Lawyer says no evidence ties client to slaying

A lawyer representing the former owner of a North Las Vegas strip club argued Thursday that prosecutors presented insufficient evidence to prove that his client ordered the 2005 killing of an ex-employee.

Luis Hidalgo Jr., the former owner of the Palomino Club, is accused of conspiring with his son and others to murder 44-year-old Timothy Hadland.

“The state’s got tapes, but Luis Hidalgo’s not on them,” defense attorney Dominic Gentile told jurors during his closing argument. “The state’s got fingerprints — but not Luis Hidalgo’s.”

Gentile said prosecutors did not charge his client until they made a deal with the man’s ex-girlfriend, Anabel Espindola, about a year ago. Espindola, who previously faced a murder charge, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon and is awaiting sentencing.

The woman testified for the prosecution last week at Hidalgo’s trial, and Gentile told jurors she lied to them.

“Anabel Espindola is a puppet, a marionette on a string,” the lawyer argued. “She is looking for leniency.”

The jury is scheduled to begin deliberations this morning in the case against Hidalgo, 58, and his 27-year-old son, Luis Hidalgo III. The younger Hidalgo also is charged with soliciting the murder of witnesses in the case.

Hadland, who recently had been fired from his job as a doorman at the Palomino Club, was fatally shot on an isolated road near Lake Mead on the night of May 19, 2005.

According to a Las Vegas police report, Hadland was marked for death after bad-mouthing the all-nude club and its owner to cabdrivers, costing the business thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Espindola, the club’s general manager, testified that she called employee Deangelo Carroll on the night of the killing and passed along the elder Hidalgo’s instruction to go to “plan B.” She said she did not know what that meant, but she suspected something bad was going to happen to Hadland.

Prosecutors contend “plan A” involved killing Hadland, and “plan B” involved beating him up. They claim gang member Kenneth Counts pulled the trigger after Carroll drove him and two teenagers to the meeting with Hadland, who was camping in the area.

Espindola testified that Carroll showed up at the elder Hidalgo’s office on May 20, 2005, and told him, “It’s done.” The witness said the club owner then told her to get $5,000 out of the safe, and she did. She said Carroll took the money and left.

Luis Hidalgo Jr. took the witness stand at his trial and corroborated at least one part of his ex-girlfriend’s story: the payment of $5,000 to Carroll.

“He did something that was foolish, and he told you that, and he did it motivated by fear,” Gentile told the jury.

The lawyer said Carroll, who had just returned from the killing, told the club owner the shooter was waiting outside for the money and was going to harm someone if he did not get it. “He paid the money,” Gentile said.

Gentile described his client as a family man who once worked as a civilian for a California sheriff’s office. “It makes no sense that he would become involved in something like this,” Gentile said of the killing.

Deputy District Attorney Marc DiGiacomo told jurors the elder Hidalgo provided them with enough evidence when he admitted making the payment to Carroll.

“You don’t even need Anabel Espindola right now to determine this man’s guilt,” the prosecutor said.

He also mocked Gentile’s characterization of Luis Hidalgo Jr., describing the defendant as “the family man who has a strip club and a mistress.”

Several days after the slaying, Carroll wore a wire and recorded conversations with Espindola and the younger Hidalgo. On one of the tapes, Luis Hidalgo III talks about using rat poison to kill witnesses.

Atlanta attorney Christopher Adams, who represents the younger Hidalgo, said the man was not a suspect “until his mouth made him a target.”

Adams said his client did not plan or participate in Hadland’s death, and even Espindola did not take his comments about using poison seriously.

A jury acquitted Counts of first-degree murder last year but convicted him of conspiracy to commit murder. Carroll has not yet gone to trial.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-8135.

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