Federal judge in counterfeiting case rolls with the punch lines

No one can accuse U.S. District Judge James Mahan of lacking a sense of humor. The judge is presiding over the “Supernotes” counterfeiting case.

After the defense called for yet another sidebar Thursday, Mahan indulged counsel, but not before quipping that he was “turning into Judge Ito here” in reference to the peripatetic jurist who attempted to ride herd over the O.J. Simpson murder trial.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Vasquez’s fumble of a time line was noticed by jurors, Mahan lightly corrected the prosecutor and observed, “Math is not your strong suit.”

Perhaps not, but the facts appear to be. Defendant Wilson Liu, on trial with his wife Teresa, is accused of facilitating the transfer and sale of $2 million in high-quality counterfeit $100 bills from North Korea, through China and into the United States. Unfortunately for Liu, the sales were to an FBI undercover agent in an operation that was wired for sound and, at times, video.

The overwhelming evidence has frustrated veteran defense attorneys Theodore Cohen and Carl Osborne, who at times have grasped for traction with prosecution witnesses. Their client, I understand, fired two previous defense attorneys.

In the face of such evidence, I’m left with one question: Why, in the face of such evidence, would Wilson Liu press this case to trial and risk watching his co-defendant serve prison time?

It’s no great secret around the courthouse that she was offered a deal in exchange for her husband’s cooperation.

SAHARA’S FAITHFUL: Drive down the Boulevard and you are bound to be impressed by the mega-resorts. For stunning looks, it’s hard to beat the Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas, and Venetian. Others are partial to Mandalay Bay, Caesars Palace and Paris.

The Sahara might not sparkle like those mega-resorts, but it holds a special place in the hearts of many of the thousands of locals who worked there between 1952 and 1982. Hundreds of those former employees will meet starting at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Palace Station to share stories and remember when the Sahara was truly a happening place.

Some will remember when Louis Prima took over the lounge and was joined by Keely Smith and sax man Sam Butera. Others will laugh at the “new” poolside scene on the Strip and recall just how cool the Sahara’s pool was 40 years ago. Still more will have stories of Don the Beachcomber restaurant, one of the Strip’s most popular dining experiences in its day.

Jerry Lewis qualifies as a Sahara veteran. He held his Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day Telethon there for many years.

The Sahara, of course, provided a hangout for members of the Rat Pack, who loved Prima and comedian Don Rickles. But it was also the showroom home for a hall of fame of singers from Paul Anka and Liza Minnelli to Judy Garland and Connie Francis.

Maybe they’ll play some Connie Francis at the reunion just to set the scene.

Reunion coordinator Robin Feigelman tells me a few true old-timers who opened the Sahara have promised to be there. I’ll bet they can still fit into their uniforms.

Will anyone remember when the Club Bingo stood on the site of the Sahara?

For the locals who worked there and fell in love with the place, it won’t seem like that long ago.

ON THE BOULEVARD: KTNV-TV, Channel 13’s Nina Radetich continues to illustrate why she’s one of the classiest members of the local media with her fifth annual “Nina’s Night Out” fundraising concert to benefit the Rape Crisis Center. This year’s event is set for tonight at The Pearl inside the Palms and features Jessica Simpson. … True crime author and pet lover Cathy Scott signs her “Pawprints of Katrina” at 11 a.m. Saturday at the B. Dalton inside the Galleria Mall in Henderson.

BOULEVARD II: Don’t forget the 18th annual Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Southern Nevada 5K & 1 Mile run at 7:30 a.m. Saturday at Mountain’s Edge Exploration Peak Park. … Speaking of moving, Las Vegan Vance Sutton begins his coast-to-coast bike ride to benefit the Nevada Cancer Institute and the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute this week. The experienced triathlete will cycle approximately 3,000 miles in a month.

Have an item for the Bard of the Boulevard? E-mail comments and contributions to Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

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