A professional gambler will be jailed without bail for posting tweets about an altercation he had with another high roller at Resorts World, a Las Vegas judge ruled Thursday.
Justice of the Peace Suzan Baucum said that based on court minutes from prior hearings in front of a different judge, Robert Cipriani was ordered not to use Twitter at all.
“He didn’t take it seriously,” the judge said.
But defense attorney Dan Hill said the actions of his client, “a man with absolutely no record,” did not merit the order to hold him without bail.
Prosecutors allege that Cipriani and Robert Alexander were gambling at Resorts World on Nov. 19 when Cipriani snatched Alexander’s cellphone from his hand. Alexander and his son followed Cipriani through the casino until Cipriani gave the phone to a security officer, and Metropolitan Police Department officers were called, according to Cipriani’s arrest report.
Testifying at a preliminary hearing on Thursday, Alexander said he was recording Cipriani because the other man was threatening him and his son. Alexander said Cipriani snatched the phone from his hand and deleted the videos.
Alexander testified that Cipriani told him: “The FBI is going to get you, and if they don’t, I’m going to kill you.”
In January 2020, Alexander pleaded guilty to securities fraud and wire fraud in the U.S. District Court of Southern New York, court records show.
Prosecutors accused Alexander, the founder and president of the online gaming company Kizzang, of lying to investors and soliciting about $1.3 million for personal use. Kizzang was a Nevada company that marketed itself as “being in the business of offering free online gaming and contests,” according to an indictment.
During Thursday’s hearing, Hill said Cipriani was in contact with the FBI regarding the federal court case.
According to Cipriani’s arrest report, Cipriani told police that Alexander had been recording him in the casino for “three days straight” before he took the phone. Hill said on Thursday that Cipriani tried to hand off the phone to multiple casino employees.
“Ultimately, the phone was returned back to Mr. Alexander less than 10 minutes after the kerfuffle,” Hill said.
Hill also argued that according to the surveillance footage, Cipriani was not speaking with Alexander for long enough to threaten him.
Cipriani was arrested Nov. 19 and released after posting bond. Prosecutors initially charged him with a felony count of larceny from a person.
As a condition of bail, Cipriani was ordered to have no contact with Alexander, “anyone at Resorts World, and any third-party vendors,” according to Las Vegas Justice Court records. The online docket also lists “no social media or tweeting” as a bail condition.
In a motion to remand Cipriani without bail, prosecutor Bernard Zadrowski wrote that Cipriani was ordered to “desist from posting harassing, intimidating, and threatening social media and email posts/communications.”
Screenshots attached to the motion showed that Cipriani tweeted images of surveillance footage of him and Alexander in Resorts World.
In the tweets, Cipriani accused Alexander of harassing him.
“He drives right over to my BJ table, getting inches away as he verbally threatens me,” Cipriani wrote in a tweet attached to the motion. “Why was he allowed in Vegas casino?”
First Amendment lawyer Allen Lichtenstein, who is not involved in Cipriani’s case, said the tweets cited by prosecutors do not appear to rise to the level of threats or intimidation.
“There are certain exceptions, and clearly harassment and threats or intimidation are not protected by the First Amendment,” Lichtenstein said. “But giving his point of view or his side of the story about what happened doesn’t really fall into that category.”
He said revoking Cipriani’s bail because of the tweets included in the motion appears “punitive.”
“It seems to be overreaching on the part of the DA, and also the judge,” he said.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson did not reply to a request for comment.
Zadrowski said during Thursday’s court hearing that Cipriani posted additional tweets in which he harassed Resorts World employees.
Cipriani did not appear in person on Thursday, violating a previous order from Baucum. His defense attorney said he could not travel because of medical conditions.
The judge said that once Cipriani appears in court and is remanded to custody, his attorney could again argue for him to be released on bail.
Early in the preliminary hearing, Baucum noted that Cipriani and a journalist had been trying to listen to the hearing through BlueJeans, the court’s video call service, but were removed from the hearing after not identifying themselves in the online application.
Baucum allowed prosecutors to amend Cipriani’s initial charge. He now faces felony counts of larceny of property less than $3,500 against a victim who is an older or vulnerable person and robbery against a victim who is an older or vulnerable person, court records show.
In a separate case, Cipriani faces a felony count of committing a fraudulent act in a gaming establishment. He is accused of improperly changing a $500 blackjack bet to a $1,000 bet at Resorts World, hours before the confrontation with Alexander, according to an arrest affidavit.
On Thursday, Zadrowski said the district attorney’s office had proposed a deal in which Cipriani would plead guilty to disorderly conduct and the gambling charge would be dismissed. The agreement, which has been rescinded, would have required Cipriani to continue abiding by the no-contact orders, stay away from Resorts World, and refrain from posting “harassing, intimidating, threatening, disparaging and negative social media and/or email posts or communications” involving the casino or those involved in the case, Zadrowski said.
“In other words, those bail conditions would be made permanent,” Zadrowski said.