Judicial politics, Actos civil trial intersect

With a potential multibillion-dollar verdict hanging in the balance, the civil trial pitting two cancer victims against diabetes drug maker Takeda Pharmaceuticals continues this week in District Judge Kerry Earley’s courtroom.

On Tuesday, Earley denied a motion by attorneys for the Japanese drug manufacturer to have her removed from the trial. Takeda attorney Daniel Polsenberg argued that a front-page story in Sunday’s Review-Journal on a consultant involved in judicial races and referenced Earley raised a general question of impropriety.

“I see no evidence that there’s any appearance of impropriety by me,” Earley said in announcing she would not remove herself from the trial.

The article focused on the activity of political consultant David Thomas, who was Earley’s campaign manager and also works with wealthy attorney Robert Eglet, who represents a plaintiff in the ongoing Actos diabetes drug case.

Earley’s campaign paid Thomas $50,000 in 2012, but as the Review-Journal reported this week, the judge remarked, “He is not my campaign manager in 2014.”

On Thursday, longtime Las Vegas advertising executive and political consultant Tom Letizia shot down a report that he would manage Earley’s upcoming campaign. Letizia, who is currently consulting Eglet on media coverage of the Actos trial, said he has not yet spoken with the judge.

The Sunday Review-Journal story reported some of the coziness that occurs in a system that elects judges, who often rely heavily on donations from the attorneys that come before them in court.

THE GAMBLER: Hard-living and high-gambling Denny Mason, a former telemarketer who won and lost millions and loved nothing more than placing his bets and pressing his luck, has died. Friends say he died Wednesday — I imagine with betting slips close at hand.

The Arkansas native was 55.

The cause of death is pending, an employee of the Clark County coroner’s office said.

BIG BOOK: Casino veteran Bill Friedman, who once ran the Castaways and Silver Slipper before embarking on a long career as a consultant, has just published “All Against the Law,” a study of Depression-era criminal characters and gangs. As you might imagine, some of the stories have ties to Reno and Las Vegas.

“This one is a side story,” he says of the 311-page hardback. “Next March I’ll be out with the story of how the guys who built the Strip.”

With 45 years of casino industry experience, Friedman has plenty of memories of the rough-and-tumble days in Las Vegas. He’s planning another book on that topic.

To learn more about Friedman’s work, go to Friedmanspeaksvegas.org.

EL SOMBRERO: The venerable El Sombrero Cafe, a fixture on Main Street for more than half a century, is set to close Saturday. Lovers of good Mexican food and friendly service are crying in their chile verde.

Look for my El Sombrero tribute this Sunday.

SHADE TREE: Station Casinos has come up with an interesting proposition. It has just donated $100,000 to the Shade Tree domestic violence shelter, and it’s encouraging others to match its gift.

Sounds like a challenge that could really help one of the community’s most worthy charities.

ON THE BOULEVARD: At one time or another, Boulevard denizens have found themselves sitting at the counter of the grill inside the White Cross Drugs, where the food was hot, plentiful and affordable. Dina Kelesis, who died earlier this month at age 87, helped make it happen for decades. … While we’re paying tribute, it’s appropriate to bid farewell to longtime former Nevada Assembly Speaker Joe Dini, a country gentleman from Yerington who was an honest broker at the Legislature and at his own hometown casino. Meanwhile, former Sheriff Ralph Lamb is still kicking, “Everything’s all right,” he says, laughing. “I’m still alive.”

Have an item for Bard of the Boulevard? Email comments and contributions to jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.

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