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Ex-prosecutor's official charged in gambling ring

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A former chief investigator for a western Indiana prosecutor faces official misconduct and other charges stemming from allegations that he protected a gambling ring from arrest.

James J. Counterman, 71, of Terre Haute, faces three counts of inducing an individual to commit professional gambling and three counts of official misconduct. He appeared Wednesday for an initial hearing.

The charges stem from allegations Counterman told operators of illegal poker games in Terre Haute that for a "price" they would not be prosecuted for illegal gambling activities, the Tribune-Star reported.

Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modisett fired Counterman as his chief investigator in December after learning of the gambling investigation.

Investigator Edward McHargue of the Indiana Gaming Commission said in a probable cause affidavit that the Counterman investigation began in October 2009 when someone reported his alleged actions to a commission agent at the riverboat casino in Evansville. That informant stated that he had previously operated an illegal poker game in Terre Haute and provided information about others who were operating illegal games at the time.

In February 2011, a confidential informant said Counterman "protected" gambling operators from prosecution. The case included occasions when conversations were recorded by investigators. In a June 2011 conversation, Counterman reportedly told the informant: "We got a list of everything that's going on in town. We know where every game is played. We've got license plate numbers of every person playing."

In another statement, Counterman said, "We are the ones who decide what, or if charges should be filed. So Billy wants to run a game, it's not legal. I told him he could. I don't care."

The probable cause affidavit also states Counterman sometimes accepted cash from people running gambling operations and checks as political contributions.

McHargue said "no evidence was developed that showed that the prosecutor (Modesitt) was aware of the representations that Counterman was making regarding Counterman's authority and/or ability to 'protect' individuals from criminal charges."

Vigo Superior Judge David Bolk said he would recuse himself from the case because of his past work with Counterman and that a special judge from another county likely would take over. Bolk scheduled a Sept. 9 hearing.

A message seeking comment was left for Counterman's attorney.

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