Date: August 15, 2012
Author: Martha Bellisle
Harvey Whittemore's federal lawsuit delayed
After listening to lawyers for Harvey Whittemore and his former
partners trade attacks, including claims of death threats, broken
legs, thugs and lying to FBI agents, a federal judge shut down
Whittemore's federal case against the Seenos to avoid duplication with
their case in Las Vegas. U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks issued late
Wednesday a temporary stay putting Whittemore's case on hold. He said
a written order will follow.
Thomas and Albert Seeno Jr. sued Whittemore in January, claiming he
misappropriated funds from the Wingfield Nevada Group. The former
lobbyist responded one week later with a federal suit accusing the
Seenos of racketeering. The Seeno lawsuit filed in Clark County
District Court sparked a federal investigation that led to felony
charges against Whittemore for allegedly making illegal campaign
contributions to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in
2007 and lying to federal agents. Whittemore has pleaded innocent to
the four charges. His trial is set for Feb. 26, 2013. Whittemore sat
in the courtroom with his wife, Annette, on Wednesday, but did not
speak during the morning's arguments.
Kent Robison, representing the Seenos, praised the judge's decision.
'It's certainly a victory for the Seenos but also is a victory for the
public and taxpayers,' Robison said. 'Judge Hicks saved the judicial
system hundreds of thousands of dollars. It was a well-thought-out,
courageous, enlightened decision.'
Earlier in the day, Robison told the judge that Whittemore should have
filed his complaints against the Seenos in the state court case but
instead went 'forum shopping' - hoping for a better deal in federal
court. Whittemore's state counter-suit in the Seeno case duplicated
his federal claims. Robison urged the judge to put Whittemore's case
on hold until the state case is resolved. Staying the case will save
the court money and time, he said. The state case involves about 200
witnesses and 'hundreds of thousands of documents,' he said. Repeating
that work in federal court would be a waste, he said.
Whittemore's federal case claims that the Seenos threatened him in
order to make him give up his assets and property. But Robison said
when Whittemore talked to the police, he told them there was no
criminal activity and he did not want an investigation. 'We know Mr.
Whittemore has a problem telling the truth to the FBI,' Robison said.
'There's no reason to believe he would here.'
Whittemore's lawyer, Dan Bowen, objected to that comment, saying
nothing had been proved. Bowen said the federal case was against the
Seenos, not Wingfield, and it should be allowed to go forward.
'Wingfield did not threaten to murder Mr. Whittemore and his entire
family,' Bowen said. The Wingfield company did not threaten to break
Whittemore's legs and did not send a thug to the Whittemore home to
collect goods and jewelry, Bowen said. Members of the Seeno family
did, he said. Bowen said the claims made in the federal case cannot be
made in the state action, but Hicks disagreed.
Hicks said Whittemore's attempt to recover $60 million is directed at
Wingfield, not the Seenos. Whittemore will need to fight that battle
in state court, he said. The judge said he did not necessarily accept
the argument by Robison that Whittemore was 'forum shopping' by filing
the case in federal court. But he said the two cases were
substantially similar and it would be a waste of court resources to
keep them on parallel paths. 'The state court action in this case
concerns virtually the same damage claims as claimed in this case,''
Hicks said. 'This is clearly the kind of extraordinary circumstances
that warrant a stay by the federal court.' Hicks stopped short of
dismissing the federal case so that he could make sure no problems
arose in the state case, being heard by Clark County District Judge
Elizabeth Gonzalez. The trial for the state case has been set for May
20, 2013. He said Whittemore can amend his counterclaims against Seeno
as part of that state case.
(c) 2012 Reno Gazette Journal
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Source: Associated Press
Date: August 2012
U.S. judge delays Whittemore lawsuit
RENO - Lawyers for Harvey Whittemore and the ex-business partners he
is suing in court offered a glimpse Wednesday of the legal and
political fireworks on the horizon as the Nevada developer and
lobbyist awaits a criminal trial for alleged campaign fundraising
violations. 'We know Mr. Whittemore has a little bit of a problem -
according to the grand jury - telling the truth to the FBI,' said Ken
Robison, a lawyer representing Thomas Seeno and Albert Seeno Jr. of
His comments drew a rebuke from U.S. District Court Judge Larry Hicks
during spirited arguments in federal court in Reno on Wednesday
regarding jurisdiction of the case involving the former business
partners. 'I'm going to caution both sides against personal attacks on
one side or the other,' Hicks said.
The judge later decided to put on hold Whittemore's $60 million civil
lawsuit against the Seenos in his federal courtroom while similar
litigation between the two sides continues in Clark County District
Court. 'The state court action in this case concerns virtually the
same damage claims as claimed in this case,' he said. 'This is clearly
the kind of extraordinary circumstances that warrant a stay by the
Hicks said he stopped short of granting the Seenos' request to dismiss
the federal case entirely so he can be sure Whittemore's rights are
fully protected during the state proceedings. He said Whittemore can
amend his counterclaims against Seeno as part of that state case.
Whittemore, 59, who has close ties to Senate Majority Leader Harry
Reid and other prominent Nevada politicians, was indicted earlier this
year on four counts related to campaign contributions made in 2007 to
an unnamed elected federal official. His trial was originally
scheduled for Aug. 7 but has been postponed until early next year.
(c) 2012 Associated Press