January 13, 2016 - 8:01 am
Good grief, Schroeder. You’re back in the news.
And just when we thought we’d heard the last of the guy.
Fallout from the Adelson family’s December purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and its relationship with Connecticut newspaper publisher Michael Schroeder surfaced Tuesday morning in District Court in the bruising wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Sands Macau casino executive Steve Jacobs.
The accusations are getting so ugly I’d suggest Schroeder consider changing his name, but look at all the trouble he got into the last time he tried that.
Under the pseudonym “Edward Clarkin,” Schroeder published a story Dec. 2 in his New Britain Herald newspaper that focused generally on business court but specifically and inaccurately attacked District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez in far-away Clark County. The article by our man in Connecticut was larded with arguably plagiarized material and questionable sourcing. It also failed to mention Schroeder was manager of the limited liability company that was purchasing the Review-Journal.
Gonzalez wasn’t just any smeared judge. She’s also the presiding judge in the Jacobs lawsuit, which accuses Las Vegas Sands and multibillionaire gaming titan Sheldon Adelson of wrongful termination and failing to heed the former executive’s warnings about political influence-peddling and doing business with Triad-connected junket companies. Adelson has vehemently denied the allegations and has called Jacobs a “delusional” incompetent who was fired in 2010 for a long list of failings, but the accusations have fueled an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into whether Sands violated American bribery laws.
Adelson’s son-in-law Patrick Dumont, Las Vegas Sands’ senior vice president of finance and strategy, orchestrated the $140 million purchase of the Review-Journal. On Tuesday, Judge Gonzalez ruled that Dumont is compelled to answer questions about his relationship with Schroeder and that journalistic hit piece, which by now has been denounced even by its author as an unprofessional piece of hack work.
Nevada law allows little wiggle room for reluctant witnesses in depositions.
“Everybody in the room, and there’s a lot of people in the room right now, knows there are two bases in Nevada that you can instruct the witness not to answer: harassment and privilege,” Gonzalez said. “That’s it.”
Dumont attorney Hersh Kozlov attempted to persuade Gonzalez to recuse herself from deciding the matter because she’s a key subject of the critical article. At the very least, it was a clever way to accomplish something attorneys for Las Vegas Sands appear to have desired for several years — call into question the judge’s objectivity.
“I suggest to the court with respect and with reluctance, the court could not and should not interject itself in news articles involving the court,” Kozlov said, noting that Dumont isn’t a party to the lawsuit. “The court should recuse on that matter. This court, with respect your honor, should not put itself in position of ordering a witness to answer questions with regard to the court.”
The Schroeder-Dumont connection to the Jacobs case had Jacobs attorney Todd Bice taking great umbrage with what he called the duplicitous behavior of the casino executive.
“Your honor, Mr. Dumont, with all due respect to Mr. Dumont, simply got caught,” Bice said, reading from deposition testimony in which Dumont denied discussing Jacobs and the litigation with anyone in the media. That included, according to Bice, denials of conversations with Review-Journal Publisher Jason Taylor and GateHouse Media CEO Kirk Davis. Review-Journal reporters had been ordered to monitor Gonzalez and two other judges prior to the sale.
Bice continued, “‘Have you discussed this litigation with anyone in the media? Answer, ‘No.’ He answered both of those questions no, your honor. Then when I started to go into individuals in the media, he originally claimed he didn’t speak to Mr. Taylor. He said he didn’t speak to an individual named Kirk Davis. Then when I got to Michael Schroeder, your honor, then of course the avalanche from counsel starts to obstruct the deposition.”
Dumont has only been associated with the local newspaper a few weeks and he’s already having his sources and motivations questioned. Hey, welcome to the newspaper racket, Mr. Dumont.
Judge Gonzalez carved out what she obviously thought was an ethical and professional plan to compel Dumont’s deposition testimony while avoiding a possible conflict and more delays in the lengthy litigation. She instructed Dumont to answer questions related to Jacobs with any inquiries focused on the litigation going first to a discovery commissioner and then, presuming there’s an appeal, to experienced District Judge Jennifer Togliatti.
This failed to soothe the expressed concerns of attorneys for Sands and Dumont. They promised to file their recusal motion.
Although Schroeder’s no longer associated with the Review-Journal, it’s now clear that we haven’t heard the last of our man in Connecticut.
John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. He can be reached at 702-383-0295 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith