Scorned Blackjack Player Suing Lots of People

Hell hath no fury like a woman arrested and banned from playing blackjack… Okay, that one didn’t really work. The original is much better. Anyway, a woman in Raleigh County, West Virginia was arrested, along with a blackjack dealer, at the Nitro Casino, part of the Tri-State Racetrack & Gaming Center, and subsequently banned from the casino. Now she is fighting back.

On August 22, 2009, it is alleged that Thuhuong Nguyen cheated at blackjack at the casino with the help of a dealer, Derek Maple. They were both arrested for a racetrack game violation, which is a felony. Nguyen, not surprisingly, claims she’s innocent and is suing basically everybody involved, including the West Virginia Lottery Commission, the State Police, Lottery Commission Director John C. Musgrave, State Police Superintendent T.S. Pack and Timothy Humphrey, a Lottery employee assigned to Tri-State Racetrack.

The whole thing went down in August when State Trooper R.L. Walton Jr., who for some reason was not named in the suit (maybe Nguyen couldn’t remember his name), was called to the casino, where Humphrey told him that a dealer was cheating. After reviewing surveillance videotape, Walton determined that there was sufficient reason to arrest Nguyen and Maple. On August 29, prosecutors dropped the charges against Nguyen, but the Kanawha County Magistrate found probable cause against Maple and the case has been passed on to a grand jury, though he has not yet been indicted.

Nguyen claims that she was playing legally at several tables with different dealers throughout the night. In her lawsuit, he alleges that her arrest was a violation of her First, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.

Okay, not to take sides, but her lawsuit is insane. Let’s look at it by Amendment. The only part of the First Amendment that I could see Nguyen thinking applies to her would be the part about “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” However, courts long ago ruled that private companies have the right to ban customers. Also, she wasn’t arrested for assembling. She was arrested because she was suspected of cheating at blackjack, which is illegal.

The Fourth Amendment is all about illegal search and seizure, which doesn’t apply to her. First of all, the videotape evidence provided the necessary probably cause. Secondly, I don’t believe she was searched other than the customary pre-arrest pat-down.

The only part of the Fourteenth Amendment that I could imagine Nguyen thinking applies to her situation is the part where the state can’t enforce any law that deprives “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Well, she is denied the ability to play at that particular casino chain, but not by law. Any money (property) she had won would have been confiscated, but with due process. I don’t know if the money was returned to her when the charges were dropped. If not, she may have a legitimate complaint against the casino and sue for the amount of money she is owed.

Whatever the case, this is a good cautionary tale. I don’t know if Nguyen was cheating, but this does show you the possible consequences for cheating. Maple faces the possibility of spending years behind bars, as would Nguyen have the charges had not been dropped. Be careful, people.

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