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Cases against accused Las Vegas squatter allowed to proceed

Updated July 21, 2017 - 8:40 pm

A Clark County judge ruled Friday that a man who is accused of being a squatter and who authorities say follows an anti-government ideology is competent to proceed in criminal cases against him.

District Judge Jennifer Togliatti cleared the way for Thomas Benson to move ahead with the two cases. One involves the alleged takeover of a bank-owned home in northwest Las Vegas, the other an illegally occupied condo.

Two doctors found that Benson met the criteria to be considered competent, while another did not, Togliatti said without elaborating. She issued her ruling after hearing that the public defender’s office had no challenge at this time.

The competency hearing was requested by Benson’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Ashley Sisolak.

Benson is scheduled to appear in District Court on July 26 and in Justice Court on July 27.

Togliatti asked Benson, who was shackled and wearing a jail outfit, if he had any questions. He instead made some statements.

The 56-year-old said he was returning a stack of papers to the court and then made an announcement.

“I’m here on a special appearance in a non-agent, non-representative capacity to challenge the jurisdiction of the court,” he said.

“So noted,” Togliatti replied. “Good luck.”

Benson has issued a jurisdictional challenge before. He wrote in an April court filing that according to Nevada law, “if the Judge of this court have (sic) a bar card, you cannot be a Judge in a court of record.”

The filing also said, in an apparent reference to District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez: “If you Gonzalez commit treason by moving this case forward … I will report you to the Republic of Nevada Grand Jury of We the People.”

Las Vegas police and Nevada prosecutors have said that Benson follows “sovereign citizen” ideology, an anti-government movement whose adherents are known for financial scams, nonsensical court filings and occasional violence.

He was arrested in April on charges stemming from the alleged takeover of a foreclosed property in the northwest valley – a 2-acre spread with a 5,400-square-foot main house and a guesthouse.

Benson also was charged in May with conspiracy to commit a crime, housebreaking and unlawful re-entry in connection with a condo on Peace Way near Grand Canyon Drive.

According to prosecutors, the condo’s property manager got a call in March from someone who said that if he returned to the home, he would be shot. Police showed up at the condo and encountered Benson and others, including a woman who had been evicted but was living there again, authorities said in court filings.

State prosecutors said Benson “was discovered squatting” there.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in November on Benson’s history of strange court filings, as well as some of his associates and homes linked to him. He sued the paper, this reporter and several others in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas in February.

Maggie McLetchie, attorney for the Review-Journal and this reporter in the lawsuit, said this week that her motions to dismiss the case are pending.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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