TRENTON, N.J. - Wayne Gretzky will not face criminal charges in connection with a multimillion-dollar sports betting ring busted in New Jersey last week, and he is unlikely to be called to testify against others in the case, his lawyer said Thursday.
Attorney Ron Fujikawa said he received assurances from New Jersey authorities last week that the hockey great was not in any way a central figure in the criminal investigation. That’s not surprising, Fujikawa said, because Gretzky did nothing illegal.
“He is not a person of interest,” Fujikawa said Thursday. “We have received no indication he is somebody who will be called before a grand jury. We have received assurances that he is at most a fact witness.”
A fact witness is someone interviewed informally by authorities, the lawyer said.
Gretzky’s wife, Janet Jones, also is unlikely to face criminal charges in the case, her lawyer said Thursday. Jones wagered more than $100,000 through the ring, a person with knowledge of the investigation has told The Associated Press; her husband was not directly implicated.
If correct, the attorneys’ statements indicate that the first family of hockey at most placed wagers with the ring but had nothing to do with its operations.
Under New Jersey law, it is not a crime to place a bet, even if the wager is with a bookie. People who place bets for others can be prosecuted, however, as can people who profit off someone else’s bets.
Jones’ lawyer, Evan A. Jenness, said she expected Jones to be subpoenaed to testify in the case. She said no documents had been served as of Thursday.
“I’ve been told she’s just a witness,” Jenness said Thursday. “I’m quite confident that’s the case.”
Jenness did not say whether Jones, an actress who lives in California, planned to assist officials. But Jones’ spokesman, Elliot Mintz, said Thursday that Jones “plans to fully cooperate with the authorities.”
Jones and Gretzky are in Italy for the Winter Olympics. Gretzky, head coach and a part owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, is executive director of Team Canada, the defending hockey champions.
John Hagerty, a spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, did not return phone messages left Thursday. ESPN.com reported that Hagerty on Wednesday said Jones and others could be called as witnesses but indicated she would not be charged.
Al Della Fave, a spokesman for New Jersey state police, said he could not comment on the investigation.
The three men had been scheduled to appear in court Feb. 21 to have their charges read and rights explained. But a judge on Thursday approved a request from the men’s lawyers to waive their appearances, said Jude Del Preore, the court administrator in Burlington County.
“In light of the illegal press leaks that have plagued this matter and the gross mischaracterization of this case that has appeared in the international media, we are extremely pleased that Rick Tocchet will not be subjected to the further public humiliation a first appearance would entail,” Kevin Marino, the defense lawyer for Tocchet, said in a written statement.
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