Prosecutors said Wednesday that they would offer probation in a drug trafficking case for a Las Vegas man whose lawyers asked that he is treated similarly to tech billionaire Henry Nicholas.
But the exact terms of the deal for 53-year-old Ray Jefferson still must be hammered out, his lawyers said after a court hearing Wednesday.
Defense attorney Ozzie Fumo, a Nevada assemblyman, argued that Jefferson had been subjected to “an epidemic” in which “the poor are being treated disproportionately to the rich.”
Prosecutor Robert Daskas called Fumo’s court briefs referring to Nicholas “a publicity stunt.”
The co-founder of Broadcom Corp. with an estimated net worth of $4 billion, Nicholas recently negotiated a deal with the Clark County district attorney’s office in which he would avoid prison time after authorities found drugs in his Strip hotel room.
“In this country, and in this state, and in this county in particular, it seems like the rich get disproportionate treatment to the poor,” Fumo told the Review-Journal after Jefferson’s hearing. “This can turn into a negotiation that’s fair for him like it would be for everybody else. The Nicholas negotiation is an excellent negotiation. I just want everybody to be treated equally.”
Despite Wednesday’s offer to guarantee probation for Jefferson if he comes to an agreement with prosecutors, Daskas said that “we would want to go in with as much ammunition and all of our options available” should the case go to trial.
In a motion filed late last month, Fumo suggested that Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson gave Nicholas special treatment after he bankrolled a victims’ rights law that voters approved in November. Wolfson appeared in television campaign ads in support of the legislation after Nicholas’ arrest.
In court, Daskas tossed the political football back across the courtroom.
“This is a stunt,” Daskas said. “It’s to advance someone’s political career. It has no merit … Perhaps the biggest shame in all of this is the defense attorney is using Mr. Jefferson as some sort of pawn, and he might lose out on a guarantee of probation because of this nonsense.”
Prosecutors dropped drug trafficking charges last month against Nicholas and friend Ashley Fargo after each agreed to make $500,000 donations to an unspecified Las Vegas-area drug treatment and rehabilitation program. Should the two complete 250 hours of community service and drug counseling, their records will be wiped clean, according to the deal.
The pair were arrested at the Encore last summer after security officials discovered drugs including heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, inside Nicholas’ guest room.
At the end of this month, Nicholas and Fargo are expected to enter pleas to a felony drug possession charge. They are expected to enter a type of guilty plea that requires them to admit only that prosecutors have enough evidence to prove the allegations to a jury.
Jefferson, a four-time felon with convictions dating to 1986, was arrested in February 2018 after he was accused of failing to register his address with the Metropolitan Police Department.
An officer told a Clark County grand jury that he found two bags of cocaine wedged in the passenger seat of a patrol car while Jefferson was being taken to jail.
Nicholas’ Encore arrest was not the first time authorities leveled allegations of drug trafficking in Las Vegas against him. In 2008, federal prosecutors in California charged him with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances.
An indictment alleged in part that between May 2003 and May 2008, Nicholas “knowingly and intentionally maintained and used” a condominium at Turnberry Towers on Paradise Road “for the purpose of distributing and using controlled substances.”
The federal charges were dropped in 2010.