Says wrong people being blamed for Binion's death

LAS VEGAS - The wrong people are being blamed for the death of gambling figure Ted Binion, a defense attorney charged in closing arguments Tuesday.

''They're the enablers, right here,'' defense attorney John Momot said angrily, pointing to prosecutors David Roger and David Wall.

Momot said prosecutors should have targeted Peter Sheridan, an admitted drug dealer who testified he provided Binion with 12 balloons of heroin the night before he died.

Momot displayed one of the 70 instructions given to jurors which cites a Nevada statute that a person providing drugs to another is guilty of murder if the recipient dies from the drugs.

The attorneys representing murder defendants Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish contend Binion, a longtime drug user, died of an accidental overdose or committed suicide.

Prosecutors contend Binion was forced to ingest a lethal dose of heroin and the prescription anti-depressant Xanax, then was suffocated.

Momot charged the prosecution with ''unmitigated gall'' in pursuing his client, Murphy, and not prosecuting Sheridan.

''He should be up for murder,'' Momot said of the drug dealer.

Murphy was Binion's live-in girlfriend and Tabish's lover.

Momot said she endured 3 years of physical abuse by Binion and tried unsuccessfully to wean him of his heroin habit.

''The slapping around she used to take was when she was telling him to get off the dope,'' Momot said.

Now she is being tried for murder and Sheridan is ''still out there, doing what he does best,'' Momot said.

Binion was the son of legendary gambling figure Benny Binion, who founded the Horseshoe casino in downtown Las Vegas.

Momot said the ''Binion money machine'' targeted Murphy, 28, who stood to inherit $300,000 in cash, his $900,000 home and its contents, and a $1 million insurance policy.

Prosecutors contend Murphy and Tabish, a 35-year-old Missoula, Mont., contractor, concocted the murder scheme when they feared Binion had learned of their relationship and would cut her out of his will.

Binion's longtime friend and attorney, Jim Brown, testified earlier in the six-week trial that Binion made such a request to him Sept. 16, 1998.

Brown said Binion told him, ''Take Sandy out of the will if she doesn't kill me tonight. If I'm dead, you'll know what happened.''

Momot read that statement to jurors Tuesday. He questioned why Brown waited several days to notify police of the threat, rather than telling them when he responded to the Binion home Sept. 17, 1998, an hour after Murphy called 911 to report the discovery of Binion's body.

''There's something wrong here and I don't know what it is,'' Momot said.

Momot noted that Brown confronted Murphy the day after Binion's death when she tried to re-enter the house. Brown told police officers she was a California resident although she had been living with Binion more than three years.

Prosecutors contend Murphy ransacked the house, stealing cash and rare coins that Binion kept there. Momot said she couldn't be charged with taking anything from the home, since the belongings legally were hers according to the will.

A judge ruled last year in a civil lawsuit that Murphy was entitled to her portion of the will since a new will had not been drawn up and signed by Binion before his death. The Binion estate has taken the case over the will to the state Supreme Court, but the matter is in limbo pending the outcome of the murder trial. If Murphy were convicted of murder, she would not be eligible for the proceeds from the will.

Murphy, Tabish and his defense attorney, Louis Palazzo laughed heartily Tuesday before the jury came in to hear Momot's arguments. Later, Murphy cried as Momot recounted her discovery of Binion's body.

Momot also discounted a home video taken by Murphy's attorney on Sept. 18 as she toured the house with Brown, taking an inventory of its contents, and often cursing as she discussed various items.

Prosecutors said the display less than 24 hours after Binion's death hardly depicted ''a grieving widow.''

''You can grieve to a certain amount and then you get angry,'' Momot said. ''The Binion money begins to work, then you're out on the street.''

Momot hammered at the theme that Binion's drug abuse finally caught up with him on the day he died.

''This case is about heroin, not about homicide,'' Momot said. ''That's the curse that plagues society. Everybody here, including the state, is in denial.''

He described Murphy as a ''caregiver'' who constantly cleaned up after Binion.

''She loves him. He loves the heroin. And the heroin loves no one,'' Momot said.

The defense attorney said Murphy began an affair with Tabish after Binion, 55, lost his casino license in March 1998 and resumed abusing drugs.

The case is expected to go to the jury Wednesday after the prosecution concludes its arguments.


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