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Arrested Gamblers Protest Charges

14 November 2003

Our Partners at the Las Vegas Sun

by Cy Ryan

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- An attorney for two gamblers arrested on charges of cheating at cards at Caesars Palace told the Nevada Supreme Court on Thursday that the charges were trumped up by agents of the state Gaming Control Board.

Robert Nersesian, representing Michael Russo and James Grosjean, argued they should be allowed to sue the state Gaming Control Board and two of its agents.

But Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Carvalho asked the court to uphold the decision of District Judge Lee Gates, who dismissed the civil action against the state and the agents on grounds of immunity from suit.

Russo, described as a "skilled gambler," and Grosjean, author of a book on advantage play, won $18,000 playing 3-Card Poker at Caesars in April 2000. They said they were playing at a table with a "weak" dealer who was exposing cards.

Hotel security called the Gaming Control Board, alleging cheating such as card-bending was taking place.

Russo and Grosjean say no cheating was taking place.

Yet they were arrested, with Russo being held for 12 hours and Grosjean for four days. No criminal charges were ever filed. They sued for false imprisonment, conspiracy, battery and violation of their rights in November 2001.

District Judge Lee Gates dismissed the action against the state and agents Roderick O'Neal and Charles Pointon on grounds they were protected by immunity because they were performing their jobs.

Nersesian argued there is no immunity in this case because the agents "cooked up" the story that the cards were bent. He said this showed "bad faith" and opened the state up to a civil suit.

"Do you want to grant police officers the power to arrest anyone at any time for no reason?" he asked in his argument.

Russo and Grosjean say they were arrested only because Caesars wanted to recover the money it lost.

Nersesian said the two men never cheated and urged the court to reinstate the suit.

Carvalho argued that immunity should apply to the state and its agents.

The suit against Caesars Palace is still pending in district court.

The court took the arguments under submission and will rule later.

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