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John L. Smith On Billy Walters Conviction And The Weak Bundy Defense Witnesses

Associated Press

Billy Walters walking to the courthouse in Las Vegas.

Billy Walters Conviction

Longtime Las Vegas sports bettor and developer Bill Walters was convicted last week in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on 10 charges related to insider trading on Dean Foods and other stock in a case that netted him more than $43 million in profits.

The case included damning testimony by former Dean Foods board member Thomas C. Davis, a former friend of Walters.

Davis admitted in a plea deal to giving the gambler confidential information over a six-year period that generated millions in profits. Davis admitted his participation in a scheme that included throw-down phones and code names as part of the evidence.

KNPR contributor John L. Smith has followed Walters’ amazing career for the past three decades and wrote about this issue in Sunday’s Nevada Independent. He says this is the biggest loss in the gambler’s career, one which could cost him his freedom for the rest of his life.

“Conviction on 10 felony charges is pretty serious stuff for anybody, but it’s especially serious for a fella who is 70 years old now,” Smith said.

As Smith explained, the story of how Walters became one of the best-known gamblers in the country is one of the "great gambling anecdotes" in Las Vegas history.

He made his way from a pool hustler in Kentucky to Las Vegas, where he won and lost at poker and golf until turned to sports betting. From there, he became one of the best sports bettors in the country.

“You’ve got that kind of personality who is always pressing the envelope. He’s always pushing at every game. He wants to win. He wants to beat your pants off and take your wallet,” Smith said.

But Smith said, it was when he started playing the world's largest casino, otherwise known as Wall Street, that he ran into real trouble. 

Smith said it is likely Walters will appeal, but he doesn't believe a judge will let Walters stay free while the appeals process is going on. 

The Bundy Trial

There may or may not be a conviction at the Bundy trial, the first of three resulting from the 2014 standoff at Bundy Ranch.

John has been covering the trial for KNPR and the Independent, and he is less than impressed with the defense witnesses.

John thinks Eric Parker, in particular, shot himself in the foot, so to speak. On the one hand, he came across as likable and sincere. On cross-examination, though, it became clear that he was communicating and coordinating with other militia members - which may bolster the prosecution's claim of conspiracy.

“That’s what complicates that testimony for Parker. There’s one side of it – his side: 'I’m American. I saw what was going on. I saw that it was wrong and I went to go support.' He also took a semi-automatic weapon with him and a side arm and ballistic plating for his vest. The other side is the government is clearly focused on the connection of these six defendants – any and all connections that they might have – with the militia network.”

Smith said the government tried to emphasize that connection when it asked Parker questions while he was on the stand.

“Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicholas Dickenson has pretty much been pounding Parker to a pulp. One after another photo coming back to haunt him. One after another video, comments on Facebook. This is a person who has testified on direct examination that he felt very confused and very scared that day, but in subsequent Facebook posts and social media, he seemed more confident, cocky. Even he admitted he looked cocky in some of his postings.”

Smith said the jury will have a lot to think about during deliberation because although Americans have a right to protest, there is the question of intimidation of law enforcement. 

Arguments close on the Bundy trial this week. We'll have an update from John L. when the verdict is in.


John L. Smith, contributor

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(EDITOR'S NOTE: Carrie Kaufman no longer works for KNPR News. She left in April 2018)