Court orders Lance Gilman to pay $190,000 to journalist, attorney after losing defamation lawsuit

Court orders Lance Gilman to pay $190,000 to journalist, attorney after losing defamation lawsuit
The Supreme Court of Nevada's main courthouse in Carson City, Nevada. Photographed on July 4, 2020 by Wikipedia user Coolcaesar.

By Bob Conrad

CARSON CITY–Journalist Sam Toll, who operated his news website The Storey Teller, wrote that Tahoe Reno Industrial Center developer, brothel owner and Storey County Commissioner Lance Gilman did not actually live in the county.

That would mean he was illegally representing Storey County as an elected official.

Lance Gilman, Storey County commissioner.
Lance Gilman, Storey County commissioner.

Gilman got upset, sued Toll and ultimately lost after the Nevada Supreme Court ordered the First Judicial District Court to re-issue a decision in accordance with Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statutes.

SLAPP, or strategic litigation against public participation, is a common legal strategy used by people who feel aggrieved by comments uttered in public—increasingly online—to sue their critics. Nevada first passed anti-SLAPP legislation in 1993, and has amended it since, to prevent people—usually wealthy people—and businesses from suing critics into bankruptcy from costly litigation even when their cases lack merit.

The Nevada Supreme Court is increasingly dismissing defamation cases under Nevada’s anti-SLAPP laws, often after a district court erroneously finds in favor of plaintiffs. Courts are also awarding damages to defendants and their attorneys.

The First Judicial District Court dismissed Gilman’s case last summer, Gilman subsequently appealed, and the Nevada Supreme Court has again found in Toll’s favor. Gilman now owes Toll and his attorney nearly $190,000, according to the First Judicial District Court’s ruling in September.

Gilman is trying to appeal in the state supreme court. Last week, Toll’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the appeal.

“Gilman has serially violated the rules of the Court in the course of this case,” they alleged. “This Court should not let an appeal proceed based on an undisputable fact: That Mr. Gilman is suing Mr. Toll for making a false statement of fact about Mr. Gilman that Mr. Gilman has made about himself. Requiring that this Court waste judicial [resources] in addressing such a facially absurd claim is entirely frivolous.

“Further, the record is clear that Gilman is processing this appeal in a frivolous manner by flagrantly disregarding the Court’s rules and orders of the Court,” they added.

Toll’s attorneys are seeking more attorney fees due to the delays—and the appeal.

Gilman’s residency investigated by state 

It turns out Toll had good reason to raise the issue of Gilman’s residency. Toll’s claim was ultimately supported by investigators with the Nevada Department of Public Safety.

The law requires elected officials reside in their represented jurisdiction, but Gilman owned more than one property. He spent considerable time living in Washoe County.

Detectives with the Nevada Department of Public Safety (DPS) determined, after a year-and-a-half-long investigation, there was enough evidence for Gilman to be prosecuted for perjury.

Detectives visited his residences in Storey and Washoe counties, interviewed neighbors, combed through property records and zoning codes, and interviewed Gilman and his associates more than once.

Storey County Sheriff Gerald Antinoro—friends with Toll, not friends with Gilman—initially recommended DPS investigate.

Screengrab from The Storey Teller website.
Screengrab from The Storey Teller website.

Kris Thompson, Gilman’s TRI Center project manager, told a DPS detective Toll and Antinoro were “trying to politically destroy” Gilman.

“Antinoro and Toll, as you are probably aware, are political associates and both have a long history of retaliating against Lance Gilman for political gain,” he wrote to detectives.

State investigators submitted their investigation to not one, but three local district attorneys for prosecution. All three declined.

Storey County DA Anne Langer said she had a conflict of interest because Gilman is a county commissioner. Lyon County DA Stephen Rye said his office was too small and too busy to manage the case.

Washoe County DA Chris Hicks, through Chief Deputy District Attorney Matthew Lee,  also turned down the case.

“I am declining prosecution based upon insufficient evidence to support a conviction…” Lee wrote.

That effectively closed the case in early 2020.

Toll ran for Storey County Commission last year. He lost. The most recent post on his The Storey Teller website was Oct. 18, 2020.

Gilman was reelected to the Storey County Commission in November’s election.

“The ways of the wild west are in my blood and have continuously shaped who I have become,” he noted on his campaign website.