Las Vegas reporter stabbed to death spent career chasing corruption
10 Sep 2022 (The Guardian)
Public official Robert Telles arrested over death of Jeff German, who had reported bullying and favoritism in Telles’s department.
In four decades of writing about the Las Vegas criminal underworld and government corruption, investigative reporter Jeff German took on plenty of powerful and dangerous people.
The hard-bitten newsman was once punched by an organized crime associate and received veiled threats from mobsters.
Nothing seemed to faze him as he doggedly went about his work.
So German, 69, characteristically didn’t express concern when Clark county public administrator Robert Telles, a virtually unknown politician in charge of an obscure and small government office, took to Twitter last spring to angrily denounce the reporter.
German, who worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, had written about bullying and favoritism in the public administrator’s office and an inappropriate relationship by Telles with a female subordinate.
Authorities say German’s initial investigation and follow-up stories were the motivation for Telles to fatally stab German last week at the reporter’s home.
DNA at the scene linked Telles to the killing as did shoes and a distinctive straw hat found at his home that matched those worn by a suspect caught on video, investigators said Thursday.
Police arrested Telles on Wednesday after a brief standoff at his home. Telles was hospitalized for what Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo described as non-life-threatening, self-inflicted wounds.
Glenn Cook, executive editor of the Review-Journal, said there was talk within the newspaper about Telles being “unhinged” but he never made any physical threats against German and the reporter never said he was worried.
“He cut his teeth covering the mob,” Cook said. “Jeff spent over 40 years covering the worst of the worst of Las Vegas. This was a guy who ran down mobsters, wise guys and killers.”
Killings of journalists in the US in retaliation for their work are extremely rare. Up until German’s death, eight journalists have been killed in the US since 1992, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The deadliest attack came in 2018. A shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland killed five.
“Jeff’s death is a sobering reminder of the inherent risks of investigative journalism,” said Diana Fuentes, executive director of the organization Investigative Reporters & Editors. “Journalists do their jobs every day, digging deep to find information the public needs to know and has a right to see.”
Telles, a Democrat who apparently had never served in public office until he was elected in 2018, ran a small office that deals with estates and the property of people after they die. Before that he was a lawyer practicing probate and estate law.
German’s reports were about an office “mired in turmoil and internal dissension” between longtime employees and new hires under Telles. County officials hired a consultant to help oversee the office.
The articles “ruined his political career, likely his marriage, and this was him lashing out at the cause,” chief deputy clark county district attorney Richard Scow said.
German’s family hailed “a loving and loyal brother, uncle and friend who devoted his life to his work exposing wrongdoing in Las Vegas and beyond.”