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Gambling Mayor Shows Up In Court. 2005-11-02
Pekin Mayor Lyn Howard testified yesterday that he was responsible for paying back about $1,400 city credit card charge, while losing nearly $4,000 in gambling. He told the court it was not the city that paid for this return, but him personally. This whole debt occurred over a three day gambling spree at a riverboat casino, last year.
Defense attorneys showed that Howard repaid the money, and broke no laws in this matter. Testimony concluded yesterday, for the first-term mayor. His trial was based on three charges of official misconduct. This all if convicted could force him out of office.
Prosecutors countered with word that the 67-year-old mayor told investigators and a Tazewell County grand jury that he knew the city was responsible for the cash advances. The mayorís game of choice was video poker at the Par-A-Dice Casino in nearby East Peoria. He knew he was wrong, but that statement didnít do well for him.
Howard testified that those comments were influenced by media coverage. It was just his response to being investigated, when it came to abuse of his credit card surfaced. The buzz and that statement did do well for his case.
Closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow morning. In his opening statement, State's Attorney Stewart Umholtz said Howard violated provisions of the Illinois Constitution. The constitution requires that public money be used only for public purposes. Umholtz told the jurors that, the money Howard used was for gambling. Howard was caught gambling about t here times last year. Debates sparked from this, surrounding the issue if it was his personal credit card, or city fees. Prosecutors claimed that credit cards made through the office allows for the bills for them to be mailed to City Hall, not the cardholders' personal homes. Due to that the city is responsible.
Defense attorneys argued the card was issued in Howard's name, with no reference to his business. It was in all intensive purposes a personal credit card. Defense attorney Ron Hamm said a 1998 says that even if it was an authorized city credit card the holder of the card is responsible for paying the fees. Defense attorneys also stated that Howard was not acting in his official capacity as mayor when he received five cash advances totaling $813.95 on June 15, 2004, as well as two cash advances totaling $535.95 on Sept. 27, 2004, and one other cash advance for $109.99 on Nov. 3, 2004. Howard said now he is confused who is responsible for the credit cards, after the testimony for both sides.
Prosecutor Umholtz disagreed; since-canceled credit card came with Howard's position as mayor on it. He was using the cards in an official capacity any time he used it. Howard exhausted personal credit and debit cards on those days three days and would have quit gambling if he hadnít gotten the city-issued card. The prosecutors also say the card helped him build frequent player credits at the casino, which gave him $36 and cigarettes.
If convicted, Howard could face up to five years in prison. This could occur if the three remaining charges are against him. By law, he also would be required to resign from office. However this would only occur once his appeals were used up.
(By Andrea)