Clark County judge tosses Las Vegas death plot case indictment against lawyer

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A state judge says that because of a colleague’s error he had to throw out an arson indictment against a Las Vegas-area lawyer and her ex-police officer boyfriend, and he hopes prosecutors will appeal his decision. Clark County District Court Judge Douglas Herndon ruled Thursday that Judge Linda Bell shouldn’t have allowed prosecutors to present evidence in the case to a separate grand jury after a previous panel refused to indict construction-defects lawyer Nancy Quon and William Ronald Webb Jr. on arson and insurance fraud charges. “I can’t fault the state,” Herndon said. “I have to fault Judge Bell.” The Las Vegas Review-Journal ( ) reported that as Herndon dismissed the indictment Thursday, he said state law on resubmitting grand jury  cases is vague and he hoped his decision would be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court to provide more legal guidance for prosecutors and judges.

Herndon said Bell should have gotten more detailed information from prosecutors about their intentions before letting them take evidence in the case to another grand jury. Herndon said it looked like the evidence prosecutors presented to the new panel supported an arson indictment, but the process was tainted. “I think Linda Bell is an extraordinary judge,” Herndon said. “But I think when you receive (a request), you’ve got to ask for more.” Bell, who oversees the grand jury process and regularly accepts indictments in court, declined comment.

Quon’s lawyer, Thomas Pitaro, who in court called the case against Quon “an abusive process from the very beginning,” welcomed Herndon’s ruling. “The court recognized that there has to be limitations on the grand jury,” Pitaro said. “They have to give a sufficient factual basis to resubmit a case.”Prosecutors allege Quon set fire to her home in October 2010 in a botched suicide scheme, but she has denied plotting the fire and trying to kill herself. Authorities contend Quon was trying to kill herself to escape the pressures of a federal investigation.

Prosecutor Sandra DiGiacomo insisted that the state followed the law by informing Bell that she had new witnesses and intended to present the evidence in a different manner. She declined to say whether the Clark County district attorney would appeal Herndon’s ruling to the state Supreme Court. Prosecutors could also take the case to yet another grand jury. Herndon said a separate grand jury indictment charging Quon, 51, and Webb, 43, in a drug conspiracy tied to a possible suicide scheme by Quon will move forward.

Quon has been identified as a target in a federal fraud and corruption investigation of Las Vegas Valley homeowners associations. She has not been charged, but 10 people have taken plea deals since August, including a southern Nevada political consultant, several homeowners association agents and a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer.

The defendants in the federal case are accused of conspiring to rig homeowners association elections using so-called “straw buyers” to buy properties in about a dozen Las Vegas-area communities from about August 2003 through February 2009.Prosecutors allege that co-conspirators won homeowners association board seats and controlled decisions about how homeowners association fees were spent.

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