The land of the free again failed to live up to its name this week as another online gambler was sent to jail for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury investigating online gambling in Kansas City.
Nicholas Zicarelli became the 10th person jailed for declining to testify, his lawyer, Kenneth Hensley, said at a contempt hearing in Kansas City.
Zicarelli was merely a customer of a gambling operation that federal authorities are investigating. His legal representative asked U.S. District Judge Greg Kays to grant a two-week recess and compel prosecutors to produce evidence showing that Zicarelli was something more than a casual gambler.
“He’s a law-abiding citizen who doesn’t want to be dragged into this investigation,” the lawyer emphasised.
Zicarelli had earlier invoked his 5th Amendment right not to give evidence that would tend to show that he had committed a crime after he was ordered to appear before the Grand Jury last month. A judge then gave him immunity from prosecution, but Zicarelli persisted in his refusal.
On Monday, Kays found him in contempt and committed him to detention for up to 18 months or until he agreed to tell what he knows to the grand jury.
Arguing against the 5th Amendment application from the witness, Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Becker said the grand jury has a right to hear evidence about violations of U.S. laws.
“A law-abiding citizen has to make a decision,” Becker said. “Do I obey the law, or do I protect my bookmaker?”
After the hearing, Zicarelli’s father, Anthony Zicarelli, confronted Becker in a courthouse hallway and challenged him to investigate more serious crimes.
“It’s amazing how much power you have to destroy my son’s life,” Anthony Zicarelli said. “You’re putting all these young kids in jail.”
Becker listened to the criticism without comment and returned to his office.
Local media report that Judge Kays jailed three other men under similar circumstances in August this year.
Those jailed for refusing to testify could be released earlier if the grand jury completes its probe, if they decide to testify or if the jury completes its term, officials said.
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