Herrera denies payments from a Las Vegas strip club owner | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Herrera denies payments from a Las Vegas strip club owner

Ken Ritter

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A former county commissioner took the witness stand Wednesday and admitted “recklessness” and sexual indiscretions while he was in office, but denied taking bribes from former striptease club owner Michael Galardi.

“No, sir,” Dario Herrera testified when his lawyer asked him if he was guilty of federal corruption charges that hinge on Galardi’s story that he funneled as much as $200,000 to Herrera from 1999 to 2003.

“I’ve never received a payment from Mr. Galardi or Mr. Malone, anywhere,” Herrera said, referring to the former owner of three Las Vegas area strip clubs and a former Clark County commissioner-turned-lobbyist who Galardi called his bribery “bag man.”

Herrera, once a rising star in Democratic politics, was 23 when he was elected to the state Assembly in 1996 and 25 when elected to the seven-member county commission in 1998. He said when he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002 he raised $2 million in campaign contributions, including a $10,000 check he said he got from Malone on Galardi’s behalf.

But he insisted his votes were unaffected by such contributions.

“I prided myself on being fiercely independent,” said Herrera, now 32 and a condominium developer with his wife, Emily. “The only thing I ever considered was, ‘Will it be the right thing to do for the people who bestowed upon me the honor of representing them?”‘

Herrera acknowledged receiving oral sex from a Galardi employee during a golf outing with Galardi in 2001, but said he didn’t know Galardi paid her to do it.

He said he received lap dances from a stripper that same year at one of Galardi’s clubs and knew she was paid to do it by Galardi. Herrera also said he’d had an affair with another Galardi employee during a brief separation with his wife, Emily, in 2001.

“I strayed from our marriage,” Herrera said, his voice choking as he acknowledged “selfishness, arrogance, disrespect for my wife” and “lack of judgment when it came to my personal life.”

“I will always be thankful she took me back,” he said.

Emily Herrera, who has accompanied Herrera to court each day of the five-week trial, occasionally dabbed her eyes during her husband’s testimony.

Herrera denied another former dancer’s tearful testimony that Galardi paid her to perform oral sex on him at a private restroom at Galardi’s club, Cheetah’s.

Herrera’s testimony came two days after former commissioner Mary Kincaid-Chauncey also denied trading votes for money and gifts from Galardi. Herrera and Kincaid-Chauncey are standing trial on charges that could get them 45 years in prison if convicted. Malone faces similar charges and will be tried separately in August.

Another former commissioner, Erin Kenny, acknowledged being bribed and testified for the prosecution in return for a promise leniency at sentencing. Galardi has pleaded guilty to racketeering in Las Vegas and guilty to federal charges in a related case in San Diego. He’s been promised no more than five years in federal prison on both cases, but could get probation.

Herrera’s account of a meeting with Malone that the FBI videotaped in the parking lot of a Las Vegas restaurant in September 2001 differed from Galardi’s testimony that he had Malone give Herrera $30,000 in cash.

Herrera described Malone as a friend who he turned to for help in buying bedroom furniture so his young son could spend a weekend with him in his new apartment after he split from his wife.

Herrera said he sat in his Range Rover as Malone came out of the restaurant and handed him a wad of 25 $100 bills.

Under questioning from his defense lawyer, Jerry Bernstein, Herrera acknowledged he knew the money was from Galardi. But he said he thought Malone obtained it as an advance on his pay as Galardi’s lobbyist.

“Did you ever repay Lance Malone?” Bernstein asked.

“I did not,” Herrera said.

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