A major rift has erupted between the offices of the U.S. attorney and the district attorney over the high-profile criminal investigations involving construction defects attorney Nancy Quon.
In letters disclosed Thursday, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden demanded that one of District Attorney David Roger’s top prosecutors correct what Bogden described as “false” courtroom statements that unfairly harmed the reputation of his office.
The district attorney, however, responded in a letter to Bogden that his office would not retract the statements of Chief Deputy District Attorney Sandra DiGiacomo.
DiGiacomo argued at an Aug. 18 hearing that Quon had schemed to set fire to her home and kill herself last October because she feared she would lose her connections at the U.S. attorney’s office and get indicted in a federal homeowners association investigation being taken over by Justice Department lawyers in Washington, D.C.
District Judge Michelle Leavitt, who is presiding over the arson-suicide case against Quon, disclosed Thursday in court that Bogden had sent her a letter seeking the corrections to the court record.
Leavitt said she was “not inclined” to correct DiGiacomo’s statements and then ordered the Aug. 30 letter be made public. The letter referred to a similar Aug. 25 letter Bogden had sent Roger.
Bogden told Roger that DiGiacomo had a professional responsibility to “correct the false record she created” and asked Roger to share with him the “specific evidence” she relied upon to make her allegations.
But Roger responded that he now considered Bogden a defense witness in the district attorney’s criminal case against Quon and would not give him any evidence gathered in the case.
“Whether your office wrongly provided access to the defendants is not relevant,” Roger wrote. “The thrust of her presentation was that the defendants felt they had influence with your office and were extremely concerned that the Department of Justice attorneys were taking over the case.
“That said, your representations to the contrary compel me to provide your letter to the defense as exculpatory evidence. Because you are likely a defense witness in our case, it would not be appropriate to provide you discovery.”
The Washington prosecutors came to Las Vegas to take control of the federal homeowners association investigation a week after the Oct. 28 fire at Quon’s Rhodes Ranch home.
Late last year another arm of the Justice Department launched a criminal probe into alleged leaks at the U.S. attorney’s office. There were concerns that Quon, a key target in the homeowners investigation, was getting sensitive information about the case. She has denied that allegation.
On Aug. 30, as the first guilty plea in the homeowners association probe became public, the Justice Department issued a news release out of Washington saying it had “completed its review and determined no further action is necessary” in the leak investigation.
DiGiacomo contended at the Aug. 18 hearing that the prosecution’s theory in the arson-suicide case was based on media reports about the leak investigation and testimony from witnesses she presented to the grand jury in the local Quon probe.
One of those witnesses, Las Vegas police Detective Robert Whiteley, testified that Quon and her ex-cop boyfriend, William Ronald Webb, knew what few people knew before the fire at Quon’s home: that the Justice Department lawyers were coming to take over the homeowners association investigation on Nov. 8. Webb was indicted with Quon last month in the arson case.
“They believed that on Nov. 8 they were not going to have their backing in the U.S. attorney’s office anymore,” DiGiacomo told Leavitt at the hearing. “There had been leaks and other issues in this investigation.”
But Bogden rebutted DiGiacomo’s argument in his letters.
“Whatever the logic of this argument, it has no basis in fact or evidence and is an irresponsible slander against the honest, hardworking and ethical servants of this office,” Bogden told Leavitt. “Nothing in the record before the court establishes any good faith basis for the outrageous claims made by Ms. DiGiacomo.”
In his letter to Roger, Bogden said he agreed with Quon’s lawyer, Thomas Pitaro, who called DiGiacomo’s courtroom statements at the time “absolutely outrageous” and “unfair character assassination.”
Bogden said it was “simply false” for anyone to imply that his office “has been found to have done something wrong, leaked information or engaged in any impropriety” in the homeowners investigation.
Pitaro would not say Thursday whether he would call Bogden as a defense witness in the district attorney’s criminal case against Quon.
But he added, “I stand by the comments I made in court that there is absolutely nothing to the accusations the prosecutor made in court. And what I said in court was corroborated by Mr. Bogden’s letters.”
Late Thursday, Bogden issued a statement, saying he has an obligation as U.S. attorney and an officer of the court to point out “inappropriate and erroneous argument.”
After reviewing the grand jury transcripts in the district attorney’s case, he said, he determined that DiGiacomo had made “false and inappropriate statements” in court, and he decided to write to Roger and then Leavitt.
“We have always had a good working relationship with the Clark County DA’s Office and I am sure we will be able to work out an amenable resolution to this issue as we have with other issues in the past,” he said.
When Bogden returned to take the reins of the office in October 2009, he removed himself from making any administrative decisions in the homeowners association investigation because of a potential conflict of interest. He owns a condominium at one of the developments under investigation, Park Avenue.
Then, last October the U.S. attorney’s office asked to be removed entirely from the case to avoid the appearance of a conflict.
In both letters, Bogden defended his office’s role in the case, saying it was handled by federal prosecutors with many years of experience in “complex and sensitive” investigations.
“This office diligently and ethically pursued the HOA investigation,” Bogden wrote Leavitt. “Our office devoted significant resources to the investigation and developed strategy, participated in witness interviews, conducted grand jury inquiries and obtained timely judicial process, including obtaining search warrant authorizations.
“Ms. DiGiacomo’s reference to unnamed corrupt ‘friends’ who would effectively protect Ms. Quon from federal prosecutors by keeping the investigation from developing into criminal charges is false and irresponsible and has no basis in any fair reading of any evidence.”
Bogden concluded: “It is my hope that the record will be corrected and that the unnecessarily sullied reputations of the many hardworking public servants of this office will be restored.”