Courts

Tocchet Gets Probation, Not Jail, For His Role in Gambling Ring

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A former NHL player and assistant coach who ran an illegal sports gambling ring won't serve jail time despite international headlines linking the case to hockey's biggest star.

Rick Tocchet was ordered yesterday to serve two years' probation for his role in the gambling ring.

Tocchet, 43, could have received up to five years in New Jersey state prison. However, there is a presumption against incarceration for first-time offenders who plead guilty to third- or fourth-degree crimes.

That means the retired Philadelphia Flyer is unlikely to serve any time for his crimes, said Mark Eliades, the deputy attorney general who prosecuted the case.

Under terms of Tocchet's plea deal, the state made no sentencing recommendation, leaving it to the discretion of the court.

Afterward, Tocchet's attorney, Kevin Marino, said his client long ago acknowledged having made a mistake by becoming involved in illegal gambling. Marino pointed out that the more sensational allegations in the case -- including rumors of mob ties and game fixing -- never materialized.

"Mr. Tocchet never placed a bet on professional hockey. Mr. Tocchet never took a bet on professional hockey," Marino said. "He in no way compromised the integrity of the game of hockey or the National Hockey League."

Before being sentenced yesterday, Tocchet told the judge, "I'm sorry to the court, my family and friends I was involved in this."

An assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes under legendary Wayne Gretzky, Tocchet partnered with a New Jersey state trooper and another man in a sports betting venture they ran for five years. He has been on indefinite leave from his job since being charged, but Marino said Tocchet hopes to return to the sport now that the case has been resolved.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman hired lawyer Robert Cleary to conduct an internal investigation. A former federal prosecutor, Cleary is best known for prosecuting Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.

"In light of today's events, Mr. Cleary is now in a position to conclude his independent investigation," NHL spokesman Gary Meagher said in a statement.

He would not answer any questions, including whether Tocchet has a future in professional hockey.

Former trooper James Harney was sentenced this month to five years in prison. The other man, James Ulmer, will be sentenced on Aug. 24.

-- From News Services


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