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Man accused in journalist’s murder wins trial delay

Former Clark County administrator Robert Telles' lawyer told a judge he would not be ready to mount a defense by the April trial date.

LAS VEGAS (CN) — The trial date for former Clark County administrator Robert Telles, accused in the murder of investigative reporter Jeff German this past September, has been pushed back so the defense could have time to receive and study the evidence.

Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt on Wednesday set Nov. 6 for the jury trial of Telles.

German, 69, an employee of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found stabbed to death in the front yard of his home in northwest Las Vegas. Before his death, German was writing investigative stories regarding Telles, 45, a former Clark County public administrator.

Prosecutors say Telles, who was emotionless in court and dressed in dark blue, county-issued shirt and pants with orange slippers, 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 had an inappropriate relationship with a staffer, according to German.

During Wednesday’s status conference, Leavitt asked Telles’ attorney, Damian R. Sheets of Nevada Defense Group, if his team was ready.

“Mr. Sheets, you know we have a trial date pending April 17,” said Leavitt.

Sheets addressed the judge: “Yes, I’ve spoken with the state and given the events going on, especially in regards to the phone … I do not think that we’ll be prepared for trial at that time.”

Leavitt agreed, saying, “I don’t think we’ll be able to go forward in April with the state of the some of  the evidence, so I’m going to vacate that April date,” and delayed the trial nine months.

The Review-Journal fought unsuccessfully before Leavitt this past week to keep Las Vegas Metro Police Department from accessing German’s cellphone and home computers.

The newspaper’s attorney Ashley Kissinger argued that the U.S. Congress passed the Privacy Protection Act in the 1980s, which states no person in government at any level can search or seize news-gathering material of a journalist.

It’s rather uncharted water in Telles’ case since German is deceased. It is unclear the path the newspaper will take in light of the setback.

The Review-Journal wants to protect any confidential sources German may have had in his data, including possible employees in the public sector.

Also holding up proceedings for the defense is the fact that Telles has had two previous attorneys, and Sheets hasn’t received all of the information they had on the case.

“Generally when a case begins in the system there is an initial set of discovery reports and whatnot that is given to counsel at the very beginning,” Sheets said outside the courtroom. “In this case they provided it to the public defender that (Telles) originally had who then passed it on to his next counsel, and then now has to be passed on to us. It just takes time.”

Sheets was asked if the phone issue would hurt or help his case.

“I am generally not in the business about talking about tactics and what I think is helpful or hurtful to the case. I think the court and the state want to make sure that Mr. Telles is given everything in order to prepare for his defense so as to ensure his rights are protected as well as the government’s rights.”

Sheets said his goal is a fair trial and that it takes time.

“I hope the public understands the defense has a right to a fair and impartial trial. I think the defense has a right to examine all of the information that could be or could tend to lead to something exculpatory,” he said. “I think that the state understands that, and I think we’re all working to try to come to the resolution, and hopefully soon, between the courts we’ll be able to begin our investigation in this case and provide Mr. Telles the best defense the Constitution entitles him to,” he said.

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