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Tochett Pleads Guilty in Gambling Case

  Breaking Legal News  -   POSTED: 2007/05/28 15:45

The case began loudly in February 2006 when New Jersey authorities announced a former hockey star and a state trooper had been charged with running a gambling ring that had ties to organized crime. Wayne Gretzky was dragged into it, along with his actress-wife Janet Jones, on the eve of the Turin Olympics. But it was settled with little fanfare Friday as the former player, Rick Tocchet, pleaded guilty to promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling in a plea deal that may spare him jail time.

The case looked much milder at the end than it did 15 months ago, when it appeared it might inflict a serious blow to a sport that was struggling to regain fans after a season-long lockout the year before. But the worst suspicions were not substantiated. There didn't seem to be mob ties or betting on hockey. No other hockey figures are being charged or will have to testify in a criminal trial.

"I'm sure everyone recalls the manner in which the case was initially announced and described," said Kevin Marino, the defense lawyer for Tocchet. "I think (Friday's) proceeding speaks for itself." It was two days after the 2006 Super Bowl when State Police Col. Rick Fuentes announced the charges against Tocchet, Trooper James Harney and a third man, James Ulmer.

Fuentes said that during a 40-day stretch that had just ended, they had handled bets totaling $1.7 million from a list of gamblers that included a movie star and other hockey figures.

Quickly, the prospect developed of a trial featuring a cavalcade of hockey players as witnesses. Even Gretzky, hockey's greatest player and a friend of Tocchet's, was caught on an investigative wiretap discussing how his wife could avoid being implicated.

It turned out Jones didn't have much to worry about. Authorities didn't charge her, or any other bettors, because placing bets - even with a bookmaker - is not illegal in New Jersey.


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