Sex and Lies in Sin City
Sex and Lies in Sin City is a made-for-Lifetime film which recreates
the circumstances of the scandalous death of Ted Binion, son of the Las
Vegas pioneer "Benny" Binion, who opened the Horseshoe Casino back in
1951, when Vegas was still in its infancy. Benny originated the World
Series of Poker in the early 70s, and Ted ran the Series for many years.
Ted was know around town as someone who might have been a great man if he
could have kept his excesses in check. He made friends easily, was
exceptionally brilliant, and had a good heart. Unfortunately, he could never
live up to his potential because of his drug habits. He liked to smoke, and
not just some harmless reefer. He liked to chase the dragon, which has nothing
to do with whether he liked Bruce Lee movies, but rather refers to his
favorite recreation - snorting heroin fumes.
He OD'd at age 54 in 1998, under circumstances strange enough to lead the
police eventually to conclude that his overdose was forced upon him by his
stripper girlfriend and her lover, a Binion friend and business associate. The
pair, Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabith, were tried twice for his murder, as well
as for plotting to loot the stash of Binion's underground vault. Matthew
Modine plays Ted Binion, and effectively shows both the man's charm and his
drug-fueled madness. Mena Suvari and Jonathan Schaech play the couple accused
of Binion's murder.
I've read quite a bit about that case. If you want to catch up,
the Court TV (now truTV) site, as always, offers an exceptionally thorough
overview. The movie presents various possible interpretations of the
circumstances surrounding Binion's death, but it does lead the viewer to
accept one particular interpretation over the others, and it portrays the
accused killers with a significant amount of sympathy. I'm not convinced that
the presentation was fair. In developing its point of view it ignored some key
evidence that led the police to believe that Binion died in one place and was
dragged to another, after which there was a deliberate cleansing of the path
between the two places.
Still and all, the fact remains that the evidence against the murderers was
circumstantial, and prosecution witnesses in the first trial later admitted
that they had been paid to "play ball." The Nevada supreme court ordered a
retrial based on some errors made by the judge in the first trial, and the
second trial led to "not guilty" verdicts on the murder charge and a
conviction on the larceny. In my opinion, the defendants should have been
found not guilty of the larceny charges as well, although I believe they
actually did it. Tabith said that he was emptying the vault based on the
explicit orders of Binion, and his story was backed up by the fact that Tabith
was the only person who had the combination beside Binion, therefore the only
person who could have opened it after Binion's death. Tabith claimed that he
was emptying it to get the money safely to Binion's daughter. While that seems
unlikely, there is no crime in doing unlikely things, and the police could
never prove he had any other motivations. In fact, he talked to the local
sheriff three times that day about the excavation, although he did not tell
John Law the whole truth. As for Murphy, her conviction on the larceny charge
was total nonsense. It is logical to assume that she was guilty, but the
evidence simply did not support that. The whole case against her is that
Tabith called her several times while he was unearthing the silver, thus
establishing their conspiracy. That's ridiculous for two reasons: (1) the
prosecutors never proved that Tabith was committing the crime in the first
place; (2) the prosecutors never proved that the couple were talking about the
silver. Phone records proved that they had talked on the phone as frequently
as 20 times a day, so why would the long excavation period be any different
from any other time of similar length?
Did the lovers actually conspire to steal the silver. Probably, and Tabish
had done similar things in the past, but there certainly was "reasonable
doubt," and that is the basis of legal guilt or innocence.
Did the lovers commit the murder, either by planning it or by deliberately
failing to call for help when they knew Binion was ODing? I don't know. After
studying all 25 pages of the Crime TV report, I still can't come to a
conclusion either way. It does appear that the accused pair covered up some
details of their involvement and lied about others, but it also appears that
there were plenty of shenanigans in the prosecution's case, which would
indicate that the prosecutors wouldn't have had a case if they had played
Hey, it's Vegas. Everybody was scamming everyone else.
Who lied the most? Flip a coin.
Mena Suvari did not technically get naked,
but this scene went
about as far as it could have gone without nudity. Suvari looked beautiful, was
tremendously sexy, and exposed almost her entire butt. You DO want to see it.