Warsaw poker game operator’s conviction flushed

June 26, 2015

The operator of a fundraising poker game at a Warsaw veterans lodge won an appeal of his contracting conviction Friday at the Indiana Court of Appeals.

James Lee Sparks was charged with multiple felonies after an investigation of the games uncovered apparent violations of state law. Sparks was charged in Kosciusko Superior Court with theft, corrupt business influence, and contracting. The state dropped the theft charge, and a jury convicted Sparks only on the contracting count.

But the appeals panel reversed the conviction because the state failed to prove required elements of the contracting statute – that the Warsaw Veterans of Foreign Wars Post was a nonprofit organization and tax-exempt under IRS Section 501. The state cited to that status on the Indiana Secretary of State’s website, but this was insufficient, Judge Paul Mathias wrote in a footnote.

“(N)either of these items was admitted into evidence and tendered to the jury. Moreover, the State did not request that the trial court take judicial notice that the VFW is a qualified organization or place the issue in front of the jury through an appropriate instruction,” Mathias wrote. “Therefore, the State failed to prove all of the required elements of the VFW’s status under the statute.”

The case is James Lee Sparks v. State of Indiana, 43A03-1409-CR-316.


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