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Prosecutors seek more time to investigate potential conflict with judge in Davidovici case

Federal prosecutors on Monday asked U.S. District Judge Kent Dawson for roughly six more weeks to investigate whether he should remove himself from the criminal tax case against longtime nightclub operator Steve Davidovici.

In a brief motion, Justice Department lawyers Christopher Maietta and Joseph Rillotta sought to continue the upcoming July 9 hearing on the matter until Aug. 20 so that the “government can further investigate” whether the judge had a conflict in sentencing Davidovici to three years of probation and eight months of home confinement.

But Davidovici’s lawyer, David Chesnoff, filed a quick response opposing the continuance.

“This request for a delay is simply the government’s latest attempt to prolong this process because it is unhappy with the result,” Chesnoff wrote. “The government provides no basis for this additional delay, and it cites no authority to support its request.”

Dawson called an emergency hearing last Thursday to disclose that the media had inquired about the possible connections between his 38-year-old son, Brian, and Davidovici, who pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in a $7 million tip-concealing scheme at Pure Nightclub at Caesars Palace. Davidovici, 48, once co-owned the club.

Prosecutors had urged Dawson to sentence Davidovici to 18 months in prison for his role in overseeing the tip scheme. But Dawson said he was concerned that Davidovici would not get the care he needed in prison for his eye condition, acute optic neuropathy, which threatens to leave him legally blind.

The judge put a temporary hold on the sentence at Thursday’s hearing after questions arose that his son might have worked as a bartender at one of the nightclubs associated with Davidovici.

Dawson said from the bench that he didn’t know where his son worked, and he insisted that he did not believe there were grounds to take himself off the case.

Chesnoff told Dawson that he saw no reason for the judge to remove himself, but the Justice Department lawyers said then they needed more time to assess the situation.

Dawson ordered the hearing to resume on July 9 to accommodate the prosecutors and later gave them until Tuesday to state their position on whether they believe he has a conflict.

In their motion on Monday, Maietta and Rillotta said they needed until Aug. 15 to respond in writing to the judge.

Word circulated within the media last week that Brian Dawson worked as a bartender at Gallery Nightclub, where Davidovici was a consultant.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Dawson’s son had obtained a work card in May 2011 as a bartender at Chateau Nightclub & Gardens. Until recently, Davidovici was a co-owner at Chateau, which is at Paris Las Vegas.

In his opposition to delaying the hearing, Chesnoff said Davidovici already has paid the $141,306 in restitution Dawson ordered and taken a drug test as part of his initial sentencing requirements.

Davidovici “should not be left in limbo” because the government has been slow to decide whether it wants Dawson off the case, Chesnoff said.

Any additional delay, Chesnoff argued, “has the potential to inflict further harm on his already deteriorating eyesight.”

Contact Jeff German at jgerman@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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