LAS VEGAS (CN) — A Nevada judge ruled Tuesday that former Clark County public administrator Robert Telles can act as his own attorney while he fights a first-degree murder charge in the stabbing death of investigative journalist Jeff German.
German, 69, an employee of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found stabbed to death Sept. 3, 2022 in the front yard of his home in northwest Las Vegas. Before his death, German was writing investigative stories about Telles, 46.
Prosecutors say Telles was "lying in wait" and stabbed German “multiple times." German’s articles delved into accusations of wrongdoing and a toxic work environment Telles created. Telles also was accused of being involved in an inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
“Mr. Telles, you understand your attorney has filed a motion to withdraw at your request indicating you want to represent yourself in a first-degree murder case,” said Judge Michelle Leavitt.
“That’s correct, your honor,” Telles, clad in jailhouse blues and his hand shackled, said.
Leavitt asked, “You want to represent yourself in a first-degree murder case?”
“That is correct your honor,” said Telles, who was represented by attorney Damian Sheets of the Nevada Defense Group up until Tuesday’s ruling.
“You understand you do have the right to represent yourself if you so choose,” said Leavitt. “Before I make a determination as to whether you can represent yourself, I’m going to ask you a few questions."
She then peppered him with questions about his background and experience. Telles had trouble answering questions regarding criminal courtroom proceedings.
Telles told Leavitt he graduated from high school, earned an undergraduate degree in accounting and later received his law degree.
Telles described working as an attorney, saying he mostly did probate and civil litigation. When asked if he has any criminal experience, Telles said he “ did some” DUI, battery and domestic violence cases.
Leavitt inquired, “Do you think that this has equipped you to represent yourself? Why do you want to represent yourself?” She said she was surprised Telles would put himself in that situation.
Telles said he was OK with representing himself temporarily “for at least a couple of months” and then possibly hiring another attorney. He has already dismissed three others.
That comment brought the wrath of Leavitt.
“We’re not playing games. You’re not going to represent yourself for a couple of months and then hire someone else,” said Leavitt. “If you want to hire someone else, that’s fine. I’m going to give you an opportunity to do that.”
“I will represent myself,” said Telles.
Leavitt doubled down. “I’m not playing games with you. This is very, very serious. You’re charged with first-degree murder,” she said. “You’re facing life without the possibility of parole. I think you would take it a little more serious. It is not a game. I will not allow you to treat it as a game.”
Leavitt pointed out that in Nevada, life without parole is just what it means. She told him if convicted, he could face spending the rest of his life in the Nevada Department of Corrections.
She noted Telles has some legal training, but “nowhere near” what Sheets or the prosecutor, Chris Hamner, has.
“I appreciate the concern, your honor,” said Telles.
But Leavitt wasn’t keen on Telles’ comment.
“I’m not here to give you concern. I’m here to ask questions and you’re here to answer them, OK,” said Leavitt.
Leavitt told Telles, since he is incarcerated and being held without bail, he will have a very difficult time to prepare.
“I’m just trying to point out you really don’t know much about the charge against you. You can still represent yourself if you think that’s wise. I’m just pointing out you don’t know very much about what you’re coming up against,” Leavitt said.
She continued: “I don’t think anyone ever does a good job representing themselves. It’s always better to have someone who’s objective and unbiased that can give you appropriate advice. I know you’re a lawyer and you think you can represent yourself. I don’t think it’s ever, ever a good idea to represent yourself. I don’t think it’s a good idea to represent yourself in a misdemeanor case let alone, where you know, the consequences could be restricting your liberty for the rest of your life.”
Despite the judge’s warnings, Telles remained unwavering in his belief that he could defend himself.
Sheets wished Telles “the best” outside the courtroom after proceedings.
“The client has the right to choose their own destiny on how they want to represent themselves,” he said.
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