St. Clair Shores: Ex-Cop Wants Gambling Charges Tossed

Detroit Free Press
April 8, 2008

A fired St. Clair Shores police officer arrested on gambling charges after being discovered with football betting slips is trying to get his case tossed, saying that his money game was no different than the poker-based paycheck pool run by his department for 30 years.

John Carraway, 38, was fired in December after eight years as a city patrolman. He had previously worked for three years as a Detroit police officer.

He appeared in 40th District Court in St. Clair Shores on Tuesday for a hearing before Judge Joseph Oster, who was set to rule on a motion in which Carraway and his lawyer claim the department is selectively prosecuting him.

Instead, Oster recused himself because of the allegations against the police department, whose officers routinely testify before him. He said the case would be punted to the State Court Administrative Office for reassignment.

Carraway had been arrested in November with betting slips on him. As he awaited the hearing Tuesday, he acknowledged that he had been part of a weekly football betting pool since the season began last fall.

Police officials say Carraway was fired for distributing betting slips to area residents and businesses while on duty in his city-owned squad car.

But Carraway and his lawyer, Mike Rataj, said the betting pool was small time, involving just four people. They likened it to fantasy football winnings or March Madness brackets.

In the motion to Oster, they called Police Chief Charles Burnett a hypocrite for helping run a biweekly check pool - involving about 20 command officers who added their net pay to a set of six random numbers to create a poker "hand"- that snared the winner about $100.

Burnett acknowledged the 30-year interoffice pool, and he said it indeed was illegal.

He discontinued it two weeks ago, after Rataj got sworn statements from two police officers describing the pool to bolster his motion claiming selective prosecution.

"I guess I see a difference between the two," Burnett said. "Call it hypocritical; call it what you want. There's a difference between an office pool for $5 week, where the winner buys everyone bagels or White Castle, versus an on-duty gambling operation with bookie slips."

Carraway has been disciplined before - at least once leading to an unpaid suspension - but Burnett declined to elaborate on personnel matters.

Carraway said he deserves to be punished, just not so severely.

Another city employee, senior construction inspector Gary Hendricks, also faces misdemeanor gambling charges. He is still employed because he isn't accused of doing anything improper on company time, said his supervisor, community services director Christopher Rayes.

Carraway's partner, Ron Simon, served a 10-day unpaid suspension because he was in the squad car when Carraway ran betting slips into area businesses, Burnett said.

Carraway said he is fighting not just for his $81,000-a-year job, but for his livelihood. His wife works part-time for Henry Ford Health Services, and the couple has a 3-year-old daughter.

"Firing is a death sentence for me and my family," he said.