Las Vegas Sun

August 25, 2019

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Columnist Smith testifies on book about Steve Wynn

Newspaper columnist John Smith, who wrote an unauthorized biography of Mirage Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn, returned to the witness stand today to answer questions in the defamation trial of his publisher.

He was scheduled to be followed by Gov. Bob Miller and Las Vegas Mayor Jan Laverty Jones, who are expected to testify about Wynn's character.

Smith's testimony Monday proved to be neither the smoking gun that Wynn's attorneys would have liked nor the ironclad defense for New York book publisher Lyle Stuart.

Smith isn't part of this lawsuit over a book catalog page advertising his book "Running Scared: The Dangerous Life and Treacherous Times of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn."

The Review-Journal columnist, however, is facing his own trial in a Kentucky courtroom over alleged libelous statements in the book.

One of the statements in the catalog ad that Wynn claims is defamatory promises that the book would "detail why a confidential Scotland Yard report calls Wynn a front man for the Genovese crime family."

Smith conceded in his testimony that he doesn't believe he used that phrase in the book "but I addressed the issue."

That reference in a preliminary report by the British law enforcement agency was determined to be inaccurate and Smith testified that he knew some of the information was false but "I believed much of it was accurate."

Stuart testified Monday that he was unaware when he wrote the ad in mid-1994 that the Scotland Yard information was false.

Smith, however, said he had discussed the Scotland Yard report "early on" with Stuart "as part of the manuscript process" but didn't give the publisher documents about the report until the end of 1994.

Scotland Yard Commissioner Ronald Dowling called his office's preliminary report "just a load of unsubstantiated innuendo and rumor" that he never used and eventually filed away.

Smith said there was a general belief among British officials that casino owners in the United States were connected to organized crime.

"It would have been extremely difficult" for a U.S. company to get a gaming license in Great Britain, he said.

Smith denied the suggestion by Wynn's attorney, Barry Langberg, that the book was written to make a connection between Wynn and organized crime.

"My purpose was to render the facts as I found them," Smith said.

He told the jury in District Judge Sally Loehrer's courtroom that while his research didn't conclude that Wynn was in business with racketeers, "he hired them."

The statement apparently referred to earlier trial testimony that a couple of Mirage executives either were determined to have organized crime connections or were investigated for those ties. None of those employees is still working there.