LAS VEGAS (CN) — A Nevada judge on Thursday denied a defense motion to recuse the judge overseeing the first-degree murder case against a former Clark County public administrator accused of killing a Las Vegas journalist.
Robert Telles is charged in the stabbing death of investigative journalist Jeff German of the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Sept. 3, 2022. Prosecutors say Telles was “lying in wait” with a disguise in the side yard of German’s home in northwest Las Vegas before killing him.
Before his death, German, 69, had written investigative stories about Telles and the tumultuous state of the department he headed. There were allegations of bullying, retaliation and favoritism by Telles and also an “inappropriate relationship” between Telles and a staffer.
After damaging stories about the turmoil in Telles' office, Telles lost his re-election bid in June 2022.
Telles, 46, who is acting as his own attorney after dismissing three previous defense attorneys, told Eighth Judicial District Chief Judge Jerry Wiese that Judge Michelle Leavitt wasn’t fair and was practicing “gamesmanship” in his proceedings.
“She lied. She said that she had the authority to make it such that once I go down the road to self-representation, that I could never come back. And that was false,” Telles told Wiese.
“After she made that representation, she spent about 40 minutes or so badgering me, harassing me and trying to embarrass me into withdrawing my request for self-representation,” Telles said of the Feb. 28 hearing before Leavitt.
“If a judge engages in conduct that would make a real person doubt the impartiality of that judge, that judge should be disqualified,” he continued. “The scales of impartiality have been tipped. And when they’ve been tipped in such a way there’s no way to rebalance things except to reassign this case.”
Wiese discounted Telles’ accusations.
“I was not convinced that there was a bias or prejudice on her part. I think she was trying to convince you. You can’t give legal advice to people, but I think by the questions that she asked and the statements that she made, I think she was probably suggesting to you that it was not in your best interest to represent yourself, and it’s generally not in a defendant’s best interest to represent themself,” said Wiese, who used court transcripts to inform his opinion.
Wiese assured Telles that Leavitt has an abundance of experience and knows her way around the court and the law.
“She is one of our premiere judges and she’s been doing criminal cases for a long, long time. She knows what she’s doing,” Wiese said.
Near the end of the hearing, Telles asked Wiese if he could make another statement to the press. Wiese told him that it was inappropriate, but Telles interrupted and asked reporters to contact him in Clark County Detention Center “after 2 p.m.” regarding information he had.
Deputies then escorted Telles from the courtroom.
Telles will be back in court April 5, as Judge Leavitt is expected to rule on a defense motion to compel Clark County Detention Center to produce lawful housing and legal research access.
He is being held without bail.
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