Topless bar owner Frederick Rizzolo has finally responded to Las Vegas Tribune news stories and opinion columns that accurately reported on his business and associations. Though stories of events including beatings, robberies, and a killing at his bar have appeared in both daily newspapers and on local TV newscasts, Mr. Rizzolo seems intent to waste his time blaming only this newspaper and only this writer for his problems - problems that he should be trying to correct before more people are hurt.
His response confirms that the Tribune has scooped all other news outlets on these stories, however, misstatements in Mr. Rizzolo's Letter to the Editor (See Pg. 7) beg a response from this writer.
Mr. Rizzolo makes the misrepresentation more than once that I am the owner of the Las Vegas Tribune.
I do not own or have any financial interest in the Las Vegas Tribune. His repeated insistence that I own this newspaper reflects the lack of validly of the rest of his claims.
Mr. Rizzolo complains, "The Las Vegas Tribune and Mr. Miller fail to disclose that Mr. Miller is the landlord of Club Paradise. Club Paradise, an adult dance establishment, is a direct business competitor of the club I operate, Crazy Horse Too."
A family trust has owned the land under the Club Paradise since 1992. I have no ownership in or control of the two businesses on that land. It should also be noted that the Club Paradise and Crazy Horse attract far different clienteles. It's a stretch of the imagination to call the two businesses "competitive."
He then stated that the Tribune only tells one side of the story.
Since Mr. Rizzolo, for the past three years, would not respond to repeated phone calls, it left us little choice other than to depend on the statements of eyewitnesses and other reliable sources.
Mr. Rizzolo said I never quoted from the complaint he filed against Buffalo Jim Barrier, or from the one he filed against the Tribune and me.
Mr. Rizzolo's three-page libel lawsuit against the Tribune and myself only stated that he was allegedly accused of "Unethical and illegal activities." I certainly did not need to repeat such a vague allegation in every article that I penned though I often mentioned his "libel" lawsuit.
Being named in a libel lawsuit is not grounds for a newspaper or writer to stop reporting on a subject (as probably was Mr. Rizzolo’s intent). It is a badge of courage as exemplified by the New York Times and other major publications that have been sued for libel dozens of times by disgruntled newsmakers, but continue undaunted to report the news.
I believe that Mr. Rizzolo's current suit against this newspaper and myself is a clear example of a SLAPP suit: a legal action intended to silence critics. I base my observation on the fact that Mr. Rizzolo has never demanded a retraction or correction of any material written about him in the Las Vegas Tribune.
This is not my first experience with this form of attempted intimidation. The President of the now defunct Las Vegas Transit System unsuccessfully tried this tactic against me in 1987. I persisted in reporting his company's lack of financial accountability in the face of his SLAPP suit. The truthfulness in my exclusive reports was verified when LV Transit's forty-nine-year old franchise was revoked one year before it was to be renewed. Because of information relayed in my stories, we now have the Citizens Area Transit System. The misuse of SLAPP suits should never stop a free press from reporting the truth!
In his letter, Mr. Rizzolo stated: "It is no surprise, of course, that one will not find a single article in the Tribune reporting any event or fact favorable to myself or to my club."
I’m sorry, but other than being called a "Pillar of the Community" by Councilman Mike McDonald; throwing political parties at his Canyon Gate home; and supplying strippers at a charity auction, I couldn't find any additional facts favorable to Mr. Rizzolo to mention in my Commentaries.
He then complains that I accused him of running the City of Las Vegas, "including its prosecutors, the police and fire departments, the judges, and the City Council."
Up until the departure of former mayor Jan Jones (a frequent visitor to Rizzolo's home and obliged recipient of his generous campaign contributions), it was my sincere opinion that Mr. Rizzolo was truly running the city government!
I based my opinion on several instances of partial treatment I observed him receiving such as in 1998, when he received permits - after the fact – for an already-built expansion he called a "dressing room." He was allowed to open the expansion to the public without adequate parking. Then, former City Fire Chief Mario Trevino refused to reevaluate the occupancy load of the building while the city, at the behest of Jones, refused to increase parking requirements. That, along with the nonexistent response of the DA to the beating death of Scott David Fau, left me feeling that special political favors had been granted.
As a former councilman familiar with local political corruption, I firmly stand by my opinion that Mr. Rizzolo had undue influence over the city government at one time in history.
"Mr. Miller conveniently forgets to mention that he lost his seat to Councilman McDonald, who shares the spotlight that Mr. Miller likes to place on me."
I openly worked to try to recall and replace Councilman Mike McDonald last year based on his unsavory relationship with Mr. Rizzolo. Though we fell short by only 348 signatures, we are proud of the number of names we collected on the Recall McDonald Petition, which included the signature of Mayor Oscar Goodman.
Then Mr. Rizzolo wrote that Buffalo Jim Barrier, myself, and the Las Vegas Tribune were sued for "racketeering" and were "repeatedly involved in providing false evidence to the court."
(Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!) I am not aware of any suit for "racketeering" or "providing false evidence to the court." Since the "libel" suit, I have invoked the Nevada Shield Law for reporters and have provided NO evidence to the court even though Mr. Rizzolo's attorneys foolishly sent me interrogatories demanding the names of my sources.
Mr. Rizzolo then states, "Mr. Barrier sought a ludicrous multimillion-dollar purchase price, a price that was ten times more than what his actual leasehold was worth. I decided on a northward expansion and purchased the adult bookstore that was next to Crazy Horse Too."
Neither party has reported any buyout offers.
Regarding the adult bookstore, the Tribune was the first to report Councilman Mike McDonald going on a "righteous" campaign to close the adult business (so his friend could expand into it’s space). McDonald's actions inflamed the neighbors so much that they hired an attorney to try to close the already opened expansion, but the fix was in and the Council ignored their pleas.
Mr. Rizzolo accused me of financing Mr. Barrier's defense to an eviction suit in exchange for Mr. Barrier's agreement to file a countercomplaint against him. He then claimed that Mr. Barrier himself admitted this in court, under oath, on March 15, 2001.
Mr. Rizzolo must have wax in his ears because transcripts confirm that Mr. Barrier admitted no such thing in court. I don't pay other people's lawyer bills! This is another ridiculous allegation that once more demonstrates the weak position Mr. Rizzolo has against the Tribune and myself, and further reflects the lack of validity of his other claims.
He states that District Court Judge Nancy M. Saitta did not deny his motion to dismiss the Conspiracy/Civil RICO action against him. Mr. Rizzolo (or whoever wrote the letter) then proclaimed "Thus, contrary to the (Tribune) article's title, the racketeering charge against me has not "stuck."
As I previously reported, the District Court record clearly states "Plaintiff's Motion to Dismiss Conspiracy/Civil RICO Causes/for Evidentiary Hearing/Rule 11 Sanctions - Outcome DENIED." Therefore, our report was correct and Mr. Barrier's RICO action against Mr. Rizzolo definitely "stuck."
Mr. Rizzolo claims that Judge Nancy Oesterle never dismissed the 1999 eviction action brought by Barrier's landlord, Renata Schiff.
Hello! Its three years later and Buffalo Jim's garage and his wrestling school are still flanking both sides of the topless bar. Based on Judge Oesterle's ruling, Barrier's leaseholds are firmly stopping the bar's expansion as the time approaches for a road widening expected to eliminate the bar's front entrance.
Mr. Rizzolo states that the coroner who examined Scott David Fau's body "could not determine the cause of death but completely ruled out that Mr. Fau was beaten to death or that his death was caused by an altercation."
Two Medical Examiners and several eyewitnesses disagreed with the coroner's opinion, therefore, Judge Saitta, according to court records, last month reinstated the wrongful death case "due to newly postured evidence provided."
In regard to the Tribune breaking the widely reported story of a robbery and beating on September 20, 2001, that left Kirk Henry paralyzed, Mr. Rizzolo states: "No 'beating' ever occurred on my premises on that day. A customer leaving the club drunk did trip, but in no way was this man 'beaten.'"
Kirk Henry's attorney Don Campbell had this to say about the club's claim it played no part in Mr. Henry's injuries: "Then can you explain to me how it is that my client goes into their establishment and ends up being a quadriplegic?" Eyewitnesses also tell of witnessing Mr. Rizzolo's "steroid" bouncers robbing and beating Mr. Henry.
In response to Mr. Rizzolo describing Kirk Henry "leaving the club drunk," there are laws against liquor license holders letting "drunk" people leave a bar and possibly drive away in a vehicle, (See Oct. 10, 2001, Las Vegas Tribune story "TIPS Program Ignored by Local Topless Bar.")
Letting patrons leave in a "drunk" condition, as Mr. Rizzolo described, contributes to the carnage on our roadways. Mr. Rizzolo should be ashamed of himself!
Negligent bar owners like Mr. Rizzolo who admit to letting people leave his bar "drunk" should be held responsible for not complying with alcohol awareness laws. A Show Cause Hearing to determine whether he should keep his privileged business license is definitely in order now since his admission in the Tribune to violations of the TIPS law.
Even in the face of what is considered overwhelming evidence, I still admire Frederick Rizzolo for finally having the guts to tell his side of the story in the Las Vegas Tribune.
So far, three lawsuits have been filed against his topless bar - two for alleged robberies and beatings of patrons, and one for an alleged wrongful death. The Tribune has also exclusively reported that Metro recently received affidavits from three California men who also claim to have been robbed and beaten by Mr. Rizzolo's bouncers.
Now it will be up to Mr. Rizzolo to convince the juries in each case that he is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Facing such serious problems, I don't think he will have much time left to pursue his stupid "libel" lawsuits.
Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. Visit his website at: http://www.SteveMiller4LasVegas.com