Journalist Killed in Las Vegas Spent His Career Hunting Corruption
Nothing seemed to frighten him as he hustled over his work.
So the German (GEHR’-man) didn’t express concern when Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, a virtually unknown politician in charge of a small obscure government office, surrendered on Twitter last spring to angrily denounce the journalist.
German, who worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had written about bullying and favoritism in the public administrator’s office and Telles’ inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.
Authorities say German’s initial investigation and follow-up stories were the motivation for Telles to fatally stab German last week at the journalist’s home. DNA at the scene linked Telles to the murder, as did shoes and a distinctive straw hat found at his home that matched those worn by a suspect caught on video, investigators said Thursday.
Police arrested Telles on Wednesday after a brief confrontation at his home. Telles was hospitalized with what Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo described as non-life-threatening self-inflicted injuries.
Glenn Cook, editor of the Review-Journal, said there was talk in the paper that Telles was “unbalanced”, but he never made any physical threats against German and the reporter never never said he was worried.
The idea that this was the story that would put German’s safety at risk seemed implausible, he said, recalling how the reporter recounted being punched once by an organized crime associate.
“He cut his teeth covering the crowd,” Cook said. “Jeff spent over 40 years covering the worst of the worst in Las Vegas. He was a guy who toppled gangsters, sages and killers.
Killings of journalists in the United States in retaliation for their work are extremely rare. Until German’s death, eight journalists have been killed in the United States since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The deadliest attack took place in 2018 when a shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland left five people dead.
“Jeff’s death is a sobering reminder of the risks inherent in investigative journalism,” said Diana Fuentes, executive director of the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization. “Journalists do their job every day, digging deep to find information the public needs to know and has the right to see.”
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 crime. He was 69, but never discussed retirement with his boss, Cook said.
Former colleagues as well as lawyers and government officials relied on German, as sources called him a tough and tenacious reporter who could be gruff at times, especially if someone didn’t know him or was withholding information.
“He wasn’t someone who was easily intimidated,” Geoff Schumacher, who worked with German at The Sun until the late 1990s, said. “Getting to the truth was more important to him. than his own well-being or to be popular.
The couple recently worked together on a podcast called “Mobbed Up.”
German said he received veiled threats from gangsters in the early 1980s, a time when people were going missing as law enforcement clamped down on organized crime. The warnings definitely caught German’s attention, but he never went to the police, said Schumacher, who now works at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas.
Alan Feldman, a former executive at MGM Resorts International, said receiving a call from a German was like hearing the CBS news program, “60 Minutes.” He didn’t speak harshly or threaten anyone, Feldman said, but he never backed down.
And he always followed the story even if it didn’t go the way he expected, he said.
“The last thing I would say about Jeff is something scared him or he was scared,” Feldman said. “He was ready to go after anyone who did anything that was not in the public interest.”
Telles, a Democrat who apparently never held public office until his election in 2018, supervised less than 10 people and received about $120,000 a year to run an office that deals with estates and property of people. after their death. Previously, he was a lawyer and practiced inheritance and inheritance law.
In the weeks leading up to the June primary, German published reports of an office “bogged down in turmoil and internal dissension” between longtime employees and new hires under Telles. Following the stories, county officials hired a consultant to help oversee the office.
Telles blamed the “elders” for exaggerating the extent of his relationship with an employee and falsely claiming that he abused them. He posted complaints on Twitter about German, saying he was a bully “obsessed” with it.
Telles ended up finishing last in the three-way primary and was serving the remainder of his term at the time of the murder.
The articles “ruined his political career, probably his marriage, and he was the one who took on the cause,” Clark County Assistant District Attorney Richard Scow said Thursday.
German’s family called him “a loving and loyal brother, uncle and friend who has dedicated his life to his work exposing wrongdoing in Las Vegas and beyond.”
“We are shocked, saddened and angry by his death,” they said in a statement. “Jeff is committed to seeking justice for others and would appreciate the hard work of local police and journalists in prosecuting his killer. We look forward to justice in this case. »
Seewer reported from Toledo, Ohio.