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Trial Date Set for South Carolina Men Fighting Poker Charges

Preliminary Trial Scheduled for Aug. 22


Five men will face a judge in South Carolina at the end of August to fight gambling charges levied against them when they were swept up in a raid in October 2006 wherein police cited 23 players playing a $20 tourney in a home outside of Charleston.

All but Bob Chimento, Scott Richards, Michael Williamson, Jeremy Brestel, and John Taylor Willis plead guilty and paid fines between $154 and $257. The five men are fighting the charges in hopes of changing the 206-year-old South Carolina law that makes it a crime to play any type of game that uses cards or dice, including board games like Monopoly and traditional card games like bridge and poker.

Authorities aren’t raiding senior citizen centers or homes for bridge players or Monopoly fans, though. In all, authorities from Charleston County and two of its suburbs have filed charges nearly 90 times against people for playing poker in South Carolina in the last two years.

The five men have a preliminary hearing in Mouth Pleasant Aug. 22, where they will seek a dismissal of the charges. If the charges aren’t dropped, the men will ask for a jury trial. They believe that the law is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

“Just the fact that in South Carolina you cannot play any type of game — not just cards — but you cannot play any game that involves the use of cards and dice, it makes it totally unenforceable straight across the board, which in turn makes it unconstitutional,” Chimento said.

The men are fighting the charges to try to force the state government to address and clarify the law when it comes to playing poker in homes there. Lawmakers have failed to provide clarity, even though one of them, Rep. Wallace Scarborough, tried.

In 2007, Scarborough introduced a bill that would allow home poker games to take place as long as no rake is collected. His colleagues declined to act on it earlier this year, and it will remain in the Judiciary Committee, where it won’t be looked at again until next year at the earliest.

Chimento, a contractor, plans on fighting a possible guilty ruling to the state Supreme Court. He says it’s the only way that state politicians will take notice, and there’s a chance that it will actually force a law change.
The first poker player roundup took place in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, in April 2006. A second round of warrants was served to 65 players in April 2007 for playing poker in houses in North Charleston. Chimento and the four other men fighting the 2006 charges were also charged in the second go around.

Tags: poker law