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Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy

Sandy Murphy - Rick Tabish: Acquitted of murder

Jan. 13, 2010
Rick Tabish has been granted parole and lives in the state of Montana where his family lives. After the second trial in 2003 Sandy Murphy was sentenced to time served in prison.

Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy

Sheriff Wade Lieseke testified during the rebuttal portion of the trial in 2004 and said he had no idea the vault was buring in the middle of Pahrumph. He denied giving Rick Tabish permission to dig up the silver although Rick had called him three times before driving to the site. Lieseke was left $250,000 by the Estate per the request of Ted Binion in his will.

Ted Binion

Ted Binion called Lieseke a few weeks before he died of an accidental drug overdose telling him he wanted Rick Tabish to dig up the silver if anything happened to him and move it to his ranch a few miles down the road. Then the silver would be disposed of and put in a trust for Binion's daughter Bonnie. Lieseke denied that these telephone calls took place, or that Binion told him to move the silver.

One month ago, former Deputy Huggins gave a television interview saying Lieseke was [lying] on the stand and that he knew Rick Tabish was coming to dig up the silver. He also stated that after Lieseke met with Binion's Estate lawyers, that he told the two deputies to write what they put in their reports.

On 9-20-98 the day after Rick Tabish was arrested the silver in the bellydump was dumped onto the Sheriff's Department parking lot and personnel got ammo cans to put the loose silver dollars in. In an inventory done at the time the silver was first taken into custody, and a second inventory done before the first trial several ammo cans of silver cans of silver dollars were missing. There is some evidence to indicate that evidence was tampered with and that the former Sheriff may have committed perjury on the stand in the November trial.

People who are concerned about police misconduct should email Judge Joseph Bonaventure and ask him to initiate an investigation into this matter.

This Judge presdied over both trials, and the Prosecutors were also aware of the disrecepency in the inventory of silver, as well as the allegations of perjury, because the two deputies involved sued Lieseke in 2000 because they were fired from their jobs. Another option is for people to write to the Justice Department and request the FBI initiate a formal investigation into the Nye County Sheriff's Department between September 19, 1998 to the trial in 2004 to find out if any officers committed perjury, tampered with evidence, or violated any other state or federal laws.

You may read more about Lieseke on Desert Justice. (Provided by a correspondent)

New Trial on other charges in Binion Murder Case Denied

(Dec. 13, 2004) -- A motion for a new trial in the Ted Binion murder case has been denied. Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish were found not guilty of murder last month in the death of the casino mogul. But they were convicted on other lesser charges including burglary and grand larceny.

Monday attorneys for Murphy and Tabish filed a motion for a new trial based on charges involving Ted Binion's silver. Judge Joseph Bonaventure denied the request.

What gives a judge the right to seal a post conviction writ of habeaus corpus?

I am writing this letter to you because we need your support by taking a few minutes to write one letter. I am the head of a group of 7000 citizens who know this defendant is innocent. This defendant has spent 67 months out of 120 months of his sentence in prison His lawyer filed a Post Conviction Writ which would prove his innocence in December 2003. The Judge involved immediately sealed this Writ and has held it in his chambers for over one year without scheduling a hearing. The rules of the Supreme Court of that state Clearly state that a hearing should be scheduled within 14 days. You, should be as upset as we are that thisJudge has made the decision to seal this document, withholding it from the public and press, and not takeaction upon it. This is not the way the Justice system in the United States works. This young man is innocent and what is ironic, his innocence can be proven if a hearing was held. It is my opinion this Judge is trying to protect the District Attorney's office by keeping this document sealed. Please take a few minutes and write this Judge and ask him to unseal this Writ and hold a hearing. We need letters to be submitted before January 28th.

Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy

In 2000 Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy were convicted of the murder, robbery and grand larceny of Ted Binion in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2003, their convictions were overturned on appeal by the Nevada Supreme Court. In November 2004, the defendants were acquitted of murder of Ted Binion but convicted of robbery and Grand Larceny. A motion for a new trial on the Grand Larceny is being filed because a major witness lied during the November trial.. The sentencing date is scheduled for January 28th 2005, if a new trial is not granted.

In December 2003, Tony Serra Esq. representing Rick Tabish filed a Post Conviction Writ of Habeas Corpus regarding the convictions regarding Leo Casey. The Prosecutor misconduct issues contained in this Writ were not addressed in his direct appeal when it was heard in 2002, therefore the Nevada Supreme Court did not hear all the legal issues regarding the Casey convictions. If the high court had heard all of the legal issues involed his convictions regarding Casey would have been over turned and Mr. Tabish would have received a new trial. It is also important for you to know the co-defendants in the extortion case were offered a plea bargain in which they did not have to admit guilt and received a $2000 fine. Mr. Tabish received 72 months on one conviction and 120 months on the second conviction. The sentencing of the co-defendants were not in proportion, to the sentence Mr Tabish received. The extortion and use of a deadly weapon ( a phone book) were against a Leo Casey. All the witnesses who testified in the trial in 2000 testified Mr. Casey did not have one scratch, abrasion, or contusion and his clothing was not dirty. If Mr. Casey was beaten for over an hour, and in his sixties, why didn't he suffer one scratch, why weren't his clothes covered with dirt. If you visit my website, Desert Justice you will learn that Casey has been convicted of fraud on numerous occasions. If you read the court transcripts from the trial in 2000 you will learn that Casey used three SSN's one of which was from a person who died, he paid off some people, he was extorting money and equipment from the owner of sandpit in LV, etc. New information was revealed in the trial this year, that Casey owed Rick Tabish $650,000 or a payment set at $40,000 per month. As Tony Serra Esq. Stated in the trial, " what better motive does Casey have, then to keep Mr. Tabish in jail."

The investigation was headed by a private investigator named Tom Dillard, who was paid $450,000 by the Binion Estate for the arrest and conviction of Rick Tabish. Dillard was sued in 2000 by Mr. Howard Haupt, for withholding exculpatory evidence when he worked as a LV Metro Homicide detective.

Dillard's partner, Robert Leonard who testied in both trials, lost a lawsuit in June 2005, for withholding exculpatory evidence in a trial involving a man who was on Nevada's death row for 14 years.

The Prosecutor involved, David Roger was elected District Attorney after the first high profile trial. Dillard took this case, with the provision that Roger be assigned to the case as a prosecutor. They are best friends. The other prosecutor in this case, David Wall was elected District Court Judge after the first trial. Both used the first high profile trial win in their campaigns.

In 2002 numerous complaints were lodged against Judge Joseph Bonaventure for violating the Nevada Judicial Canons during and after the first trial. For three years, people who filed these complaints have received letters saying an investigation was ongoing. These complaints have not been dismissed nor any hearings scheduled. This is a violation of the regulations set forth by the Nevada Supreme Court. People need to ask why this Commission has failed to do their jobs. This Commission is suppose to provide a checks and balance system for Judge's who violate the Nevada Judicial Canons.

When the Post Conviction Writ regarding Prosecutor Misconduct was filed, it was immediately sealed by Judge Joseph Bonaventure and has remained sealed until this day. The usual procedure for that District Court is for a hearing to be scheduled within 14 days. Mr. Tabish's Writ has been sealed from the press for over one year, why? Is it to protect the reputation of David Roger the DA? I have researched the internet and been unable to find one other defendant who had his/her post conviction writ sealed by a Judge for one year.

On the day, the verdicts were read, Mr. Serra's co-counsel were asked if they had any other pending legal matters and they stated the sealed Writ still needed to be heard. Judge Bonaventure stated that " he may or may not hear the Writ on January 28. 2005 at sentencing,. The District Court Judge has a legal obligation to hear Post Conviction Writs according to the rules set forth by the Nevada Supreme Court.

All persons convicted of any crime have due process and constitutional rights, to file Post Conviction Writs and the courts have a duty to hear and rule on these legal documents. Now the State has stated in the local newspapers they want to use the convictions regarding Casey and ask Mr. Tabish be declared a habitual offender, and sentenced to more time. This is not only unfair, but violates Mr. Tabish's due process rights, because the post conviction Writ has never been ruled on by Judge Bonaventure. Mr. Tabish deserves the same rights that any other defendant has and the fact he was involved in the high profile Binion case, does not diminish his rights under the law.

I am asking people to take a few minutes and write Judge Joseph Bonaventure and request he unseal the Post Conviction Writ and schedule a hearing on or before January 28th. Our courts are obligated to hear all motions legally filed and to rule on them. Our courts are not to be cloaked in secrecy and Writs/Motions sealed and hidden from public view.

You can write Judge Joseph Bonaventure at the Clark County Courthouse, 200 S Third Street, Las Vegas, Nevada 89115. Please request he unseal the Post Conviction Writ and schedule a hearing. If you believe in the justice system, and that it should be fair and equal to all, please take a few minutes and write this letter. Mr. Tabish is innocent of all charges for which he was convicted, and has been incarcerated for 5 ? years. He needs concerned people to write and support him. Please take a few minutes and write one letter.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.

A correspondent

The witnesses we never got to see

In his closing arguments, defense attorney John Momot remarked that the prosecutors refrained from calling several potentially key witnesses in their case. "You didn't get a chance to see him," said Momot of private investigator Tom Dillard, "like the homicide detectives. It's not my job to explain that."

Here is a look at some of the witnesses who appeared on the prosecution's list, but never made it to the stand:

Tom Dillard
Tom Dillard

The private investigator hired by the Binion estate, Tom Dillard is alternately credited and blamed for shifting Ted Binion's death from "undetermined" to homicide. He is a retired Las Vegas police officer, a 20-year veteran of the force.

"[The family] felt strongly that there was foul play from the beginning and that's the reason I was hired," Dillard told Court TV.

"The family did not for a second believe that Ted Binion overdosed on drugs," the private investigator explained. "He was a very sophisticated careful drug user." Nor would Binion have committed suicide, said Dillard. "These were two areas that were totally out of character."

Dillard conducted interviews with nearly 100 witnesses and headed the investigation of Binion's house until handing over his findings to the police department. The defense claims that Dillard lead witnesses in questioning and took advantage of the fact that he was not required to follow due process or the rules governing search warrants in his investigation.

Put simply, defense attorneys Louis Palazzo and John Momot argued that Dillard was acting in the capacity of a law enforcement official but without any of the the legal restrictions. To that end, they filed a motion Jan. 24 "to declare investigator Tom Dillard an agent of the state of Nevada" and to suppress any evidence that he provided to police.

"I took the case under the condition that I would be able to turn over whatever information I turned up to the authorities," said Dillard.

The defense claimed that through Dillard, "[t]he prosecution, police and others have had open and nearly unlimited warrantless access to Sandy Murphy's residence on Palomino Lane." In addition to the nearly constant flow of people who contaminated the house, argued the defense, the "discovery" of a pocket knife and thumbcuffs is also questionable.

A bag of silver coins was first noticed by Detective Michael Buczek during the execution of a search warrant on Jan. 14, 1999. Binion's estate attorney, James Brown, testified during trial that he was present when the bag was found and that Dillard took it to his office for storage. It was not until mid-March 1999, Brown testified, that he and Dillard looked at the bags' contents more closely and "found" the pocket knife and thumbcuffs, the defense wrote in its motion.

Dillard has remained out of sight during the Ted Binion murder trial, although his lawyer has appeared several times on camera to defend the integrity of his client. Prosecutors never called Dillard to the stand, nor did defense attorneys who probably wanted the private investigator to remain a dark, ghost-like figure in jurors' minds.

Becky Binion Behnan
All of Ted Binion's living siblings were on the prosecution's list of potential witnesses, but none were called to testify during trial. Outside the courtroom, the most vocal among them has been Becky Binion Behnan, Binion's sister, who clearly harbors intense hatred of Sandy Murphy.

In early interviews, Behnan claimed that her brother was an experienced drug user who would never have misjudged his heroin intake. "He explained to me that the way he used heroin, by smelling it or ingesting it through smoke," would prevent him from overdosing, Behnan told Court TV.

Behnan said that she was convinced from the beginning that Binion did not cause his own death because of the circumstances surrounding the event. "I think that the fact that I heard about the Xanax and the bedroll...did alert me to think that...this needed to be looked at as a homicide," said Behnan.

"I know Ted was very concerned that you could not use Xanax with heroin, and he even spoke to the drug dealer that night about that fact," Behnan explained.

Binion bought 12 balloons of tar heroin from his drug dealer, Peter Sheridan, the night before he died. The defense has argued that Sheridan should be the one on trial for murder; according to Nevada state law, if someone gives drugs to a person and that person dies, he can be charged with murder in the first degree.

Why was Sheridan, who did not even receive immunity from the prosecution for his testimony, never charged? "Because he wasn't in the will," said John Momot, who represents Sandy Murphy, Binion's live-in girlfriend. Under the terms of the will, Murphy stood to gain the house, all its contents and $300,000.

Behnan did nothing to hide her negative feelings toward Murphy, claiming that the younger woman spoke to her disparagingly over the phone several times. "I've never seen a more greedy person in my life," said Binion's sister. Behnan also blamed Murphy for causing any change in Binion's behavior. "She is very manipulative," said Behnan.

Despite their constant bickering over the family inheritance, Behnan says she always cared about her brother. "I expressed concern of his drug use, because being his sister, I didn't want anything to happen to him," she said.

However, the defense contends that Behnen, like the rest of Binion's family and friends, never lifted a finger to intervene with the millionaire's drug use. Several state witnesses testified that Murphy spoke to them about Binion's addiction, even asking for help, but admitted they never offered any. Murphy alone was the one who carried the burden of caring for the 55-year-old drug addict.

There is some question as to how close Behnan was with Binion. The two were in constant litigation over money, and Binion had rushed to remove his silver fortune from the basement of the Horseshoe casino when he was forced to sell his share of the business to Behnan.

Linda Carroll
Prosecutors claimed that Carroll accompanied Sandy Murphy on her visit to the Neiman Marcus salon on Sept. 10, 1998. According to the state, Murphy told manicurist Deana Perry that "Ted was going to die of an overdose of heroin within the next three weeks."

According to her attorney Chet Bennett, Carroll was arrested in California on a material witness warrant last January, purportedly because prosecutors wanted to make sure they knew where she was. She was jailed for 36 hours, said Bennett, "in solitary confinement...with chains and everything." Though prosecutors seemed content with leaving Carroll in jail until the trial in late March, said Bennett, a judge ordered her release.

Bennett said his client was with Murphy the whole morning of the salon visit and disputes Perry's suggestion that Murphy was intoxicated at the "ridiculous" hour of 10:30 a.m. During her testimony, Perry said that on Sept. 10, 1998 Murphy appeared "hung-over," "not all there," and "under the influence of something, yes."

Bennett also said that Perry gave a manicure to Carroll, not Murphy on the day in question. For that reason, Murphy would not have been alone with Perry to discuss her relationship with Binion, said Bennett. In addition, Carroll was close with Binion and claims she and Murphy would never joke about his drug addiction - especially with strangers.

Bennett contends that prosecutors practiced "witness intimidation" against his client in order to pressure her to corroborate Perry's testimony at the grand jury proceedings. However, said Bennett, "they didn't give us the script."

Carroll remained on prosecutors' witness list, but she never took the stand. The defense also decided not to call her.

Sheriff Wade Lieseke
The defense has claimed that Rick Tabish told Sheriff Lieseke he was coming out to Pahrump to get Ted Binion's silver, and that Lieseke was privy to the arrangement.

Tabish and two associates were arrested in the early morning hours of Sept. 19, 1998, digging up the nearly 46,000 pounds of silver from Binion's underground vault. Tabish at first told sheriff's deputies that he was loading concrete, but later said he was fulfilling Binion's last wish: Binion allegedly told Tabish to get the silver and put it in a trust for his daughter if he died.

According to prosecutors, there was no such arrangement, and Tabish offered Lieseke up to $100,000 to allow the silver hiest. The state called several officers who were present at the scene of the silver vault, including Ed Howard, Dean Pennock and Steve Huggins. All three testified that Tabish's activities were too suspicious for them to ignore, and that they decided to arrest him along with his two associates - against Lieseke's wishes.

The defense argued that the three Nye County officers were acting for political reasons, not law enforcement reasons when they defied Lieseke to arrest Tabish. The officers admitted that they were adamantly supporting Lieseke's opponent for sheriff in the upcoming election at the time.

The jury heard from all present at the scene of the alleged silver theft - all except Sheriff Lieseke

Binion investigator involved in courthouse incident
Private eye Dillard accused of throwing subpoena to ground

A private investigator credited with putting together much of the evidence in the Ted Binion murder case was involved in a courthouse tiff Friday.

The moment unfolded after investigator Tom Dillard had just finished testifying in a pretrial hearing for Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish, who are accused of killing Binion to steal his valuables.

Tabish's attorney, J. Tony Serra, said his investigator, Blair Abbott, tried to serve Dillard with a routine subpoena in a hallway when Dillard started acting unprofessionally.

"He took the paper, he threw it on the ground and walked out," Serra said.

Serra said the subpoena was accompanied by a $26 check from his law firm to Dillard for payment of a potential witness fee, which is a common occurrence in Nevada. But after the incident, the check went missing, and now Serra said he might have to change the account number on his law firm's checking account as a result.

In complaining about the incident to District Judge Joseph Bonaventure, Serra said he was shocked at such behavior from Dillard, who is a former homicide investigator with Las Vegas police. Dillard was also hired by Ted Binion's estate to investigate Binion's death, and he later provided much of the information he gathered about Binion's demise to police.

"This man is a professional man, a former police officer ... he knew he was going to be served," Serra said. "I have never encountered that type of attitude from a professional person."

An unnamed state corrections officer then stood up in court and told Bonaventure that she, too, witnessed the incident. She confirmed Serra's account and described Dillard as "extremely rude."

Bonaventure did not take any immediate action against Dillard, who did not respond to two messages seeking comment left on his cell phone voice mail afterward.