Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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Kutash says he’s reluctant to testify

Although show producer Jeff Kutash was acquitted by a federal jury of bribing then-District Judge Gerard Bongiovanni, his days in court are not over.

Although he was acquitted, Kutash actually may find himself back in jail.

Kutash has been subpoenaed to testify for the defense in Bongiovanni's trial but his attorney, Oscar Goodman, said Tuesday that the former producer of the Riviera hotel-casino's Splash show is reluctant to show up.

U.S. District Judge Lloyd George responded that it is "very likely" that he will issue a "material witness" arrest warrant for the Los Angeles resident who prosecutors alleged had paid a $5,000 bribe to Bongiovanni to ensure a favorable court ruling.

Kutash denied the allegations at his trial this summer, and defense attorney Thomas Pitaro wants him to repeat the story for the jury in Bongiovanni's trial.

George could issue the warrant today unless Kutash agrees to return voluntarily.

The problem for Kutash, according to some defense lawyers, is that disgruntled federal prosecutors could file new perjury charges against him for again denying the bribe that they still believe he paid in October 1995.

The lawyers, who asked not to be named, said that if Kutash were their client, they would advise him to do everything possible to avoid testifying.

The same evidence that was unsuccessful against Kutash is again being presented by prosecutors as part of the Bongiovanni case.

Pitaro said that all he wants to do is put a witness on the stand to help clear Bongiovanni of myriad charges that include racketeering, bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud.

Goodman said that although a Los Angeles process server has given a statement that he served Kutash with a subpoena, Kutash is claiming that he was never served.

The trial Tuesday involved only one witness, FBI Special Agent Jerry Hanford, who returned to the witness stand for the third day today.

Hanford has been explaining dozens of tape recordings of Bongiovanni and his associates that were picked up during months of wiretaps of Bongiovanni's office, home and other locations.

Many of the tapes involved deals for no-bail releases on the judge's orders of prisoners, dismissals of jury summons and expedited treatment of traffic tickets.

Some of the no-bail releases were ordered for alleged drug dealers and drunken drivers.

Many of the deals were brokered by Bongiovanni's friend, Paul Dottore, who has since become a government informant and the star prosecution witness in the case. He is scheduled to begin testifying today.

While there were hints that satisfied participants wanted to express their thanks, there was no "smoking gun" on the tapes Tuesday to prove Bongiovanni had been taking bribes for his judicial orders.

Dottore is expected to provide that through his testimony, as he did in the Kutash trial.

Dottore had testified that he routinely solicited bribes for Bongiovanni's favors and would collect and pass the money along to the judge, holding back a little for himself.

But he has credibility problems because he was convicted of bank fraud for his role in stealing more than $100,000 from a dead man's bank account and is testifying as part of a deal to win a light sentence.

The jury in the Kutash trial didn't buy Dottore's story that he had received the Kutash bribe and gave it to Bongiovanni for favorable treatment in the lawsuit over control of the Splash show that the producer has since sold.

But the judge has additional problems in his trial. Investigators found $500 in marked money that a second informant already has testified was part of a bribe he had paid through Dottore in a criminal case.

Bongiovanni has said the money was repayment from Dottore for a loan.