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September 1, 2014

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COURTS:

Judge blasts CSN police probe of alleged theft

Investigation by construction chief called ‘slipshod’

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Steve Marcus

District Judge Donald Mosley speaks to defense attorney John Momot during a hearing Friday on a motion for dismissal of theft charges against College of Southern Nevada construction chief William “Bob” Gilbert, who is alleged to have used college materials and equipment in construction at his Mount Charleston estate.

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Gilbert, from left, attends Friday's hearing with Mark Alden and John Cummings, a CSN English professor. No ruling was made on the defense bid to have charges against Gilbert tossed; the hearing is set to continue Monday.

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CSN official William Gilbert is accused in the theft of college property in the building of this home on Mount Charleston.

District Judge Donald Mosley on Friday slammed the College of Southern Nevada’s police investigation of its construction chief, William “Bob” Gilbert, as “slipshod” and said it looked as if the college’s primary aim had been to contain fallout from a Las Vegas Sun story.

CSN Police Chief Sandy Seda sent his deputy chief, Daniel Bennett, and a sergeant to inspect the associate vice president’s Mount Charleston estate five days after a March 26, 2007, newspaper story alleged that Gilbert was using college construction equipment and materials to build his dream home on the 4.26-acre property.

“These people went up there to do a little damage control,” Mosley said during a hearing on whether the judge should dismiss criminal theft charges against Gilbert and three other CSN employees. “It was a rather self-serving investigation ... They did an awfully slipshod job.”

In an “incident report,” most of which was taken up by photos of equipment at the mountain ranch, Bennett concluded there was “no indication of any property belonging to (CSN).” He said the machinery “appeared to be worn and run down,” with no college markings.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen told Mosley the CSN officers could have easily done more to determine whether the equipment and materials really belonged to the college.

Following a court-authorized search of Gilbert’s estate two months after Bennett’s visit, investigators with the attorney general’s office found CSN markings on equipment and materials and matched the markings with the inventory listed at the college, Hafen said.

The items alleged to have been stolen included a paint sprayer, a chain hoist and a manlift, which had been repainted to conceal the college’s colors, Hafen said. Lumber, cinder blocks, door handles and door locks belonging to CSN also were found on Gilbert’s property.

CSN spokeswoman K.C. Brekken declined to comment on Mosley’s concerns about the police investigation, saying the college doesn’t talk about ongoing court cases.

Bennett, who served as interim chief for several weeks while Seda was on paid administrative leave until the end of January, resigned from the police department on April 26.

Brekken also declined to discuss Bennett’s resignation and the disciplinary action involving Seda.

But a knowledgeable CSN source said the two men had a falling out and were accusing each other of misconduct. CSN President Michael Richards has said the decision to place Seda on leave temporarily was not directly related to the attorney general’s criminal investigation.

Gilbert was charged with 13 counts of theft and four counts of misconduct by a public officer in a 34-count indictment in September. Three employees who worked under him in CSN’s Facilities Management Department — Thad Skinner, Matthew Goins and George Casal — all were charged with assisting in the alleged thefts, which occurred from January 2002 to June 2007. Skinner is a construction manager for the college, Goins is a facility manager, and Casal is a building construction inspector. All are on paid administrative leave.

The property Gilbert ultimately developed includes an 8,200-square-foot main house, a 2,500-square-foot guesthouse, stables and a lighted basketball court. At the time of Gilbert’s indictment, the Clark County assessor listed the taxable value of the estate at $1.32 million.

At Friday’s hearing, Mosley did not appear impressed with Gilbert’s claim that the indictment was faulty because Hafen was derelict in his duty to inform the grand jury about Bennett’s conclusions in his police report.

Gilbert’s attorney, John Momot, argued that Hafen had an obligation to present exculpatory information on Gilbert’s behalf to the grand jury. But Hafen said he didn’t consider the flimsy police findings exculpatory.

Mosley also appeared unimpressed with Momot’s argument that Hafen should have called two former CSN presidents to testify before the grand jury. Both presidents, Ron Remington and Richard Carpenter, had written letters to the attorney general’s office before the indictment, saying they knew Gilbert had kept CSN equipment at his mountain retreat to do maintenance and repair work for the college, which was short on shop space.

But Hafen argued that both presidents told him in post-indictment interviews they did not give Gilbert permission to take the specific items the indictment alleges he stole.

And that led Mosley to conclude that Remington and Carpenter would not have been exculpatory witnesses for Gilbert before the grand jury, basically absolving Hafen of the obligation to call them to testify. Hafen did, however, present their letters to the grand jury, which chose to indict Gilbert and his co-defendants anyway.

Momot also argued that investigators with the attorney general’s office tainted the entire criminal investigation by taking more than 200 photographs at Gilbert’s estate, out of Gilbert’s presence and without a court-approved warrant, shortly after the March 2007 Sun story. Investigators later returned to the property in June 2007 with search warrants to seize evidence.

Hafen contends the photos were taken of items that were in plain view and that the photography was not unlawful.

The hearing is to continue Monday.

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