Mistrial request rejected


Las Vegas Sands President Bill Weidner testified Thursday the company is spending $8 million to $10 million to defend itself against allegations from a Hong Kong businessman -- a statement that led to another request for a mistrial.

Clark County District Judge Michelle Leavitt denied the plaintiff's request to declare a mistrial because of Weidner's remarks.

In his fourth day on the witness stand, Weidner gave out the company's estimate for legal fees when asked to speculate how much Richard Suen might have been owed for helping the company win a lucrative Macau gaming license in 2001.

Weidner and company Chairman Sheldon Adelson testified Suen's efforts didn't factor in to the company's successful licensing effort.

Suen sued Las Vegas Sands in 2004, saying he should be compensated for helping the company win a shared Macau gaming concession in 2002.

"He probably owes us millions," Weidner said in response to the question posed by company attorney Rusty Hardin. "We've probably spent $8 million to $10 million to defend ourselves."

Even before lead Suen attorney John O'Malley could object to the response, Leavitt ordered the jury to disregard the comments.

The jury was hustled out of the courtroom, and a heated argument between both sides and the judge ensued.

Attorney James Pisanelli, who also represents Suen, immediately asked Leavitt to declare a mistrial.

Exposing the jury to what Las Vegas Sands might be billed in legal costs was highly prejudicial, he said.

It was the second time Suen's attorneys have sought a mistrial since the civil trial started last week.

During opening statements April 18, Pisanelli asked for a mistrial because Hardin gave the jurors information that was not supposed to be brought into evidence.

Leavitt denied that request, saying jurors had been instructed not to consider opening statements as evidence.

"This jury has been prejudiced by their missteps," Pisanelli said Thursday. "How many times does this have to happen?"

Hardin countered that Weidner, president of Las Vegas Sands since 1995, is not an attorney and did not know he couldn't divulge legal costs during testimony.

"It was not planned. It was a mistake," Hardin said.

An angry Leavitt questioned both sides about the disclosure, but wasn't sure which side was more prejudiced by Weidner's admission. She called a 20-minute recess to conduct legal research.

"I want a little bit of time to cool down," Leavitt said.

Afterward, Leavitt said she was denying the mistrial and instructed the jury to disregard Weidner's previous comments.

"These comments are not to be considered in any way when deciding this case," Leavitt said.

Weidner, who testified that he was the company's main contact in its dealing with Suen during 2001, said he thought Suen's efforts, which included arranging some meetings in Beijing with Chinese government officials, were worth about $400,000 plus expenses.

Weidner is expected to return to the witness stand again Monday, when the trial resumes.

Weidner would not answer questions about his testimony after court concluded, saying he was advised by Hardin not to talk.

"I've talked enough. I'm under a cone of silence," he said.

Adelson testified last week and is the only other witness the jury has heard since the trial began a week ago.

Suen, a friend and business partner of Adelson's brother, Leonard Adelson, claims he helped the company secure a gaming license in Macau. The company has used it to build the Sands Macau and Venetian Macau and is in the process of building 12 other hotel-casinos on the region's Cotai Strip.

During his testimony, Weidner said Suen tried to get the company to invest in different nongaming-type projects to curry favor with the Chinese government, including a a convention center and high-tech park in Beijing.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871.

 

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