost
$17 million and 16 months in prison, contributed $1,000 to Saitta's 1998
campaign for District Court. He did not contribute to her 2002 race.
Her name came up in
connection with Rizzolo in an FBI investigation when another strip-club
operator and convicted felon, Michael Galardi, told agents that Rizzolo
claimed he had paid Saitta $40,000 to $50,000, in under-the-table, cash
Witnessing the injustice suffered by the
Fau family, and Judge Saitta's subsequent assignment to all cases Rizzolo,
I was inspired to file a complaint against her with the Nevada
Commission on Judicial Discipline.
As is usual in most cases involving judges,
the Commission does not release its findings to the public. However, in
a confidential letter, they
did reveal that some action was taken against Saitta when General
Council and Executive Director David F. Sarnowski stated: "it (the Commission)
has taken what it considers to be appropriate action under the circumstances."
Nonetheless, Saitta went on to win election
to her first term on the Nevada Supreme Court where today she holds the
dubious honor of having the lowest retention approval of the seven sitting
justices according to a survey
conducted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
On Tuesday, January 3, 2012, Justice Nancy
M. Saitta filed
for re-election. The General Election is on November 6, 2012. She is expected
to run unopposed for a second six year term.