USA Offensive against Online Gambling EscalatesBy: Rick Balding, Tuesday November 17th 2009
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The American offensive against online gambling began by targeting online gambling operators. The authorities then began to seize funds being transferred from online gambling operators to the players via financial processing organizations. Now the authorities have gone one step higher by targeting individual players who are United States residents.
According to reports in the Kansas City Star the latest to be jailed is one Nicholas Zicarelli. Zicarelli was being forced by the Department of Justice (DoJ) to testify against the online casinos where he played. He cited the Fifth Amendment as the reason for refusing to testify. The Fifth Amendment protects citizens against abuse from government authorities in legal proceedings. It states that no citizen can be forced to give evidence in a criminal case in which he can be implicated. The U.S. District Judge Greg Kays granted Zicarelli immunity from prosecution but ruled that he could not seek protection from the Fifth Amendment. Zicarelli then requested Judge Kays to compel the prosecutors to show evidence that he was more than a casual gambler. However since he refused to cooperate he was jailed for contempt of court for 18 months or till he revealed the information sought of him before a grand jury. According to Zicarelli's lawyer, he is one of the customers at an online gambling site the DoJ was investigating. He was randomly chosen and was being pressurized to testify against the gambling site. Zicarelli did not want to be dragged into the investigation. He is a law abiding citizen who is now being treated as a criminal suspect.
Assistant United States Attorney Paul Becker, who is heading the proceedings, opines that players need to tell the truth about their bookmakers. However he does not seem to have much support from Kansas City residents who feel that more serious crimes go uninvestigated whereas much ado is being made of online gambling. Zicarelli's father openly challenged Becker to investigate more serious crimes. He added, "It's amazing how much power you have to destroy my son's life. You're putting all these young kids in jail." Anne Bennett, a friend of the family, said, "He's obviously let the power go to his head. I don't appreciate my tax dollars going to someone with ego. I want it spent properly." She added that Becker was profiling Italian Americans.
Judge Kays had jailed three other men in this case in August. All three had refused to testify. More is known about Zicarelli's hearing because he had asked the case to be heard in open court. The others had asked for closed hearings. Zicarelli has an excellent record as a sports person playing football and basketball. He was nominated as the Boys Small-Class Athlete of the Year in 2000 and had helped the Warriors win three state championship rings.
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