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 1-9-12
Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com


Nevada Supreme Court Justice
Nancy Saitta's mob associations
may haunt her re-election bid

 "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."
George C. Swarts, CPA
"By passing judgment without a trial, Judge Saitta can
no longer be considered a fair and neutral arbiter."
attorneys Steve Morris and Todd L. Bice
"I don't want anything to do with the money."
Judge Nancy Saitta
(Rizzolo had) "taken care of Saitta."
Michael Galardi, 2003

INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
AmericanMafia.com
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 were made.

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 returned.

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 trial.

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 death.

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 of Rizzolo.

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 attorneys.
 
JUICE VS. JUSTICE | A Times Investigation
By Michael J. Goodman and William C. Rempel, Times Staff Writers
Los Angeles Times 
June 8, 2006

In Las Vegas, They're Playing With a Stacked Judicial Deck

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.

http://www.latimes.com/la-na-justice080606,0,4781277.story?page=5

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 nation.

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 editorials 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." (See: "What's 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 about beatings 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 her courtroom.

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 detractors!

Next, Saitta was "randomly" assigned to preside over Rizzolo's defamation lawsuit against Buffalo Jim Barrier. In a July 12, 2000 Review-Journal column by John L. Smith, Barrier had accused Rizzolo of racketeering and political corruption which infuriated the strip club owner. (Rizzolo did not sue the newspaper.)

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 Las Vegas Sun told the story:
 
Judge lands in middle of feud
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 contributions.

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2006/jul/21/judge-lands-in-middle-of-feud/

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.

MORE INFORMATION:

http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com/SaittaShouldRecuseFromFauCase.html
http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com/JudgeSaittaHoldsKey.htm
http://lawlessamerica.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=582:nevada-judge-nancy-m-saitta-reports-of-judicial-corruption&catid=121:articles&Itemid=222
http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com/HereComesDaSameJudge.htm
http://americanmafia.com/inside_vegas/1-5-09_Inside_Vegas.html
http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com/WrongfulDeath.htm
http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com/JosephSaittaAndHisWife.htm
http://www.lasvegascitylife.com/articles/2003/02/28/crime_punishment/crimepunish.txt
http://americanmafia.com/inside_vegas/10-22-07_Inside_Vegas.html
http://www.americanmafia.com/Inside_Vegas/11-23-09_Inside_Vegas.html
http://americanmafia.com/inside_vegas/7-24-06_Inside_Vegas.html
 
 



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