A good friend of mine was part of a poker bust near G-Vegas several years ago. He and about a dozen other really hardened gambing types, accountants and the like, were playing a freeze out tourney in the clubhouse of a suburban subdivision. The cops had an "informant" and raided the place, charging everyone with a violation of the state's 200 year old anti-gambing law.
The same law makes it illegal to play chess on Sunday.
So after the bust, my friend hired a local attorney named Jeff Phillips for his defense. Nothting of signifigance ever happened again.
FEAR AND INTIMIDATION
I'm not an expert on Jeff's legal work, but I've done a story about him before. We mentioned, on air, that he made the final table of a WSOP event several years ago. Today he still plays a bit, and is the kind of guy who has a vanity license plate that reads "Hold-em."
Jeff called me on the way to the Frolf course on Thursday with a heads up about a hearing down by Charleston that is very similar and in a similar stage of limbo. Jeff's representing them, too.
In April of 2006, overzealous officers raided a poker game in Mt. Pleasant, SC. They came in with flak jackets and with weapons drawn. They don't take chances with people like the 86 year old retiree playing a small stakes tournament with his social security money. You know, cops get bored, too.
Anyhoo, they were all harrassed and charged and that's where it stopped. On Friday, Phillips tried to have the case dismissed. He failed, but here's where it stands according to the Charleston Post.
Town Judge J. Lawrence Duffy Jr. said the state Legislature has revisited South Carolina's anti-gambling statutes at least nine times over the years, meaning lawmakers are just fine with the wording as is.
No date has been set for a trial in the case. Town prosecutor Ira Grossman controls the docket. He said it is not out of the ordinary for cases to take more than 2 years to get to trial and that as many as 10 to 12 in the Mount Pleasant court system might be in a similar timetable.
Town Prosecutor Ira Grossman has no actual intention of actually prosecuting these guys. Likewise, the people busted in Greer years and years ago still haven't had a date in court.
So why make the bust?
Well, in most cases like this the cops are looking to make a little cash. Police departments get to keep the money from a raid like this and in some cases, as in a raid last year in G-Vegas, players were told they could avoid being charged at all if they'd simply forfiet all the cash on thier person to the deputies on hand.
I'm not saying it's a shakedown.
I'm just sayin'.
Further, the idea is not "justice" in the sense that you'd find it on the "Law and Order" TV show. Instead, the cops can simply intimidate. There is no conviction, but in the case of people like myself, for whom a simple arrest is a career nightmare, I must fear their intrusion.
I should be happy, I suppose, that people aren't being convicted in my state for playing poker. But I'm not. I want justice. But justice folded.