Prosecution witness refuses to testify in poker trial

Man steps down from stand after being told he has no immunity


A man who said he played "Texas hold `em" poker at what Anne Arundel County police investigators say was an illegal gambling venue run by a Howard County police officer and his father refused to testify shortly after their trial began yesterday, when a judge told him he could incriminate himself because he had no immunity from prosecution.

Told by Anne Arundel County District Judge Thomas J. Pryal of his potential bind and right not to testify against Officer Michael "Tykie" Thorn and Gary Thorn, Joseph Geiman chose to step down from the witness stand. He was the first of several prosecution witnesses who had no immunity from prosecution to say, after being advised of their rights by Pryal, that they wouldn't testify before talking to a lawyer.

The issue was sparked by the Thorns' defense lawyers arguing on the trial's first day that court rules say they should have been told about all inducements prosecutors were using to get witnesses to testify. There were none, though Assistant State's Attorney Mark Tyler quickly obtained an immunity offer that could be used to force Geiman to testify.

"You can't ambush us on the day of trial," said Joseph Murtha, the lawyer for Gary Thorn, 64, of Glen Burnie.

Tyler said he was prepared to have the immunity issue resolved by the day the trial resumes -- tentatively June 30.

Although the charges are misdemeanors, the stakes are high for Michael Thorn, 40, who stands to lose his Howard County police job and his pension if convicted of multiple counts of gambling and gaming. He was an 18-year officer when "Tykie's Lodge," in a rented warehouse at 899 Airport Park Road in Glen Burnie, was raided April 12 by Anne Arundel police. Both Thorns say they are innocent.

Clarke Ahlers, Michael Thorn's lawyer, said this was a poker training operation. Police have said gamblers paid a fee and used a white card to electronically enter the warehouse.

On display in the Glen Burnie courtroom yesterday were colorful poker chips marked "Tykie" in stacks of trays, plastic bags and boxes, along with green and burgundy "Tykie" game tables, Tykie's Lodge signs, decks of cards and photos of several thousand dollars in cash. About $1,790 was taken from Michael Thorn, said Detective Terry LeCompte, who obtained the warrant. LeCompte has been found twice by the Police Department's Internal Affairs unit to have been "untruthful," Tyler acknowledged.

Prosecution witness Marine Staff Sgt. William Greeson testified that as the dealer the night of the raid, he saw no money change hands.

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