Las Vegas Tribune
November 21, 2001
Justice, and the First Amendment

The opening paragraph of a story in last Wednesday's Las Vegas Review Journal stated "A judge refused to issue a gag order Tuesday that would have barred former City Councilman Steve Miller and the Las Vegas Tribune from writing about their ongoing legal battle with topless club owner Rick Rizzolo."

The statement "their ongoing legal battle" inadvertently implied that Mr. Rizzolo's primary battle is his libel action against the Tribune and columnist Steve Miller. It is true that Mr. Rizzolo has filed libel actions, but they were only intended to stop our ongoing coverage of violent events at his nightclub. To Mr. Rizzolo's obvious dismay, the Tribune continued our accurate reports in the face of his libel (SLAPP) lawsuit.

The "legal battle" the Review Journal referred to is not against the Tribune. Mr. Rizzolo's primary concern is a slew of personal injury lawsuits he faces concerning charges including allowing his bouncers to break a man's neck, and beat another man to death.

Both of these events were first reported in the Las Vegas Tribune and picked up by other news agencies, hence his attempt to gag us last Tuesday from further covering ongoing violence at his place of business.

We believe it was an insult to the intelligence of Judge Saitta when Rizzolo's attorney, Tony Sgro, used the premise that his only concern was our newspaper "prejudicing the jury" in a libel trial that is not even scheduled. Remember, it took ten years for Steve Miller to bring his libel action before a jury.

Mr. Rizzolo is facing at least THREE personal injury jury trials in the near future, all of which should be of much greater concern to him than his far-fetched libel action.

One trial is for the beating death of Scott David Fau (trial date - March 3, Plaintiff's attorney - Randall Pike); the other is for the broken neck suffered by Kirk Henry (unscheduled, Plaintiff's attorney - Donald Campbell). Other lawsuits are being considered by persons alleging club bouncers also beat them - one alleged incident as recent as two weeks ago!

Mr. Rizzolo should have argued that the juries in the beating and wrongful death trials - trials that will be heard before his libel action - not be "prejudiced" by the Tribune's exercise of First Amendment rights.

It is obvious that Mr. Rizzolo wanted to abuse the court system Tuesday to try to stop the tribune from reporting and editorializing on violent events at his business. Instead, he should concentrate on stopping the violence!

We do not wish to show disrespect to Judge Saitta, so we seldom refer to the civil libel action in our stories. The Tribune last Tuesday never intended to ask Judge Siatta to choose between justice and the First Amendment rights of our newspaper. That was Mr. Rizzolo's idea. We realize that Judge Saitta will have a much more important responsibility in March when she presides over the Scott David Fau wrongful death case.

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