Las Vegas DA Ending Pretrial Payments To Witnesses
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The top prosecutor in Las Vegas said he’ll end a longstanding practice of paying $25 to people attending pretrial meetings with his deputies.
Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson rejected suggestions that witnesses were influenced by the payments, but told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he was narrowing his interpretation of a Nevada law that allows a $25 fee for court witnesses.
“The idea that their testimony is influenced by being paid $25 is preposterous,” he said.
The issue arose after the Las Vegas Sun reported in October that prosecutors failed to produce witness fee receipts at the request of defense lawyers in a sexual assault case.
Attorneys Dan Bunin and Dayvid Figler won acquittal on most counts against a man facing charges including kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor after questioning the credibility of prosecution witnesses who received fees and other expenses.
After a representative from the district attorney’s office testified the receipts had been destroyed, a Clark County District Court judge told jurors they could view the prosecution witnesses as less credible.
The defendant, Gary Miller, was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of attempted statutory sexual seduction.
Bunin said he later learned that one witness was paid about $800.
The Sun obtained records after trial that it said showed errors including overpayments and underpayments to witnesses. It said the county paid airfare, hotel lodging and $216 for food for a woman deemed a support companion for one witness in the Miller case.
Wolfson said the practice has been to reimburse travel expenses for out-of-town witnesses and companions or parents accompanying underage witnesses.
Prosecutors had interpreted the law to include conferences between witnesses and prosecutors before trials and preliminary hearings.
Wolfson has asked the Clark County to audit the program that budgeted $1.2 million and spent about $866,000 for witness fees and mileage in the last fiscal year.
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