A New Bern man will learn Aug. 18 of his guilt or innocence on multiple charges involving the manufacture of slot machines.
Greg Muse, 52, owner of Craven Music Company, is charged with 15 counts of manufacturing or selling slot machines and one count of possessing a slot machine.
Judge Walter Mills heard testimony and closing arguments in a New Bern courtroom Wednesday and told both parties that he would have a decision on Aug. 18.
The state put on testimony by undercover police officers using hidden video cameras that recorded gaming machines at several Havelock businesses. According to the testimony, Muse divided the profits from the machines 50/50 with the businesses in which they were operating.
The case has hopscotched through court since March 21 when Muse’s attorney’s first asked for a dismissal of charges arguing entrapment by estoppel, which was denied. Testimony from state witnesses began on April 24 for a day, then resumed on Tuesday.
Judge Walter Mills said his notes on the case were four months old.
“I’m going to take the time to review the case,” he said. “I have four memorandums of law to review.”
Late in the case on Wednesday, assistant district attorney Robert McAfee made a motion to modify the charges against Muse to include the individual identification numbers of each gaming machine on each of the charges. Defense attorneys objected saying the state had had since October when the charges were made to get its paperwork right, but Judge Mills granted the motion.
Muse’s attorneys, Gary Clemmons and Marc Chesnutt, argued that the state was unable to match the individual machines with the specific counts against Muse.
Clemmons and Chesnutt declined to call any witnesses or present any evidence in Muse’s defense on Wednesday. They did make a motion to dismiss the case based on insufficient evidence, but Mills denied the motion.
In closing arguments, McAfee said the gaming machines shown in evidence met the definition of slot machines in state law.
“If you put 10 bucks in and you don’t get 10 bucks out, that is a slot machine,” McAfee said.
At issue is whether skill is required to operate the machines. Games of chance could be deemed illegal but a game in which skill is required could be determined to be legal.
“The defense has made quite a bit of hay about how much skill it is to push a button,” McAfee said. “ … The element of skill is totally thwarted by chance. … Common sense is that these are slot machines.”
Clemmons contended in his closing argument that the state had presented insufficient evidence of ownership of the machines.
“There was no evidence that my client owned any of the machines,” Clemmons said. “All of the agents testified they didn’t know who owned the machines.”
Clemmons also said that the machines were not operational at the time they were confiscated by police in an October 2013 raid, which means the machines aren’t illegal. He also contended that the machines were operated for amusement and required skill and dexterity by the players, which would make them legal.
Clemmons maintained that Muse had no intent to break the law and had gone to the city of Havelock to get a license for the machines.
“The city of Havelock through its government officials told Mr. Muse that he could put these machines in the city of Havelock. What he had to do was pay a privilege license,” Clemmons said. “That just stinks to high heaven, that a government would charge them (fees) for something that they said was legal and then go charge them (with criminal violations) for them.”
Chesnutt added in closing that the state simply didn’t prove its case.
“I can’t match the dots up from the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty,” he said.
Chesnutt argued that the video evidence presented by the state had the wrong date and time stamps that incorrectly showed when the video was captured.
“You’re going to go back in there with your Ouija Board to figure out which ones of these machines have been played,” Chesnutt said. “You’re being asked to guess to support the state’s prosecution.”
Mills said the case would reconvene at 9 a.m. on Aug. 18 for his decision.
“It would be a vast understatement to say that this is an untypical district court case,” he said after closing arguments.