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Cristalli & Saggese’s most notable cases

• Bodybuilders Craig Titus and his wife, Kelly Ryan, were defended by Saggese and Cristalli, respectively, after being charged with the murder of their live-in assistant, Melissa James, in 2005. Titus agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, kidnapping and arson in 2008 in exchange for reducing his wife's charge to battery with a deadly weapon resulting in significant bodily harm. “I think what Craig did was very noble,” Marc says. “He was crying, his wife was crying. That was a negotiation that went on for 12 hours the Friday before the trial was to begin on Monday. He really cared about what happened to his wife.” Titus is serving 21 to 55 years, and Ryan was sentenced to two consecutive terms of 3 to 13 years, both with approximately 3 years credit for time served.

• Cristalli handled the retrial for Sandy Murphy, who had originally been found guilty of the murder of gambling tycoon Ted Binion in 1999. She was acquitted of the murder charge at that retrial in 2004.

• Saggese represented Zyber Selimaj in his wrongful death suit against the city of Henderson. Zyber’s wife, Deshira Selimaj, who was gunned down in front of her husband and two young children by Henderson police officers following a traffic stop of Zyber’s ice cream truck on February 12, 2008. The city settled for $700,000 in August of 2009.

• Saggese represented Jason Mathis, a rapper accused of shooting and killing two men in 2005. Mathis was found guilty in 2008 of murder and conspiracy to commit murder in the killing of rapper Anthony “Fat Tone” Watkins and Jermaine “Cowboy” Atkins in Las Vegas. Another rapper, Mac Minister (born Andre Dow), tried separately, was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of conspiracy to commit murder. And Saggese still believes Mathis should never have gone to prison: “All the physical evidence pointed to Andre Dow,” Marc says. “My client was his own worst enemy. It was guilt by association, if you ask me. There was zero physical evidence implicating my client.” Interesting side note to that case: Snoop Doggy Dogg, aka Calvin Broadus, a friend of Mathis, was listed as a potential witness and was prepared to testisfy in that case, but was never called.

• Saggese represented Manuel Tarango, who in 2006 was sentenced to 28 to 90 years in prison after being found guilty on several counts, including robbery, conspiracy and attempted murder, surrounding a 1999 botched robbery at which a friend of Tarango’s was shot and killed. Tarango had been on the run for five years, appearing prominently on America’s Most Wanted until he was found in Mexico. This case marked a grave injustice, as Saggese says the jury was deadlocked 11-1, but that a juror informed the court and counsel that he was intimidated by police into changing his vote to guilty. “My client says he was not present at the scene of the crime, and one juror refused to convict. That juror claimed that he was almost run off the road by police, and that this information came to the court’s attention, but despite all of the juror’s testimony regarding police intimidation, the conviction was upheld.

• Cristalli represented Pedro Duarte, the wheelman in a 1999 Desert Inn heist in which two armored car guards were wounded. Duarte was found guilty in 2003 of conspiracy to commit robbery, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of attempted robbery and one count of possession of a stolen vehicle. He was sentenced to 16 to 70 years in prison.

• Cristalli represented ex-Miss Nevada Katie Rees when she took a plea deal in 2008 and paid $1,312 in fines to avoid trial stemming from a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest. She had been charged with speeding, operating a vehicle without proof of insurance and driving with an expired registration, suspended license and suspended registration. Rees won the Miss Nevada USA crown in 2006, but later that year had to step down after racy photos showed up on the Internet of her kissing other women, exposing a breast and pulling down her pants to show a thong. Cristalli has since filed an excessive use of force case against the Henderson Police Department in Federal District Court alleging that while they were arresting Rees, officers broke her front tooth. That case is pending.

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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