Brett Parker case

Jury to begin deliberations in Irmo bookie’s federal gambling trial

nophillips@thestate.comSeptember 17, 2013 

— The defense attorneys for three men accused of running an illegal gambling ring in the Midlands admitted their clients are bookies who took bets on sports in violation of South Carolina law.

But federal prosecutors are making an “extraordinary stretch” in trying to nail Irmo bookie Brett Parker, his father Jack Parker and Douglas E. Taylor for running an illegal gambling operation in violation of U.S. law, said Tivis Sutherland, Taylor’s defense attorney.

Defense attorneys did not call any witnesses on behalf of their clients Tuesday as testimony wrapped up on the second day of the trial. But they used their closing arguments to attempt to poke holes in the prosecution’s case.

The jury will begin deliberations Wednesday morning after receiving instructions from U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie.

To be found guilty, jurors must believe that five or more people were involved in the gambling ring and that it operated for 30 or more consecutive days or had a gross revenue of $2,000 or more on any single day.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nancy Wicker and Winston Holliday called 10 gamblers to testify about how they placed their bets on football, basketball and baseball games, who took their bets and who collected their debts or paid winnings.

Most of those gamblers described betting throughout entire NCAA football and basketball seasons, each of which last for months. And one gambler confirmed that he gave Brett Parker two $6,000 cashier’s checks in January 2012 to settle part of his debt.

Brett Parker and Jack Parker ran separate gambling businesses but covered for each other if one was out of town. After the 2012 Super Bowl, Jack Parker asked his son to manage his clients because he was having health problems, according to testimony. Taylor helped Jack Parker take bets and make collections.

The sticking point throughout the trial has been whether or not five or more people actually conducted the operation.

Bryan Capnerhurst, Brett Parker’s betting clerk, has been pegged as the fourth member. But the fifth person has been in dispute.

Prosecutors have contended that there were more than five people, including Brett Parker’s wife, Tammy Jo Parker, as well as other bookies who provided betting lines and who helped keep Brett Parker’s gambling business from suffering heavy losses.

Capnerhurst and Tammy Jo Parker were shot and killed in April 2012, and Brett Parker is serving life without parole on two murder charges. Discussion of the slayings has not been allowed in court testimony.

Harry Benenhaley, who already has pleaded guilty to a federal gambling charge, told the jury that he and his partner, Lanny Ray Gunter Jr., allowed other bookies to place “lay-off” bets with them, helping to sustain the ring, prosecutors argued.

A lay-off bet protects a bookie from severe losses should most of his clients choose the same team in a game. For example, if one bookie’s clients overwhelming picked the University of South Carolina’s team to win, then that bookie would place a bet on the Gamecocks with another sports gambling ring. Under that scenario, if the Gamecocks won, then the bookie would win enough from his bet to cover payments to his clients. If South Carolina lost, the bookie’s losses would not be severe, because his clients also lost and owed him money.

Brett Parker had two online accounts with Benenhaley’s sports betting business.

During closing arguments, Holliday told the jury that they should consider Benenhaley a participant in the Parkers’ gambling organizations because he supported them by allowing Brett Parker to place lay-off bets.

Holliday also reminded the jury of three other occasions mentioned in testimony where Brett Parker had told others about his practice of laying off bets with other bookies.

Prosecutors also tried to convince the jury that Brett Parker’s now-deceased wife, Tammy Jo Parker, was a participant.

Ben Staples, a retired Lexington mortgage banker and accountant and a friend of Tammy Jo Parker, testified that he offered her guidance as she filed her family’s annual income taxes. She and Brett Parker filed jointly, and they claimed the gambling income and paid taxes on it, Staples said.

Staples also read from personal financial journals found on Tammy Jo Parker’s desk in the upstairs office at their Ascot Estates home. In those journals, Tammy Jo Parker made notations about the money she expected her husband’s gambling business to earn.

One notation indicated the Parkers expected the sports book to earn a gross of $81,000 after one football season. After putting away money for reserves, paying Capnerhurst and writing off uncollected debt, the Parkers planned to earn a net profit of $56,131 that season, the journal showed.

During closing arguments, the defense attorneys objected to the portrayal of Tammy Jo Parker as helping to run the gambling ring.

Instead, she was married to a bookie and enjoyed the proceeds, said Kathy Evatt, Brett Parker’s federal public defender.

“That’s all there is to it,” Evatt said. “She would spend the money Brett Parker made. She didn’t take bets. She didn’t go collect money. There wasn’t one person who testified who said she answered the phone. She did not work for the business.”

As for the lay-off bets, defense attorneys said Brett Parker’s claims made in secretly recorded conversations are not enough evidence that he was making those bets. Instead, he is a gambling addict, who opened accounts with Benenhaley’s outfit so he could bet on sports, Evatt said.

Two other men who were identified as bookies who accepted lay-off bets were not called to testify, said Josh Kendrick, Jack Parker’s defense attorney.

“What we end up with here is nothing,” Kendrick said. “They don’t have a case. Jack Parker is a bookie. But not a single piece of evidence in this case points to Jack Parker being involved in a five-person operation.”

Reach Phillips at (803) 312-4300.

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