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‘I’m not playing games with you’: Judge questions whether accused murderer acting as his own attorney is a wise move


A Nevada judge this week questioned whether it was wise for accused murderer Robert Telles with no criminal law experience, to represent himself in his trial for the high-profile murder of a Las Vegas investigative reporter.

Telles appeared in court on Tuesday as Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt went through nearly 45 minutes of questioning to determine whether he is fit to act as his attorney.

“I’m not playing games with you,” Leavitt said. “This is very, very serious. You are charged with first-degree murder. I mean, you’re facing life without the possibility of parole. I would think that you would take it a little more seriously.”

“I prefer to represent myself,” he told the judge.

Telles, a former Nevada County administrator, is accused of stabbing to death Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German, 69, outside his home on Sept. 4.

German published a series of investigative reports on Telles, accusing him of abusing staff in his county administrator’s office by bullying and engaging in inappropriate sexual relationships. After German’s articles were published, Telles lost his re-election bid and even lashed out at German via Twitter.

In Tuesday’s hearing, Judge Leavitt quizzed Telles on his background as an attorney, noting he has little experience practicing criminal law.

Telles argued even though his experience in criminal court may be lacking, he could do better than his defense attorney, the third defense attorney he has hired since his arrest.

Leavitt asked him about his experience.

“You understand that once you decide on self-representation, you don’t get to change your mind in the middle of the proceedings and request an attorney?” she asked.

“Yes, your honor,” he answered.

“Because I think I made it pretty clear we’re not playing games here.”

Levitt asked Telles if he understands what he’s committing to.

“Based on what you’re telling me, you do not have the legal training or experience in that area.”

“It’s a compound question,” he said. “Yes, I understand the concern, and I don’t know that you know I won’t be effective at representing myself.”

Telles took office in 2019 and lost re-election in the Democratic primary on June 14, 2022.

In announcing Telles’ arrest, then-Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said it was an unusual case, the murder of an investigative journalist with the main suspect an elected official.

“This is a terrible and jarring homicide, one that has deeply impacted Las Vegas,” he said. “Every murder is tragic, but the killing of a journalist is particularly troublesome. We hope the arrest of Telles and his subsequent prosecution will ultimately provide a sense of justice for our community and Mr. German’s family.”

Authorities said they linked the suspect to DNA found at the crime scene. They also said they linked the suspect to the crime from an orange shirt, bloody shoes, a straw hat and a maroon-colored GMC Denali seen driving suspiciously in the neighborhood the morning of the murder.

Law&Crime Network’s Sierra Gillespie contributed to this report.

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