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Federal magistrate: Casino mogul can't make reporter testify

By The Associated Press
02.04.09

LAS VEGAS — A federal magistrate has rejected an attempt by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to subpoena a newspaper reporter's testimony in a defamation suit.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen in Las Vegas ruled that Nevada's media-shield law protected Las Vegas Sun reporter Rick Velotta from questioning under oath about stories written in 2004 about a legal dispute in Israel between Adelson and Moshe Hananel. Hananel claimed Adelson owed him money for helping him get into the Macau gambling market.

Leen's eight-page order, issued on Jan. 30, cited Nevada Supreme Court rulings and "the plain language" of the state's reporter shield law, which she said conferred an "absolute privilege from disclosure" of sources and information.

Ryan Loosvelt, Adelson’s Las Vegas attorney, did not return messages seeking comment in time for this story. It was unclear if he would appeal Leen's order to Senior U.S. District Judge Edward Reed Jr., who is presiding over the defamation suit.

Adelson filed the lawsuit Dec. 11, 2006, in U.S. District Court in Nevada against Hananel, an employee from 1996 to 2000 of an Adelson company, Interface Partners International Ltd. He accused Hananel of making false statements about their relationship in interviews with Velotta and other Las Vegas media.

In court documents, lawyers for Adelson, the majority shareholder of Venetian hotel owner Las Vegas Sands Corp., labeled as "absurd" Hananel's claim that he was entitled to a 12% fee as a "partner" in Las Vegas Sands' multi-billion-dollar investment in Macau. Sands has since opened two resorts in the Cotai Strip area of the Chinese gambling enclave.

Loosvelt had said he wanted to question Velotta about matters the attorney contended were not covered under the shield law, including the reporter's education, experience and newsgathering practices, and newsgathering practices of the Sun.

Leen quashed the subpoena to depose Velotta, calling that effort "merely an attempt to obtain indirectly what Adelson may not obtain directly" under the state shield law.

Sun Managing Editor Mike Kelley hailed the decision as "the right ruling in this case."


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