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Voicemail death threat sought in case related to reporter’s killing

Updated February 27, 2024 - 6:25 pm

Former Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles’ defense attorney is pushing to obtain a recording of a death threat sent to Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German in the months before he was killed.

Both prosecutors and Telles’ defense attorney, Robert Draskovich, said they may not be ready to go to trial next month because Review-Journal employees who are searching German’s personal devices found a voicemail recording of a death threat.

But Telles, who is accused of fatally stabbing German in September 2022 over articles German had written about Telles’ conduct as an elected official, still wants to move forward with next month’s trial.

“He is adamant, against counsel’s advice, to proceed with the March 18th trial date,” Draskovich said after a court hearing Tuesday.

Draskovich said that German received an expletive-filled voicemail on Feb. 24, 2022, and the message consisted of a male voice that was “clearly not Telles’ voice.” The voicemail referenced an article German wrote about extremism in the U.S., and was “somewhat nonsensical,” said Draskovich, who described the voicemail to reporters but did not play a recording of it.

German had written a lengthy article about extremism in Southern Nevada that was published in February 2021, and he continued covering a prominent court case over the following year involving alleged members of the extremist boogaloo movement.

The voicemail could be used as exculpatory evidence to help in Telles’ defense, Draskovich said. He said the trial may be able to move forward as scheduled if attorneys receive a copy of the voicemail and have time to investigate the message.

“Obviously that’s significant because it’s the state’s theory that Mr. Telles acted out of anger or some other negative emotion based upon stories that Mr. German was writing,” Draskovich said during Tuesday’s hearing. “Well here we have a gentleman, in relation to an article that Mr. German had written, making death threats.”

Draskovich said that he anticipates prosecutors would attempt to exclude the voicemail from evidence by arguing they have not had enough time to investigate.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Pamela Weckerly said that prosecutors want to review the information on German’s phone and computers before the trial, although prosecutors have also indicated they can move forward with the trial without the information on the devices, if necessary.

“We’re entitled to investigate this piece of information and determine what additional witnesses we want to call at trial to address this particular item of information,” Weckerly said about the voicemail.

Although Draskovich asked to be informed if the search of the devices revealed any information about German’s schedule the day he was killed, or any other potential threats he received, Weckerly argued it was not up to the Review-Journal to determine what information could help Telles’ defense.

Weckerly also pointed out that Telles approved of the protocol being used to search the devices.

“So if he doesn’t like the timing of how this is going, that was his decision and he signed off on the protocol,” she said.

Police seized multiple computers and German’s phone from the crime scene after his body was found. The Review-Journal entered a lengthy legal fight with police and the district attorney’s office to prevent officials from searching the devices, which may contain information about German’s confidential sources.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in October that the state’s shield law, which protects journalists from forcibly revealing sources, applies to German’s devices after his death.

Employees with the news organization are now in the process of reviewing German’s devices to determine what information is confidential under Nevada’s shield law, and what information can be turned over to investigators.

Telles spent more than a year acting as his own lawyer before he hired Draskovich last month. He has pleaded not guilty to a murder charge and has maintained he was the victim of police misconduct during the investigation, and that he was framed for German’s slaying by a local real estate firm, which has denied the accusation.

Prosecutors have pointed to “overwhelming” evidence against Telles, including his DNA that authorities said was found underneath German’s fingernails.

Another status check in the case is scheduled for March 6.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240.

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