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Court: DeNaples probe can go on

Grand jury investigating casino owner

A grand jury in Harrisburg can resume investigating whether the owner of a new casino lied to get his state gaming license, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The court yesterday rejected a request from Louis DeNaples, owner of the Mount Airy Casino Resort, to end the investigation, which has been on hold since Oct. 2 while the case was under review.

DeNaples, long haunted by rumors of ties to organized crime, was subpoenaed in July by the Dauphin County grand jury, which also sought records from the state Gaming Control Board.

The Dauphin County district attorney is investigating whether DeNaples committed perjury or made false statements during his application for a gaming license, the court ruling said.

"I will say again: Louis DeNaples has no connection to organized crime," Mount Airy spokesman Kevin Feeley said yesterday. "That hasn't changed. Beyond that, we're going to review the opinion and consider our options from that point."

Francis Chardo, Dauphin County first assistant district attorney, yesterday declined to comment, citing the secrecy of grand-jury matters.

DeNaples in July asked a Dauphin County judge to reject the subpoena ordering him to testify and the subpoenas for Gaming Control Board records. Losing that argument, he turned to the Supreme Court on Oct. 1.

The state gaming law, passed in July 2004, allows county prosecutors and the state attorney general to investigate possible crimes related to casinos.

DeNaples claimed that Dauphin County didn't have the power to investigate because the law doesn't spell out how a local D.A. would be reimbursed for that work.

The court sought the opinion of Attorney General Tom Corbett, who responded that he shares jurisdiction with Dauphin County on casino crimes in that county.

The court rejected as irrelevant DeNaples' complaints about a "runaway district attorney unhappy with the board's licensing decision, pursuing an agenda."

The opinion was unanimous, but Chief Justice Ralph Cappy wrote a sharply worded separate opinion about grand-jury information appearing in the media.

"This smacks of a personal quest of someone either seeking personal aggrandizement or a vendetta against a family or an ethnic group," wrote Cappy, who was joined in that opinion by Justice Cynthia Baldwin.

Cappy, retiring this month to join a Pittsburgh law firm, told the Legal Intelligencer last week that he might help attorneys there working on gaming cases.

The ruling also rejects a request from DeNaples to appoint a "special master" to investigate information about his Supreme Court case that turned up in media reports since October.

The grand jury, which typically meets two days each month, has missed two months of sessions on the DeNaples investigation.

During that delay, DeNaples opened his $412 million casino in Mount Pocono, about 30 miles from the economic empire he built in Dunmore, outside Scranton, primarily from his landfill and auto-parts businesses.

The grand-jury investigation has taken a decidedly Philadelphia flavor, with testimony from Muslim cleric Shamsud-din Ali, now serving an 87-month federal sentence for racketeering. Local labor leader Sam Staten Sr. and Shawn Fordham, a former aide to Mayor Street, also have testified.

Federal court records show DeNaples was recorded on FBI wiretaps sometime before he was awarded a gaming license last December. *