LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3.com) — The News 3 video archives date back to 1980. Additionally, there are hundreds of News 3 film canisters which reach as far back as 1975 that are currently difficult to access.
One of those film canisters that had been transferred to videotape surfaced recently, and it's a story worth telling. It involves a suspected mob associate about to go on trial represented by a man who is still very well known in Southern Nevada today. When the circumstances of the case suddenly changed, News 3 sent its star reporter, Andrea Boggs.
"The apparent suicide of a key witness in this case prompted some publicity," said Boggs from the steps of the Foley Federal Building on Feb. 2, 1976. "Too much publicity according to defense attorney Oscar Goodman. He asked for a mistrial, and it was granted."
Former Sheriff Ralph Lamb remembers the defendant in the case.
"Jasper Speciale? Yeah, I knew him good," says Lamb today.
Gaspare Abadetto Speciale — also known as "Jasper" — owned the Tower of Pizza on the Las Vegas Strip.
"Mob guys would go out there, four or five of them and eat," remembers Lamb. "They had to get somewhere where they could talk. And if you seen four or five of them together in the Stardust or Desert Inn, you knew they were talking business. But out there eating pizza and drinking a little beer, nobody would really think anything about it."
Speciale had more cooking at the Tower than pizza. In 1975, he and a Caesars Palace craps dealer were charged with running a loan shark operation there. Then Robert Nipper, the chief witness for the prosecution, was a no-show at the trial.
"How do you feel about this thing that happened yesterday?" asked a reporter the following day in 1976.
"Do you believe Nipper committed suicide?" added Boggs?
"I don't know anything about it other than what I've read in the paper and heard on TV," responded Goodman. "And all indications are that he unfortunately committed suicide."
"Do you know what he was going to testify to against your client?" pressed Boggs.
"I'm not sure he was going to testify against my client."
"He's a government witness."
"That doesn't mean that he's going to tell the truth."
Goodman — then as now — enjoyed the give-and-take with the media, as he sought a change of venue.
"Where do you think you can go to escape publicity?" asked Boggs.
"Well, you can stay here in Las Vegas, and after a certain period of time elapses, certainly people forget what headlines say. Even though you members of the press may not believe that," added Goodman with a grin.
The case was moved, but eventually Speciale pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to four years. He was later placed in Nevada's "Black Book" of persons excluded from all casinos.
Today, Ralph Lamb prefers to remember a man who kept his operations low key ... and made a good pizza.
"Jasper run that place a long time," says Lamb, referring to the Tower of Pizza. "I never had any problem with him."
The death of Robert Nipper was investigated, and the final ruling was that it was in fact a suicide, however convenient for the defense that may have seemed at the time.
Speciale passed away in 1992, and Boggs in 2006. Ralph Lamb is retired and still lives in Las Vegas. The Tower of Pizza closed in 1982. It was on the corner of Harmon and the Strip, where City Center stands today.