Thursday, May 28, 2009

New Turn in a Death in the Desert Case

By Cathy Scott An interesting twist in a sensational but aging Las Vegas criminal case has reared its ugly head. And I, for one, am not buying it. Rick Tabish, who was twice tried (convicted, then acquitted) for the 1998 overdose death of casino mogul Ted Binion, is in prison serving time for three related charges in the case. The prosecutors couldn’t nab Tabish for murder. (Binion had died of a self-induced drug overdose after buying 12 pieces of tar heroin and also filling a prescription for Xanax, then drug binging for a couple of days; six months after Binion’s death Tabish and Binion’s live-in girlfriend, Sandy Murphy, were charged with murder.) Tabish, along with co-defendant Murphy, while acquitted of murder in 2004, after the Nevada Supreme Court earlier overturned the conviction, was found guilty in connection with unearthing a fortune of Binion’s silver from a vault in the desert floor in nearby Pahrump, Nev. Murphy was released and given time served. But Tabish was handed down consecutive sentences and is still in a Nevada prison after serving close to nine years. Since the second trial, Tabish has gone before the parole board three times but was denied each time--until last January when, after his fourth appearance, the parole board changed one of Tabish's convictions to a concurrent sentence, meaning he could released as early as mid-2010. It was rumored that because the legal and law enforcement communities in Southern Nevada couldn’t get Tabish on murder charges, they’d keep him in prison as long as they could. So far, it’s been working--until the recent parole board hearing. Now, coincidentally and seemingly out of the blue, a prison inmate--a member, no less, of the Aryan Warrior white supremacist gang--on May 20 testified in exchange for a lighter sentence during a trial (unrelated to Rick Tabish) that Tabish provided him with information about new inmates and with personal information, including home addresses, for law enforcement officers. And Tabish's reward for allegedly providing the information? The gang member claimed that he provided Tabish with protection inside the medium-security prison. Now, call me a skeptic, but I don’t believe in coincidences. And I don’t trust inmates who deliver salacious details for prosecutors in exchange for less prison time. Tabish has access to the Internet for his job inside the walls of the prison 30 miles north of Las Vegas, where he was incarcerated until he recently was relocated to northern Nevada. But it’s near impossible to get home addresses of cops, and certainly not via the Internet, let alone difficult to then hand them over to gang members without prison corrections officers knowing what’s going on. It’s even harder to believe that the computers used by inmates are not monitored to see what sites are being accessed. It’s all an enormous pill to swallow. Still, before you know it, the district attorney’s office might be handing down charges based solely on rewarded testimony of a prison gang member against Tabish, who, according to the prison, has a clean inmate record. To be certain, this latest twist is definitely worthy of following.

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