Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 | 10:46 a.m.
A state senate candidate’s decision not to speak up in court about the availability of evidence in a high profile court case involving a casino executive fired by the Las Vegas Sands has become the focus of a race that could determine which party controls the state Senate next year.
In a debate on “Face to Face” with political commentator Jon Ralston on Monday, Democratic state senate candidate Justin Jones said he acted “honorably” as an attorney and defended his legal career after a district court judge reprimanded the legal team, which included Jones, representing the Las Vegas Sands.
Jones’ Republican opponent Mari Nakashima St. Martin, said the case raised questions about his honesty.
“If he’s willing to do that in a legal career, how do we know he’s not going to go door to door with the intention to deceive?” St. Martin, a former GOP spokeswoman, said. “There’s quite a bit at stake. Voters need someone they can trust, someone who puts voters first, not clients first.”
Jones said he was constrained by attorney-client privilege on what he could say about the case.
“I’m proud of my legal career. I’ve done a lot of good work over the last 10 years,” he said.
He also implied he was the victim of “slanderous attacks,” though pressed by Ralston, he seemed to back off that comment.
Senate District 09, which includes Mountains Edge and Southern Highlands in the southwest Las Vegas Valley, is one of five competitive state senate seats up in November that will decide which party controls the upper house in 2013. Democrats currently hold a one-seat advantage in the Senate. Republicans need to win four out of five seats in November to take the majority.
The seat St. Martin and Jones are vying for was unexpectedly left vacant after state Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, resigned earlier this year amid an ugly public divorce.
St. Martin won a brutal Republican primary with the backing of the GOP establishment.
Earlier this month, Jones testified in court that he did indeed review emails being sought by attorneys for the fired executive, but did not speak up in court about their availability.
According to Bloomberg, an attorney for fired Sands China chief executive Steven Jacobs asked Jones what action he took when the parent company’s attorneys told the judge computer files sought by Jacobs couldn’t be transferred from Macau to Las Vegas.
“I did nothing,” Jones is quoted as saying.
Pressed by Ralston on Monday whether he should have spoken up and whether he committed a “lie of ommission,” as a Las Vegas Review Journal reporter called it, Jones noted he was not named in the judge's reprimand of Las Vegas Sands.
On other topics, St. Martin said she would look at sponsoring legislation to require each agency to “justify its existence” in front of the Legislature every six or seven years, on a rotating basis.
An incredulous Ralston asked if that included agencies like the Gaming Control Board. St. Martin said, yes.
Jones didn’t like that idea.
“It would cost more money to have the Gaming Control Board, the Gaming Commission come and justify their existence,” he said. “It doesn’t make a lot more sense.”
The state formed a Sunset Commission to look at doing away with unnecessary boards and commissions in 2011.