Charles County Commissioners President Marland Deen was sentenced to 60 days in jail early today after a jury convicted him of one count of possessing an illegal video poker machine.
County Circuit Court Judge C. Clarke Raley said the jail term is necessary to purge the county of political corruption, which the gambling charges against Deen, 50, the county's top elected official, had come to symbolize.
"This case is ultimately a case of corruption . . . . The jury and the public need to understand the purpose of this long trial and the catharsis needed for Charles County and its citizens," Raley said.
Deen was convicted of the single misdemeanor offense and acquitted of 10 others by a jury that deliberated nearly 10 hours last night. The jury also found Deen's brother, Wayne, 47, not guilty on all 11 misdemeanor charges against him.
As the jury foreman read the verdict 10 minutes before midnight, more than 40 of the Deen brothers' supporters burst into applause.
The brothers were charged with operating illegal video poker games at their country store in Waldorf. They were the last of 17 defendants charged with misdemeanor gaming violations -- and were the only two to opt for a jury trial -- following a six-month investigation by county State's Attorney Stephen J. Braun.
The Deens maintained that their case was different from those of other defendants because police found the video machines in a locked storage shed behind their store.
During the six-day trial, defense attorneys argued that Braun's investigation was politically motivated. Defense attorneys Richard Sothoron and Allen Shepherd argued that in charging the Deens, Braun "selectively enforced" the law.
Braun took the stand at one point to say that state officials, who prosecuted the case, decided it was more important to charge machine owners than to go after every individual retailer who leased machines for their establishments.
Special state prosecutor Gerald C. Ruter told the jury in closing arguments that the Deens had "ample notice that paying off to winners on the machines was illegal" because they had been sent two memos from Braun's office.
Testifying in his own defense, Marland Deen said the Braun memos only added to the "general state of confusion" surrounding the legal status of video poker machines.
Deen testified that Braun and County Sheriff David Fuller indicated to him in later conversations that no police enforcement of the gambling laws was expected.
Dean also said that Braun played poker machines at his store six months before state police raided it, but did not ask Deen to remove the machines.
In a trial that was high drama for this Washington commuter suburb and often played to a full house of Deen supporters, prosecutor Ruter used an FBI expert to bolster his contention that the Hi-Lo Double Up Joker Poker machines found in Deen's possession are games of chance with internal odds-making devices and not games of skill.