It is not every day that two of America’s biggest gambling events – the Super Bowl and March Madness – get a mention in an ongoing trial in federal court in Columbia.
But that happened Monday as a federal trial opened in which lawyers mentioned both events and a federal prosecutor promised jurors an inside look at illegal sports betting operations in the Midlands, especially during two months in 2012 from just after the Super Bowl in February to March Madness in April.
“Jack Parker and Doug Taylor are bookies,” assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Holliday told the jury as the trial got under way at the U.S. courthouse.
Parker, 74, and Taylor, 63, are charged with violating federal laws by running a sports gambling ring conducted by five or more people. They do not deny they were involved in a gambling operation.
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The current trial is the second one on the same charges for Parker and Taylor.
In 2013, a federal jury convicted them of running an illegal sports operation. But last year, a 4th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that prosecutors had failed to disclose evidence in a timely fashion in the case and awarded the two men a new trial.
With a few exceptions, prosecutors are calling the same witnesses and making the same arguments as at the first trial. Last trial, neither Parker nor Taylor testified in their defense. Their plans for this trial aren’t known.
Under federal law, to be illegal, a gambling operation has to run for more than 30 consecutive days, to pull in $2,000 or more on any given day and involve five people or more.
Prosecutors are trying to prove that for the two months in question in 2012, Parker and Taylor worked in tandem with Parker’s son Brett and the son’s assistant Bryan Capnerhurst to handle bets.
To come up with the fifth person, they need to prove to jurors that the Parkers were involved in an illegal gambling ring. So Holliday and prosecutor Nancy Wicker are trying to convince jurors that Brett Parker’s late wife Tammy Jo was that person.
But the prosecution has a stumbling block: both Tammy Jo Parker and Capnerhurst are dead. They were found shot to death in the Parkers’ Irmo-area house on April 12, 2012. In a 2013 trial, Brett Parker was convicted of killing them in a bizarre plot to collect $1 million in insurance and is now serving life sentences in state prison.
After his conviction for the killings, Brett Parker was a defendant along with his father and Taylor in their first trial later in 2013. But Brett Parker won’t be in the courtroom during the retrial because he dropped his appeal of the gambling charges. And the killings won’t be mentioned. The jury will only be told that Parker’s wife and Capnerhurst are “deceased,” U.S. Judge Cameron Currie ruled.
Parker’s attorney Josh Kendrick told the jury that Parker is just a retired Marine who is “small-time local bookie” with a small clientele.
“He paid taxes,” Kendrick said. This is not a tax-evasion case.”
Gamblers are required to report earnings to the IRS and pay taxes.
Parker paid taxes and kept his operation small so he wouldn’t run afoul of the law, Kendrick said.
Taylor’s attorney Tivis Sutherland characterized his client as a bit player, taking some bets by telephone for Jack Parker’s gambling operation. “There really isn’t a whole lot here,” Sutherland said.
The lead-off witness for the prosecution was Maj. Stan Smith of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, who testified he found evidence linking Tammy Jo Parker to the operation.
Other witnesses Monday included people who testified they placed bets with the Parkers.
In his opening remarks, Holliday stressed the operation was a gambling ring, not a “friendly wager” with a friend or an office pool.
The operation can be viewed as a violation of the five-person gambling ring under federal law because gambling is illegal in South Carolina, he said.
Evidence that officers developed about the Parkers’ gambling operation grew out of the investigation into the violent deaths at Brett Parker’s house. Once Richland County deputies responded to the killings, they found betting documents. Moreover, Brett Parker readily told investigators he was a bookie.
Testimony could finish as early as Tuesday.
In the first trial, also presided over by Currie, Parker received five months in prison. Taylor received eight months home detention.