Clark County prosecutors last month informed a defense lawyer that they intended to ask a grand jury to investigate allegations he tried to bribe a key witness in a criminal case to change his testimony.
The lawyer, Jonathan MacArthur, was served July 23 with a written "Marcum" notice that gives him the right to testify before the panel or present it with evidence favorable to him. The notice is a rarity for a defense attorney.
But prosecutors have yet to proceed with the grand jury investigation, and courthouse sources said the case might be headed to the Nevada State Bar for disciplinary proceedings.
MacArthur has clashed with the district attorney's office in the past.
He lost his job as a substitute judge in North Las Vegas Justice Court in 2007 after District Attorney David Roger complained about hostile comments he hurled at prosecutors on his MySpace page. MacArthur listed one of his interests on the page as "breaking my foot off in a prosecutor's ass."
He said at the time that the remark was made in the context of his work as a defense lawyer and did not reflect his attitude as a judge. But Roger argued it showed bias against prosecutors and made it difficult for his office to get a fair shake from MacArthur, who also ran for a Justice Court seat in North Las Vegas in 2008, but lost.
Neither MacArthur nor his lawyer, Tom Pitaro, would comment on the latest controversy. Assistant State Bar Counsel Phil Pattee said his group has not received a complaint on MacArthur from the district attorney.
Roger declined to comment on how he planned to proceed against the lawyer.
But Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens confirmed that the charges prosecutors have been reviewing include, bribing or intimidating a witness to influence testimony, suborning perjury and attempt to suborn perjury.
Deputy District Attorney Maria Lavell outlined the allegations in court papers July 23 asking a judge to remove MacArthur from defending Steven Dean Adams on kidnapping, robbery and battery charges.
Lavell wrote that the victim in the case, Armand Boyadjian, had informed her office on July 15 about a telephone conversation he had with MacArthur and the lawyer's investigator.
"Mr. MacArthur promised that he would go to the defendant's parents, who would pay restitution for property stolen by the defendant, if Mr. Boyadjian changed some facts in his future testimony," Lavell wrote.
Boyadjian, who has a criminal record, told Henderson police in November that Adams, another man and Boyadjian's former girlfriend had kidnapped him after he was released from the Clark County Detention Center. He said they took him to his home, where they beat him and stole some items, including a $3,200 Louis Vuitton bag, a police report shows. Boyadjian was facing a criminal charge of receiving or transferring stolen vehicles.
MacArthur acknowledged that he had offered Boyadjian restitution during a July 16 telephone conversation with Lavell and later at a July 21 hearing before District Judge David Barker, the prosecutor said in court papers.
Lavell attached excerpts from MacArthur's own statements at the hearing.
In one excerpt, MacArthur said Boyadjian had asked whether he could get restitution if he explained what parts of his previous testimony about Adams were untrue.
"I said 'Yes, but let's make something clear,' " MacArthur told Barker. " 'I am not bribing you, and I am not telling you what it is to say. You would need to tell me what it was that wasn't true, and I would arrange with the defendant's family to give you restitution for the property you're not going to get back from the police.' "
Nevada criminal law and the rules of professional conduct for lawyers prohibit offering money to witnesses, Lavell wrote. She said it was clear that "Mr. MacArthur offered money to Boyadjian with the understanding it would influence testimony.
"At best, Mr. MacArthur, and therefore the defendant, intended Mr. Boyadjian to know that only favorable testimony would result in restitution payments from the defendant's family," Lavell explained. "At worst, Mr. MacArthur and the defendant affirmatively approached a witness with the intent to offer him money to change his testimony.
"This type of activity undermines the integrity of the court system and creates an obvious conflict that warrants disqualification."
MacArthur voluntarily withdrew from the case on July 23, and Adams on that same day, with a new lawyer at his side, pleaded guilty to attempted battery with a deadly weapon, court records show.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.