Las Vegas Sun

June 3, 2015

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Jon Ralston:

Lawyers opt for character attacks over facts

That lawyers can act in abhorrent ways is about as newsworthy as the declaration that Herman Cain may be developing problems with the female GOP base.

But here is what is news and what should frighten members of the bar, the news media and, yes, the public: A law firm, acting on behalf of a high-profile client, filed a legal document directed at a journalist who has been aggressively reporting about said client, attacking not the veracity of the journalism but — and this is where this is a frightening abuse of the legal system — but fabricating nonsense about the reporter.

Before I go into detail here, let me be clear: In all the years this journalist has been reporting on this client, not once — not once! — has the client or the law firm asked for a correction. And neither the law firm nor the client has agreed to address on the record any of the serious legal issues surrounding this client.

Now, they have resorted to a campaign of harassment, retaliation and intimidation. It will not work.

Let me fill in the blanks.

This story is not about me, but it might as well be. It is about Dana Gentry, who has been my executive producer at “Face to Face” for more than 10 years. Gentry has been in journalism for decades and has a reputation for aggression and toughness.

That’s how she approached a story three years ago involving hard-money-lender Jeff Guinn, who was being accused of abuse of power while his father, Kenny Guinn, was governor and later of byzantine, irregular business practices by investors.

Starting in 2008, we produced several “Face to Face” programs on the subject, which involved other prominent Nevadans who were alleging they had been wronged by Guinn. Gentry’s reporting was the foundation for each of those programs and she consistently — to no avail — tried to elicit comment from Guinn and his lawyers. Eventually, lawsuits were filed by the investors and, more recently, the FBI has been sniffing around the case.

I have wondered how much of this is about folks who lost money in a tanking economy looking for a scapegoat and how Guinn would explain these business practices. We wanted answers. What we got was character assassination.

A couple of months ago, Guinn’s lawyer John Bailey served a subpoena on Gentry demanding she produce certain documents to essentially disprove “When did you stop beating your wife?” allegations. I would call it a fishing expedition, but a more apt term is “witch hunt.”

I will not lower myself to Bailey’s level and detail what he implied in these documents about Gentry. But let me briefly address one allegation, of which I have firsthand knowledge.

Bailey essentially says that “Face to Face” hired a producer because of threats made by the producer’s family to release “personal information” about Gentry. This is a calumny not just on Gentry, but on KSNV and the Las Vegas Sun, which employs the producer, whose name I am not using because he is an innocent bystander to Bailey’s scurrilous campaign.

First, Gentry did not make the decision to hire the producer; I did. Or, should I say, I recommended he be hired because I thought he would help the program and be a good fit for Gentry, who had known the young man his entire life.

His family, which like others has been at odds with Jeff Guinn, played no role in his hiring. None. I stake my reputation on that.

The other allegation Bailey makes in the document, and a subsequent response to a successful attempt to quash the ludicrous subpoena, is that somehow the producer’s family and others involved in litigation with Guinn gave Gentry gifts to induce her to report critically about Guinn. Bailey did this without a scintilla of evidence that such arrangements existed — because they don’t.

Indeed, the legal tactic here is akin to: “We are going to make some wild, unsupportable allegations and we want you to provide us evidence to back them up.”

Maybe Bailey and his client think such tactics will frighten Gentry and induce her to back off the story — they are going to the state Supreme Court to try to get this week’s ruling quashing their subpoena overturned. They don’t know her — and they obviously don’t know me, either.

If we made mistakes on this — or any — story, we would be horrified and would immediately correct them. But no one has yet refuted anything — or even tried to refute anything — we have reported.

Instead, lawyers, feeling immune from accountability because the information is encased in court documents, try one of the oldest tactics in the book: Kill the messenger.

But they are shooting blanks, and the only blood they have drawn is their own.

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