Attorney, [for] Gordon Silver
By Buck Wargo
Fri, Mar 19, 2010
Dominic Gentile didn't want to move to Las Vegas from Houston, but
now calls the move one of the best decisions of his life.
The Chicago-born Gentile, who will turn 64 on March 25, was prompted
to move by his former wife Michelle, who had family in Las Vegas and
was tired of his constant travel as an associate dean of the National
Criminal Defense College in Houston.
What was it like for a Chicagoan to come out here from Houston to practice law?
"It was tough. I have to tell you," Gentile said. "I did not want to
come here. Las Vegas at that time in 1978 held nothing for me. There
was nothing about Las Vegas that attracted me. I had grown up around
green grass and trees. Living in Texas, I had even more green in
terms of grass and trees. I did not understand at all at that time
what I now hold to be the majestic beauty of the desert. At that
time, I did not understand it. It looked like a dead place."
Gentile said he wasn't a gambler and didn't like the shows Las Vegas
had to offer. He was more into Led Zeppelin than Tony Bennett and
"They say timing is everything, and it worked out well for us,"
Gentile said. "I can tell you now, I feel like there might have been
some divine intervention that caused me to come to Las Vegas because
that is how good Las Vegas has been to me and my family.
"I love Las Vegas and I'm just glad it all worked out that way. It
really was an accident."
IBLV: Is there anything in your family background that spoke of you
being a lawyer?
Gentile: Nothing in my family. No one from my family had every
graduated from college in terms of a full four-year program. I was a
What about the impact of your late father, Charles?
My father had the influence. He had a lot of respect for criminal
defense lawyers. It wasn't just lawyers. He never needed one himself,
but felt in his experience when he was a youth, there was a tendency
in Chicago at that time, especially among Italian-American kids, to
be put upon by a policeman. My dad and his observation of that made
him develop a sense of wrong and he felt anybody who stood up for the
rights of the oppressed was to be respected. He really drove that
into me. I had to be less than 10 years old when I started hearing,
"You should be a lawyer, you should be a lawyer." In my high school
graduation yearbook when they ask you for your career plan, I
actually said criminal defense lawyer. I was one of those guys who
had to be careful what he wished for.
What did your dad do?
My dad was a garbageman. My dad worked on the back of a garbage truck
lifting barrels filled with garbage and throwing it into the back of
the truck. He was also a bartender and a truck driver. To get that
job as a garbageman, he had to become a precinct captain for the
(Mayor Richard) Daley machine. I owe him a lot.
Where did you go to school?
DePaul Law School and undergrad.
What civil work do you do today?
I do civil fraud work. Civil fraud litigation is exactly the same, in
terms of what the elements are and the proof is, as in criminal
cases. The difference is in the civil arena, the parties have far
better ability to discover what the other side has.
The other part of my practice, I do a lot of First Amendment work. I
have been representing Greenspun for many, many years in First
Amendment needs. (In Business Las Vegas is part of Greenspun Media
Group). I have represented television stations and print media, and I
have also done the adult-entertainment industry. It is all the First Amendment.
What got your interest in doing that?
I started at DePaul in 1968. Right when I started, a number of really
interesting historic events took place in Chicago. I can remember
seeing (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) march through Cicero. That was a
pretty interesting event. I remember that changing me. I saw people
that I knew and grew up with, identified with and hung out with doing
things toward Dr. King that I felt embarrassed by and caused me to
start doing internal inventory. Right after that, we had the
Democratic Convention in 1968. Again, my dad was a Daley machine
precinct captain. I grew up in a Daley machine Democratic house that
thanked the Daley machine for the bread on the table. But I saw
things happen in the park that shook me up, made me think, and made
me wrestle with some really important things, looking back at it.
Then, I went to law school one block from where the conspiracy eight
trial was taking place (later to become the conspiracy seven trial).
The Chicago Seven (anti-war and Democratic convention protesters)?
Yes. You want to talk about important events that you would not be
able to assess at the moment. I wound up working with most of the
lawyers later on in my career who were involved in the defense of the
Chicago Seven. My very first case I worked on as a volunteer for the
American Civil Liberties Union was Roe v. Wade. You are talking about
an Italian Catholic working on Roe v. Wade for the right of a woman
to make a decision. You want to talk about some internal conflict and
some wrestling with issues. By the way, that one I still wrestle
with, and it is a long time later, but I only wrestle with it on a
personal-values basis as opposed to the constitutionality issue.
But why civil rights?
When I first got out of law school, I knew I wanted to gravitate to
criminal defense, and civil rights work is part and parcel with
criminal defense. The Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure issue is a
civil right. The right to counsel is a civil right and the right to
due process is a civil right. They go hand in hand. There is no
mystery about a criminal defense attorney also practicing in the
arena of civil rights. Now, the First Amendment, while it is also a
civil right, I will concede I became involved in First Amendment work
primarily because of involvement in defending the movie theater that
was showing a "Deep Throat" first run in Chicago in 1972. My first
exposure, no pun intended, in the area of the First Amendment, was
porn movies. However, I really developed a love and deep attachment
to the First Amendment. I am a firm believer you have the right to
let the world know how little you know. That is what the First
Amendment does. I really believe they made it the First Amendment
because they deemed it to be the most important to a democracy. I
don't think that was an accident.
So what is your practice today?
Today, my practice is homicide defense; fraud, civil and criminal;
First Amendment, plaintiff and defense. I have done defamation work.
That is about as mainstream as the First Amendment gets.
Do you enjoy the public profile cases?
I don't enjoy them. If you look at my history, you will find me not
ever make one high profile. They are high profile when I get in them.
My efforts would be to keep them below the radar. Nothing good
happens to somebody when the media latch on to the fact they are in
trouble. If a lawyer does his job well and the case came to him when
nobody knew about it, it should be that way when the case is over.
That is what you should strive for. However, once in awhile when an
injustice has taken place, you need to bring it to the attention of
the public. I think a good example of that a case I am not involved
in and I don't express opinion with respects to the merits of it
is the Chrissy Mazzeo lawsuit against the governor. That is a case
where the lawyer who represents Ms. Mazzeo had to get some public
attention paid to it. The voters needed to know about it, make up
their own minds whether it happened or not and ultimately a jury is
going to do that. The answer is I don't enjoy being involved in
high-profile cases, but I know how to be involved in high-profile cases.
But why defend unpopular defendants and clients?
Justice isn't a popularity contest, and it ought not to be. I don't
know. I guess I like the odds. I guess I have always been attracted
by the underdog. I guess I liked playing David to Goliath. That has
always been something that I enjoyed. If Goliath would have kicked
David's ass, you would have never heard about it. I guess I enjoy
standing up to government and the powerful institutions, even private
institutions on behalf of the little guy. It is so easy for those
institutions and government to just crush a democracy.
You were one of the founders of the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal
Justice. What does it do?
No. 1, I think it keeps the system honest. It definitely enlightens
the Legislature during the legislative sessions. It acts as a source,
information sharing among the defense bar. It acts as watchdog for
prosecutorial misconduct or judicial misconduct and many other
things. Plus, every once in awhile, it has a hell of a good party.
At Gordon Silver, you lead what is called the state's only
government investigations and business crimes group. What is that?
That is the best thing I have done in the last 20 years. We have the
only full-service law firm in Nevada that has a criminal defense unit
that can provide to our clients and those who need it not just the
legal acumen but investigative acumen to take on an investigation
early on. Let's say the government is conducting an investigation,
this is the bread and butter of what I do. You get a knock on your
door and somebody hands you a subpoena, and it's a grand jury
subpoena … You know it's not a good thing and so what do you do?
There are lots of independent criminal defense lawyers in Las Vegas
and many good ones. But there is no law firm that has the various
disciplines that this law firm has such as gaming and real estate and
bankruptcy and banking and corporate and on and on and on. It also
has a unit within it that has the kind of experience that we have in
terms of grand jury investigations, administrative investigations
law enforcement investigations that could wind up with a criminal
Understand that the moment the accusation is made and it becomes
public, the damage is done. The greatest example of that in recent
times is the Tire Works situation where the attorney general of …
Nevada filed a lawsuit after Channel 13 made a big (story) out of the
fact it was part of an undercover sting investigation. The media
attention that Channel 13 created devastated the business of Tire
Works, and it was all false. A lawyer is expected to say that when a
client is accused like that we did more than say it, we established
it. When the case was over with, the attorney general dismissed the
whole case and acknowledged in its press release that the reason it
became as celebrated as it was is because a deputy attorney general,
apparently for her 15 minutes of fame, I guess, decided to invite the
media to come along. And of course the media ran with it.
If I mentioned some of these names of cases you handled, what comes
to mind? The late state Controller Kathy Augustine (who had faced
impeachment for alleged wrongdoing)?
That was among my proudest moments. I don't tend to be a prideful
person, but that one was one that really came from the heart. First
of all, I believe at that time, she was the second highest-ranking
Republican constitutional officer in Nevada and the highest-ranking
officer of either party to ever be investigated and prosecuted. For
her to come to me, who has made no secret of the fact that I am a
Democrat made me very proud. It was also the first impeachment ever
in Nevada. There was no book to go to to learn how to do one. The
thing I enjoyed most there was Kathy Augustine was a very forceful
public person. She got absolutely no support from her own party or
any other elected official, for that matter. As you can see in the
Assembly, it was railroaded through. When we got to the Senate, we
were able to do our job and (the senators) listened. They understood
this was a trial, and it wasn't a political proceeding. I would say
having this resolved and having her keep her office was a moment that
made me very proud that I listened to my father and went to law school.
The Galardi family (of the local strip-club industry)?
What comes to mind about it is how different Michael Galardi was from
his father, Jack. Jack Galardi is one of those people who I have
tremendous respect for his integrity. You can criticize Jack if you
want to for being in an adult-entertainment business, but Jack
Galardi would have never run for cover like his son did. He would
have never done it. It is not to pass judgment on Michael. Michael
has to live with it.
I think the entire case was engineered by the government from Day
One. I really do believe the federal government went to a county
commissioner and asked that county commissioner to recommend certain
laws that (the commissioner) knew would have required the
adult-entertainment industry to lobby against those laws. I think
that county commissioner played along with (the government) and did
it. Maybe that county commissioner knew she was part of a bigger
scheme, maybe she didn't. Maybe she was just used. But for the
recommendation of a ridiculous change in the law, none of that
activity would have taken place. The government spent 30 months
wiretapping. It spent I don't know how many millions of dollars
conducting that investigation. Was it able to establish that three
county commissioners took payoffs? Yeah. I guess it was. I don't
think there is any question about that. At the end of the day,
justice was done in that case. My problem with it is that I don't
think any of that stuff would have happened but for the government
stimulating it by getting another county commissioner who was not
prosecuted to start the ball rolling.
Lance Malone (imprisoned former Clark County commissioner)?
Lance Malone is a friend of mine. I didn't know him before I
represented him. I have the highest regard for Lance Malone. There
was a time in this community when the return to the community of a
man that has Lance Malone's integrity would have been celebrated, and
he would have been greeted with open arms and embraced. Lance Malone
was offered the moon to give testimony against other people in this
community. He did not do so and he would not do so. It would have
required him to compromise his own integrity and No. 2 to tell lies.
Instead of doing those things, Lance Malone went to prison. I know I
will be glad to see him come home.
Elizabeth Halverson (a former District Court judge)?
Well, that was a tough one. Judge Halverson is a nice lady. I know
her from when she was a law clerk. I attended her wedding in San
Francisco ... I think that Judge Halverson did not have the emotional
makeup to sit as a judge, looking at it with 20-20 hindsight. On the
other hand, I think that before she was even elected, there were
those who made up their mind that they would be gunning for her if
she got elected. I think there is plenty of evidence of that, and
that's what happened.
Glen Lerner (a local attorney)?
Glen Lerner is a wonderful guy. He is a friend of mine. He is the
real deal. He is a good man and a good lawyer and a good businessman.
I think he has set up a system for handling just about any kind of a
personal-injury case. He does not handle them all in the same
fashion. If a case comes in that it clearly has settlement value but
nothing more, he has the ability to recognize that, and he conveys
that to the client. He does not set the client up to have an
unrealistic expectation … But for advertising, you can't set up a
shop like that.
But is he the heavy hitter (as he depicted in TV commercials)?
If he is the heavy hitter, I guess I am the designated hitter.
What would you classify as your most prominent case?
That is hard for me to say. I can tell you the one that happens to be
the most prominent and I am proudest of. There are two. One was the
representation of (Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist) John L. Smith
when Steve Wynn sued him for defamation. It got the right result.
John was dismissed from the case. John is a little guy. The other one
would be when the Gaming Control Board nominated Sam Cecola for
inclusion in the Black Book. We were able to prevail. It is the only
time anybody ever has.
Why is it that you seem to be the go-to guy for big cases?
I don't know if I can answer that. I suppose that I have a record of
being effective. I think another reason you are only talking about
cases that reached the public's eye I think another reason is that
most of the cases that I work on never reach the public's eye. My
clients like that. I do not need to self-aggrandize on the backs of a
client. I don't need to use a client to let the world know I am here
and practicing law. And I don't do that. Maybe that's the reason, or
they just like Italian guys.
What's the state of the law industry in Las Vegas today and where it
The business of law is solving a problem. I think that the future of
the business of law is exactly what we did here at Gordon Silver
three years ago to take into the large firm components that can use
cross-disciplinary approaches in a really efficient manner to be able
to solve a problem because most problems are complex. Most problems
require more than just a criminal lawyer or more than just a
bankruptcy lawyer or more than just a gaming lawyer. It requires
different skill sets and backgrounds of experience to be able to
analyze the problem and come up with the best business solution.
When our clients come in to see us, they don't care how we solve
their problem. They are not particularly interested in knowing the
skill sets of the different players. They put their faith in a
lawyer. That lawyer might be me. They leave to the lawyer to staff
the situation to fix it. I don't think you can do that in the sole
practitioner world. If you were to do that in the sole practitioner
world, the client is going to spend a lot more money because he is
going to have to retain different lawyers, different law firms and
then he has to hope they can clear their schedules to be able to meet
in one place at one time or read the e-mails in some sort of a
real-time fashion so it can be done in an efficient basis. Just like
every other business is focusing on becoming more efficient, I think
the delivery of legal services for a fee must do that as well.
That is why I am very happy to be part of the pioneering law firm in
that regard as it relates to the delivery of criminal law services.
You don't miss having your name on the marquee?
No. When I came to Gordon Silver, Jerry (Gordon) and Jeff (Silver)
both talked to me about changing the name of the firm. My feeling was
the firm was 40 years old, and it had done quite well as Gordon
Silver. My ego did not require that it be changed. No. 2, I didn't
know if I was going to like it so why would I want to change it, and
they would have to change it back? It turns out I love it. I am
really happy. No. 3, there are many partners in this law firm who
have had many more years in this law firm when I joined it. I thought
it would really be an affront to them to change the name of the firm.
It works. I don't know that anybody has any trouble finding me. They
know where I am. My name doesn't need to be on the marquee. I don't
miss it. To tell you the truth, I like it better.
I feel like this is truly an institution. It is going to be here when
I am gone. It is going to be here when Jerry Gordon and Jeff Silver are gone.
Did you have any doubts about coming here and giving up your practice?
Yes. As a matter of fact, I have been here 2 1/2 years, and they
asked me two years before that. I was hesitant. Although other cities
have criminal departments in an institutionalized law firm, Las Vegas
didn't have. I was kind of used to marching to my own beat, and I was
concerned if I moved my law firm into this law firm, that could no
longer happen … Whatever changes there have been, have been for the
better in the sense that I have other people with a lot at stake to
go and ask for their guidance. Before, I had nobody. I can tell you
that I believe while my skills have not improved other than the
natural maturation, my abilities to deliver have grown immeasurably
just by having these other brains to pick.
What advice do you give to young lawyers?
Just recently, the daughter of a couple of friends of mine who are
lawyers she is at that age where she is coming out of law school
where she is going to change the world on her own. I tried to tell
her that you can only change the world for one person at a time and
that the ability to do that increases by how much support you have. I
would encourage any young lawyer coming out of law school today that
if they want to practice criminal law, to at least think about on a
serious level about doing it in the framework of a full-service law
firm or at least group practice as opposed to doing it on your own.
If you want to spend $20,000 a month advertising on television, you
will make a lot of money, but you are not going to be doing much good
for anybody, other than negotiate a guilty plea because you are not
going to have time.
Tell me about your family's acquisition of the Palomino Club in
North Las Vegas and your involvement in the strip-club industry?
I got the real estate (with three clubs on it) as a fee. Because my
client could no longer operate them, we needed to find someone to
take them over. My partners in the real estate they all knew (my son)
Adam, and they were the ones who said, "Why don't you let Adam have
the clubs?" They were not worth anything anyhow. That is true. They
were not. Other than the business potential, the clubs had been run
into the ground. I wasn't in favor of it, but I wasn't going to
deprive Adam of an opportunity to test his mettle. It is the industry
he chose. He wanted to do it. And so I let my partners and my son
talk me into letting him do it. And now candidly, looking with 20-20
hindsight, he has done a phenomenal job. He has made it a successful club.
What was it like to appear on the reality television show about the
Palomino Club on the Playboy Channel?
We had a good time with that. It was a lot of fun. I wasn't in it
very much. I think in the 12 weeks it was on, I was in five scenes. I
am not sure how much reality it is. A lot of it is staged. It is
How is that industry holding up during the recession and do you see
your family expanding further in it?
Adam's club has been very successful during the recession, but it's
been successful because of his management style and his marketing
style. He decided he was not going to pay cabdrivers (commissions) to
bring customers to his establishment. He focused on local clientele.
By focusing on locals and by really controlling his costs, he has
developed it into a profitable operation. He is not, in any way,
dependent upon convention or cabdriver business in order to do that.
On the other hand … we have seen four or five of (other strip clubs)
either shut their doors or fall into bankruptcy and foreclosure. I
anticipate you are going to see another four or five over the next
year or so. At some point in time, it would be my guess is that you
are going to see consolidation in that industry. With regards to the
second part of the question on expansion, I can only say to you as a
father and hopefully a grandfather, I hope not only because it is a
tough business. It is not conducive to a family life.
Because of the hours. Not because of the adult entertainment aspect
of it. Seventy hour weeks and 80 hours weeks is not unusual in a
business like that.
What is your take on paying commissions to cabdrivers?
It should be outlawed and the reason for it, it is working a fraud on
the customer. It has gotten to the point where cabdrivers are picking
people up and telling them they will give them $20 if they let the
cabdriver take them to a strip club. Some strip clubs are paying
cabdrivers $100 a person. I heard it went to $110 recently. There is
only one way to make up that money, and that is to gouge the
customer. If the customer walks through the front door and they are
hit by prices that are $15 for a drink that shouldn't cost more than
$4 or $5, that is bad for Las Vegas. The other way the clubs make up
for money going out the front door to cabdrivers is to get more
dancers. The theory is the more customers you have, the more dancers
are going to be there. The dancers pay a daily fee in order to
entertain. If there are going to be more dancers who are coming into
that club, there is going to more competition between dancers. There
is no way that is not going to encourage some of those dancers to
become involved in things that are unlawful. It all stems from the
need for the clubs that have spent so many millions of dollars to pay
the mortgages that they have on those clubs.
What about your role in the Italian-American community as the
founder and publisher of La Voce, a monthly newspaper. Why did you do that?
My mother and father were both Italian-Americans. My grandparents
were immigrants from Italy. I come from an (area) in Chicago in which
ethnicity is far more important than it ever has been in Las Vegas …
I experienced all of that growing up, and it is a part of me. It's
nice thing. It is a good thing, and it needs to be preserved. There
are many other people in our community who feel the same way, but the
only way to preserve it is through setting up means of communicating
and sharing those feelings and thoughts. One of the ways is setting
up organizations such as the Augustus Society where people can give
back. Its whole purpose is to raise money from its members and take
that money and spend that only on higher education. It has been doing
that almost to the tune of $1 million in scholarship money. The
newspaper is a virtual neighborhood. Las Vegas does not have an
Italian neighborhood, but it does have Italian restaurants and
pizzerias. I kind of got the brainstorm that we could set up a
virtual neighborhood, but to do it, we needed to have something to
bring those people together. I have always enjoyed the media. I have
been a media lawyer for 30 years and I understood the power of it. We
kind of took a shot. We didn't know if we were going to make it or
not. But that shot is now 10 years old, so I guess we made it. It
lives and dies on its advertising and there is no doubt that some of
our advertisers put ads in our newspaper because it brings them
business. There are others who put in ads that are bigger than they
need to be, but they want to help support the community and help
support the newspaper.
Your newspaper has expressed concerns about the Las Vegas mob museum
perpetuating negative stereotypes about Italian-Americans. Is that a
concern of yours?
Yes, it is a concern of mine. The reason for it is everybody didn't
grow up in … Chicago. Everybody doesn't know that the gangster is a
minuscule percentage of the Italian community … But the difference is
the gangster with an Italian surname has been celebrated in the
movies and in books and perpetuated and blown way out of proportion
to the point where it still happens to me they learn I am an
Italian-American and I am from Chicago, they want to talk about Al
Capone. Al Capone died before I was born. That stereotype is out
there. My concern about a mob museum is primarily Italian-American,
but candidly it transcends that, that even if it's true that the mob
built Las Vegas, which it is not true, that doesn't mean you should
give some young kid who is going to walk in there … something that is
being glorified. It shouldn't be glorified. If (Las Vegas Mayor
Oscar) Goodman wants to have the mob museum and no Italian-Americans
in it, I am all for that. He can do whatever he wants.
Have you had any success in getting your concerns addressed?
Not at all. They have totally ignored us.