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Las Vegas reporter remembered as fearless force after elected official, angry at journalist's work, is arrested in his death

“He was an institution,” one colleague said. “I want him to be remembered for the reporter he was, not for how he died.”
Jeff German on the Las Vegas Strip
Jeff German on the Las Vegas Strip on June 2, 2021.K.M. Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal via Getty Images

A veteran Las Vegas journalist, allegedly killed due to his investigative work, was a fearless force who took on the mob and spent decades exposing government wrongdoing, his colleagues said.

In his final months, Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jeff German wrote in-depth and revelatory stories about Clark County Public Administrator Robert Telles, highlighting claims of alleged bullying, hostility and favoritism in the elected official’s office.

German, 69, had been pursuing another lead about Telles when the journalist was found dead Saturday with stab wounds outside his home, authorities said.

Police believe Telles was upset about German's articles, which the Review-Journal said contributed to Telles’ Democratic primary election loss in June.

Telles had publicly expressed his anger at German and his reporting, and authorities said the politician's DNA was found at the crime scene.

Telles, 45, was being held without bail, booked on a charge of open murder, following his arrest Wednesday evening in connection with the killing. He is due to appear in court next Tuesday. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

In Las Vegas, German’s career spanned four decades, during which he frequently wrote about powerful, dangerous and violence-prone subjects.

It was common for German’s reporting to draw ire from the subjects he exposed — an indication that he was doing impactful work, said Arthur Kane, an investigative reporter with the Review-Journal.

One of German’s favorite stories to tell, his colleagues recalled, was about how either an organized crime associate or a professional boxer, upset about a column German wrote many years ago, had walked up to him and punched him at a bar. 

“He was fearless,” said Kane, 52, who had worked with German since 2016.

German was the first member of the newspaper’s investigative team, while Kane was the second. Together, the pair’s hard-hitting work led to at least eight indictments of public officials.

Kane said his late colleague approached his stories with fairness, persistence and grit.

The stories about Telles were far from the biggest fish German had caught in his sterling investigative career.

"This, by far, wasn’t his most explosive piece," said Briana Erickson, 28, another investigative reporter with the Review-Journal.

Kane agreed, saying it's "amazing that this would be the story that would lead to something like this."

German's longtime chronicling of the rise and fall of organized crime in Las Vegas led him to pen “Murder in Sin City,” a 2001 book about the mysterious 1998 death of casino heir Ted Binion, one of the biggest criminal cases in Las Vegas history.

Glenn Cook, executive editor of the Review-Journal, told The Associated Press that German "cut his teeth covering the mob" and routinely set his sights on the city's "worst of the worst."

“If he was killed because of a story he wrote, that’s unheard of in the United States,” Kane said. “I can’t find another example where an elected official kills a reporter.”

Globally, at least 22 journalists were killed last year in retaliation for their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide.

In the U.S., a gunman’s grudge against the Capital Gazette led to the fatal shootings of five staff members at the Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom in 2018, authorities said.

But the last time a reporter was killed in the U.S. due to their investigative reporting was when Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey was murdered in 2007, according to the Investigative Reporters and Editors, or IRE, a nonprofit forum for journalists.

IRE said German’s killing was reminiscent of Don Bolles’ slaying nearly 50 years ago. The Arizona veteran investigative reporter, who was known for exposing public corruption and fraud, was killed in a car bombing while he was looking into organized crime in 1976.

“Jeff’s death is a sobering reminder of the inherent risks of investigative journalism,” IRE Executive Director Diana Fuentes said in a statement. “Journalists do their jobs every day, digging deep to find information the public needs to know and has a right to see.”

Since 2010, German focused on reporting at the Review-Journal that "holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing," his brief biography said. The newspaper said German pursued stories that "exposed the corruption and crime of politicians, police, attorneys, judges, casino industry leaders and mob figures."

"I love digging up stories," German had written in his Twitter biography.

The Review-Journal said much of German's work led to reforms and policy changes. German exposed failures in city inspections before the deadliest residential fire in Las Vegas city history killed six people in 2019, the newspaper said.

He also covered extremist activity in Southern Nevada, the newspaper said, and broke the news that the FBI was scrutinizing a city councilwoman’s campaign finances.

In 2017, days after the Route 91 Harvest music festival massacre, where 60 people were killed and more than 850 injured in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, German reported that the gunman had used his Mandalay Bay hotel room to fire bullets at aviation jet fuel tanks near the concert.

“I was just blown away that he got that detail,” Erickson said. “That only comes from knowing very key sources.”

Prior to joining the Review-Journal, German was a columnist and reporter for the Las Vegas Sun, covering courts, politics, labor, government and organized crime.

Despite his storied career, German remained humble and approachable, often sharing his wealth of knowledge with colleagues who asked.

“You’d expect him to rightfully have a big ego. He wasn’t like that,” Erickson said. “He was still an aggressive, young reporter on the inside. He was still acting like he was trying to earn his stripes.”

Erickson, who has reported and written much of the coverage of German’s death, said she looked up to her late colleague, whom she called a “legend in Las Vegas.” 

“He was an institution,” she said. “I want him to be remembered for the reporter he was, not for how he died.”

In a tweet, Keith Moyer, the publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, called German a "reportorial force" and said the reporter's work made the city a better place to live.

IRE said German's death will "no doubt have a chilling effect" on some reporters, but said that would be a loss for the communities they cover.

Before German died, he had filed public record requests for emails and text messages between Telles and other county officials, including one Telles was accused of having an “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate, the Review-Journal reported.

On Thursday, Las Vegas Police Capt. Dori Koren said Telles was "upset" about past reporting and about another in the works.

German's colleagues are closely monitoring the late reporter's emails to continue his work, Kane said.

"If this had happened to me, he would keep going. He wouldn't stop," Kane said. "The worst possible thing is if we changed our coverage, or changed our investigations, because of fear of something like this happening again."