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Quick and Dirty

In-House Counsel

Organizers of Owls Nest Poker Club Plea Out of Gambling-Related Charges

By Van Smith | Posted 2/8/2006

Seven of the 15 organizers and employees of the Owls Nest poker club (“Fouled Nests,” Nov. 23, 2005) went to trial for gambling-related charges Jan. 27, and they all took plea deals, receiving probation before judgment and fines. The other eight Owls Nest defendants have court dates rescheduled for late February. Gerald C. Dickens—who, Owls Nest documents show, is the gambling club’s treasurer—received two years of supervised probation, a $500 fine, and was ordered to forfeit $25,655 in Owls Nest proceeds seized by the police last November.

Dickens was the only defendant represented by an attorney: Daniel L. Sussman. Sussman is listed on the Owls Nest membership list (“On the List,” Dec. 14, 2005) as member No. 556. Thus, Dickens relied on the legal skills of one of his club’s patrons to represent him in the criminal case. Neither Sussman nor Dickens could be reached for comment.

Among Sussman’s other clients is Gary Cooper, accused of drugs and guns charges in Baltimore City Circuit Court. The case was dropped by prosecutors Jan. 12 because, according to Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office spokesman Joe Sviatko, four of the chief witnesses for the prosecution were members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Southwestern District flex squad unit, who are under investigation for a myriad of alleged crimes, including rape. “We would not have been able to overcome the integrity issues that undoubtedly would have been raised had the case gone to trial,” Sviatko says.

One of the flex-squad officers in the Cooper case was Vicki Mengel, who, according to several sources, was an Owls Nest habitué. She is currently awaiting a trial scheduled for Feb. 14 on gambling charges arising from a November police raid of the Aces High Club (“Barely Illegal,” Jan. 11), which held poker games above an insurance agency office on Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore.

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