Reviewing Societal Mores In A Time Of High Sexual Impropriety



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Everyone agrees the societal mores regarding sexual impropriety have changed in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein and subsequent scandals, but no one seems quite sure how – or how to react to it. And as every attorney knows, uncertainty invites danger.

“The rules haven’t necessarily changed, but the stakes have been raised,” says Swen Prior, a partner in the Las Vegas office of Snell & Wilmer LLP. “That said, the #MeToo movement is a wakeup call to all employers, including ‘C suite’ executives, about the importance of following the rules and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety.”

Now more than ever, Prior continues, employers need to deal with harassment claims quickly and thoroughly “in a way that protects the victims and encourages timely and good faith reporting of misconduct. In the #MeToo era, less severe indiscretions are being lumped in with the vile and illegal. This amalgamation creates problems for employers and employees because the court of public opinion is quick to judge, and is decidedly not good at separating out the distinctions.”

Workplace sexual harassment rules and policies are far from new of course, “however, many harassers believed that they were above the rules and used multiple threats to hide their behavior, including threatening job security,” notes Christian J. Gabroy of Gabroy Law Offices in Henderson. “Employees should be aware that it is unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an employee for complaining about harassment internally, within the company, or externally with a state or federal agency.” Gabroy’s associate, Liza Aronson, believes that the rules will now be enforced, with workplace policies more likely to have a “zero tolerance,” and a more stringent reporting system within the business.

“In my business, I am ensuring that all employees are aware of their rights and protections under the law,” says Gabroy. “Too often, we see employees come to our office who have been taken advantage of and/or fear retribution, by their employers. I know the contours of the law, and my objective is to ensure that all employees in Nevada can maintain a safe and hostile free work environment.”

Gabroy recommends employers confirm that existing policies are current, written somewhere easily accessible to employees, and that a proper internal reporting structure is in place so they can act swiftly and appropriately when an issue does arise. “I also advise fair, prompt investigations with appropriate corrective measures.”

“The biggest things that I see changing in this new environment are, one, companies are less likely to brush off borderline incidents, and two, more women feel empowered to file complaints without fear of being retaliated against,” says Henderson-based attorney Avi Cutler, Practice Group Leader for Ballon, Stoll Bader & Nadler, PC.

What Cutler calls the “real question” is whether this will produce lasting change “or if it will slowly return to an era where a woman bringing a sexual harassment claim that doesn’t involve assault becomes a social pariah for standing up.”

While most employers have an anti-harassment policy in place, it should be reviewed and updated. Even if there are no major changes to the law since the policy’s last review, “other important societal changes — for instance, the prevalence of social media use and handling complaints about off-duty sexual conduct — may need to be addressed,” notes Ronald J. Stolkin, of counsel, Stolkin, Ballard Spahr LLP. “Make sure all employees have received the policy and acknowledged its receipt in writing.”

Among a host of other recommendations, Stolkin advises companies take a firm stand on retaliation. “Clearly and unequivocally set forth the company’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy regarding retaliation and the severe consequences that will result to anyone who retaliates against an employee who has reported, opposed or participated in an investigation into harassment or discrimination.”

As for activities in colleges and universities, the Obama administration used Title IX to push colleges into aggressively going after students accused of sexual misconduct, notes Nick Wooldridge of LV Criminal Defense, including engaging in sexual activities that may have seemed consensual at the time, but which were later classified as rape because the girl involved was too drunk to consent. “There were concerns that the changes went too far and deprived the accused of due process, and the Trump administration is looking to change some of the policies put in place at the time.”

However, Wooldridge adds, because of Title IX changes, a cultural shift has begun to take place where there is a societal belief that victims should be believed rather than doubted. “This is a good thing, especially in light of the long history in this country of essentially putting accusers on trial in sex crimes cases. But it’s important to remember that those who are accused have rights, too.”

Howard Riell is a veteran journalist who over the past 39 years has written and edited for nearly 200 business and consumer publications, national trade associations, advertising/PR agencies, newspapers, research firms, newsletters, non‑profit groups, e‑zines, blogs, manufacturers and other clients across the country and abroad. He lives in Henderson.


The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.




Meet The Incumbent: Judge Mark Bailus




The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

In 2017, Judge Mark Bailus was appointed by Governor Brian Sandoval to serve in Department 18 of the District Court. He is a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law and was admitted to the Nevada Bar in 1980. Prior to becoming a judge, Mr. Bailus was a partner at the law firm Bailus Cook & Kelesis, with a focus on civil and criminal litigation and appeals.

Vegas Legal Magazine: What did you do before becoming a judge?

Judge Bailus: I was an attorney for over 37 years and I am one of the relatively few sitting judges who has an extensive background in both civil and criminal law at the trial and appellate levels.


VLM: What is the most memorable case you tried as an attorney before taking the bench?


JB: My most memorable or significant case was not a trial but rather, a complex tort litigation which resulted in a multi-million-dollar settlement. I, along with my former partner Michael Cherry, were lead counsel for all of the personal injury plaintiffs (except for one) and all of the uninsured property damage plaintiffs in the mass tort litigation commonly known as the “PEPCON Explosion Litigation” resulting in a multi-million-dollar settlement for the plaintiffs. A courtroom battle involving dozens of insurance companies and over 50 law firms resulted in a $71 million 1992 settlement with contributions from multiple parties that were divided among insurance companies on subrogation claims as well as the victims and their families. This case was significant to me as, at the time, I was still a fairly young attorney and the defendants had retained many high-powered law firms to defend them. The defendants embarked on a strategy to attempt to overwhelm my clients by filing numerous dismissal and/or summary judgment motions against them to circumvent a trial. Unfortunately for the defendants, their strategy failed. I fought long and hard in defending against the onslaught of pretrial motions filed by the defendants and was successful in defeating the same. As a result, this case was settled with the plaintiffs being fairly compensated for their losses and/or injuries.


VLM: What made you decide to run for judge?


JB: I had been an attorney for over 37 years and it was a new challenge that I was uniquely qualified to undertake due to my many years of experience, knowledge and success as an attorney before the state and federal courts in Nevada in both civil and criminal law.


VLM: What does being a judge mean to you?


JB: Being a judge is an honor and privilege that I very much respect. It has allowed me to make a difference. As a judge, there is nothing that is going to come before me that I am not prepared to handle. I have endeavored to make rulings based on sound legal reasoning and to draft clear, thoughtful and thorough decisions.


VLM: What is your favorite and least favorite thing about being a judge?


JB: I would say my least favorite thing as a judge is having to run for office. I have always been a straight shooter and this doesn’t always play well in politics.


However, I am not going to change as I think the public will appreciate someone who is forthright.

My favorite thing is the interaction between myself and the litigants who appear before me. I always try to be patient, courteous and respectful to all litigants and most of all, be a good listener. No matter what my rulings are, I think the litigants appreciate the courtesies I extend to them.

VLM: Describe a situation where you had to support a legal position that conflicted with your personal beliefs? Please tell us how you handled it.


JB: I view a judge’s role is to enforce the laws that have been enacted by the legislature. When I think the law should be changed, I can express that to the legislators and I would be willing to do so and state my reasons.


VLM: What’s your biggest pet peeve caused by attorneys that appear in your courtroom?


JB: I’m not sure this is really a pet peeve, but I am insistent that the attorneys who appear before me are prepared and are civil to each other.


VLM: What is your best piece of advice for litigants and/or attorneys?


JB: As a follow up to the preceding question, I think the best piece of advice I could give to the litigants and attorneys is to be civil to each other and not make personal attacks and further, to have complete candor with the Court.


VLM: What is your passion outside of law?


JB: While I enjoy doing things with my family, I really don’t have any hobbies. I enjoy reading. However, being a judge consumes most of my time as I am either at work or I am constantly reading books and cases related to the law to gain knowledge, so I can make informed decisions. I can’t remember the last time I read a book for pleasure.


VLM: What do you love most about Vegas?


JB: The thing I love most about Las Vegas is the people. I am a long-time resident of Las Vegas with my family first coming here in 1955 and I grew up here and am a graduate of UNLV. I have practiced law in Las Vegas since my admission to the bar in 1980. I returned to [Las Vegas] after graduating from Pepperdine University School of Law to begin my legal career and start my family. Practicing law in Las Vegas has been very rewarding to me professionally. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who have been a part of my life.


The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.



Credit Damages



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

“Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something–nothing; ‘Twas mine, ‘tis his and has been slave to thousands. But he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed.” – Othello

Shakespeare’s character Iago offers this wisdom that has uncanny applications to modern consumer law. No one in William Shakespeare’s time was denied an auto Loan due to false credit reporting or was extended a mortgage loan that the lender knew the individual could never repay, leading to a foreclosure. But Shakespeare would still understand the damage done to one’s reputation. In modern times, a quality financial reputation – a good credit record – is very valuable, and one can become literally “poor indeed” when this is lost.

In November 2017, I had the privilege of speaking to many legal colleagues at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) Consumer Rights Litigation Conference in Washington, D.C. In a discussion session following the keynote speech by Senator Elizabeth Warren, I shared my research and experience regarding credit damage, the types of loses that can be claimed, and how these claims are to be valued. Here I share this knowledge with you.

Credit damage can arise from a variety of circumstances. Mistakes by consumer reporting agencies (CRAs, or credit bureaus) and by credit or information furnishers (Banks, credit card companies, etc.) result in credit damage to innocent Americans every day. Identity theft or identity confusion resulting in merged records is also a common cause of credit damage. Many errors and problems can arise from credit reporting agencies themselves. A recent revision of Equifax’s data breach assessment now shows a theft of over 143 million Social Security numbers, and counting. People seek credit damage compensation as a result of banks wrongfully extending mortgages during the credit boom that they could not afford, and upon which they subsequently have defaulted and have lost in foreclosure. Failure of banks to offer government-financed mortgage modifications for which applicants qualify can result in excess costs and credit damage. Credit damage also frequently occurs during a divorce when one party ruins the credit history of another on jointly held credit cards or loans. Separating legal responsibility for mortgage payments on a jointly owned house and on other jointly held credit can be problematic when the parties are in emotional and perhaps financial adversity. Further, people can also sustain credit damage when they are injured, sick or wrongfully discharged, and do not work for a protracted period, reaching a point where they cannot pay their bills.

Sometimes credit damage arises in unique and unpredictable ways. One plaintiff paid fire insurance premiums to a bank, along with the mortgage payments on his home. A bank employee embezzled the funds and never made payment on the insurance policy. When the house burned down, the owner stopped making mortgage payments and sued the bank to recover the uninsured losses. The bank disputed the claim and foreclosed on his house. This was reported to the credit bureaus resulting is significant damage to his credit. The damage lasted during several years of litigation, but the reported foreclosure was eventually reversed.

Often, credit damage is reversible. Innocent error can be often corrected, even if not easily. But frequently, even though caused wrongfully and through no fault of the consumer, credit damage may occur and cannot be reversed, except by the passage of time, and sometimes not even then. If a person defaults on a mortgage through a breach of contract by another, the report cannot be reversed. The credit bureaus cannot erase or reverse the correct reporting of a foreclosure or a bankruptcy even if the consumer wins a lawsuit against the tortfeasor that caused this. Foreclosures, late payments, bad debt in collection, and other derogatory information, unless put on in error, remains on a credit report for seven years; bankruptcy remains for ten years. Tax liens remain on a credit report as derogatory information for seven years after they have been paid. If the tax lien has not been paid, Equifax and TransUnion will show the unpaid tax lien indefinitely while Experian shows it for fifteen years. If during a divorce, one spouse informally promises to pay real estate taxes on a jointly held house, or income taxes on a joint return, and subsequently fails to pay, the other spouse can experience credit damage, possibly forever, unless the tax liens are eventually paid.

The damage may persist for as long as seven years in the case of an irreversible error (such as in the instance of the earlier-mentioned house fire) or up to ten years in the instance of a bankruptcy. Even if the bankruptcy results from breach of contract, and even if the consumer obtains a verdict in court that a breach has occurred, the Credit Reporting Agencies cannot reverse such derogatory information if the bankruptcy did occur, despite the fact that it arose through no fault of the consumer. In some instances, it may be difficult to anticipate when the damage might terminate because, after seven or ten years when the credit scores have been restored, former low levels of mortgage rates may not be available.

There can be a variety of consequences to credit damage, among them: (a) withdrawal or loss of job offers, (b) significantly higher borrowing costs on credit cards and loans and higher premiums on auto insurance, (c) reduced credit expectancy or capacity, (d) the considerable expenditure of time, energy and money to remedy the situation, and finally, (e) a significant loss of enjoyment of life. Using standard forensic economic methods, these damages can be valued and claimed in lawsuits against the tortfeasors, many of whom are subject to various consumer protection laws including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.) and its amendments, and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACT).

Various state and federal laws permit a wide variety of claims, including claims for punitive damages. Perhaps the easiest claims to value are the out-of-pocket expense arising from credit damage. The time lost, valued at some reasonable rate, along with out-of-pocket expenses including legal fees etc. can also be easily valued.

Frequently consumers make claims for loss of opportunity, in particular loss of job offers. If a person is offered a job at $45,000 a year and suffers a withdrawal of that offer as a result of credit damage, the loss can be the difference between the lost offer and the next best available alternative, for as many years as the reduced salary can be expected to persist. The loss of opportunity may be more than just a reduction in salary, it may involve a once-in-a-lifetime offer for a position that can never be regained.

Claims can also arise for higher-than-warranted interest costs on credit cards or loans. If a mortgage should have been issued at 4 percent, and the credit damage resulted in a mortgage rate of 6 percent, the two percent difference per annum over the life of the mortgage is a significant sum of money, and can easily be calculated.

Another credit damage claim that can be made is the loss or reduction in credit expectancy. Some consumers simply cannot obtain credit cards or loans at any rate whatsoever and hence cannot make major purchases such as homes, boats, or other assets that require loans, and must carry cash for all lesser purchases. Imagine a world where you cannot buy an airline ticket online or pay for your cell phone usage with a credit card, and where all transactions must be paid for in cash? This loss of credit expectancy can be valued by comparing the rate the consumer might have expected with the highest rate charged by credit card companies, as a floor on the loss of expectancy damages. The loss of credit expectancy is estimated by the cost of credit extended under normal circumstances versus the cost charged to those who are viewed as high credit risks to whom credit is extended, but at the highest rates charged. Normal credit costs are approximately 1 to 1.5 percent per month; the costs charged to high credit risk accounts can run to 3 percent per month or higher. For persons with prior good, or even fair, credit they had the ability to borrow considerable sums beyond his or her diminished credit. I frequently estimate this additional capacity of be at least $100,000, and likely more. This standby credit under normal conditions has a value similar to the value of a safety net for a trapeze artist, or the value of a term life policy for a person who continues to live a healthy life – the value does not depend on the actual use. It is an option, and options have value. In my earlier days, I had a seat on the Chicago board of Trade, formed in 1848 to help farmers manage their options against weather losses, price changes, and other financial ups and downs.

Finally, claims can be made and testimony can be provided for the loss of enjoyment of life, well-recognized in the State of Nevada. (See my article in Vegas Legal, August 2016 “Economic Damages in Nevada) Victims of credit damage frequently report going through protracted emotional turbulence and upset, experiencing significant loss of enjoyment of life. These damages can persist long after financial restoration is made as in some instances relationships are destroyed as a consequence of the credit damage. The standard process for evaluating the loss of enjoyment of life applies in these instances. Typically, consumers must be interviewed extensively to obtain detailed information about all these losses.

Credit damage and its consequences can arise easily in the lives of virtually any consumer despite public awareness and programs and laws to prevent this. The consequences can be financially and emotionally devastating. Forensic economists, using standard approaches, can assist in evaluating the losses.

While the filching of one’s good name and the resulting credit damage can arise from a variety of causes – and the consequences can make one very poor indeed – our legal system offers relief and the prospect of significant economic recovery for the aggrieved party.

Stan V. Smith, Ph.D., is president of Smith Economics Group, Ltd. headquartered in Chicago. Trained at the University of Chicago (one of the world’s pre-eminent institutions for the study of economics and the home of the law and economics movement), Smith has also taught at the university and co-authored the first textbook on the subject of economic damages. A nationally-renowned expert in economics who has testified nationwide in personal injury, wrongful death and commercial damages cases, Smith has assisted thousands of law firms in successful results for both plaintiffs and defendants, including the U.S. Department of Justice. To that end, Smith also developed the first course in forensic economics at DePaul University, and pioneered the concept of “hedonic damages,” testifying about the topic in landmark cases. His work has been featured in the ABA Journal, National Law Journal, and on the front page of The Wall Street Journal. Kyle Lauterhahn is a Senior Economic Analyst at Smith Economics Group in Chicago.


The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.



From Open Murder To Gross Misdemeanor



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

In the pantheon of courthouse stories that will live on forever, there is a new entry: the case of the “Smoke Shop Shooter,” 24-year-old Raad Sunna, who was originally charged with open murder before he ultimately pleaded down to a gross misdemeanor in return for no time served. No trial. No felony record. No time. Zero. Nada.

One reason the case will live long beyond a mortal expiration date is the reaction of Dominic Gentile, the lead defense attorney in the case. Gentile has said that upon reflection, he is disappointed in the outcome.

“I know there are a lot of people applauding the result here, but I’m not one of them,” Gentile said. “It is a criminal defense lawyer’s horror to represent a person who is truly, factually innocent of what he is charged with, because it brings far more pressure. This was a classic example of how frustrating our criminal justice system is, because it is geared toward the negotiated settlement, the disposition, of cases.”

“Here you have a situation where a person should not have to carry on his record that he has been charged with a crime, and certainly should not have to carry that he has been convicted of a crime, because he did nothing illegal. He did nothing wrong. So, when you have somebody like that you are representing, it keeps you up at night — if you’re conscientious.”

Initially, Gentile’s contention of Sunna’s innocence seems to fly in the face of the fact pattern. The deceased person was 13 years old, unarmed, and had been shot in the side once and in the back six times.

The shooting generated sensational headlines from the evening of the incident. It began as a robbery attempt at a smoke shop in a southwest Las Vegas Valley strip mall, with three teenagers putting on layer upon layer of clothing to make themselves appear larger and more menacing. They donned shemagh-style masks, which many people associate with tactical military forces or terrorism.

All of the perpetrators’ preparation for the robbery was caught on surveillance video from a camera at a nearby store.

They burst in the door and rushed toward Sunna, the lone clerk in the family-owned smoke shop at the time. Video from the shop shows two of the attackers leaping behind the store’s counters and Sunna responding by drawing his pistol. Seconds later, one of the masked robbers, Fabriccio Patti, would be dead on the floor.

Thanks in part to the surveillance video footage, Gentile liked his position from the moment he took the case. “When I first saw the video, I never believed the police or the district attorney would file any charges,” Gentile said. “Raad’s background was pristine. I don’t think I could possibly create a fictional client who had more to offer to society than this kid. He was just the poster boy for good behavior.”

Sunna is literally an altar boy. When he sat down with police to answer their questions on the night of the shooting, he asked that his priest accompany him. That priest, Father John Nicholas, would have been a stellar witness had the state decided to proceed to trial. Even though he had an altar boy client with a background that would be any defense attorney’s dream, Gentile was not fully confident in his chances until he saw the results of a pair of focus groups he ordered. (Full disclosure: Fierro Communications, Inc., provided support for Gentile’s firm in preparation for the case, particularly in the area of conducting and analyzing focus groups and mock juries. As a direct result of their work on this case Fierro Communications and Gentile have partnered to launch a business based on focus groups.)

“You always have to stress test your own beliefs and your own point of view and your own evaluation of the evidence against what others may think of it,” Gentile said. “Lawyers are often far removed from the mindset of those who have nothing to do with the law. Sometimes their judgment is too constricted by the rules of law. I know what the jury instructions are, I know what the elements are of murder and all the other included offenses of murder. I know where the burden of proof rests on self-defense. I saw it as self-defense. But there were a couple of powerful factors that were not necessarily working in Raad’s favor. One was the person he shot was 13 years of age. Of course, Raad could not have known that. But at the end of the day you do not know how much sympathy the jury will have for the parents of a dead 13-year-old. Another factor was the dead man was not armed. Again, there was no way for Raad to know that, particularly with the way he ran at him. It turns out one of his cronies was armed with a butterfly knife that could cut your throat in no time. But the dead man was not armed.

“When those factors are in the mix, you have to worry about it. How is that going to impact emotionally the members of the jury? Regardless of what anyone says, the jury decides the case viscerally and then thinks of a rationale. That’s the nature of a group decision-making process. And that’s absolutely what juries do. Any trial lawyer or judge will tell you that.”

In studying the mock juries that made up the focus groups, Gentile’s resolve was strengthened when he observed that both groups independently decided that Sunna should be acquitted. “Both focus groups started out exactly the way I was afraid of,” Gentile said. “They started out by looking at a 13-year-old, unarmed, and looking for a reason to convict Raad Sunna. As they worked through it and started putting themselves in the place of Raad, the focus groups, without knowing what the other one was doing, both unanimously came to the conclusion that it was self-defense. The irony was the paths each one took to that conclusion were different from the other. When you see them reaching the same result from two different paths, it puts steel in your spine.”

On Feb. 1, 2018, a year and two months after the shooting, Sunna was sentenced to probation and community service after pleading guilty to a gross misdemeanor. He originally faced a charge of open murder that carried the possibility of a life sentence without parole.
The outcome followed tense negotiations between Gentile’s firm and the district attorney’s office that lasted until the final possible moments. The focus group research bolstered Gentile’s confidence during the negotiations.

“I strongly believe in focus groups. I’ve been doing them since the early ’80s,” Gentile said. “Focus groups don’t have to cost a lot of money. You can do a focus group without a lot of bells and whistles and benefit from it. What I really want to do is take the experience I’ve had with focus groups as well as juries, and we want to make it affordably available to more lawyers who handle jury-eligible litigation. I stopped counting, but I definitely have had more than 150 jury trials, every one of them as a private practice effort.

“I want to take that experience and share it with other lawyers. In the plaintiff personal injury arena, I think that cases are settled for too little because lawyers don’t want to spend the money for a focus group.

“And I’m absolutely certain that more cases should go to trial in the criminal arena. Too many cases are settled for way too great a penalty. This case proves that. It wasn’t finalized until the last minute. The next work day, we were supposed to start picking a jury at 9 a.m. And it was 4:59 p.m. the day before that the case was negotiated for what we had demanded. The district attorney’s office didn’t give in for less than a felony until that moment.”

Even though Sunna and his family were satisfied with the decision, Gentile still does not consider it a just result.

“A just result would have been the district attorney dismissing the charges outright,” Gentile said. “What the district attorney did was play the game to the hilt by giving us the Hobson’s choice of running the risk of a renegade jury, who would not see it as the focus groups did, as opposed to something that was not a felony and would most likely not result in him being incarcerated.

“What was I going to tell the client and his family, ‘Trust me, we can win this case?’ I told them what I would tell my own son: You can’t always get what you want, but you can get what you need. What Raad needed, more than anything else, was not to run the risk of life in prison.

“It was three masked robbers running through the front door of a store, totally surprising him. Anybody with a gun would have done what Raad did. Anyone who would dispute that, I would tell them to go click on the video and watch it. And watch the video from the vestibule next door where they were preparing for the robbery.” Gentile ranks the case among the most memorable in his long and illustrious career. “It is absolutely, without a doubt, in my top five cases,” Gentile said. “Although I don’t feel happy about the result, in some respects it may be the best work I’ve ever done.”

Mark Fierro began his career as a reporter/anchor at KLAS-TV, the CBS television station in Las Vegas. He worked at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He served as communications consultant on IPO road shows on Wall Street. He provided litigation support for the Michael Jackson death trial. He is president of Fierro Communications, Inc., and author of several books including “Road Rage: The Senseless Murder of Tammy Meyers.” He has made numerous appearances on national TV news programs.



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.



Highs & No’s: The Do’s & Don’ts of Cannabis Investing



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Investors – especially those unfamiliar with the cannabis market – have traditionally been hesitant to invest in an industry the federal government views as illegal. While this still holds true for most institutional investors, smaller firms and groups of wealthy individuals are becoming increasingly interested in cannabis.1 However, the majority of information surrounding these investments still lies somewhere between rumor and nuance, and the dizzying array of so-called cannabis “experts” can lead one to the conclusion that there is no such thing (there is, but they’re hard to spot).

The Cannabis industry has a lot in common with business in general. The industry includes agricultural, commercial processing, retail and laboratory businesses – each of which has a broad market of comparable enterprises for comparison. The maturity of these sectors also means that traditional accounting and financial reporting is more than adequate for business analysis purposes.

So, you’re looking to invest in marijuana. You’re not alone. Billions of dollars of private equity are flowing into the cannabis business – with billions more flowing into the rapidly growing public market for marijuana securities. However, if you have even a remote connection to this sector – you’ve likely been solicited (or know someone who has) with a private equity opportunity. Despite the federal illegality of the cannabis industry, in general (owing to the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, as governed by the federal Controlled Substances Act), federal securities laws still apply to investment in marijuana businesses. Here’s a quick guide to what to do next.


The Supreme Court has adopted a flexible and liberal approach in determining what constitutes a security. In its famous decision of SEC v. W.J. Howey Co., 328 U.S. 293, 90 L.Ed. 1244, 66 S.Ct. 1100 (1946), the Court held that land sales contracts for citrus groves in Florida, coupled with warranty deeds for the land, and a contract to service the land, were “investment contracts” and thus securities. The Court stated that

[a]n investment contract for purposes of the Securities Act means a contract, transaction or scheme whereby a person invests his money in a common enterprise and is led to expect profits solely from the efforts of the promoter or a third party. 66 S.Ct. at 1103.

In general, all securities offered in the U.S. must be registered with the SEC or must qualify for an exemption from the registration requirements. Registering securities (as publicly traded companies do) is an exceptionally expensive undertaking, and requires the full-time support of an experienced securities law firm. It is critical for the success of the issuance of private securities that they avoid registration by qualifying for a Regulation D exemption and properly documenting that exemption.

No matter what you are told by a cannabis company seeking investment, if you give them money, with an expectation of return on your investment without any material effort on your part: you are being issued a security. As a result, you should be provided with a private placement memorandum (“PPM”; a prospectus and required legal disclosure statement) and a Subscription Agreement (providing the terms of your investment – and your qualification as an accredited and/or sophisticated investor). The PPM must include information regarding its qualification for a Regulation D exemption.


One of the greatest challenges facing investors in new markets is proper valuation of marijuana enterprises. Speculation and short supply can drive equity valuations into inflated multiples based on rapid growth expectations. Conversely, perceived risk can be overestimated and drive equity valuations into substandard positions. No matter what, the one valuation you should be skeptical of is the one provided by the issuing company. The offer, itself, represents a valuation (e.g. if you get offered 10% of a company for $100,000 investment – that’s a $1,000,000 valuation), but may also include detailed analysis to highlight the valuation discount or premium.

Nevertheless, you should have the pro forma financials reviewed by an independent financial professional – including an independent valuation, for perspective. The resulting quantitative analysis will provide important information on the nature of the offer you’ve been provided.


For the amateur investor, legal compliance is likely your biggest concern. For professional money, the regulatory environment is just another variable in the valuation. While compliance risk has always been a material element of cannabis investing (and will be until marijuana is legalized at the federal level), it has become particularly sensitive in light of Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinding the 2013 Cole Memo, which had directed US attorneys not to pursue properly-licensed marijuana businesses in marijuana-legal states.

If this repeal had gone unmentioned or unopposed, the increased risk would materially depress valuations and chill investment. However, opposition to the repeal was swift and widespread, including (at the federal level) U.S. Congressmen Polis of Colorado, Rohrabacher of California, and Blumenauer of Oregon sponsoring an amendment to the House’s next budget bill prohibiting the Justice department from spending money on the prosecution of legally-compliant cannabis businesses.

Additionally, Cannabis-legal states have indicated they will aggressively fight back any federal action taken to shut down state-legal Cannabis businesses. Many industry analysts cite the expected tax revenues that have already been budgeted, and the increase in local economies via job creation and the deep political unpopularity involved in eliminating or even reducing those revenues.

The bottom line is that cannabis investment remains at record levels with stable valuations and public sentiment strongly in favor of legalization (across both parties). Eventual legalization is all but inevitable.


It’s a great time to invest in cannabis, despite what you may have heard in the news. When it comes to investment, follow the money – and with little or no money exiting cannabis companies, it remains a bull market. However, once you’re ready to invest:

Make sure private securities offers are properly documented; and
Secure your own independent valuation.

Because a good investment can still be a bad (or illegal) deal.

Glenn H. Truitt, Esq. is a managing partner at Ideal Business Partners (, a multidisciplinary professional services firm serving healthcare professionals with state-of-the-art legal, financial compliance and strategic advice, working together to lift up their practices. IBP consults with ComplyPro (, a HIPAA compliance services company, serving Nevada and southern California, and employing both traditional and digital compliance tools to develop comprehensive, customized compliance solutions for any size practice.

Malvika Rawal, Ph.D., J.D., is a law clerk at Ideal Business Partners. She received her Master of Science at the University of Delhi in Biomedical Sciences and her doctorate degree in Free Radical and Radiation Biology at the University of Iowa. She then received her Juris Doctor at the University of Iowa College of Law in May 2016. Rawal is deeply involved with ComplyPro, a HIPAA compliances services company.

1 Marijuana Business Daily. Marijuana Business Factbook 2017. p.6.



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.



Saving Sandoval: Las Vegas Attorney & Iraq Veteran Releases New Book



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

While deployed to the most dangerous area in Iraq in 2007 known as the “Triangle of Death,” U.S. Army Specialist Jorge Sandoval, an airborne infantryman and elite sniper, was instructed to “take the shot” and kill an enemy insurgent wearing civilian clothes. Two weeks later, Army investigators descended upon Sandoval’s unit and began interrogating the soldiers and trying to link Sandoval and others to war crimes. Sandoval was ultimately charged with six felony level offenses, to include two counts of murder. The case made international headlines with leading stories in the New York Times and Washington Post.

Then, Captain Craig W. Drummond was the Army JAG military defense attorney assigned to Sandoval’s case. The new book covers the events from the moment the trigger is pulled on the battlefield through the trial that took place in a U.S. military compound on the outskirts of Baghdad during the height of the enemy uprisings in Iraq. The book brings the reader into the reality of modern warfare in a post September 11th environment where the enemy does not always wear a uniform. The detailed account of the investigation and trial testimony from elite Army snipers brings the reader into the courtroom and onto the battlefield of Iraq.

The book is receiving rave reviews and high praise from the legal and military community.

“A revealing, real-life courtroom drama, reminiscent of A Few Good Men.”–Hunter R. Clark, Director, International Law and Human Rights Program, Drake University Law School.

“Armed forces continue to operate in uncertain and complex environments and this story is an insightful and powerful look into the challenges and judgments faced by a young sniper deployed to the battlefield of Iraq.”–Brigadier General Jeffery L. Underhill, U.S. Army Retired, (Iraq Veteran).

SAVING SANDOVAL was published by Wild Blue Press which is owned by New York Times Bestselling Author Steve Jackson. The book is available now on Craig W. Drummond is a Las Vegas attorney at the Drummond Law Firm practicing in Personal Injury and Criminal Defense. He received the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. More information about Craig and the book can be found at


The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.



Golden Knights Hockey Scores Big In Las Vegas



The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.

Screaming chants of “Fleury! Fleury!” for Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-André Fleury, echo throughout the T-Mobile Area during a recent Golden Knights hockey game. A man in a full-armor knight outfit visits the capacity crowd, looking like a knight who just escaped a dinner show at the nearby Excalibur hotel-casino. Fans, dressed up for different eras of music, compete for prizes during timeouts. The crowd then goes crazy when the Golden Knights score during a faceoff with the National Hockey League’s Calgary Flames.

Yes, big-time hockey has come to Las Vegas, and it has found success in spades. The Vegas Golden Knights, a dream of owner Bill Foley, have the best record of any expansion team in the history of major league sports (not just hockey). At one point in February, Las Vegas odds makers even put the Golden Knights as a favorite to win the NHL Stanley Cup championship.

The success is more than most Las Vegans hoped for. Heck, local sports fans were just thrilled to have any big league team to call their own. Most expansion teams downright stink in their first few seasons, and fans accept their teams’ woes as growing pains. But the Golden Knights were born ready to win, including an emotional home opener on Oct. 10, after the 1 October mass shooting on the Strip.

Few fans – or those in the sports world – predicted the unheralded success on the ice of the Golden Knights. A mix of tourists and locals fill up the 17,500 -seat T-Mobile Area, even on most weeknights. (The venue has different seating capacities for various events but can hold 17,500 for hockey games).

The Making of a Hockey Dream Team in the Desert

Steve Sisolak, chairman of the Clark County Commission and now a candidate for Nevada governor, was instrumental in bringing both an NHL team to Las Vegas (in the Golden Knights) and an NFL franchise (with the Oakland Raiders’ planned 2020 motive to the valley).

“I got involved with the ticket drive (for a proposed NHL team in Las Vegas),” Sisolak recalls. “The NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, didn’t believe we could sell all those tickets.

“I remember writing the first check for season tickets,” the county commission chairman continues.

That ticket drive resulted in the sale of 16,000 season tickets before a Las Vegas team ever took the ice. That helped persuade the NHL that Vegas would support a professional hockey team.

“This is a truly historic event for the Las Vegas community, the NHL and all of our fans,” Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley was quoted by as saying in the fall of 2016, after Las Vegas was awarded an NHL franchise.

The national sports world raised a few eyebrows at the reality of the NHL team in Sin City: “Jackpot: Vegas expansion team sells out season tickets,” was the headline run by on Sept. 19, 2016.

In the same article, James O’Brien wrote: “It still feels a little surreal that there’s really going to be an NHL team in Las Vegas, but Bill Foley & Co. continue to hit some significant milestones.”
Sisolak recalls the grassroots effort by hockey backers to get the tickets sold, even before an NHL franchise was awarded to Foley – and Las Vegas.

“They went to bars, and everyplace people gathered, to explain what hockey was and sell tickets,” he says. “They were all over the place, at all the events.”

Despite his enthusiasm and support for bringing an NHL team to Las Vegas, the county commission chairman didn’t anticipate the huge fan support the Golden Knights have since received in Southern Nevada.
“It’s filled to capacity. It is standing-room only,” Sisolak says. “I try to go to as many games as possible.”

Vegas has tried its Luck with the Puck Before

Longtime local sports reporter Steve Carp, who covers the Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, is impressed with the new hockey team, and not surprised by its popularity.

Carp, who has been covering sports in Las Vegas for 30 years, points to the earlier successes of two (now-defunct) local professional hockey teams – the Las Vegas Thunder and the Las Vegas Wranglers. The Thunder and the Wranglers, while pro teams, were not at the highest level in the sport — the National Hockey League.

Las Vegas Thunder played in the International Hockey League from 1993 to 1999, with the Thomas & Mack Center serving as its home ice. Longtime residents still wear ’90s’ era Thunder jerseys, and talk fondly of the Thunder’s polar bear mascot.

Later, the Las Vegas Wranglers filled the hockey void left by the Thunder’s demise. The Wranglers were part of what was formerly the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) and, like the Golden Knights, were a Vegas expansion franchise.

The Wranglers played at the Orleans Arena from their debut in 2003 through the end of the 2013-2014 season, when their lease expired. In 2008, the Wranglers played in the Kelly Cup finals (the ECHL version of the Stanley Cup), but lost to the Cincinnati Cyclones. When the Wranglers was unable to come to terms with the Orleans in 2014, the team suspended operations. Unable to find a new home, the Wranglers later withdrew from the ECHL.

“When you had the Thunder and the Wranglers, there wasn’t a lack of fan support that caused the teams to fold. They both had problems with their landlords,” Carp recalls. “The Thunder couldn’t work out a deal with the Thomas & Mack, and the Wranglers had problems with the Orleans.”

The popularity of hockey in Las Vegas was also evident in the demand for Los Angeles Kings tickets, whenever the Kings played NHL games in Vegas, Carp adds

“But this is different (than the Kings),” he notes. “If your dad takes you, as a 7- or 8-year-old kid, to a fast-paced (Golden Knights) game, it is easy to fall in love with it. It’s your city’s team.”

Of course, there’s that one important ingredient to any sports’ team’s success:

“The winning has a lot to do with it,” Carp says. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”

Vegas Golden Knights Strong

Las Vegas’ NHL franchise’s October 10th home debut should have been full of all the glitz and spectacle fitting the Entertainment Capital of the World. Those plans changed, however, when the unthinkable happened on Oct. 1, 2017. Stephen Paddock, a Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino guest, opened fire on more than 20,000 concert goers on the Las Vegas Strip, killing 58 and injuring more than 500.

Bill Foley, and the Vegas Golden Knights, stepped up to show the mourning community how much they cared. A moving tribute to first responders, and victims, replaced a spectacular opening night celebration.

“The community fell in love with the tribute to the first responders,” Sisolak says. “They had the names of all the victims on the ice.”

The Golden Knights’ home opener tribute to the first responders, and shooting victims, moved the city. The gesture transcended hockey fandom, and wins or losses.

Fields – and Stadiums – of Dreams

Big league sports, and the venues that are built around them, can re-invent a city, as the Brooklyn Dodgers did when they moved to Los Angeles in 1958. The team first played in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Later, the construction of Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine is credited for transforming modern Los Angeles into what it is today.

KXNT Las Vegas radio show host Alan Stock grew up in Southern California and remembers the changes brought about by the Dodgers’ move to the City of Angels.

But when looking at the Raiders’ planned 65,000-seat domed stadium, with construction costs estimated at $1.9 billion, he is not so thrilled. Lack of adequate stadium parking — along with the hefty public tab of $750 million from the hotel and motel room tax — are Stock’s main concerns.

“I don’t think the Raiders are paying enough,” the talk show host says.

But Stock can’t say enough good things about the Golden Knights.

“They have excited the whole valley, and become part of the community,” Stock praises.
Likewise, as the Golden Knights’ beat reporter, Carp has seen firsthand how important the hockey team has become both on — and off – the ice.

“The guys were giving blood after the (1 October) shooting,” Carp remembers. “They let the community know, ‘Hey, we won’t just forget about this in a week. We are with you.’”

Team owner Bill Foley, a West Point military academy graduate and longtime local, “gave $1 million to the (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s) foundation,” Carp points out. “The Golden Knights have not taken anything from the community. They have only given to the community. That is going to be a tough act for the Raiders to follow.”

Professional baseball, in the form of the Triple A Las Vegas 51s, was among the first professional sports franchises to take a gamble on the city. Debuting as the Las Vegas Stars in 1983, the now-51s will get a massive upgrade in 2019.

The baseball club has always played at the now-aging Cashman Field, in downtown Las Vegas. Now, finally, the team will get new digs. The 51s will be moving to a new, $150 million open-air stadium in Summerlin. The club will play there, beginning in the 2019 season.

Alan Snel, the founder of the sports business news site,, points to the economic impact of the new 51s’ stadium.

“They are going from an old, decrepit ballpark to what will be one of the most beautiful ballparks in the county,” he says.

Cashman has also become the home to the professional soccer team, the Las Vegas Lights. Soon, the WNBA Aces will make Mandalay Bay their home and begin play in Las Vegas.

As the teams serve diverse market segments, Snel predicts enough room for all the sports franchises to succeed, for now.
“They all have carved out their own niches. We have moved from a one-off sports-event town to a sports-team town,” he said.

As a reporter who covered the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels basketball team in their heyday, when the team won an NCAA championship in 1990, Carp also sees a transformation.

“We went from a college-sports town to a professional-sports town,” Carp sums up.

Sisolak views the growth of professional sports in the city as a step forward, with every addition of a team, event, or venue, being progress. The Golden Knights debut, along with the Raiders’ planned move to Las Vegas, are among the biggest building blocks in transforming the city.
“We have NASCAR, we have the Aces, the Lights, a new 51s stadium in Summerlin, along with the T-Mobile Arena and the Golden Knights,” the county commission chairman lists. “The Raiders’ stadium will reinforce that Las Vegas is the entertainment – and sports – capital of the world.”
Economically, Sisolak says the city will also benefit from increased tourism dollars.

“People might come for one or two nights, but stay that extra third or fourth night, he predicts. “They will fill those hotel beds, and keep people coming to the casinos.”

But for the close to 17,000 (mostly-screaming) fans at each Golden Knights game at the T-Mobile Arena, economic data is the last thing on their minds.

A high-scoring game, the excitement of “a fight!” and plenty of jersey-buying afterward, were all part of the recent Vegas Golden Knights’ experience.

When learning that a local fan was attending their first game, a visiting tourist from Calgary was quick to praise the home-town Knights.

“You picked a great game,” she said, “and you have quite a team!”

-By Valerie Miller

The Firm, P.C. is a boutique Las Vegas law firm founded by Preston Rezaee, Esq. Preston Rezaee is also the founder and Editor in Chief of Vegas Legal Magazine.