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October 22, 2014

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Gilbert CSN theft case goes to jury

Attorneys finished closing arguments in lengthy case on Monday

Gilbert

Gilbert

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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.

A Clark County jury will begin deliberations Tuesday morning in the Nevada Attorney General's felony theft case against William "Bob" Gilbert, former construction chief for the College of Southern Nevada.

On Monday, the jury listened for more than four hours to the closing arguments by attorneys for the state and for Gilbert in the trial, which started Aug. 9.

Gilbert has pleaded not guilty to 11 felony counts related to allegations that he diverted college construction material, equipment and manpower for illegal use on his property.

The materials allegedly stolen in the scheme included cinder blocks, a manlift, an electric chain hoist, a paint sprayer, lumber, versabond, door handles and door locks, the use of a fork lift and a scissors lift that was rented to CSN, and the use of several CSN employees to work on Gilbert's home during their regular work hours.

A guilty verdict on any one of the charges could sent Gilbert to prison for years.

With the jury out of the room, Judge Donald Mosley told Gilbert that he should know that he had the right to testify in his own defense. But Gilbert said he trusted his defense team, which called only one witness.

His case hinges on whether the jury believes that one witness, Ron Remington, a former CSN president from 2001 to 2004.

Remington testified last week that Gilbert had his permission to store equipment and supplies and do college-related work on his 4.6-acre property in the lower Kyle Canyon area of Mount Charleston between 2002 and 2007.

In his closing argument Monday, defense attorney Brent Bryson told the jury that although Remington didn't give Gilbert permission to use each specific piece of property or equipment found on Gilbert's property by investigators, Remington had given Gilbert "general authority" to do so.

Bryson also told the jury that the state had failed to prove its allegations beyond a reasonable doubt that the material was stolen. He said no one ever reported the material or equipment was stolen.

State investigators put together a timeline using cell phone records and work documents they said showed some CSN employees were making calls from Gilbert's property during what would be their normal work hours at CSN.

However, Bryson said the state never proved their arguments and couldn't show anyone who might have been working on the property was not doing college-related work or was not working in their off hours.

Bryson wrote one word on a large tablet he had propped up in front of the jury -- "Assumption."

"That's what the state's case started with and that's what it ended with," Bryson said.

Bryson spent about an hour and a half going through each of the state's some 20 witnesses and pointing out flaws in what each had said.

Bryson said the state's case was also based on "smoke and mirrors" and "crafty questions."

"We still live in America," which he said has "the greatest judicial system in the world. You don't get tossed in jail because of assumptions."

They also alleged he used CSN equipment and manpower to develop an 8,200-square-foot main house, a 2,500-square-foot guesthouse, stables and a lighted basketball court.

The Sun broke the story about Gilbert in March 2007 after more than a dozen former and current college employees said they had witnessed Gilbert misuse his position at the college.

Chief Deputy State Attorney General Conrad Hafen summed up the state's case to the jury, saying it was based on "greed and the violation of the public's trust."

Hafen said Gilbert had "motive and he had opportunity" to divert the material under his control for his own use.

Hafen told the jury that the state's case was based on direct evidence and circumstantial evidence and they needed to treat each equally in their decision. He also pointed out that, when cross-examined, Remington admitted he couldn't override a state Board of Regents policy against employees taking material and equipment home.

Hafen told the jury that Gilbert's home was built on the backs of the college's workers, material and equipment. And just because none of the equipment was ever reported stolen or missing doesn't mean that the items that turned up on his property after search warrants were issued weren't stolen.

Hafen said that Gilbert's position at the college and the fact that no one was checking up on him "doesn't give him the right to steal ... There's not a different standard that applies to him."

Before the trial began, three of Gilbert's co-defendants, Matthew Goins, George Casal and Thad Skinner, all who worked under Gilbert in CSN's Facilities Management Department, made agreements to plead guilty to lesser charges.

They each pleaded guilty Aug. 5 to two gross misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to commit theft. Each received a sentence that amounts to one year of informal probation.

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