Judge: No court-funded lawyer for suspect in reporter’s murder

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LAS VEGAS – A former elected official representing himself against a murder charge for the fatal stabbing of a Las Vegas investigative journalist lost bids Wednesday to have a defense attorney appointed to advise him before trial and to relax jail restrictions so he has more time out of his cell to do legal research.

A state court judge who remains on the case despite efforts by ex-county administrator of estates Robert Telles to remove her questioned Telles in open court about the value of rental properties he owns in Arkansas, and his Las Vegas home, before ruling that Telles is not indigent and therefore is not entitled to a so-called “standby attorney” at taxpayer expense.

Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt also told Telles she won't tell the sheriff in Las Vegas “how to run his jail,” or instruct the sheriff to provide what Telles termed “better accommodations.”

Telles has been jailed since his arrest several days after the September killing of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, who wrote articles critical of Telles and his managerial conduct.

Telles, 46, is an attorney who practiced civil law, not criminal, before he was elected as a Democrat as Clark County administrator. His license to practice law has been suspended, but he does not have to be an attorney to represent himself. Telles has hired and fired three private attorneys and was represented for a time by public defenders. He maintains he has evidence that exonerates him, but has declined to produce it.

Telles has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge that could get him life in prison. He told the judge on Wednesday that jail conditions deny him constitutionally protected due process rights to life and liberty, and that he is a victim of cruel and “undue punishment for being a pain.”

He told The Associated Press during a February jail interview that he wants to tell his story to a jury and wants to go to trial earlier than the scheduled November date.

Police and prosecutors say evidence is strong that Telles killed German, including Telles' DNA, which was found beneath German's fingernails. But police say they haven't completed their investigation because the Review-Journal obtained a court order blocking investigators from accessing records on German's cellphone and computer devices. The newspaper cited concerns about improperly exposing confidential sources and notes.

Last month, a panel of three state Supreme Court justices ruled that Leavitt can adopt a method for a neutral party to screen the records so they can be reviewed by police and Telles, and detectives can proceed. A hearing on that question is scheduled April 19.


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