Fight for slain journalist’s records in Nevada high court

By KEN RITTER – Associated Press

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A judge on Wednesday blocked Las Vegas police, prosecutors and defense attorneys from accessing the cellphone and electronic devices of a slain investigative journalist, fearing to reveal the sources and the journalist’s confidential notes.

Then she backed out of the case, citing an immediate appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

“I no longer believe I have jurisdiction,” Clark County District Judge Susan Johnson told attorneys for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, county prosecutors, defense attorneys and attorneys representing the Las Vegas Vegas Review-Journal and dozens of media organizations. “Let’s see what the Supreme Court says.”

The judge highlighted in a brief hearing her restraining order, issued minutes earlier, and acknowledged the fast track taken on an issue that all parties say requires a decision by the state High Court .

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His order blocks immediate police examination of six devices that the paper’s lawyers say contain names of sources and notes compiled by journalist Jeff German before he was killed in a Sept. 2 attack with a knife outside his home.

Police and prosecutors want to comb through records to find additional evidence that Robert “Rob” Telles, a former county Democrat, fatally stabbed German in response to articles written by German that criticized Telles and his managerial conduct .

Public defenders appointed by the court in Telles want to know if other people had a motive for killing German.

The police department, Clark County District Attorney’s Office, and Telles’ defense attorneys jointly requested the appeal.

The newspaper, backed by organizations such as the Associated Press and the Journalists’ Committee for Freedom of the Press, argues that the police should not have the devices at all. He argues that confidential information, names and unpublished documents are protected from disclosure under strict state law, federal privacy laws and First Amendment constitutional guarantees.

Telles, 45, was a public administrator for Clark County, overseeing an office that manages the assets of people who died without wills or family contacts. He was arrested on September 7 and remains imprisoned without bail awaiting a preliminary hearing for murder and other charges.

He lost his party’s primary for re-election in June and was stripped by court order last month of his elected office.

Telles was suspended Wednesday from practicing law by a state High Court order citing pending disciplinary proceedings against him by the Nevada State Bar. The order noted that Telles was charged with murder and “appears to have transferred significant funds” from his law firm trust accounts.

Authorities say surveillance video, Telles’ DNA on German’s body, and evidence found at Telles’ home link him to German’s murder.

Attorney Matthew Christian, representing the police department, said the investigation cannot be completed until detectives review all possible evidence relevant to the case.

Johnson has previously acknowledged that because it’s rare for an American journalist to be killed because of their work, there were few legal precedents to follow to allow investigators access to German’s files.

A proposal that could have had the judge appoint an independent committee to review the records fell apart because the newspaper doesn’t want Las Vegas-area investigators who may have been sources or the subject of German’s work. be involved in the process.

German, 69, spent 44 years reporting on organized crime, government corruption, political scandals and mass shootings, first at the Las Vegas Sun and then at the Review-Journal. He was widely respected for his tenacity and his confidential contacts in the police, courts and legal circles.

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