Casino magnate Adelson facing 49 hours of pretrial questions

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – A judge said Thursday that billionaire casino magnate and Las Vegas newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson can be questioned for up to 49 hours beginning next week by lawyers for a former Macau casino executive who claims he was wrongly fired in 2010.

A lawyer for former Sands China chief executive Steven Jacobs said in court that he expects an attempt by Adelson and his lawyers to disrupt the sworn deposition in an effort to scuttle plans to begin the long-awaited civil trial June 27. The questioning won’t be in open court.

“We will start with Mr. Adelson, and then there will be a blow-up in an attempt to obstruct this deposition so it cannot be done,” Jacobs’ attorney, Todd Bice, told Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.

Outside court, Bice said he believes it’s clear that Adelson and lawyers for Las Vegas Sands and Sands China Ltd. want a delay.

Jacobs has also been undergoing days of pretrial questioning by attorneys for Adelson, Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Sands China Ltd.

Jacobs contends he was fired by Adelson and Las Vegas Sands in an attempt to cover up improper activities by the company in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau.

Adelson and Sands deny wrongdoing.

Attorneys for Adelson and the companies declined to comment outside court. A spokesman for Las Vegas Sands didn’t immediately respond to Bice’s claim about delaying tactics.

There was no talk in the courtroom about a ruling Wednesday by Chief Clark County District Court Judge David Barker keeping Gonzalez on the case. But a statement from Sands Las Vegas said the company will appeal Barker’s ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.

It would be the 12th pretrial issue taken to the state high court, and it also could delay trial if the justices order a halt to proceedings pending a decision.

The case has also spawned several related cases, including a defamation claim and a federal lawsuit filed last month by Jacobs.

Attorneys for Las Vegas Sands have argued in the state court case that Gonzalez should be disqualified for “personal dealings with the press” and for letting Jacobs’ lawyers make inquiries about the Adelson family buying the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper in December.

Gonzalez has issued statements denying bias. She filed a document last week declaring she “will continue to be fair and impartial toward all parties in this case.”

The purchase of the Review-Journal came weeks after several reporters were assigned by then-owners Gatehouse Media LLC to investigate Gonzalez and two other Las Vegas judges not involved in Adelson litigation.

No story appeared in the Review-Journal, but a small Connecticut newspaper headed by an executive affiliated with Gatehouse published a story about specialized business courts that criticized Gonzalez for “inconsistent” and “contradictory” rulings.

The judge has clashed numerous times with Adelson lawyers in the Jacobs case.

She sanctioned the legal team last year for “misrepresentations and lack of candour” and failing to turn over documents. They were ordered to pay $250,000 to legal charities and cover court costs incurred by Jacobs in the document battle.

Gonzalez also admonished Adelson during his testimony in open court last year for not answering a routine question from Jacobs’ lawyers.

The judge told Adelson he didn’t get to argue with her.