Highway Robbery – By the Cops ; N.J. Senate Acts ; Gurley Should Say Goodbye to Georgia

highway robbery

Poker Players Cope With ‘Highway Robbery’ By Cop   Davis, Newmer­zhycky Talk Being Victims Of Civil Asset Forfeiture Laws  

by Card Player News Team 

Having your poker bankroll stolen is really a poker player’s worst nightmare. It especially hurts when it is the cops who wipe away all your hard work.

Poker players William “Bart” Davis and John Newmer­zhycky  were driving through Iowa with out-of-state plates, which they said was the reason why they were pulled over by law enforcement that Davis and Newmer­zhycky said were “100 percent on the money hunt.”   A total of $100,000 was seized from them, as law enforcement in both Iowa and California tried to hit them with drug-related charges after finding a small amount of marijuana in their rental car and marijuana in their California homes. Both are medical marijuana cardholders in the Golden State.

Davis and Newmer­zhycky said their bank accounts were frozen thanks to the felony charges in California. Fortunately for the poker players, those charges were dropped.   While they were able to recover some of the money that was seized in Iowa, they still had to pay a hefty sum in attorney’s fees. A complaint against Iowa state troopers, as well as a for-profit group that trains Drug Interdiction officers, filed in late September seeks compensation for the whole ordeal. Their lawyer said their Constitutional rights were violated.

Their situation makes one recall that back in the day Texas rounders and other poker players had to be on the lookout for robbers and highwaymen trying to steal bankrolls. These days, poker players have to be watching for aggressive cops using forfeiture as a ruse to confiscate bankrolls with impunity. It’s really never easy being a professional poker player.

Card Player had the chance to speak with Davis and Newmer­zhycky about their ordeal in 2013 and how they are trying to find a resolution via the courts.

Brian Pempus: How has this impacted you guys?

William “Bart” Davis: It has affected both of our lives pretty dramatically.

John Newmer­zhycky: They took everything that I owned at that point in my life. My game was just starting to get on point and we decided to take that road trip. I was dealing with a lot of personal issues. My mom was battling cancer and they were trying to sell their house. Bart had expressed interest in buying my parents’ house…those Iowa cops pretty much put an end to [my poker playing] too and ruined my life. I had people willing to back me at the time, but after this happened that was all off the table. Basically, I had to move out of my house and be homeless for awhile because I couldn’t pay my mortgage. I had to rent out my home. The stress finally caused me to have a stroke. Everything that happened in [California], I lost a lot of friends over it.

WD: They pressed felony charges on us in Humboldt [California] as a result of the stop in Iowa. That was stressful, especially when they seized your cash and it’s hard to muster a legal defense. They froze both of our bank accounts and drained them, including things like my health savings account. It was pretty harsh what happened here in Humboldt as a result of that stop.

JN: Just for the record, they said they found a small amount of marijuana on me [in the car], but it was basically a flake in a computer bag that I didn’t even know was there.

WD: By their own documentation, that was 0.001 grams that they found on us in Iowa. That was after illegally detaining us and searching the car for longer than three hours before they even came across this microscopic amount of marijuana. They tried to charge us with possession because they were going after our money.

JN: It was blatant highway robbery. The cop’s interview with me took about an hour. He harassed me the entire time. All we talked about was poker. I gave him more information than was necessary. He just kept trying to trip me up. He was asking me if we stayed in the same hotel room, how much money we had won and so on. I entertained his questions for quite some time and he let me go. But then he got out of the car and got in my face again, asking if he could search the car. I did not consent to anything. He basically strong-armed me and put me back in his vehicle and brought a dog in. They made the dog hit on the car. There is no way the dog hit on the flake that was in my computer bag [in a grinder]. Yeah, it basically ruined my life. I am just getting back on my feet a little bit.

WD: They were trying to bootstrap criminal charges on us so that they could keep the money. That’s pretty common. Basically, if you don’t give us the cash you are going to have criminal charges. You see this in many cases. If you sign away the cash they won’t press charges.

JN: For the record, what they seized from me was $15,000—that was my poker bankroll. That’s nothing. Bart had $85,000. He’s on a higher level than I am. That’s why we were hanging out. I was trying to learn how to play poker better.

WD: I did not expect criminal charges to be pressed. I had no record. I am in my 50s. Also, I can legitimately back up that kind of cash with my W-2 forms for the last five years now. I am a professional poker player by IRS standards. There was some issue with being able to look up my career tournament earnings online because my name is pretty common, but I think they are starting to get that ironed out. It will show that I have close to $300,000 in tournament earnings in the last few years. I have had like $50,000-$60,000 this year. Losing that money hugely affected my ability to keep playing. That was my bankroll.

BP: It seems like the cops, in California especially, thought you were big-time drug dealers.

WD: I honestly think that they were thinking, ’Where’s the money?’ and ‘How can we seize it?’ Nothing more. If you watch the entire traffic stop video you get the full picture…all the marijuana stuff that the cops were reporting was 100 percent fabricated, including the reason they gave to pull us over. These guys were trying to frame us. It was a laundry list of Constitutional violations. These officers make a career out of pulling over people with out-of-state plates.

JN: I am not sure what else we had to do to convince these [cops] they we are poker players. If you Google our names that’s what comes up.

BP: And Iowa has casinos with poker tournaments. They aren’t unaware of poker.

WD: I think it only made them more interested. They think that poker players carry a lot of cash. You make the conclusions after watching the video.

BP: I’ve seen other outlets use the term “illegal seizure,” and that may be the correct legal term, but in your opinion it was theft?

JN: Yes.

WD: Highway robbery. That’s what I would call it. It’s kind of obvious.

JN: I knew I used my blinker and I was trying to ask the cop what the stop was all about. We are thankful to have a lawyer like Glen [Downey].

BP: How much are you seeking to get from this lawsuit?

JN: Well, you can’t put a dollar amount on my health. I had a stroke over this. The situation that they put me in was the darkest place in my life. I almost didn’t survive it.

WD: We are seeking punitive damages as well, in addition to direct damages.

BP: Can you talk about how the cop did a 180 and suddenly said that he had a K-9 unit nearby and wanted to search the vehicle?

JN: I couldn’t even believe it. I didn’t trust the cop from the get-go. I was relieved that he said we could go, but that lasted like two seconds because he was right up my ass immediately, asking me questions like he was reading it from a script.   If you ask me, he was the one who was nervous, not me.

WD: I think he was reading from a script and he was trained to do that. I think that’s a psychological assault intended to make you nervous and break you down a bit.

JN: Everything that the cop did during that traffic stop was illegal. I didn’t even have to answer half the questions or talk to him about my private business or poker. But I did. I was being honest with the guy, and he tried to twist everything I said back to money. I could see the [cop] drooling.

BP: After this horrible situation, do you get anxious when you see a cop nowadays?

JN: I fear the cops after what happened.

WD: I feel like the cops are going to have to change their ways. I hope we are vindicated and that the laws in this country end up protecting us. I am sure glad my rights weren’t violated even more like some of these kids [across America] who are getting blown away for no reason.

BP: What kind of advice would you give to other poker players to help them avoid being caught up in situations like you one you two have fell victim to?

WD: I would say do no consent to a search. Do not tell them if you have large amounts of cash, but also be very careful about having lots of cash if traveling out of state.

JN: Don’t go through Iowa.

WD: Poker players already kind of know these things. But why do we have to know these things?

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christie on gambling

N.J. Senate acts to allow sports betting  

Sports betting is considered crucial to help lift Atlantic City’s sagging fortunes (Aris Economopoulos/The Star-Ledger)

By Matt Friedman www.NJ.com

TRENTON — In a rare Tuesday session, the state Senate today approved a bill that writes into law an action that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration has already taken, to allow sports betting in New Jersey.

After federal courts struck down New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the state’s appeal, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman issued authorities a directive not to prosecute sports betting at casinos and horse-racing tracks.

The idea was to ignore state regulations, licenses and authorizations of sports betting that are illegal under the federal ban. The Christie administration has asked a judge to clarify that its action is OK, while professional sports leagues are challenging the decision.

The bill the Senate passed today by a vote of 27-1 (S2460), which still has to be approved by the Assembly before reaching Chrisite’s desk, would formally repeal those laws and regulations from New Jersey’s books.

“We have to get it passed and on the governor’s desk before the case is heard in federal court,” said state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union), the bill’s sponsor. Lesniak said oral arguments are scheduled for Oct. 31.

Four states — Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana — opted out of the fedearl government’s 1992 ban.

“Sports wagering, which is taking place in four other states, should also be happening here,” said state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), a co-sponsor.

Sports betting is considered a crucial component to help New Jersey’s flagging casinos and horse racetracks. New Jersey voters in 2011 easily approved a constitutional amendment to allow it. But that was before the state’s efforts were struck down in court.

“Neither the attorney for Monmouth Racetrack nor the Legislature’s attorney nor I believe that the attorney general’s motion can prevail without this legislation,” Lesniak said.

It’s not clear whether Christie will sign it. Saying federal law was “sacrosanct,” the governor vetoed an earlier bill that would have repealed all New Jersey prohibitions on sports betting at racetracks and casinos (S2250) before changing course and issuing his directive.

Lesniak said the Christie administration has requested amendments to his current bill, “so one would think they are anticipating signing the bill.”

“But I have no commitment from them in that regard,” Lesniak said.

Matt Friedman may be reached at mfriedman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattFriedmanSL. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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gurley in the air

More from Will

Will Leitch www.sportsonearth.com

Gurley Should Shun College Football

I attend a ton of sporting events, both as a professional and (far more often) as a fan, but nothing I’ve seen in person over the last few years is as consistently electrifying as watching Todd Gurley play football for the University of Georgia.   Gurley looks like an evolutionary leap over everyone else on the field, faster, stronger, quicker and smarter, able both to accelerate and slow time at his whims.

Football is an extremely complicated game, with thousands of people constantly tinkering at the edges for any possible competitive advantage, but Gurley makes it astoundingly simple.   Watching him play turns the game into backlot football again: Give it to the big, fast kid and watch him go. He’s hypnotic: He plays like the game was specifically invented for him, which is why it was such a bummer when it was announced a few days ago that he was suspended indefinitely for allegedly receiving money for use of his likeness or autograph.

In other words, college football fans might never get to see Gurley play for Georgia ever again.

I’m lucky, I’ve had a terrific view of Gurley here in Athens at Sanford Stadium for two seasons now. I have two nice season tickets in the East end zone.   Good seats, right? I’m happy with them.   To buy season tickets to a revenue sport at a public institution like the University of Georgia, you must pay a Personal Seat License. They don’t call it a Personal Seat License, of course; they call it a “donation to the athletic fund.” Being Midwestern, there’s nothing I dislike more than getting into details of money, but these minimum donations, they’re not cheap. I find it worth it: To me, it’s money well spent. But they’re pricey, no question. It’s a larger percentage of my yearly income than I necessarily feel comfortable making.

How pricey? A key aspect — the key aspect — of Georgia’s investigation is just how much Gurley may or may not have sold his autograph for. That will determine how many games he is suspended for.

Here are the exact details:   Under NCAA rules, Gurley would face a potential one-game suspension (10 percent of the team’s competition) if he accepted improper benefits ranging from $100 to $400. The penalty would increase to two games (20 percent) for amounts from $400 to $700, and to four games (30 percent) for amounts greater than $700.

If I would have just given my yearly pittance — the donation, along with the price of the tickets — to Todd Gurley rather than the University of Georgia in exchange for his autograph … it would cost him four games. Just from my personal two tickets.   And Stanford Stadium holds 92,746 people every home Saturday. And every SEC school got a $20.9 million check from the conference last season, and that was before the SEC Network launched.

***

Here in Athens, signs have started popping up around town. Inspired by the #freegurley hashtag, you’ve seen “Free Gurley” on every available public space. Here is at the great 40 Watt Club. Here it is at a parking garage. I’ve even seen it on a few bumper stickers. (I had no idea bumper stickers could be printed so fast.) As a phenomenon, it is catching on.   So it is worth asking what, precisely, we’re supposed to be saving Gurley from?

Todd Gurley is one of the best 10 running backs on earth, and he has been for roughly 18 months now. He’s better this year, but there’s no way, had they been given the opportunity, an NFL team wouldn’t have paid him good money to play for them. But that’s not how the NFL and college football work. You must have at least three years elapse from your high school graduation before you’re even eligible to get paid for your craft. Todd Gurley would have been a first-round draft pick this season, were he allowed. But he wasn’t. So he had to come back for his junior year and play another season of college football.

Now, let’s think about this from Gurley’s perspective. The career window for running backs — particularly in an NFL that is increasingly devaluing the position — is vanishingly short. The average career length of an NFL running back is 2.57 years, and the average NFL player makes less, amazingly, than the average NHL player.

Todd Gurley, for his otherworldly talent, even though he’s still only 20 years old, has a ticking clock above his head at all times. He only gets to do this for so long. There are only so many bullets in the gun.

Also: One wrong hit — or even one wrong plant of the knee — and it could be over like that.   The payday — that’s to say, the ability to, finally, receive some compensation for putting your body and future earning potential on the line once a week for other people’s entertainment — is just around the corner: Gurley only has a few more weeks left to play for free.

Now, I don’t see it that way, and the people with those signs around town don’t see it that way, and the University of Georgia (currently paying for Gurley’s legal representation, by the way) certainly don’t see it that way: We all see it as Gurley entering the most important stretch of football in his career, a chance to lead the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff and potentially a Heisman Trophy. (“We’re just ready to get him cleared and back out there,” his teammates are saying.)

But why should Gurley see it that way? The rest of Georgia’s season isn’t his prime: It’s the obstruction. It’s the last obstacle to be hurdled.   The insanity of Gurley — a man whose jersey is at every store in town, including a kids version my son wears to tailgates — having to sign autographs for $5 to $20 bucks in the first place has been well-documented but still can’t be understated.

How much money has Todd Gurley personally added to the coffers of televised sports executives and athletic directors this season?   Think about the world of sports, all the money that goes into and out of it. We in media are of course a part of that, and the amount of money that would get Gurley suspended for multiple games is roughly equivalent to what a small freelance story you wrote for this Website would get you paid. I’m proud of the work we do here, but suffice it to say, I’m not sure we’re contributing more to the sports world than Todd Gurley is. But he’s got to do it, because we offer him no more recourse.

So, dammit, if you’re Todd Gurley … isn’t this precisely what you should do? Todd Gurley’s name at the University of Georgia will never be bigger than it is right now. If someone were being coldly logical about this, the smartest way for Gurley to secure his future isn’t to get back on the field, but to sign every piece of memorabilia in sight, right now, for whatever he can get. Then get suspended and spend the next six months training for the combine. No one will hit him, his knee won’t plant strangely on cheap turf, he can even, lo, hire an agent to make sure someone is watching out for what’s best for him, not the university or that guy you’ll never meet and shouldn’t care about who’s screaming for him from the East end zone.

I have little doubt that the Georgia football program, and coach Mark Richt, and his staff, care about Todd Gurley, and want him to do well. But I also know he’s not their first priority. If he were, guys like Bryan Allen — the memorabilia dealer who allegedly paid Gurley for autographed memorabilia — wouldn’t be in business.   Right now, if Gurley doesn’t play again for Georgia this year, all he loses is potentially a Heisman Trophy that they could take away from him someday anyway and the small possibility of playing in a College Football Playoff that will literally double the amount of money that goes to hundreds of people who are not the ones actually playing the games. (And with this controversy having over his head the odds of winning the Heisman have are shrinking by the day.)

It would make me, and everyone in my town, and millions of college football fans, sad if Gurley was finished as a Georgia Bulldog. But with all due respect: Why should anybody care about us? We allow this corrupt system to exist. If we want players to put their bodies on the line every Saturday while we scream off all the bourbon we consumed pregame, we should make it worth their while. If we do not change the system, we cannot complain if someone begs out of it because it is not in their best interests.

As a fan, I really hope I get to watch Gurley play football in Athens against this year. But if I were close to him, I’d tell him to stay away. A logical person would sit tight and rest until the combine. A logical person would say to hell with all this.

*****

Email me at leitch@sportsonearth.com; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I’ll hear you. Point is, let’s talk.

 

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