Trial dates set for gambling ring case
MICHIGAN CITY — Three local men accused of participating in an illegal gambling ring appeared in La Porte Superior Court No. 1 Thursday for the first time since the Indiana Court of Appeals overturned Judge Michael Bergerson’s 2016 ruling that the charges against them be dismissed.
Gregory Czizek was scheduled for jury trial to begin Nov. 13, with a plea agreement deadline of Oct. 12.
Stanley Mazur got a Dec. 11 trial date, and a Nov. 9 plea agreement deadline.
Both are represented by the same defense attorney, who indicated he may petition the court to join the two cases.
James E. Liverman will go to trial on Jan. 8, giving him until Dec. 7 to enter a plea agreement. He requested a public defender, but the judge was unable to determine whether Liverman is indigent based on the information he presented to the court. Bergerson will hear the issue again on May 11, after he has been able to review Liverman’s financial status in better detail.
A fourth defendant, former city councilman David J. Biela, will appear for a status hearing on April 20, at which time he is likely to be scheduled for jury trial.
The men have been accused of running an illegal gambling ring by means of Biela allegedly printing parlay cards for the remaining defendants to distribute to bars and restaurants throughout La Porte County. The men, to whom the state has referred as “bookies,” allegedly visited multiple establishments weekly to drop off new cards and collect wagers on professional and college football games during the 2013-2015 seasons.
Each faces a single count of corrupt business influence, a Level 5 felony; and multiple counts of promoting professional gambling – five for Biela and Mazur, four for Liverman and three for Czizek.
As they await the resolutions of their cases, the defendants remain free on bond. If convicted, they face 1-6 years in the Indiana Department of Correction on the Level 5 felony charge, and 6 months to 2.5 years for each Level 6 felony count.
A fifth man charged as a part of the alleged gambling organization, John T. Greene, pleaded guilty and was sentenced last year to two years’ probation for two counts of promoting professional gambling. Upon successful completion of his probation, he may petition the court to reduce his charges to misdemeanors.
Bergerson allowed Greene to enter a plea agreement, as he had been observed accepting monetary bets on two occasions in 2014. However, he dismissed the cases against the remaining defendants, none of whom was witnessed having blatantly exchanged money, on the basis that the state had failed to allege criminal conduct.
The Court of Appeals called Bergerson’s decision an “abuse of discretion,” and indicated it is not up to a judge to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to prove the charges.