Arcade owner ticketed for gaming

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 20, 2004

DEMOPOLIS – Demopolis police didn’t book her Friday night, opting instead to issue a non-traffic citation to the owner of Plaza Game Room, LLC.

Elizabeth “Diane” Cleveland, 56, was charged with possession of a gambling device after police conducted a raid on the arcade, located in the Plaza Shopping Center on Cedar Avenue.

She will face Municipal Judge Woody Dinning, said District Attorney Greg Griggers.

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“A non-traffic citation doesn’t require the police to book her and she had no [cash] bond … but she will have to make an appearance before Judge Dinning,” he said.

Griggers said he has no doubt other establishments in the judicial circuit he covers have similar machines, but didn’t have plans to launch a concerted effort to close them down.

“I’m certain there’s more than just this one establishment in the circuit, and I’ve never doubted any [adult] arcade that’s open for business has the machines, but I’m strickly working whatever is presented to me by local law enforcement,” he said. “I’m going to prosecute what law enforcement brings me to prosecute.”

Still, Griggers’ help was instrumental to Demopolis police in making Friday night’s raid because he was able to team local law enforcement with the state’s expert witness on gambling.

“The AG was gracious enough to provide me with an expert. I didn’t request it, but they put the gentleman in contact with me to offer his services,” he said.

Griggers said Cleveland had file a civil lawsuit against the state because she feared law enforcement would take action against her business.

“Whenever the state is the defendant in a lawsuit, the attorney general defends the state of Alabama. Attorney General Troy King was gracious enough to assist us in determining whether or not the machines in this particular business were illegal,” Griggers said. “I was glad to advantage of his opportunity and appreciate his generosity in the case.”

Basically, however, Griggers said the use of gaming expert Bob Sertell in the raid gave the state what it needed to defend itself in the lawsuit: the definitive answer that Cleveland’s machines were illegal.

“It proves her civil lawsuit is without merit because it goes completely contrary to what she filed in court. She is operating and in possession of illegal gaming devices and is conducting an illegal gambling activity,” he said.

As for those now shut-down machines, which Demopolis Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel said on Friday would be returned to

the Atlanta-based Old South Entertainment, Inc., Griggers said it’s a sticky issue for a local government.

“Unfortunately the way the statute is written, any seizure that is performed in conjunction with an arrest like this, the

money or machines the local law enforcement agency seizes also bears brunt of warehousing the machines until the criminal action has run its course,” he said. “Once over, the machines are then turned over to state of Alabama and the same happens with any cash that is seized.

Local law enforcement bears the expense of storage with no way to recoup those costs. There’s little incentive for locals to seize the machines when there’s no was recover the expense and aggravation of storage.”

Manuel said he expected the machines to picked up by Old South Entertainment