Friday, May 21, 1999 | 4:10 a.m.
A shake-up has occurred in the defense team of the leading suspects in Ted Binion's murder, as police are reported to be moving closer to making arrests.
On Thursday, David Chesnoff told District Judge Michael Cherry at a hastily called hearing that his firm, which includes mayoral candidate Oscar Goodman, was withdrawing from representing Binion's girlfriend, Sandy Murphy.
Chesnoff has been representing the 27-year-old Murphy in the murder investigation and the legal battle over Binion's $30 million estate.
He said today it would be "inappropriate " to discuss his reasons for stepping aside.
Louis Palazzo also plans to withdraw as the lawyer of record for Montana contractor Rick Tabish, another reported suspect in the murder, well-placed sources said.
Palazzo did not return phone calls.
These developments come amid word that Chief Deputy District Attorney David Roger is wrapping up the homicide investigation into Binion's Sept. 17 death.
Roger, who has been working full time on the probe with homicide detectives, declined comment today.
But there has been much speculation at the courthouse that arrests may be imminent.
Chesnoff, meanwhile, downplayed speculation by those close to the investigation that Murphy and Tabish, who has a home in Montana, might be preparing to leave town. He said both were in Las Vegas today.
However, the telephone at Murphy's Green Valley apartment, which was raided by homicide detectives several weeks ago, has been disconnected. So has Tabish's cell phone.
Chesnoff said he did not know who Murphy planned to hire to represent her in the homicide probe.
R. Gardner Jolley said Thursday he intended to remain as co-counsel in the estate case, where Murphy is battling to move back into Binion's $900,000 home at 2408 Palomino Lane.
Murphy had been living with the 55-year-old Binion prior to his death. She reported discovering his body next to an empty bottle of the prescription sedative Xanax at his home. Drug tests later found lethal levels of both Xanax and heroin in his body.
Last December, Murphy was awarded the home, its contents and $300,000 in cash, but her inheritance has since been threatened by her refusal to help the estate locate hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing valuables from the home.
Cherry, who is overseeing the estate case, has scheduled a hearing next Friday on whether to allow Murphy back into the home.
The estate believes, Murphy and Tabish either took or know the whereabouts of the missing assets, most of which were contained in Binion's safe.
Both Murphy and Tabish, who authorities contend were romantically involved at the time of Binion's death, asserted their right against self-incrimination when questioned in court about the valuables earlier this year.
Tabish is facing criminal charges in Pahrump in the attempted theft of as much as $4 million in silver from Binion less than 36 hours after his death.
On Wednesday, Chesnoff had informed Cherry that he wanted more discussion of whether the judge should remove himself from the estate case because of ties to Binion's sister, Horseshoe Club President Becky Behnen, who has intervened in the battle over Binion's assets.
Cherry, who disclosed last week that he once was Behnen's lawyer, quickly scheduled a 9 a.m. hearing Thursday.
But instead of discussing whether Cherry should leave the case, Chesnoff disclosed that his firm was bowing out.
The black Mercedes with Montana license plates that Murphy and Tabish have been driving was spotted outside Chesnoff and Goodman's law office at 8 a.m. Thursday.