- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The head of a competitive cheerleading club organized an illegal bingo event to repay $2,000 to a parent who had bailed her out of jail, said a prosecutor Tuesday seeking to convict the coach in a case the defense labeled a “witch hunt.”

Anna L. Miles, 35, faces six counts related to illegal gambling in what was billed as a fundraiser for the Hagerstown Heat All-Stars in February 2006. The case has cast a harsh light on the bingo and pull-tab events held by local fire-and-rescue companies to help fund youth sports teams and charitable groups.

Miss Miles’ lawyer, Eric Andrews, contended in his closing argument that prosecutors brought the charges because they are frustrated by their failure to prove forgery and theft charges against Miss Miles in 2005. Mr. Andrews presented no evidence for the defense, but said in his closing argument the state had failed to prove its case.

If convicted of all six charges, Miss Miles faces up to five years in prison and $4,000 in fines plus possible additional prison time for violating probation. Washington County Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone said he will render a verdict after receiving written arguments from the lawyers within 30 days.

Scant evidence was presented of Miss Miles’ direct participation in the unlicensed gambling event, other than eyewitness testimony that she was there and played bingo.

At the end of the event, assistant coach Charles W. Buffington gave $2,000 in cash to Michelle Tapia, of nearby Chambersburg, Pa., who had lent Miss Miles that amount for bail in December 2005, Miss Tapia testified. Miss Miles had been arrested then for failing to make court-ordered restitution to some victims of $24,000 worth of bad checks she had written on the Hagerstown Heat’s account.

“It was money that she owed me for bailing her out of jail,” Miss Tapia said.

Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph S. Michael, citing Miss Miles’ cryptic, sometimes vulgar e-mails to parents, argued that she had manipulated others into putting together the illegal event, then letting them take the blame, much like a mob boss or Fagin, the villain of the Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.” “Fagin never stole anything,” Mr. Michael said. “He always sent out the Artful Dodger to do his stealing for him.”

Nevertheless, he said, quoting from Maryland’s standard jury instructions, “a person who aids and abets in the commission of a crime is as guilty as the actual perpetrator.”

A Hagerstown Heat assistant coach and a cheerleader parent have pleaded guilty to gambling infractions stemming from the event at the Boonsboro fire hall, and the fire company was investigated by the county gaming office.

Bingo and tip-jar events can legally be held only to benefit nonprofit and charitable organizations, Washington County Gaming Office Director James B. Hovis testified earlier. The Hagerstown Heat is a for-profit enterprise owned by Miss Miles, said Miss Tapia, who kept the group’s books and had two daughters in the club. Miss Miles, of Hagerstown, didn’t testify and declined to comment.

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