Stupid doggedness in Gage case endangers pursuit of larger quarry

Now look at the fine mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

The government managed to look like checkers players at a chess match this week in its foundering case against personal injury attorney Noel Gage. Instead of stepping back after limping away with a hung jury in its first trial, the U.S. attorney’s office continued to pursue Gage in a mission that provides a distraction from the larger, more important targets in the FBI’s doctor-lawyer medical malpractice investigation.

On Monday, Senior U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush ordered the government to provide limited immunity to Dr. Mark Kabins to compel his testimony in a second trial against Gage, who is accused of conspiring with medical consultant Howard Awand and others to exploit clients, inflate medical costs and protect selected physicians from malpractice lawsuits.

A failure to grant Kabins immunity could result in the charges being dismissed against Gage, and on Tuesday the government refused to immunize the doctor.

Kabins was one of the treating surgeons in a malpractice case filed by Melodie Simon, who was represented by Gage. The government contends Gage, Kabins, surgeon John Thalgott and Awand conspired to exploit Simon by diverting the lawsuit away from the doctors in exchange for future favors. Simon won $2.3 million for injuries that left her paralyzed and received $1.3 million after attorney fees and costs. At trial, the government outlined another case in which Gage won an $18 million settlement. A jury didn’t buy it.

In a motion to the court, Gage’s attorneys argued that the government’s key witnesses, surgeons Thalgott and Benjamin Venger, were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony. Kabins, who shared an office with Thalgott and was integrally involved in the Simon case, also deserved that opportunity even though he was expected to contradict Thalgott’s version of events.

Quackenbush agreed.

Unless there’s a startling new development, the government’s case against Gage appears sunk. That should surprise no one.

The signs of trouble were there from the start. Quackenbush was skeptical of the case against Gage as early as the pretrial stage. Instead of paring the 19 charges against Gage, the government soldiered on and watched the judge do the cutting for them. Some people would consider that a wake-up call.

After seeing 13 charges dismissed and watching its star witnesses look arrogant and sleazy, the damage was done. Jurors split 8-to-4 to convict. A mistrial was declared.

A lot of prosecutors would have wisely seen that split as a sign to pick up and move on to more important business or arrange for a settlement that allowed everyone to save face, but that didn’t happen.

What was the prosecution’s response to those very real problems?

To encourage its own middleman, attorney George Kelesis, who helped arrange for the testimony of Thalgott and Venger, to approach pet reporter pals and pound away at the Review-Journal for printing the obvious. It was real amateur-hour stuff.

At the risk of playing amateur psychiatrist, this case reeks of big egos on both sides of the aisle. Gage, whose close relationship with reputed case-fixer Awand is no secret, ought to have been amenable to settlement. Hung jury or not, he’ll have trouble shaking the stench of suspicion he sold out a defenseless client.

The prosecution, meanwhile, shouldn’t have focused on the gnarled veteran litigator as its test case. Is Gage really an integral part of a larger conspiracy?

Going forward, the government will have to work harder to prepare Thalgott and Venger. While accusing Gage of criminal conspiracies, Venger admitted perjury and money laundering. He also received immunity and agreed to forfeit money to the government.

While damning Gage, Thalgott admitted he participated in meetings outlined in the criminal conspiracy. Although the jury didn’t hear it, Thalgott agreed to pay Simon an additional $1.5 million.

In an ill-advised April 3 letter to his “dear and valued patients,” Thalgott attempted to revise the facts and place the blame on the mean old newspaper. He decided to leave out of the letter his immunity deal and the $1.5 million check he agreed to hand Simon. Add one more amateur-hour move to the growing list.

By failing to gauge their case against Gage, prosecutors now risk harming their larger investigation and the case against the real linchpin in this affair, Howard Awand.

It’s a fine mess, indeed.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at or call (702) 383-0295.

Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like