Lawyer: Legislature ‘extortion’ probe aims to quiet lobbyist
The Associated Press
LAS VEGAS — A lawyer for a Nevada political consultant is waging a federal court fight against search warrants that he says amount to a fishing expedition by investigators in a state Legislature bribery and extortion investigation.
Attorney David Otto declares in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas that his client, Tony Dane, has committed no crime, and that searches of properties in Virginia, Utah and Nevada amount to political intimidation and an attempt to silence a vigorous political activist.
“They really want to shut him up. He’s affecting the politics in this state, and they hate that,” Otto said.
A spokeswoman for Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt didn’t immediately respond Thursday to messages seeking comment.
Otto seeks the return of items including computer laptops, tablets, towers, hard drives, modems and routers seized from Dane’s home in Front Royal, Virginia.
Dane operates a political consulting business using automated phone calls, commonly dubbed robo-calls, to reach voters to support or oppose candidates and issues.
“Consultant, robo-caller. They call him a trickster,” Otto said. “He has a First Amendment right to say what he wants.”
Attorneys Jamie Frost and Nick Crosby, for Las Vegas police, have branded Otto’s claims “baseless allegations regarding a conspiracy theory,” which they say aim to determine what police discovered. They said in court documents that returning the property would gut the investigation.
Otto said police have also raided a property in Salt Lake City that Dane used for his automated calling business. He said investigators appeared to be focusing on whether Dane filed proper documents with the Nevada Secretary of State for his CRC Political Action Committee.
“Every time Tony Dane puts out a robo-call, they raid his office,” Otto said. “Now they’re increasing their fishing expedition to include other charges,” including bribery and influence peddling.
Las Vegas police in February called the investigation an extortion case. The department announced last week that no members of the state Legislature were targets. Sgt. John Sheahan, a department spokesman, said Wednesday there would be no additional comment.
“A primary objective … has been to determine the facts without affecting the integrity of the legislative process,” the March 27 police statement said. The 120-day Legislature began Feb. 2 and is due to end June 1.
The investigation became public in late January, when police served a warrant on a home in Las Vegas and Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards said the investigation was focusing on an attempt to get him to change his vote for Assembly speaker.
Edwards, a decorated U.S. military veteran, was elected to a Las Vegas-area seat formerly held by Republican Cresent Hardy, who unseated Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephen Horsford in November.
The vote for state Assembly speaker exposed a rift between moderate Republicans, including Edwards, and more conservative party members.
In court documents, Otto said Dane and others began in November 2014 to talk about mounting a recall against Edwards, and that state Assemblyman John Moore told police that Edwards “was actively offering to trade his vote” for Assembly speaker “in return for money.”
Edwards on Wednesday denied the allegation.
“I never, ever, ever offered to sell my vote to anyone on anything,” he said.
Moore recalled speaking with Edwards around Thanksgiving about supporting conservative GOP efforts.
“He said, ‘Maybe if you have a check for $10,000,’” Moore said Wednesday. Moore said he provided the same account to Las Vegas police.
The investigation is ongoing, and no hearing date has been set on Otto’s filing.