Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another Kansas City Gambler Arrested

From: The Kansas City Star

Quote: "A federal investigation of Internet gambling sent another man to jail Monday for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

Nicholas Zicarelli became the 10th person jailed for declining to testify, his attorney, Kenneth Hensley, said at a contempt hearing in Kansas City.

Hensley said Zicarelli, 27, merely was a customer of the gambling operation that federal authorities are investigating. He 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,” Hensley said.

Zicarelli was called before the grand jury earlier this fall but declined to testify, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to give evidence that could tend to show that he had committed a crime.

A judge then gave him immunity from prosecution, but Zicarelli persisted in his refusal. On Monday, Kays found him in contempt and ordered Zicarelli jailed for up to 18 months or until he agreed to tell what he knows to the grand jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Becker said the grand jury had 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?”

A football and baseball standout at St. Pius X High School in the late 1990s, Zicarelli was honored by The Kansas City Star in June 2000 as the Boys Small-Class Athlete of the Year. He helped the Warriors win three state championship rings during his high school career.

He later attended Avila University, graduating in July 2004.

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.”

Ann Bennett, a friend of the family, accused Becker of profiling Italian Americans in the gambling investigation.

“He’s obviously let the power go to his head,” Bennett said. “I don’t appreciate my tax dollars going to someone with ego. I want it spent properly.”

Becker listened to the criticism without comment and returned to his office.

Kays jailed three other men under similar circumstances in August.

While Zicarelli asked that his hearing be open, most of those going to jail have asked for closed hearings. That is permitted because the hearings pertain to secret grand jury matters.

Those jailed for refusing to testify could be released earlier if the grand jury completes its inquiry, if they decide to testify or if the jury completes its term, officials said."

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