Judge won't toss charges in Vietnamese tour leaders killing

This undated photo provided by the Nevada Department of Corrections shows Julius Damiano Deangilo Trotter. Trotter, a convicted felon facing the death penalty in the robbery-killing of two Vietnamese tour leaders at a Las Vegas Strip hotel wants a judge to throw out his criminal indictment and set him free. Julius Trotter's attorney, Lisa Rasmussen, is due to argue Wednesday, July 17, 2019, that prosecutors withheld information that might have prevented a Clark County grand jury from indicting Trotter. (Nevada Department of Corrections via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Criminal charges will stand against a convicted felon facing a death penalty trial in the killings of two Vietnamese tour leaders at a Las Vegas Strip hotel, a judge said Wednesday.

Clark County District Court Judge Michelle Leavitt upheld the indictment against Julius Damiano Deangilo Trotter, rejecting Trotter's attorney's argument that prosecutors improperly prevented a grand jury from hearing information that might have pointed to another suspect in the June 2018 stabbings.

"They'll use it when it benefits them," attorney Lisa Rasmussen said, referring to prosecutors and evidence that might rule a suspect out of a crime, "but in a circumstance where they don't want the grand jurors hearing it about it they don't use it."

Prosecutor Bill Flinn said Trotter received proper notice that a grand jury was considering evidence against him, and Trotter could have testified but didn't.

Flinn said the state wasn't obligated to tell the grand jury that Trotter had given police what Flinn called an "unreliable, self-serving, 'Somebody gave me that stuff' statement."

Trotter has pleaded not guilty to murder, burglary and robbery in the slayings of Sang Boi Nghia and Khoung Ba Le Nguyen at the Circus Circus hotel. His trial is scheduled in July 2020.

Nghia owned a tour business in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Nguyen was an employee. Their bodies were found after they did not show up for a tour to the Grand Canyon.

Police said hotel employees later determined the door latch to their room didn't work properly.

The grand jury heard testimony from Trotter's girlfriend that Trotter walked hotel hallways rattling doors to find ones that weren't locked, and that she didn't ask how he obtained a backpack and items in it including a purse, two wallets, a cellphone, jewelry, watches and Vietnamese cash.

The panel was told that video showed Trotter in a hotel elevator with the backpack.

Grand jurors weren't told that Trotter told police he usually bought stolen items and didn't steal them, and that a person he knew only by the first name Jason had given him the backpack.

Rasmussen said she was not sure if she would appeal Leavitt's ruling. Trotter is currently in prison on a separate conviction for resisting arrest with a weapon.

He and his girlfriend, Itaska Dean, were arrested after a police chase in Chino, California, about a week after the slayings.

Dean pleaded guilty in California to evading arrest, but was not charged with a crime in the slayings of Nghia and Nguyen.