The number of US citizens thrown into jail for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury probe into online gambling rose to six on Wednesday, when two more men were incarcerated for refusing to give evidence, reports the Kansas City Star newspaper.
Apparently none of those arrested have been charged with a crime as part of the investigation behind the Grand Jury hearings in Kansas City.
Grand jury proceedings generally are closed to the public, but one of the men who appeared at the federal courthouse Wednesday requested an open hearing.
Joseph C. Palmentere (31) was told by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays that he was being found in contempt of court and could be kept in custody for up to 18 months unless he agreed to cooperate.
“The keys to the jail are in your pocket,” Kays told him. “It doesn’t help anybody to lock you up.”
Palmentere and his lawyer did not respond in court to the offer, and he was allowed to remain free until October 2nd to keep a medical appointment.
Two other men had similar appearances before Kays on Wednesday, reports the newspaper, but both hearings were closed to the public. Another person was taken into custody last Friday, also after a closed hearing.
Three men were ordered jailed in late July (see previous InfoPowa report). Two who requested open hearings were identified by prosecutors as Tommy Cascone and Dominic Cervello.
Federal prosecutors will not comment on how many people have been called to testify, but a number of lawyers representing some of those called said approximately 20 were subpoenaed to appear on September 15. Palmentere was one of those, the judge noted Wednesday.
If the witnesses initially invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, prosecutors have granted them immunity. If they still refuse, they are ordered to “show cause” as to why they shouldn’t be held in civil contempt.
At Wednesday’s open hearing, Kays noted that the potential of being jailed is not punishment but is a “last resort” employed by the court to coerce their cooperation.
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