A fight over whether a county or a property owner is entitled to the accrued interest in a decade-long casino land seizure case has reached the Nevada Supreme Court.
"I think the judges got it," Paul Moldon said after a half-hour hearing before state high court justices on Monday. "The city stole my property to give to the Stratosphere and then the county stole my interest."
Deputy Clark County District Attorney Michael Foley said Moldon should have asked a judge to put the money in a special interest-bearing account. Instead, he said, Moldon never requested anything.
The Las Vegas redevelopment agency in 1995 used eminent domain to seize Moldon's half-acre lot to allow a Stratosphere hotel-casino expansion.
The city deposited $725,000 in a Clark County District Court trust account for him.
Moldon challenged the seizure and the money sat in the account.
The accrued interest, estimated at $150,000 to $200,000 over 10 years, has since been transferred to the Clark County government general fund.
"The county used it as if they had sold a bond and the proceeds belong to them," said Moldon, who now lives in Washington state and suffers from multiple sclerosis that he contends has been exacerbated by the long legal battle.
"But it was a deposit for us."
Moldon's lawyer, Chuck Gardner, called the money an "undeserved and unearned windfall" for the county and contended that Moldon's property was taken without just compensation.
A law at the time let counties take the interest from court trust accounts.
Earlier this year, the state Legislature amended that provision.
Gardner said even the old law did not apply to property taken by
government on behalf of private companies.
The Supreme Court is not expected to decide for several months whether the interest belongs to Moldon.
But Senior Justice Deborah Agosti questioned how the county could siphon off the interest since Moldon was contesting the case and had not relinquished the property.
A Clark County jury late in 2004 found the land should have been valued at $1.5 million.
Moldon then sold the property to the Stratosphere.