Etowah County District Attorney Jimmie Harp has dismissed charges of possession of a gambling device and promoting gambling against 51-year old Michelle Garbe of Gadsden.
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Department charged Garbe on June the 28th after an agent with the Drug Enforcement Unit went in at Center Stage in Rainbow City and played a game that purported to be electronic bingo.
In a news release on the Etowah County DA’s website, Harp stated:
“It is very clear to me that the defendant and those involved in the operation staged this entire event and forced Sheriff Entrekin to make an arrest. There were only 2 machines on the premises. Hardly enough to generate any money for a charity and the 2 machines seized were the same machines inspected by Sheriff Entrekin in New Jersey and the same 2 machines that were examined by Gaming Laboratories International. I am convinced that CBS Supply is attempting to use the criminal court system to get what they have been unable to obtain in the civil court system which is a permit from the Sheriff. Sheriff Entrekin did, in my opinion, what he is expected to do when he made this arrest and I would expect that he will do it again if called upon. However, I will not have my office used as a mechanism to determine the legality of electronic bingo. The District Attorney’s Office is as underfunded as it has ever been and, although a misdemeanor, this case would cost tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars in expert witness fees and the like to prosecute. My attorneys have massive caseloads including a large number of capital murder cases, violent crimes, and crimes against children, and I am not going to grind those wheels to a halt to accommodate the bingo interests. Once an arrest is made it becomes the taxpayer’s burden to foot the bill for the litigation instead of them.”
Harp further stated:
“I have informed Sheriff Entrekin of this decision and he has expressed to me his support for it. I have also communicated with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and understand that they are continuing to investigate both civil and criminal issues with regard to electronic bingo in various areas in Alabama and certainly may reinstate these cases if it wishes. By this action, I am in no way expressing a legal opinion on the legality of bingo in Alabama. There are, however, many other avenues for these folks to get a decision from a court before they start bringing machines into this County. I would suggest that they use one of them instead of route of confrontation with the criminal court system. Should the path of confrontation be taken again, all of those involved should take notice of their exposure in a criminal enterprise. This would include operators, employees, property owners, machine manufacturers, and any other entity that would conspire in this endeavor”.