Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2018

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Supreme Court to decide fates of dog that killed toddler, Caesars’ taxes and Sun City Summerlin property

The Nevada Supreme Court will be called upon next week to cancel the death penalty for a dog that killed a 1-year-old boy in Henderson and also to decide an $800,000 tax dispute between Caesars Palace and the state.

The court will hear arguments Tuesday and Wednesday, also including one case in which the state Board of Equalization lowered the property value on some property in the Sun City Summerlin Community Association by $17 million.

These two days of arguments will be among the last for the court until September. There will also be arguments on July 10. In the interim, the justices will issue decisions on cases previously heard or filed.

On Wednesday, a nonprofit New York corporation called the Lexus Project will petition the court to be the trustee in order to save a 7-year-old dog named Onion that mauled and killed Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan after his birthday party.

Onion was declared a “vicious” dog and under the city code was to be euthanized within 10 days in April 2012. But a court battle ensued over whether to impose the death penalty.

According to Lexus, the 120-pound Mastiff never growled or bit anybody in the past. After a day of playing, the child reportedly went to say goodnight to Onion in a darkened room but tripped and fell on the dog, who grabbed and mangled his head for 30 seconds before the boy'd father was able to free him. The child died later in the hospital.

The dog belonged to the boy’s grandmother, Elizabeth Keller, who permitted the city of Henderson to take control of the dog and declare him vicious. Keller later turned over ownership to Lexus, which maintained she never intended to give ownership to the city.

The city says Keller signed away her rights and title to the dog.

District Judge Joanna Kiehner rejected the petition by Lexus and said the city’s interest in protecting its citizens outweighed the interest of Lexus. There is also a doubt that the New York group has legal standing to assert its rights.

Caesars Palace is asking the court on Tuesday to overturn the ruling of the state Gaming Commission that it must pay entertainment tax for a four-year period. Caesars has the Colosseum on its property and has contracted with AEG Live to promote and sponsor entertainment events there.

AEG Live has an agreement with Ticketmaster to sell tickets to the shows, for which Caesars pays the entertainment tax. Ticketmaster also pays a royalty to AEG.

The gaming commission decided the royalty paid to AEG is subject to the entertainment tax, but Caesars maintains the royalty is a service charge and AEG is not subject to a tax.

Oral arguments are also scheduled Tuesday for the appeal of the Clark County Assessor on the value placed on four recreational clubhouses and the golf course in the Sun City Summerlin Community Association.

The assessor valued the property at $19.5 million for the 2010-2011 tax year. The State Board of Equalization reduced the value to $2,500. It ruled improvements restricted use to residents and thus limited the market value.

The assessor’s office says the finding of the state board was not based on substantial evidence.

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