News 3 Las Vegas recently took a two-part look at my podcast, Vegas Fed, about the infamous Wynn Kidnapping case.
I’ll let them speak for themselves.
Las Vegas True Crime Stories
Let’s see, where did we leave off…..
Oh yeah, the Cliven Bundy prosecution. A monumental disaster which resulted in a dismissal, during trial, when the court found “flagrant” ethical violations on the part of the Government.
Well since then, the lead Bundy prosecutor, Acting U.S. Attorney, “Semper Fi” Steve Myhre, was replaced by a veteran DOJ lawyer from Texas.
The Good Old Boy Nevada bar circled the wagons – they were appalled that DOJ went outside Nevada.
Only Rick Pocker, the president-elect of the Nevada Bar, got it right.
“This may be DOJ trying to get control of the situation (the situation?) and they’ve bought in someone that they know has good experience” to bring a “fresh approach to an office that’s had some hard knocks lately.” Hard knocks indeed.
Pocker, the former U.S. Attorney and a brilliant guy – and not just because he hired me (a NY lawyer who had nothing to do with Nevada) as an AUSA in Vegas, had seen this before, after he left the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
A DOJ trouble-shooter, Doug Frazier – not from Nevada – was brought in to head the Vegas office and shake things up after I’d been there only a couple of years. He was a great leader and got the office back on track.
In fact, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, Pocker and his predecesor, Judge Bill Maddox, hired multiple out-of-state attorneys who would reject all the Vegas insiders and special interests and work for our client – the United States of America. These hires included some heavy hitters – Jay Angelo. Howard Zlotnick, and Russ Mayer, as well as yours truly. That hiring trend would continue under U.S. Attorney Kathryn Landreth, with people like Matt Parrella, Peter Ko, Walt Green and Blair (Smith) Perez. A legal Murderers Row.
Now let me pause briefly. Just ask yourself why a bunch of defense attorneys would complain about a non-member of their club being appointed the head prosecutor in Las Vegas?
Do you think they had the public interest in mind?
Anyway, the disgraced Myhre, protege of twice-fired Dan Bodgen, was replaced in January.
Then, last week (on Friday the 13th) it was revealed that he had been demoted from First Assistant. The front page of the Review Journal blared: EMBATTLED FEDERAL ATTORNEY MOVED
The source of these particular woes was an EEOC complaint of sexual discrimination by a female AUSA who has since left the office. Besides costing the Government more than $300,000 to settle her case, Myhre, Greg Brower (then U.S. Attorney, having succeeded the fired Bogden) and other supervisory personnel were ordered to undergo sexual discrimination training, and to file periodic compliance reports. (Of course, none of this stopped blabbermouth FBI Director James Comey from hiring Brower for a high level FBI position.)
One more point about Brower as relates to Nevada’s Good Old Boy network.
Once Bogden was fired (the first time) a replacement had to be chosen.
What list of qualifications would not offend the Las Vegas bar?
He’s a lawyer. Good start.
He was a Nevada Legislator. A little less impressive than it might sound, when you consider that:
“The Assembly, like the Senate, is composed of citizen legislators, receiving a relatively small salary for the first 60 days of a session only. This tends to self-selection, with legislative service difficult for those without flexible jobs and/or large outside incomes, such as doctors and lawyers. The Assembly, again like the Senate, meets up to a maximum of 120 days, beginning the first Monday in February of every odd-numbered year.”
He served as Inspector General of the Government Printing Office, presumably ferreting out potential threats to our nation’s paper and ink stores.
Perfect. No complaints from the Vegas legal heavy-hitters, not withstanding Brower is from Reno, some 400 miles away.
By contrast, the new interim U.S. Attorney, Dayle Elieson “has served this Department (DOJ) for more than 15 years and has prosecuted criminals for more than 20 years,” per Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “At the federal level, she has successfully taken on fraudsters, money launderers, and terrorists. She is experienced, highly respected, and she will be an excellent leader as Interim U.S. Attorney for Nevada.”
One final note on all of this.
I was called as a witness in that female AUSA’s sexual discrimination complaint. But I never worked for Brower. So the matters I was asked about necessarily pertained to the Bogden era.
Yet Bogden seems to have emerged unscathed by any of these unpleasantries.
I wish the best to U.S. Attorney Dayle Elieson. Hopefully she can right this once formidable, listing ship.
I read the news today. Oh boy.
The Top Ten Las Vegas stories of 2017, per the Las Vegas Review Journal, were a disturbing and dismal lot. Included were the Route 91 Festival/Mandalay Bay massacre, the deadliest in U.S. history – on the Las Vegas Strip; a school district budget crisis; numerous incidents of sexual abuse in those same schools; and… the Bundy trials.
When an “unravelling” prosecution makes it into the year’s biggest stories – all bad – we’re in trouble.
“Back in my day….”.
I know how that sounds. But 15 years ago, the Las Vegas U.S, Attorney’s Office made lots of headlines – 99% of them positive. There was Myer Blinder, Harry Whittenburg, the DuPont Murder, Brady-Mortensen, Harrah’s, and…the Wynn kidnaping – and many, many others. All resounding successes.
So I just couldn’t help to compare and contrast the case from then to now (see previous article re: Bundy.)
The Top 10 Stories of 1993 led off with the opening or three new Vegas mega-resorts:
#2 was the Kevyn Wynn kidnapping/extortion. Once we took care of business in that matter, the following year’s Vegas “Winners and Losers”, per Jeff German of the Las Vegas Sun, led off with the perpetrator who foolishly went to trial, rather than accepting a reasonable plea offer.
I’ll have more to say about this following District Court Judge Gloria Navarro’s ruling on the defense motion for dismissal after (yet another) mistrial in the Bundy fiasco, for numerous WILLFUL discovery violations.
For now, I pity the prosecutor(s) who have screwed up innumerable high profile cases over the years under the woeful “supervision” of Dan Bogden and Steve Myhre. I would venture to say that the vestiges of their ignominious era will soon be eradicated, by DOJ.
See Las Vegas Channel 8 I-Team video: Glen Meek pursues Ray Cuddy: Cuddy Pursued by Meek
This case was truly one for the books. My objective here is to merely introduce it. It would take 500 pages to recount all the ins and outs, personal turmoil, near -misses, and almost unbearable (at times) pressure.
I really don’t know where to begin. So the beginning will have to suffice:
When you show up for work and the receptionist indicates that the U.S. Attorney wants to see you immediately, you get curious. When you knock on his door and are summoned to take a seat, and he stares to you solemnly, your wheels start turning.
And when he announces, “I am about to assign you a career case.” I guess your ass puckers. Just a little, anyway.
So Steve Wynn’s daughter has been kidnapped. He has paid a million and a half dollars – from his Mirage casino cage – to the kidnappers. He now has her back, safely, and didn’t bother to tell the authorities until it was all over.
This guy was arguably the most important and powerful man in Las Vegas in 1993. I had been an AUSA – some ex-line DA from NY – for about 2 years. And I’m in charge. There’s a meeting at the “Command Post” at Las Vegas Metro Police HQ at 3:00 p.m. – I am to attend. “We” – the U.S. Attorney’s Office – will be running the case. Meaning me. They don’t teach this stuff in law school, or the Police Academy. Is this my “big break’, a path to success – or a disaster which will inevitably result in an abysmal failure?
Here’e a clue: at this moment, there are NO leads. ZERO. The money and the crooks have vanished.
There was so much public scrutiny, so many agencies striving for public attention, so many individuals looking to further their careers. I spent almost as much time refereeing mini-insurections within and among agencies as I did doing my job – directing a MAJOR investigation.
Nearly everyone involved had something to say. Except when it came to making a critical call – one that might make or break the case. Then it was “ Well, you’re the lawyer.” (Even though some of the agents actually were attorneys as well.) Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan.
An interesting dynamic among agencies – and this is more than a truism: there is constant competition, and often animosity. And the truth is, the primary target are the “elites”. The Ultimate PR organization founded by J. Edgar Hoover himself – the Feebs, the Feeble Ones – the FBI.
My first day in a patrol car as a rookie cop, my FTO rolled down his window and flipped a nondescript office building the bird. When I asked what they was all about he relied simply “Oh that’s the FBI’s off-site”. I had heard the same type of things from my father, NYPD. “We catch the bank robber, then the Federal suits show up for the photo-op wearing their hats.” The cops despised them. So did the other agencies.And although this was the 1980s, not the 1950s, not much had changed.
Having said that, there are obviously some great FBI agents, and some shitty agents from other agencies. But throughout my experiences, this is fact: the best agents, and particularly the best FBI agents, are former cops.
So off we went into the great Unknown. A fairly new AUSA trying to reign in hundreds of egos for the sake off the mission. I could not have done it but for my own confidence, derived from my experience as a cop as well as significant trial experience at the state level; and my attitude, which included no interest in making friends. J. Edgar Hoover was gone. I was no cheerleader. I left my pom-poms home. Job 1 was not PR – it was the case – no matter who was going to get the lion’s share of credit. If it went bad, it was clear who was going to shoulder the blame – me.
The voluminous facts of the investigation,the pre-trial hearings, the trial itself, the sentencings, the appeals – are for some other venue.
But I digress. Today’s point is as follows: Ray Cuddy, the designer of the scheme, the man who had declined an offer of 12 years – extended in large part to spare Kevyn Wynn and her family the circus of a trial which would compel her to relive her ordeal – including certain facts I had intentionally not made public. He was convicted and did his 22+ years. And to further add to his victims’ misery, he’s decided to reside in Vegas. where he publicly tools around on a 2004 Harley. And so the drama orchestrated by Ray Cuddy continues.