LAS VEGAS (AP) — An elected official accused of killing a Las Vegas investigative journalist in what authorities allege was retaliation for articles critical of him and his office faced court sanctions two years ago for resisting arrest in a domestic violence case, records show.
Robert Telles, the Clark County public administrator who took office in January 2019, accepted a plea agreement in September 2020 to resolve misdemeanor battery and resisting a public officer charges after his wife called 911, according to Las Vegas Municipal Court and police dispatch records.
The records, first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, show the case was dismissed and closed in March 2021 after Telles paid a $418 fine, attended counseling and stayed out of trouble.
His attorney in that case, Ross Goodman, did not immediately respond Tuesday to telephone and email messages. Efforts to contact Telles’ wife, Mae Ismael, by telephone and email were not successful.
Telles, now 45, remains jailed without bail on suspicion of murder in the Sept. 2 slaying of veteran Review-Journal staff writer Jeff German (GEHR-man).
Telles’ attorney, Travis Shetler, asked during a brief Tuesday court appearance for additional time to prepare for Telles’ arraignment, and prosecutors did not oppose the delay. A local judge reset the hearing for Sept. 20.
Shetler did not immediately respond later to messages about the 2020 incident, in which Telles was accused of “grabbing” and placing his wife in a “‘bear-hug’ position” and of resisting efforts by two police officers to handcuff him.
Telles stood in shackles Tuesday wearing bandages on his forearms and a wry smile as he faced a courtroom crowded with reporters, photographers and television cameras. He did not speak to the judge or his attorney.
Police and prosecutors say he had superficial self-inflicted wounds when he was arrested Sept. 7 after a brief standoff with police at his home.
A criminal complaint filed Monday accuses Telles of “lying in wait” for German, who was stabbed seven times. His body was found the next morning.
Telles was arrested days later, after police issued a plea for public help to identify a person seen on security video wearing an orange work shirt and a wide-brim straw hat toting a shoulder bag and walking toward German’s home.
Police also released images of a distinctive SUV seen on video near German’s home, driven by a person wearing an orange shirt.
A Review-Journal photographer snapped photos Sept. 6 of Telles washing the same type of vehicle in his driveway.
A prosecutor told a judge last Thursday that Telles left his own cellphone at home and waited in a vehicle outside German’s home until the attack. It was characterized as a planned response to articles that German wrote about “turmoil and internal dissension” in the county office that handles the property of people who die without a will or family contacts.
After articles appeared in May airing claims of administrative bullying, favoritism and Telles’ relationship with a subordinate staffer, Telles lost his bid for reelection in the June primary. County lawmakers also appointed a consultant to address complaints about leadership in the office.
Telles blamed “old-timers” for exaggerating his relationship with the female staffer and falsely claiming that he mistreated them.
German, a 40-year Las Vegas journalist who was widely respected for his tenacity, was working on follow-up reports about Telles and the public administrator’s office when he died, his colleagues said.
“The published articles … ruined (Telles’) political career, likely his marriage, and this was him lashing out at the cause,” Chief Deputy Clark County District Attorney Richard Scow told a judge last week.
That judge, Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Elana Lee Graham, called the police report detailing the attack “chilling.” She spoke of apparent defensive wounds on German’s arms and said DNA believed to be from Telles was found under German’s fingernails.
“He was fighting for his life,” Graham said.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson has called German’s death “brutal and meaningless” and said a decision whether to seek the death penalty will be made in coming months.
Police said a search warrant turned up items at Telles’ home including blood-stained shoes and a straw hat that had been cut up. Authorities said they did not immediately find the weapon used to kill German.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, a Republican running for governor in November, said investigators were attempting to enhance security video that he described as “distorted” but that might show the attack.
German joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun, where he was a columnist and reporter covering courts, politics, labor, government and organized crime.
Telles was a lawyer who practiced probate and estate law before he was elected public administrator in 2018, replacing a three-term predecessor.
Telles’ term in office expires Dec. 31, but Clark County officials said he is suspended and has been banned from county offices or property pending a review of his position as an elected official.