Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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Jon Ralston:

Time for the high court to end character assassination

It sickens me that I am still writing about this.

But I am more hopeful than ever that a resolution is nigh in one of the worst abuses of the legal system I have seen by a client and team of character assassins, who have used tactics to try to smear a journalist that haven’t been in vogue since the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

It now appears that the state Supreme Court is poised to render a decision on an appeal made by Jeff Guinn, the son of the late governor, who wants to rummage around in a journalist’s personal life because she had the temerity to report stories he didn’t like. For months, Guinn and his thuggish legal team, led by John Bailey, have raised the specter that Dana Gentry, an experienced journalist who produces “Face to Face,” is guilty of some kind of venality in reporting on hard-money lender Guinn’s dispute with his investors — a dispute that has resulted in an ever-tightening federal investigation.

I won’t go into all of the details – you can read more here – but suffice it to say that Guinn and Bailey have consistently asserted in papers filed with the court false allegations against Gentry — accusations she could easily disprove — simply to blacken her reputation.

It is revolting. It is unconscionable. And the highest court in the state is poised, I am convinced, to stop it and ensure this never happens again.

From the beginning, Gentry has wanted to respond to the obscene insinuations, as anyone with integrity would. But she knows — as do many others who have rallied behind her — what opening the door to answering those questions would mean: Not just more inquiries, but a tacit acknowledgement that the methods are appropriate and tolerable. They are neither.

It would be hard to argue that if Guinn and Bailey had evidence that Gentry had done something wrong that she should not be compelled to submit to their questioning. But they have not provided an iota of information to indicate they have any cause to bring the motion, only a list of “when did you stop beating your wife?” questions without any backup.

District Court Judge Allan Earl rightly quashed the original subpoena and suggested that he would be willing to hold a hearing if the lawyers submitted a brief with any evidence. They don’t have any. So they appealed to the high court, hoping the justices would give them a fishing license.

Now, instead of leaving this issue of whether lawyers can flout rights and invade privacy in limbo, the high court will likely render a precedent-setting ruling. Does anyone doubt what it will be?

I have never believed there was a case here. But I also never knew that it was permissible to put just about any garbage in a legal document and file it with a court of law. Is this like Winston Churchill’s democracy — a terrible system but better than any other?

From the beginning, though, I have had faith in the system, confidence that Guinn and Bailey would not get away with this. And my belief has not wavered.

And so here we are. I am glad the high court will rule on this. We have had two superb attorneys working on the case — Don Campbell and Maggie McLetchie — and we have received amazing support from the community and from organizations willing to sign onto an amicus brief. The ACLU, the Review-Journal’s parent company (Stephens Media), the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Nevada Press Association have signed on. My only real disappointment has been the Nevada Broadcasters Association, which has unbelievably dithered and refused to lend its backing.

Others have not been so timorous. We have had welcome public eviscerations of Bailey’s execrable antics from the likes of colleagues such as Elizabeth Crum of “The Agenda” and the Sun’s editorial writers as well as competitors such as Steve Sebelius and John L. Smith.

To say we appreciate these public floggings of what these people are doing is inadequate. We are humbled and grateful.

The past few months have been filled with frustration and uncertainty for Gentry, who has chafed against allegations made in public documents that she has been unable to rebut. To condone this kind of behavior by lawyers, to codify this kind of legal McCarthyism is unimaginable. And that’s why I don’t see any other explanation than that the Supreme Court justices, outraged by the tactics used by Guinn and his hit men, are going to come down with a precedent-setting ruling that will prevent any other lawyers from ever engaging in this outrageous conduct.

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  1. I agree completely, but also know of the increasing destruction of civil rights & privacy in our country.

    It is my hope that this will not become another loss of civil rights and will protect the freedom of the press.

  2. Not too worry. The freedom of the press is alive & well. It's their sensibility that's at issue here. Watched the "talking" heads on cable news, lately? They vilify & crucify at will and nobody can stop them if you are "famous" and even not so "famous." See Zimmerman in FL as a prime example of being crucified by the likes of the scumbag Al Sharpton. But, when the shoe is on the other foot, they, such as Ralston, circle the wagons and whine & cry. Remember, they are the ones who buy ink by the barrel, so who can win against them? No one. They pick & choose who to go after and who to let skate on all kinds of immoral, unethical and even criminal transgressions and, now, Ralston is whining? Give me a break! Gentry, can't stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen!

  3. Seriously, who gives a ---- about this inside baseball story? You have killed whatever was left of "journalism" with your partisan politics much more than Guinn could ever do.

    You only complain when your leftists friends in the media are put on the hot seat. If Gentry were conservative, you wouldn't care about this issue. You wouldn't.

  4. I wish to lend my support to Dana Gentry for I was also the victim of a SLAPP suit to try to silence my reports. Then-nightclub owner Rick Rizzolo sued me for libel in 2001 after I broke the story of Kirk Henry's beating and wrote about racketeering activities at the Crazy Horse Too. I opted to ignore Rizzolo's attorneys Dean Patti and Tony Sgro's interrogatories and subpoenas for deposition attempting to force me to reveal my confidential sources. After I cited NRS 49.275, the Nevada Reporter's Shield Law, the strongest in the nation, they filed for a gag order in the court of then-Clark County District Judge Nancy M. Saitta. I attempted to recuse her because she had attended campaign fund raising parties at Rizzolo's home and owed him favors. She refused to step down and the gag order hearing took place in my absence. Thank God the ACLU and Nevada Press Association realized the harm such a gag would have on freedom of the press, and sent representatives to observe the hearing. Judge Saitta (now a Nevada Supreme Court Justice) owed Rizzolo many favors, and I fully expected her to place the gag on my reports. I also fully intended to violate her gag order if she did. However, when Saitta saw Tom Mitchell of the Nevada Press Association and Alan Liechtenstein of the ACLU sit down in her gallery, she groveled and reluctantly dismissed the gag order motion. Rizzolo was later convicted of racketeering as I had predicted in my columns and his libel suit was dismissed. Best of luck Dana. No one should be able to silence your truthful reporting.

  5. Mr Coburn,

    You should be caring about this. Someday they may want to silence you.

    If you think John only cares because she is "one of his own" then you are wrong and have not followed him to well.

    When it comes to rights he has stood up for both sides. Something you don't feel he should be allowed to do unless he is on your side.

  6. Comment removed by moderator. In reference to a comment that has been removed.

  7. Vegaslee you are not paying attention. She is leftist as can be and would not be in that position were she not. She's Ralston's leftist friend, so he will cover for her.

    They are killing their dead tree paper with politics, but they complain about this.

  8. "District Court Judge Allan Earl rightly quashed the original subpoena and suggested that he would be willing to hold a hearing if the lawyers submitted a brief with any evidence. They don't have any. So they appealed to the high court, hoping the justices would give them a fishing license."

    Ralston -- good to see you expose this "legal" move for what it is, "fishing." The same thing happens every time a cop stops one of us on a simple traffic violation then searches the vehicle without a warrant. The high courts used to call these "fishing expeditions." Do keep us informed

    "Vegaslee you are not paying attention. She is leftist as can be and would not be in that position were she not."

    lovinglife -- so according to you "leftists" don't enjoy the same freedom of speech and expression as you?? Seems you're the one "not paying attention."

    "The fact that society may find speech offensive is not a sufficient reason for suppressing it. Indeed, if it is the speaker's opinion that gives offense, that consequence is a reason for according it constitutional protection. For it is a central tenet of the First Amendment that the government must remain neutral in the marketplace of ideas." -- Hustler Magazine and Larry C. Flynt v. Jerry Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 55-6 (1988)

  9. I think Steve Miller's comment shows that our democratic justice system depends on individuals, such as Steve, Jon, and Dana, who have the integrity to fight for the truth. Their personal lives suffer from the slanderous assaults. However, "consider that source." The slanderers and slanderers' followers are not worth fretting about.

    I have witnessed and admired Jon's truthful reporting for the twelve years I have lived here. I discovered Dana on Face to Face. I have no reason at all to doubt her veracity.

    Their sterling supporters speak volumes. Now how do I join that impressive amicus brief? Nevermind. I just did.

  10. I believe limiting or preventing liberals or the left from reporting or speaking would lead us further toward Fascism.

    There isn't much difference between extremes at either end of the ruler. They are both oppressive.

    Can't we just practice what our Constitution guarantees, regardless of our own opinions, especially when they are without facts, knowledge or understanding?