Las Vegas Sun

January 24, 2022

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Judge won’t gag newspaper

A Las Vegas topless-bar owner was unsuccessful in his attempt Tuesday to obtain a gag order on the Las Vegas Tribune and former City Councilman Steve Miller.

Attorneys for Rick Rizzolo, who owns the Crazy Horse Too on Industrial Road, asked District Judge Nancy Saitta to prohibit the Tribune and Miller from reporting on Rizzolo and his travails in court.

Over the past several months Miller has written several stories for the free, weekly newspaper regarding Rizzolo's ongoing dispute with "Buffalo" Jim Barrier, who owns an auto repair shop next to Rizzolo's club.

Because of those stories, Rizzolo filed defamation lawsuits against Miller, the Tribune and Barrier.

Rizzolo's attorney, Tony Sgro, told Saitta Tuesday that his client doesn't want to stop other media outlets from reporting on the case. Rather, he wants only to stop the Tribune and Miller, who are parties in the case.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees people a fair trial, and those rights should not be eclipsed by the right to free speech, especially when the people exercising those rights are defendants in the lawsuit, Sgro said.

The Tribune's articles are so slanted that they are inaccurate and could taint any prospective jury pool, Sgro said.

Dowon Kang, who represents Miller, said chances are slim that the Tribune, which has a circulation of about 10,000, could influence a potential jury pool. Moreover, there are plenty of alternatives to ensure a fair trial, such as changing the venue.

Christopher Rasmussen, who represents the Tribune, said issuing a gag order would set a dangerous precedent. Anyone who didn't like what a journalist had to say could simply ask for a gag order to prevent him from continuing to write about a particular topic, he said.

Saitta said that although she agreed that Miller and the Tribune need to be looked at more closely than other media outlets because they are parties in the case, everyone has an "absolute right" to express their opinions.

At this point, Saitta said there hasn't been a "sufficient showing of that prejudice."

The judge, however, urged parties on both sides to begin choosing their words more carefully.

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