|By Chris Brennan, Philadelphia Daily
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Feb. 6, 2008 --HARRISBURG -- The state Gaming Control Board yesterday appointed a trustee to take control of the Mount Airy Casino Resort after its owner, Louis DeNaples, was charged last week with lying during his application for a state gaming license.
The board appointed a retired university president as trustee.
DeNaples, who did not attend the board's two-hour hearing, opposed the appointment of a trustee. His defense attorney, Richard Sprague, used the hearing to attack the charges and the prosecutors who filed them.
DeNaples faces four counts of perjury after a Dauphin County grand jury decided he had misled Gaming Control Board investigators about his relationships with members of the northeast Pennsylvania mob and other unsavory characters.
"I suggest this prosecution is a travesty of justice," Sprague told the board. "Instead of Mr. DeNaples being someone who committed perjury, I believe the crime has been committed by the prosecutors."
Asked later what crime he thought was committed, Sprague replied: "I'm not going to say."
Francis Chardo, Dauphin County's first deputy district attorney, said that he would be interested to hear what crime Sprague thinks he committed.
"We simply followed the evidence in this case," said Chardo, who oversaw the grand-jury investigation with the Pennsylvania State Police. "We knew when we began this investigation that the DeNaples forces would relentlessly attack us simply because we had the temerity to investigate Louis DeNaples."
Sprague spent about 25 minutes parsing the charges, repeatedly calling DeNaples a "scapegoat" in a turf battle between the board and the state police about which agency should conduct background investigations on casino applicants.
Board chairwoman Mary DiGiacomo Colins interrupted Sprague three times, asking him to focus on the issues being considered by the board: whether to continue an emergency suspension of DeNaples' casino license issued last week and whether to appoint a trustee.
Sprague persisted, saying DeNaples was being "crucified" and "pilloried," insisting his complaints about the prosecution should play a role in the board's decision.
The board, after meeting in secret for about two hours, voted unanimously to appoint as trustee Anthony Ceddia, who retired as president of Shippensburg University in 2005 after 24 years. The board also voted to continue the suspension for DeNaples, which means he can't control the casino he built, receive any profits from the business or even set foot inside.
That also means DeNaples' daughter Lisa, who oversees design and construction on the project, is not allowed to discuss the business with him. Any violation of the board's order could mean the revocation of Mount Airy's casino license.
John Donnelly, an attorney for DeNaples, contended after the hearing that the state's gaming law does not empower the board to appoint a trustee. DeNaples, who wanted an independent audit committee he chose to oversee the casino, may appeal the vote within 30 days to the state Supreme Court.
"I think this goes beyond their power," Donnelly said. "What we will do about it remains to be seen."
Colins responded that the board's vote is "on very solid legal footing." Colins added that the existence of the grand-jury investigation has been known for months and that she had been considering for weeks what to do if DeNaples was charged. The board reviewed 10 to 12 resumes of prospective trustees.
Ceddia will bill the board at a rate that Colins said would likely fall between $300 and $800 an hour. The board will approve those fees, which will be paid by Mount Airy. "Will it be expensive? I think so," Colins said.
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