State of Arizona Calls Onetime JP's Bluff: Busts Him for Running Illegal Card Rooms
We wrote a cover story back in April 2009 about the crusade of one Harold "Bud" Lee, a onetime Phoenix-area Justice of the Peace and an outspoken advocate of off-Indian reservation poker rooms.
"The foggy idea that adults playing poker for money in a card room is so dangerous to the community that it warrants a state-level prohibition is really quite loopy," Lee told us at the time, shortly before posing for this photo.
"And to squander resources in attempting to sustain such a silly prohibition is truly preposterous. I'm telling you, there's a bigger hand to play in all of this, and if they have to toss this old grandpa into the slammer before we get to make our point, fine with me."
Lee isn't in the slammer at the moment, but incarceration could be in his future.
But a state grand jury on Monday indicted the 65-year-old and two other men on charges that could land them behind bars before all is said and done.
The panel also indicted Lee's non-profit--the Tombstone-based International Card and Game Players' Association--on the same changes, which include illegally conducting an enterprise, conspiracy and promoting gambling,
Prosecutors from the Arizona Attorney General's Office sought the indictments after agents from the Arizona Department of Gaming completed a lengthy investigation.
The indictments focus on illegal gambling that allegedly went on at the Ace High Card Room and Social Club, in Surprise (Gaming director Mark Brnovich says that Ace High no longer is in business).
One of the other defendants is Michael Orlando. Authorities redacted the name of the third defendant in the case.
Director Brnovich says that, to his knowledge, this marks the first time that felony charges have been brought against individuals and an entity (the players' association) under this state's illegal gambling laws.
"Illicit gambling attracts additional crime into our neighborhoods," Brnovich says, "and detracts from public confidence and patronage of legitimate gaming operations,"
Brnovich assumed the director's post just as we were finishing our story on Judge Lee and his one-man quest against the government.
"As far as Mr. Lee goes," the former federal prosecutor told us at the time, "if he continues to do what he's been doing and is so anxious to be prosecuted as a criminal, well, I intend to oblige his request."
And so Brnovich has.
Will write more about this in coming days.