Nev. senator says voicemail to rape victim's sister wasn't about the case involving his friend

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A state senator Thursday denied he was trying to bribe a rape victim's sister when he left her a message suggesting it could be "financially beneficial" if she told the truth.

Republican Sen. Dennis Nolan later claimed he was referring to an abusive relationship with the woman's father — an allegation the family denies — and not the rape case that sent his friend to prison.

Nolan acknowledged leaving the voicemail on the woman's phone May 19. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which was first to report about the message, that he was trying to coax her to meet with him so he could wear a "wire" and record what she said.

In a rambling statement issued late Thursday, Nolan acknowledged he left three messages on the woman's cell phone. He said they weren't about the rape case, but to get her to discredit her father, Tim Anderson, who has been attacking Nolan in ads supporting his opponent in the June 8 primary.

"What kind of a person defends a child rapist who sexually assaults our kids," the ad says. "Vote against Sen. Dennis Nolan. Tell him that defending child rapists is not OK."

Nolan accused Anderson of being abusive. Anderson, who lives in Arizona, denied Nolan's charges.

One of the messages was released by Nolan's opponent, Elizabeth Halseth, on her website Wednesday.

"The one message the Halseth camp chose to publish was the one in which I implied there were individuals who were interested in 'compensating' her to tell the truth about the real reasons her father has chosen to attack me," Nolan's statement said.

The other two messages, he said, "were of me imploring this woman" to voluntarily come forward and tell the truth.

"I realize my tactics in this case were somewhat unorthodox but I never have really cared to be politically correct," Nolan said.

The rape case involves Gordon Lawes, 28, who was convicted in 2008 of raping a girl four years earlier, when she was 16 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison with parole possible after 10 years. The case is under appeal.

Nolan told the newspaper he believed the sister, who was Lawes' wife at the time, would say the sex was consensual.

Nolan, 48, testified as a character witness for Lawes at his trial. Lawes had been a campaign volunteer for Nolan, and the two played club hockey together.

During the trial, a prosecutor said Lawes admitted to police that he walked naked down the stairs and had sex with the teen who was "passed out drunk," according to published reports at the time.

"The deal is, he came out to defend a rapist who admitted to it, then tried to bribe her sister," Anderson, the victim's father, told The Associated Press.

On the recording released by Halseth's campaign, a man who identifies himself as "Dennis" says a lot of people have a "serious interest" in the race. "I think that, um, it could be very financially beneficial, um, for you to consider telling the truth."

It went on, "Give me a call a little later on and I will, uh, give you more details on it." The caller says he got a call from some people who'd like to "see this thing cleared up and ... have the resources to back that up."

Nolan was first elected in 1994 to the Nevada Assembly, where he served until his election to the Senate in 2002.