Probe of newly found phone threat to slain Vegas journalist might delay trial of ex-elected official

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A voicemail threat by an unidentified person to a Las Vegas investigative journalist seven months before he was killed in September 2022 emerged Tuesday as a potential delay for the upcoming murder trial of a former elected official.

A prosecutor told the Nevada judge hearing the case involving ex-Democratic county administrator of estates Robert Telles that authorities need time — both to finish sifting slain Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German's cellphone and computers for evidence in the case and to investigate whether the person who made the threat killed German.

"From the state's perspective, it certainly complicates readiness, given the nature of it," Chief Deputy Clark County District Attorney Pamela Weckerly said. “For us to proceed to trial, we're entitled to investigate ... and address this particular item of information.”

Telles wants to go to trial as scheduled March 18, defense attorney Robert Draskovich told the judge — despite Draskovich’s advice that they wait to finish collecting and examining evidence. Draskovich noted that Telles remains jailed without bail.

Telles, 47, has pleaded not guilty in the killing and insists that he wants to testify before a jury. He could face life in prison if he's convicted.

“I’ve advised my client that we should seek a continuance,” Draskovich said as Telles stood wearing shackles and jail clothing. “That being said, it’s my client’s wish to go forward with our March trial.”

Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt neither confirmed nor postponed a trial date. She scheduled another status hearing March 6.

Outside court, Draskovich told reporters that he learned Friday about the 45-second voicemail from Las Vegas Review-Journal attorneys who've been screening German’s phone records for possibly confidential material. The attorney said the caller had a high-pitched male voice that was “clearly not Telles.”

“It’s a death threat,” the attorney said of the “somewhat nonsensical” message that he said mentioned President Joe Biden. ”It didn’t cite a specific story," Draskovich said, "but I believe it was in reference to a story that Jeff German wrote about extremism in the United States. It appears to be wholly unrelated to Mr. Telles.”

German authored a Review-Journal article about a year earlier in February 2021, titled, “Emerging extremists bring new concerns for law enforcement.”

German, 69, spent more than 40 years as an investigative reporter in Las Vegas. He was found stabbed to death outside his home months after he wrote articles in 2022 that were critical of Telles and his managerial conduct.

“These articles unfairly portray the defendant, in his role as Clark County Public Administrator, as a ‘bully,’ and claim he created a hostile workplace,” Telles responded in court filings this month. “The articles further claim that the defendant had an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate employee.”

The documents said there were no “violent, threatening interactions” between Telles and German, and said that while Telles “disagreed” with German’s reporting, he ″never threatened him or physically confronted him.”

Prosecutors have cast German's stories about Telles as a motive for the killing. They say they have evidence including DNA believed to be from Telles found beneath German’s fingernails and videos showing a man believed to be Telles walking near German’s home about the time of the killing.

Progress toward trial has been slowed while Telles has changed lawyers several times and served as his own attorney; by court arguments about authorities obtaining potentially confidential files from German's cellphone and computers; by Telles' arguments that he has been framed and that police mishandled the investigation; and by two failed bids by Telles to remove Leavitt as the judge handling his case.