At the trial this afternoon of former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford, video-poker operator Jerry Pennington said he received favors from the sheriff’s office under Medford, including an honorary deputy’s badge and getting gambling charges dismissed through forged community-service documents.
Pennington said that after he’d been pulled over in Henderson County, reserve Capt. Guy Penland (on trial alongside Medford) had provided him with an honorary deputy’s badge. Later, he’d received honorary sergeant’s and lieutenant’s badges.
“I was told it was OK as long as I didn’t try to arrest anybody, that I could show it if I was pulled over,” Pennington testified. Earlier, prosecutors had shown the jury the lieutenant’s badge and honorary deputy card that he had been given.
He also said that after facing gambling charges in Cleveland County, he managed to get the charges dismissed in return for community service that he had transferred to Buncombe County. But he never had to serve the community service.
“Everything about that community service is deceitful,” he said, referencing documents saying he’d served 77.5 hours of community service (two and a half more than required) with the Sheriff’s Office senior-reassurance program. Defense attorney Stephen Lindsay noted in his questioning of Pennington that getting those charges dismissed meant that if he got another gambling charge, the prior one would not weigh against him.
However, he also said that relations worked both ways. When gas-station owner Imram Alan wanted to split revenues from the illegal machines 80/20 in his favor instead of the usual 60/40 ratio, Pennington balked and Alan went looking to put another operator’s machines in. While this violated a rule Medford had previously set down to prevent turf wars, he asked Pennington to let it slide.
“He asked me to do him a favor and let this one go, to forget about it,” Pennington recalled. “Henderson [Amusements, Pennington’s company] had a good relationship with him — so we didn’t want to cause any problems.”
Pennington also testified that Penland had once sold him 100 video-poker registration stickers for $10,000 because many of his machines were illegally transported in from out of state. But he also admitted under questioning from Penland’s attorney, Paul Bidwell, that when Penland was paid to introduce him to store owners that would later install his machines, the then-reserve captain had no idea of their illegal origin.
“He thought they were legal,” Pennington said.
The trial resumes tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the federal courthouse.
— David Forbes, staff writer