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Extortionist to appeal prison sentence in Las Vegas sex tapes case


Ernesto Ramos is appealing his 366-day prison sentence for using sex tapes to extort $200,000 from a wealthy businessman.

His lawyer, Kathleen Bliss, filed notice late Thursday that she would be asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to review the sentence handed down by Chief U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro two weeks ago.

Ramos’ previous lawyer, Gabriel Grasso, disclosed at the sentencing that the unidentified married businessman had offered Ramos money to keep his identity secret for the rest of his life, just days before Ramos pleaded guilty in November.

But Grasso, who said he kept his distance from the settlement talks, told Navarro that his client believed the offer was made to pressure Ramos into taking a guilty plea. Grasso had sought probation for Ramos.

Bliss, a former longtime federal prosecutor, called the civil negotiations at the sentencing a “reverse extortion” and asked Navarro for more time to present evidence that there was“undue outside influence” over the plea agreement.

But the judge denied the request.

Federal prosecutors have gone to great lengths to protect the identity of the prominent businessman, including obtaining a protective order that keeps his name, initials and company’s name out of court documents.

An FBI complaint identifies the victim only as a married local resident who has two minor children and who is “part-owner of a well-known business” with access to a company jet.

Over a two-year period, the businessman tipped a stripper, who was Ramos’ girlfriend, about $200,000 to dance and have sex with him in a private room at an adult nightclub, the criminal complaint said.

The dancer, who has not been identified, secretly used her cellphone to videotape herself having sex with the businessman in a hotel room during an October 2014 tryst outside the country, according to the complaint.

Ramos acknowledged in his plea agreement that he later tried to extort $200,000 from the businessman with threats that included posting embarrassing sex photos from the tapes on social media.

Both Bliss and Grasso declined comment this week.

Bliss will have about three months to file a brief with the appeals court outlining her arguments for overturning her client’s prison sentence.

Ramos, who is free on his own recognizance, has until Sept. 28 to surrender to federal prison authorities.

Sourced From – http://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/extortionist-appeal-prison-sentence-las-vegas-sex-tapes-case

Marijuana residue laws too vague, lawyer tells Nevada Supreme Court

A former Las Vegas stripper, who has spent 16 years in prison for killing six teenagers working on a road cleanup crew, is appealing once again to the Nevada Supreme Court.

A jury found Jessica Williams guilty in February 2001 of six counts of felony driving with a prohibited substance in her blood, part of the state’s law on driving under the influence.

Michael Pescetta, assistant federal public defender, argued that state laws regarding marijuana residue and driving under the influence conflict with one another. In one statute, marijuana metabolite does not qualify as a prohibited substance, he said.

“Why does this one (statute) control and not that one? This situation is at best a tie,” he said, adding that a “tie goes to the defendant.”

A panel of three — Chief Justice James Hardesty and Justices Nancy Saitta and Kristina Pickering — heard about 30 minutes of arguments Thursday but did not make a ruling.

Williams, who was 20 at the time of the March 2000 crash, admitted that she had smoked marijuana two hours before she fell asleep behind the wheel of a white Ford van. Her lawyer at trial said that she had used the stimulant-hallucinogen Ecstasy 10 hours earlier but maintained that she was not impaired and simply fell asleep before her van ran off Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas.

Six teenagers died when the van veered into the I-15 median near Las Vegas Motor Speedway at a spot where a youth offenders work crew had been assigned to pick up trash.

Killed were Anthony Smith, 14; Scott Garner Jr., 14; Alberto Puig, 16; Maleyna Stoltzfus, 15; Rebeccah Glicken, 15; and Jennifer Booth, 16.

Pescetta wrote in court papers that Williams was denied fair warning that having marijuana metabolite in her blood would subject her to criminal liability.

He argued before the court that prosecutors did not thoroughly examine the conflicting statutes because the “notorious case” gained so much public attention.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Bruce Nelson said the high court had previously ruled — in 2004 — that state law was not vague.

“What’s changed?” he said. “Nothing. There is absolutely nothing new in this case.”

Hardesty responded: “I’m not sure the 2004 decision addressed the conflict adequately.”

Pescetta said the court did not perform a “vagueness analysis” on two statutes, “one of which says the defendant is guilty, and one of which says the defendant is not guilty.”

Nelson also said that medical marijuana was not legal at the time in Nevada. Since legalization, people can still face prosecution for driving under the influence of medical pot.

Pescetta also argued that her previous attorney, John Watkins, failed to raise the issue that marijuana metabolite was not a prohibited substance at the time of the crash. The prosecutor said Watkins’ representation was effective.

Williams, 36, remains in custody at the Jean Conservation Camp.

Contact reporter David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter:@randompoker

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