Raleigh Co. woman files suit over wrongful arrest at casino

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 22, 2010

CHARLESTON - Officials from the West Virginia Lottery Commission and the State Police are named as co-defendants in civil rights lawsuit filed by a Raleigh County woman who alleges she was wrongfully arrested for a gaming violation at one of the state's newest casinos.

Thuhuong Nguyen of Mt. Hope filed suit in Kanawha Circuit Court against Lottery Director John C. Musgrave, and State Police Superintendent Col. Timothy S. Pack on Jan. 5. In her five-count complaint, Nguyen, 41, alleges she was improperly identified, and arrested in August for conspiring with an employee of Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center in Cross Lanes of cheating at blackjack.

According to her suit, Nguyen was a guest at Tri-State on Aug. 22. During her visit, she played mostly blackjack at several different tables.

First opened to the public in the 1980s offering betting on greyhound races, Tri-State expanded into table games in 2008 following passage first of a bill by the state Legislature legalizing them, and next by referendum of Kanawha County voters the year before.

Around 9 p.m. that evening, the original dealer was replaced with another one named Derek Maple. Sometime thereafter, Nguyen alleges she was arrested by Trooper R.L. Walton.

According to the criminal complaint he filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Walton says he was alerted by Tri-State that Maple was attempting to defraud the casino. Specifically, he alleged Maple was observed flashing cards to several accomplices, who after making their wagers, would gesture to Maple their willingness to share with him a portion of their winnings.

After identifying Nguyen as one of the accomplices, Walton placed her under arrest, took her to the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston where she was booked on a felony gaming violation. Nguyen, who refused to provide Walton any statement of her alleged involvement with Maple's scheme, was released the next day after posting a $250 bond.

In her suit, Nguyen alleges Walton received information about Maple's cheating from Timothy Humphrey. She maintains that Humphrey is actually a Lottery Commission employee assigned to work at Tri-State.

According to the state Auditor's Office, Humphrey is a Commission investigator whose salary is $36,249.60. He is named as a co-defendant in the suit.

Records show a week later the gaming charge was dismissed based on a review of a video recording that showed Nguyen committed no crime. Regardless, on Sept. 2, Tri-State permanently banned Nguyen from entering the casino.

In her suit, Nguyen makes claims against the defendants for unlawful arrest, assault and battery unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering and intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress. She alleges being arrested, and charged as Maple's accomplice was done with a "callous and reckless disregard for [her] constitutional rights."

Nguyen seeks unspecified damages, court costs and fees. She is represented by Michael O. Callaghan, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, with the Charleston law firm of Neely and Callaghan.

The case is assigned to Judge Charles E. King Jr.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 10-C-10 (Nguyen civil); Kanawha Magistrate Court, case number 09-F-1853 (Nguyen criminal)

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