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May 7, 2021

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Talk of death threats opens Wayne Newton lawsuit hearing

Wayne Newton in court

Christopher DeVargas

Wayne Newton and his wife, Kathleen McCrone, speak to reporters after a judge ruled in their favor that Steve Kennedy, developer and manager of CSD LLC, stay 50 feet from the Newtons and their home Thursday May 31, 2012. Kennedy had plans to turn the Newton’s mansion into a museum.

Talk of death threats opened a hearing Monday before a Nevada state court judge, who is being asked to let Wayne Newton's landlord evict the Las Vegas Strip entertainer and his wife or dissolve the business plan to turn their property into a tourist attraction.

With the "Danke Schoen" crooner and his estranged business partner Steven Kennedy both in court for the hearing, Newton lawyer J. Stephen Peek lost a request for beefed-up courtroom security.

Peek alleged that Kennedy, of CSD LLC, had threatened him, Newton, Newton's wife, Kathleen McCrone Newton, and their associate and business partner, Geneva Clark, in heated arguments about their crumbling business relationship.

In a lawsuit and counterclaims filed since May, the two sides have traded allegations of breach of contract, fraud, mismanagement, animal abuse and sexual harassment.

CSD attorney Charles McCrea Jr. denied threats were made, or that extra security was needed.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled that courthouse security was sufficient.

The back-and-forth about security underscored the acrimony that has developed in recent months over the stalled plan to develop Newton's 40-acre southeast Las Vegas estate, dubbed Casa de Shenandoah, into a public "Graceland West" venue commemorating the life and career of the 70-year-old "Mr. Las Vegas" singer. The Newtons have lived in the opulent home since 1968.

Kennedy bought the sprawling compound for $19.5 million in June 2010, with the intent of building a $2 million home on the grounds for the Newtons and converting the gold-trimmed main mansion into the centerpiece of public tours. His lawyers say CSD has spent more than $50 million on the project to date.

They've been before Gonzalez several times to resolve issues including the cost of upkeep of Newton's more than 50 Arabian horses. On Friday, for instance, Gonzalez ruled that hay deliveries should be made more frequently and with less volume so that flammable hay stockpiles wouldn't block breezeway doors in the horse barn in violation of fire codes.

McCrea and the CSD legal team allege in court filings that the Newtons were under "severe financial hardship" when they agreed to sell the property, and that the couple and their inner circle of family members and friends never really planned to cooperate with the development plan.

"Plaintiffs firmly believe that the actions of the Newtons have been calculated to ensure the museum never opens," McCrea said in a July 23 complaint.

"The purpose of this action is to compel the defendants to immediately vacate the mansion on the property," it said, "or to dissolve CSD and CSD Management and to recover damages from the Newtons."

Testimony is expected to continue Tuesday. Gonzalez has scheduled hearings to continue all week.

The project was supposed to have opened in February 2011, but the Newtons still live in the main house with their 10-year-old daughter. The Newtons hold a 20 percent interest in CSD, and Newton has said he regrets going into business with Kennedy.

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