Clark County Public Administrator, Robert Telles, was arrested September 7th and charged with the murder of 69-year-old Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German whose body was found outside of his home the morning of September 3rd. Reporting from the Associated Press states that Telles was taken into custody at his home by police SWAT officers hours after investigators served a search warrant and confiscated Telles’ vehicles. Local officers said that German was killed Friday, September 2nd and according to the Clark County coroner, he died of “multiple sharp force injuries” and ruled the case a homicide.
Prosecutors at a Las Vegas Justice Court hearing stated German was stabbed seven times, and Judge Elana Lee Graham pointed out that Telles’ DNA was found under German’s fingernails and on his hands which had defensive wounds. Leading up to this incident, German spent the past few months investigating and writing articles about misconduct within Telles’ office that resulted in complaints of administrative bullying, favoritism, and the public administrator’s relationship with a female staffer in the county office.
Telles denied these accusations and said that they were exaggerations from older employees making false claims. Regardless, both the police and prosecutors believe that this was a potentially targeted attack because German’s reporting resulted in Telles’ loss in the Nevada Democratic primary back in June to Assistant Public Administrator Rita Reid. As the court case proceeds, Judge Graham has denied bail to Telles and questions are being raised about his employment as an elected official.
German’s Las Vegas Review-Journal colleagues set up a memorial for the veteran reporter while they honor the decades of dedicated work he put into the field of journalism. Glenn Cook, Las Vegas Review-Journal’s executive editor, said “We are relieved Robert Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official.”
Even though some believe German’s death was an isolated incident, it nevertheless caught the attention of free speech advocacy groups like PEN-America Washington. The managing director of the organization, Nadine Farid Johnson, found the prospect of an elected official murdering a journalist troubling due to the increasing amount of threats and abuse journalist face both online and offline. She stated: “Now this has come into the physical realm, and resulted in someone’s murder, it really undermines the work of the free press, and it’s creating a risk factor for many journalists, and that’s quite worrisome.”
The unfortunate reality is that situations like this are increasing according to a report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Irene Khan, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, explained: “The decline of media freedom and the rise in threats to the safety of journalists is a worldwide trend, most sharply evident in backsliding democracies and recalcitrant totalitarian States.”
The report explains how the field of journalism faces multiple threats from political operatives, governments, massive corporations, anyone with power and influence, and radical supporters. These groups are often the source of retaliation against those who report on corruption, misconduct, and other foul practices that are seen as politically or financially inconvenient.