Arcade owner convicted

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Another person has been tried and convicted in local law enforcement’s battle against video arcades that pay out in illegal cash prizes.

Thursday evening, District Attorney Greg Griggers won a conviction against Ernestine Ballard and Municipal Court Judge Woody Dinning Jr. sentenced Ballard to 180 days of prison time. Dinning then suspended that sentence and gave Ballard a year of probation.

Ballard, who owned the Big Bee in Linden, was arrested when Linden and Demopolis police worked together on an early summer sting that resulted in all video arcades in Marengo County being shut down. In all, authorities seized 150 gambling machines and more than $30,000 in cash.

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In Demopolis, charges were filed against Danny D. Blair, Hank W. Gibson, Kenneth J. Thompson, Claire Overstreet and Susie Haskins.

While Griggers was able to get a conviction against Ballard in the Linden case, he was not able to get the same against Maime Smith, who faced similar charges.

Smith was an employee for Ballard at Big Bee and was caught on videotape paying out cash. However, the witness who helped law enforcement bring down the arcades, could not positively identify Smith.

While most, if not all, of the arcades in Marengo County have been shut down, Griggers said he knows there are still problems in his jurisdiction, which includes Greene and Sumter counties.

One arcade, on Highway 43 near Greenetrack, recently opened and Griggers said he is aware of the new business.