Judge for Whittemore cites possible conflicts

RENO - Citing potential conflicts of interest, a veteran U.S. judge put on hold Thursday the criminal prosecution of Nevada lobbyist Harvey Whittemore as well as a civil battle between the political power broker and a California construction mogul with casino interests.

U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks told lawyers for businessman Albert Seeno Jr. of Concord, Calif., and Whittemore, who has close ties to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that he's confident he can be fair and impartial in the criminal and civil cases he's presiding over.

Citing the "sensitive and high-profile" nature of the cases, Hicks announced he was "conditionally recusing" himself for at least a week so they can decide whether he should continue in light of a variety of past business and family relationships he disclosed during a 40-minute hearing.

Whittemore lawyer Dan Bowen indicated he would waive the recusal. Ken Robison, Seeno lawyer, said he would need to discuss the matter with his client.