A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge yesterday threw out illegal gambling charges against 14 members of Rockville's all-male Progress Club, after the men performed community service in exchange for dismissal of the charges and a purge of their arrest records.
The 14 men, including Washington restaurateur David (Duke) Zeibert, 73, were arrested, photographed and fingerprinted, along with seven other club members, on June 5, after Rockville city police raided the club. The police seized $27,700 in suspected gambling proceeds at the club, most of which allegedly came from card games, including poker and gin rummy. The club is located at the rear of the Congressional Plaza Shopping Center on Rockville Pike.
The 14 men, most of whom are are elderly, each performed up to 11 hours of community service, depending on their state of health. Some worked for the Montgomery County Health Department, others for Catholic University, Holy Cross Hospital and B'nai B'rith.
Zeibert said he raised money for an acting troupe at Catholic University. Like most of those arrested, he is still upset over the raid.
"I'm 74 years old and I've been playing cards since I was six years old," he said yesterday. "They're not going to stop me from playing bridge for money or master points. All it means is that now we'll play in somebody's home."
"The police raided us thinking the would find drugs," said Zeibert. "They found drugs all right. Nitroglycerine and aspirin."
Circuit Court Judge David L. Cahoon ordered the men's police records expunged under an agreement between state prosecutor Matt Campbell and Barry Helfand, defense attorney for the group. "It means there will be no convictions, no fingerprints, no police pictures of them and all their records will be completely obliterated as though they never existed," Helfand said.
Four club members, including Ali Ghadimi, the maitre d" at Zeibert's Connecticut Avenue restaurant, have not finished their alternative service and are scheduled to appear before Judge David L. Cahoon Oct. 28 for dismissal of the charges. Two other members -- Martin M. Ferber, 38, and club manager Michael Richards, 64, both of Rockville -- were granted immunity from prosecution.
Club member Lawrence I. Kasdon, 62, of Bethesda, along with the corporation that operates the exclusive 72-year-old club, are scheduled for a jury trial Nov. 28.
In addition to Zeibert, charges were dropped against the following club members:
Steven L. Gordon, 41 and Allen H. Auslander, 52, both of Potomac; SIdney Blatt, 57, Vincent A. Gessumaria, 68, and Herman E. Elg, 73, all of Bethesda; Robert Averbach, 72, Louis Schwartz, 74, and Zoltan H. Hoffman, 80, all of Silver Spring; Michael Fincl, 48, and Ronald Shifrin, 44, both of Rockville; Robert Zanville, 75, of Chevy Chase; Benjamin Lomke, 55 of Beltsville; and Arnold A. Heft, 65, of Hyattsville.