COLUMBIA, SC — A jury found an Irmo bookie, his father and their associate guilty Wednesday of running an illegal gambling operation after deciding their sports book included more than five participants.
Brett Parker, Jack Parker and Douglas E. Taylor will be sentenced in about three months by U.S. District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie. Each faces up to five years in prison and fines.
Jack Parker also agreed to forfeit a $67,300 certificate of deposit account in exchange for keeping his Lake Murray home. If Jack Parker had not agreed to the deal, he risked losing both.
The verdict came after two days of testimony and five hours of jury deliberation in a trial that was part of the fallout of the April 2012 killings of Brett Parker’s wife, Tammy Jo Parker, and his sports gambling clerk, Bryan Capnerhurst. Brett Parker is serving a life sentence without parole after being found guilty of two counts of murder in state court.
To prove the trio guilty of a federal gambling crime, the prosecutors needed to prove that five or more people were involved in the operation and that the business operated for 30 or more consecutive days or had a gross revenue of $2,000 on any given day.
Throughout the trial, the challenge for prosecutors was convincing the jury that five people were involved. Defense attorneys had conceded that their clients and Capnerhurst were bookies.
But they disputed that a fifth person was involved.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Winston Holliday and Nancy Wicker presented four other people they asserted were involved in the betting operation, including Tammy Jo Parker and three other bookies who provided so-called insurance for the Parkers’ bets.
While no one knows what discussions took place inside the jury room, jurors stopped deliberating twice to ask questions that indicated they were debating the other bookies’ participation.
In gambling circles, bookies allow each other to place “lay off” bets with their sports books. A lay-off bet protects a bookie from severe losses should most of his clients bet on the same team in a game.
For example, if one bookie’s clients overwhelmingly picked the University of South Carolina to win a football game, he would place a bet on the Gamecocks with another bookie. If the Gamecocks won, then the bookie would win enough from his bet to cover the payouts to his clients. If the Gamecocks lost, then the bookie would use the money his clients paid him to cover his debt to his fellow bookie.
Typically, bookies will grant each other courtesies in lay-off bets that are not afforded regular clients. They will allow each other to place bets after a game’s kickoff. They also usually charge each other an extra 5 percent on top of losses while Midlands bookies traditionally charge their gamblers an extra 10 percent on lost bets.
During her instructions to the jury, Currie told them that under federal law a bookie who allows a lay-off bet is considered a part of an organization.
Harry Benenhaley, a Midlands bookie who already pleaded guilty to a federal gambling charge, told the jury that he had accepted a lay-off bet on a basketball game from Jack Parker on behalf of his son, Brett Parker.
After the verdict, Holliday said, based on the jury’s questions during deliberation, the bookies who took lay-off bets were key to the guilty verdict.
“At the end of the day, the lay-off bets were the strongest arguments,” Holliday said.
Jack Parker and Taylor remain free on bond until their sentencing. It was unclear Wednesday how Jack Parker’s agreement to forfeit the bank account will affect his penalty.
Prosecutors had moved to seize the bank account and Jack Parker’s Lake Murray home on Old Road, a house and land with an assessed value of $520,000.
If Jack Parker had not agreed to forfeit the bank account to keep his house, the jury would have been asked to decide whether he should lose both. To avoid the risk, Parker told the judge he was willing to sacrifice the $67,000 account.
Holliday said the agreement was fair because Benenhaley and two other Midlands bookies convicted earlier on gambling charges did not suffer as severe a penalty. Also, a significant portion of the house had been paid for before the dates on the indictment, and Jack Parker’s wife had an interest in the house.
Finally, Jack and Linda Parker have custody of their two grandchildren, who are Brett Parker’s teen daughter and young son.
“We didn’t want to disrupt that at all,” Holliday said.
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.