Derby ticket scalping case a scratch in daily double

This Just In...

February 23, 2000|By DAN RODRICKS

I CAN'T promise anything, but unless prosecutors in the Bluegrass State are completely mad, this should mark my last report on that silly Kentucky Derby ticket-scalping case involving James Casey, the Maryland horse doctor and trainer who spent several hours in a filthy Louisville jail for a minor offense that doesn't even carry jail as a penalty.

To recap (if that's possible without getting a migraine): Casey went to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday of May 1999 and paid a scalper $100 each for three $42 Derby ducats. Casey only needed a pair, but the scalper insisted he buy the trio. Casey got into trouble when he tried to sell the third ticket for $100 to an undercover police officer.

First placed in a chain-link cage at the racetrack, then chained to a wall in a detention center, Casey spent 13 hours in a vomit- and urine-stained jail cell with 10 other prisoners. One of them groped him several times.

Casey refused to pay the $250 fine for scalping. He hired a feisty Louisville lawyer, Frank Mascagni, to fight the case.

A few months later, the case took a sharp turn to the mildly scandalous when Mascagni learned that the tickets in question were three of 553 issued to the governor of Kentucky by Churchill Downs. The bundle of coveted tickets went to the governor while Churchill Downs was in the midst of a lobbying effort to get state approval for electronic slot machines. The revelation kicked off a state ethics investigation. (How our Jim Casey ended up with tickets from the governor's office still is not known.)

Casey went to trial in October. A judge dismissed the case, saying police shouldn't have arrested him for such a minor offense.

But a prosecutor, showing more zeal than common sense, asked a judge to reinstate the case, arguing that the arresting officer had grounds to believe that Casey would not appear for trial. Imagine: fear of flight in a ticket-scalping case, where the maximum penalty is $250.

If that strikes you as ridiculous, you're in good company. Monday, in Jefferson County District Court, a judge -- the third one assigned to the case -- dismissed the charge again, saying the Kentucky law that allowed the arrest was unconstitutionally vague.

So Jim Casey flew back to Maryland again yesterday. His refusal to admit to a violation of Kentucky law and pay a $250 fine cost him $10,000 in legal and travel expenses, and he thinks it has harmed his equine practice. But he doesn't regret putting up a fight.

Thirteen hours in jail for a minor violation sounds like grounds for a civil suit. I think Jim Casey should sue to get his money back. And I say that fully aware of the penalty -- that I might have to write about this case again.

What a character

In the National Football League, it must be hard to find a character witness without a rap sheet. Among friends and colleagues testifying on behalf of Ray Lewis in Atlanta last week -- "I would allow [Ray] to watch over my kids, and they are the most precious things in the world" -- was Warren Sapp, another All-Pro player who, it turns out, has had legal troubles of his own. (Not that anyone, including Fulton County prosecutors, pointed it out during Lewis' bail hearing.)

The Buccaneers defensive tackle, who attended the University of Miami with Lewis, was arrested in 1997 after police in Tampa received a tip that he would be buying drugs at a house on the east side of the city. The cops watched the place one afternoon and spotted Sapp coming out of it.

News reports at the time said police officers pulled over Sapp's 1995 Mercedes, smelled marijuana and discovered 3.7 grams of pot in a console in the car and another 9 grams in a backpack belonging to a passenger in the car.

Sapp ended up beating the Tampa rap on a technicality. (A judge ruled that the cops had insufficient cause to stop Sapp's car, and wouldn't allow prosecutors to use the confiscated pot as evidence in the trial.) But during the proceedings, Sapp acknowledged having failed an NFL drug test before the 1995 draft. Not that it mattered. He was selected in the first round by the Bucs.

Electronic dollars

Our friend Bush Hog doesn't get excited about too much, other than NASCAR and pork products, but he sent an e-mail bristling with exclamation points: "I filed my state income tax return electronically last Tuesday night. My refund was deposited in my bank account three days later. Huzzahs for Don Donaldo, the late Louis L. Goldstein and the wizardry of the Internet!!!"

Caveat emptor

Microsoft has launched a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign for its Internet Explorer e-mail program.

Wayne Dirksen, former canon precentor and director of music at the Washington National Cathedral (and father of Baltimore juggler and math teacher Laura Green), reports that the background of one Microsoft TV commercial is from Mozart's Requiem. Viewers see the MSN prod: "Where do you want to go today?" But they hear a chorus sing, "Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis."

That translates to: "The damned and the accursed are convicted to flames of hell." The genius who came up with that combination probably thought, "Quod nesciunt eos non interficiet," which translates as, "What they don't know won't kill them." (From Henry Beard, author of "Latin for Even More Occasions," Villard Books, 1991.) is the e-mail address for Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166, or by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.

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