The Clark County district attorney's office Thursday asked the Nevada State Bar to investigate whether defense lawyer Jonathan MacArthur tried to bribe a key witness in a criminal case to change testimony.
Prosecutors had told MacArthur that they might take his case to a grand jury, the Review-Journal reported in August.
But Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens said Thursday that prosecutors instead decided to refer the case to the bar. The bar has authority to recommend to the Nevada Supreme Court whether a lawyer should be suspended or disbarred.
Prosecutors have the option of conducting an investigation after the bar reviews the allegations, Owens said. Both Nevada law and the rules of professional conduct for lawyers prohibit offering money to witnesses to influence their testimony.
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 MacArthur 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."
His lawyer, Tom Pitaro, declined to comment.
Deputy Bar Counsel David Clark confirmed Thursday that a lengthy complaint was received from the district attorney's office, but Clark declined to comment until he has a chance to review it.
Deputy District Attorney Maria Lavell outlined the bribery allegations in July 23 court papers 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.
"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.
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 added.
"Mr. MacArthur offered money to Boyadjian with the understanding it would influence testimony," she said.
MacArthur withdrew from the case on July 23, and Adams, 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 jgerman@review journal.com or 702-380-8135 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.