Former casino dealer sues for false arrest

By Lawrence Smith | Sep 16, 2010

Maple

CHARLESTON – A Putnam County man has filed suit against a Charleston-area casino and two state agencies, alleging they falsely accused him of cheating at blackjack.

Derek Maple has named the West Virginia Lottery Commission, the West Virginia State Police and Mardi Gras Racing and Casino in a 12-count civil rights suit in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his complaint, Maple, 27, a Poca resident, who worked at Mardi Gras as a blackjack dealer, alleges despite being arrested for it last year, he was never prosecuted for alleged gaming violations.

According to his suit, Maple was approached by Timothy Humphrey, a Commission investigator, and Troopers R.L. Walton and FNU Meeks while dealing blackjack on Aug. 21, 2009. The trio accused him of showing his "hole" card –- the one that remains face-down -– to players.

After he was detained at Mardi Gras, Maple alleges he was "then wrongfully incarcerated for a period of time while awaiting his preliminary hearing before the Kanawha County Magistrate Court." Records show he was arrested and booked at the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston on charges of felony gaming violation and simple possession of a controlled substance -– Lortab.

According to the criminal complaint Walton filed in magistrate court, Maple said he "flashed the cards to the players at his table" but "he had no clue that subjects ... could really see them." Following a finding of probable cause at his preliminary hearing on Sept. 1, 2009, the charges against Maple were bound over to the Kanawha grand jury.

In the year since, the grand jury has not indicted Maple. Though as of presstime an order had yet to be entered, criminal charges that are not prosecuted within a year are dismissed.

Because he was not permitted an opportunity to counter the allegations him, Maple accuses not only the Commission, the State Police and Mardi Gras, but also Humphrey, Walton and Meeks of violating his civil rights. In his suit, Maple makes claims against them for, among other things, false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation and slander and invasion of privacy.

As a result of the defendants' actions, Maple alleges he's suffered a loss of his job and reputation, mental and emotional pain and suffering and embarrassment, humiliation and loss of self-esteem.

Maple seeks unspecified damages, interest, attorney fees and court costs. He is represented by Charleston attorneys S. Brooks West II and Shawn Romano.

The case is assigned to Judge Tod J. Kaufman.

Second suit

Maple's case is the second one naming Mardi Gras, the Commission and the State Police for civil rights violations. Thuhuong Nguyen of Mt. Hope also filed suit in January alleging she, too, was improperly arrested for gaming violations.

Nguyen's suit alleges she was arrested by Walton after Humphreys identified her as Maple's accomplice. The criminal complaint filed against Nguyen accused her of gesturing to Maple her willingness to share with him a portion of her winnings after he flashed his cards to her.

The charge against Nguyen was dismissed after a review of video recordings showed she committed no crime. However, Nguyen was permanently banned from the casino.

Kanawha Circuit Court case numbers 10-C-1493 (Maple) and 10-C-10 (Nguyen)

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