A federal jury on Tuesday deliberated about one hour, then found two Midlands bookies guilty of running an organized gambling ring whose members included five or more people.
Jack Parker, 74, and Doug Taylor, 63, whom prosecutors called “long-term, lifetime bookies,” were each charged with one federal felony charge of operating an illegal gambling ring.
Parker and Taylor admitted to being bookies. But they argued they were not part of a gambling ring, which by federal definition includes five or more participants. The jury didn’t buy their assertions.
Federal Judge Cameron McGowan Currie will sentence the two men several months from now, after probationary officials do a pre-sentencing report. They could receive up to five years in prison and fines.
The two-day trial at the U.S. courthouse in Columbia offered a glimpse into a thriving world of Midlands sports betting, where for years illegal bookies known to their betting clients took wagers year-round but especially during football and basketball season.
During the trial, which began Monday, jurors heard testimony about shredders and “burn piles” in which the bookies destroyed evidence, and about a telephone exchange in Las Vegas where Midlands bookies could get the latest “lines” – betting handicapping points – and about piles of cash.
Jurors also listened to prosecutor assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday call on the dead, when he told the jury he had wanted two members of the alleged five-member gambling ring – Tammy Jo Parker and Bryan Capnerhurst, both deceased – to take the stand.
“How I wish she could have testified.” Prosecutor Winston Holliday on Tammy Jo Parker, the ring’s bookkeeper, who was killed by her husband in 2012
“How I wish she could have testified,” Holliday said. “Or Bryan could have testified here.”
The bustling world of betters and bookies had existed for years in the Midlands, largely untouched by law enforcement and would have continued except for the murders of Tammy Jo Parker and Capnerhurst on April 13, 2012.
On that day, Richland County investigators swarmed a two-story house in an upscale residential neighborhood near Irmo. Brett Parker, Tammy Jo’s husband and the son of Jack Parker, had summoned them there.
Parker took detectives inside and showed them the bodies of his wife, Tammy Jo, and Capnerhurst.
Capnerhurst, Brett Parker told detectives, had shot and killed Tammy Jo, and then Brett Parker grabbed a gun and killed Capnerhurst. Brett Parker admitted to investigators that he was a sports bookie and said Capnerhurst had been his lieutenant.
Investigating Brett Parker’s claims he was a bookie, investigators also learned that Brett Parker’s father, Jack, and an associate of his, Taylor, operated their own gambling organization.
Detectives also found ledger-journals kept by Tammy Jo Parker through the years, journals that prosecutors used to assert this week that Tammy Jo played a vital bookkeeping role to Brett Parker’s and Capnerhurst’s gambling organization.
Within months after the discovery of the bodies, investigators charged Brett Parker with murder in the deaths of his wife and Capnerhurst. They alleged that Parker, plagued with gambling debts, killed his wife to collect a $1 million insurance policy and killed Capnerhurst because he owed him tens of thousands of dollars.
In 2013, a Richland County jury convicted Brett Parker of murder in the deaths. He is now serving two life sentences in state prison.
Federal authorities became involved when it looked like they might have a federal charge of running an illegal gambling ring against Jack Parker and Doug Taylor.
To prove such a case under federal law, prosecutors have to prove that a gambling operation ran for more than 30 consecutive days, pulled in $2,000 or more on any given day and involved five people or more.
After gathering evidence largely from Brett Parker’s house, prosecutors believed they could prove that although Brett Parker and Capnerhurst ran a gambling ring largely distinct from his father and Taylor, that for 64 days in the winter and spring of 2012, the two rings had merged. And according to the evidence, the two rings operating as one organization had taken in some $434,000 during that time.
At that point, having established that Brett Parker, Jack Parker, Capnerhurst and Taylor were bookies, federal authorities needed a fifth person in the organization before bringing federal charges. Entries in ledgers found at the Parkers’ house indicated Tammy Jo had kept the books for Brett Parker and Capnerhurst, effectively making her the fifth person, prosecutors argued.
Another “fifth person” theory advanced by Holliday was that another gambling ring operated by three other Midlands bookies – Lanny Ray Gunter, Ron Spence and Harry Benenhaley – had been a low-key but essential component of the Parkers’ merged gambling ring.
Gunter, Spence and Benenhaley each testified for the prosecution during this week’s trial. Each had been convicted earlier on federal charges of operating a gambling run. Gunter served a brief stint in prison, and the other two served probations.
According to the prosecution, all three aided the Parkers’ ring by being ready to accept “lay off” bets on certain games. Bookies often make “lay off” bets with other bookies that run counter to their customers’ bets as a kind of insurance against big losses.
Defense lawyers for Parker and Taylor admitted their clients were bookies but, in closing statements to the jury, argued that Tammy Jo Parker didn’t qualify as a fifth person in the gambling ring because she was just keeping the family finances and had to include Brett Parker’s gambling winnings and losses in her household budget-balancing and income tax records.
Parker’s lawyer, Josh Kendrick, argued that a Midlands businessman named Ben Staples should have been charged with operating a gambling ring, too.
Staples, who testified Tuesday morning, was Tammy Jo Parker’s one-time lover who had helped her with her income taxes, which Kendrick argued, made Staples a partner in handling the bookies’ finances.
“Mr. Staples did nothing that she didn’t do, and he is not charged.” Defense attorney Josh Kendrick, arguing that Ben Staples helped Tammy Jo Parker with her taxes
“Mr. Staples did nothing that she didn’t do, and he is not charged,” Kendrick argued.
Neither Jack Parker nor Taylor took the stand. Their lawyers put up no defense, preferring to rely on their cross-examination of the 13 government witnesses and closing statements to the jury in which they argued the government was overreaching and had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
In December 2013, after a jury found Parker, Taylor and Brett Parker guilty of running an illegal Midlands gambling operation, Judge Currie sentenced Parker and Taylor to five months in prison. But the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia granted them another trial because prosecutors did not disclose evidence in a timely fashion.