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Mistrial declared in Elko child abuse case

ELKO – Juror misconduct resulted in a mistrial of a woman accused of child abuse on Wednesday.

At least two jurors were overheard by the Elko District Court bailiff talking about the evidence presented in the trial of Brandi Gallegos, who is charged with four counts of child abuse, said District Attorney Tyler Ingram.

It is unclear exactly how many jurors were involved.

“The jurors are reminded they cannot communicate or deliberate about the evidence” by the presiding judge when court is recessed, Ingram said. “They’re not allowed to do that until they’re instructed to do so by the judge.”

After the jurors involved in the incident were examined by Deputy District Attorney David Buchler and Gallegos’ attorney, Gary Woodbury, Woodbury made a motion for mistrial which was granted by Judge Nancy Porter.

The trial was in its second day of testimony and was expected to conclude Feb. 7.

“The state will absolutely retry the case,” Ingram said, explaining the state had the option whether to pursue a new trial or not.

A date for a new jury trial depends upon the court’s calendar, Ingram added.

Woodbury declined to comment on Wednesday’s developments.

According to court documents, Gallegos is accused of not seeking timely medical treatment for a child about 2 years old who had suffered injuries to his body including 6 fractured ribs and a fractured elbow. He also had lacerations to his chin, suffered a black eye and was stabbed in the foot by a fork or similar instrument. She was also suspected of failing to provide proper nutrition to the child.

An investigation was launched on Gallegos and her husband, Brett, in April 2014 when the Department of Child and Family Services contacted the Elko Police Department. Court records say it concluded Sept. 30, 2015.

The couple was arrested on May 3, 2016. Brett Gallegos pleaded guilty to a reduced charge last year and was given a suspended sentence of a year in jail on Aug. 24.

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Workshop a 'cinch' for artists

ELKO — Stands of vibrant-colored mohair fling in the air and coil on the floor of the Elko Convention Center Turquoise Room during a cinch-making workshop Jan. 31.

Under the tutelage of Jennifer Whiteley during the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, about 10 students try their hands at making cinches to go around the girths of their horses or for other artistic applications.

“I like to be able to share it,” she says. “It’s a dying art.”

Whiteley acquired the skill while working in remote cowboy camps in northern Nevada and southern Idaho. Without electricity or running water, she occupied herself by making cinches after what she describes as a 30-minute crash course from her boss’s wife.

“They’re doing a great job,” Whiteley says of her students who came from as near as Elko and as far away as Italy. “I’m very impressed with the job they are doing.”

Pupil Debbie Origer from Albany, Oregon, says their success is testament to the knowledge of their instructor. She is working on a cinch to go with a saddle she has had since she was a little girl.

Working nearby is Jannette Ritchie who creates a cinch for use on her Halleck ranch. She weaves red fibers into a line of gray and blue threads stretched over boards.

“My son spoke for this one already,” Ritchie says. She is taking notes on the process so she can make more “just for the ranch. They will use them.”

The idea of making her own cinches also compelled Erika Zundel to enroll in the workshop. She works on a ranch in Riddle, Idaho, and chose a palette of steely gray and magenta for her creation.

“Cowboys don’t get paid a lot, so it’s cheaper to make your own,” she says, adding, “I love pink. My chaps are pink.”

Fourth-time gathering participant Francesca Treccani from Italy says she has a horse that could use the gray and sky blue cinch she is making, but she also had another idea.

“I want to make a cinch for my mandolin,” she says, pointing to her shoulder to show how she’d use it as a strap with her instrument.

Across the room, Elko rancher Sue Key strokes the supple mohair fibers on her board and says her horse will appreciate how soft the new cinch is.

“Hickory, old Hickory,” she says its name. “We’ve had lots of miles together.”

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Walking tour shows Basque establishments, bar none

ELKO — Participants on the walking tour of Basque establishments during the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering started to notice a theme: Many of the historic and modern Basque venues were or are bars.

The tour was ushered by Jess Lopategui — a native of Spain who immigrated to Elko in 1957 to herd sheep before embarking on a long career as a blacksmith. He also supported the Basque community as a founding member of the Basque Club.

Local historian Jan Petersen strode alongside the venerable volunteer, chiming in with details and answering questions on topics such as prostitution. She noted that prostitution and sheep herding were two of the state’s oldest enterprises.

Visitors and guests embarked from the Western Folklife Center to view sites such as the DCL Gallery & the Gallery Bar; J.M. Capriola Co.; the location of the former Palace Bar at Fifth and Silver streets; Ogi Deli, formerly the Bar L; Machi’s restaurant; the Silver Dollar club, which was once a bank; Dreez, the former restaurant of Basque chef Ramon Zugazaga; the former Telescope Hotel, now The Blind Onion and bowling alley, where the first state handball championship was held in 1907; Luciano’s Italian restaurant and bar, once the Nevada Hotel; and The Star Hotel, a longstanding Basque restaurant and boarding house.

As Lopategui mentioned the history of each building and establishment, those in the crowd at first smiled or laughed to themselves about how many Basque establishments had bar service in their pasts. But as the tour went on, they gained an understanding and respect for how much Basque residents have contributed to the stockmen’s and mining town of Elko.

Tourists also learned that in Basque, “ogi” means “bread” and “machi” means “grandma,” as Lopategui translated words and uttered the names of past and present Basque residents with fluency and fondness. Dates and occurrences from the 1960s and before rolled off his tongue as though talking about family — and in some cases, he was.

Heads nodded as listeners began to connect names, events and locations, including the recognizing the surname of Ogi Deli’s owner: Lopategui, the tour guide’s son.

The walking tour of downtown Basque establishments appears again on the Cowboy Poetry Gathering schedule at 8:30 a.m. Feb. 2, and walkers meet at the Western Folklife Center’s Pioneer Saloon.

Local casinos show big gains in December

ELKO – West Wendover casinos scored the biggest revenue percentage gain of all Nevada cities in December, according to a report from the Gaming Control Board.

Casinos in the border town won $17 million, up from $13.5 million in December 2016. That’s an increase of more than 25 percent.

Other Elko County casinos also showed strong growth of nearly 17 percent, with revenue of $7.5 million.

The weather may have been a factor in the increase, as December 2017 was much warmer and drier than the previous year.

Statewide, the gaming win of $960 million was up only .44 of a percent for the month.

Gaming increased 2.22 percent statewide in the last six months of 2017 while Elko County saw a 3 percent increase overall, and Wendover alone was up 12 percent.

The agency responsible for promoting Sin City announced that fewer people visited the nation’s gambling mecca last year.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority said 42.2 million people traveled to the area. The agency attributed the 1.7 percent drop in visitation to the mass shooting on Oct. 1 and a temporary reduction in available rooms as several hotels underwent renovations.

For all of 2017, casinos in Las Vegas saw their revenue increase 1.3 percent despite the drop in visitors.