A Funny Thing Happened
(From Blackjack Forum Volume XXI #1, Spring 2001)
© 2001 Blackjack Forum
[Ed. Note: Last year, when I published James Grosjeanís first book, Beyond Counting, I wished that I could tell you the story that follows. I couldnít. In fact, I only knew a small portion of what had happened when this casino surveillance department, to harrass two professional gamblers for a win, falsely accused them of cheating on a game. Now, James relates the whole story. ó Arnold Snyder]
[Follow-up note from A.S.--Since this article was first published, James Grosjean has been voted into the Blackjack Hall of Fame. He is the author of Beyond Counting, one of the great works on professional gambling.]
"Brighter days are ahead, young man." What nerve he had trying to cheer me up. He was the one who had already missed one insulin shot because of the apathy of the jail guards, and no remedy was in sight. I smiled. He had caught me in a down moment, but of course he was right. And, I couldnít help but be pleased that he had called me "young man." I guess itís all relative; he was quite old.
At that moment, I was bored more than anything else. It was Easter Sunday, there was nothing to watch on TV, no one to talk to, nothing to talk about, because I was sitting in a "holding tank" at the Clark County Detention Center. My "crime"? I am a professional gambler who is good at a card game. Very good.
That Friday morning started like every other day that week: Wake up on the couch at Mikeís place and get ready for the Vegas heat. The addictions kick in right away: Mike always wants to swing by Starbucks first, I want to hit the games first. We strike our usual compromise. Iíll check one or two particular games high on my list, and if they arenít immediately available, then weíll go grab some coffee.
Checking on a particular game is in fact the only reason I am still in Vegas. I was scheduled to leave four days ago, but after my ex-partner Fredo betrayed me to a bunch of Vegas hustlers, I am hanging around town monitoring things, verifying the extent of the damage, but thatís another story ("The $80,000 Game"). Though my ex-partner already broke our deal, I am still keeping my word to not divulge that game, not even to Mike, with whom Iíve been staying all week. So, Mike and I hit the Strip a bit before noon, and I tell Mike that Iíll check on a few games and meet him at Caesars in about ten minutes.
Not much is happening at Caesars. Mike is checking out a game. It looks beatable, maybe an edge around 3%Ė6%. Perhaps it isnít worth the exposure, but if we can pop it for $500Ė$1000, I could afford a muffin with my latte, so we decide to experiment a few hands. I sit in one seat, then another, with Mike playing here, then there. The dealer is definitely flashing, but she is a bit inconsistent, and I donít want the frustration. Surely there are better games out there.
We are about to leave, when we see a new dealer come to the table. She watches for about 15 minutes, learning the game for the first time. Weíre willing to teach her a few things. Then, to our amazement, she says this will be her table for the day, until 7 p.m. Where Iím from, a dealer would receive instruction away from the table, then watch an experienced dealer for a while, then deal for a few hours with an experienced dealer shadowing, and only then would the dealer be "signed off," if competence has been demonstrated. Could Caesars be so arrogant to think that they could just tell a dealer the rules of a game for 15 minutes and then assign her the table?
After only a few hands, we know that our new dealer Steph is a "superstar," so we start right in: "So, Steph, how long you been dealiní?" "What other games do you deal, Steph?" "Is today your Friday, Steph?" "Steph, would you mind filling out a questionnaire so that we can add you to our files. Please attach a passport-size photo, too." It is going to be a good Friday.
In terms of the numbers, the SCORE of this game is around $5000. We are underbetting, though, because we are afraid that Caesars might not be able to stomach the action. We donít want them to banish Steph to the roulette wheel, or worse, kick us out. Mike has been half-joking about wanting to win enough this week to buy a boat, so he is betting around $400 per hand. I am betting less, about $300 per hand; I want that muffin with my latte.
Steph says that she has been dealing ten years. Really, itís more like a week, 500 times. Apparently no one has ever shown her how to hand-deal a game. Or perhaps she underestimates the training of our eyes. She isnít giving it up too blatantly, just a bit off in the angle of her wrist when she snaps her hole cards. Not much, really just enough to give us a 35% edge.
After a couple of hours, I am getting quite used to the speed, the angle, the lighting, the design of these cards. I am very pleased with my play. I have made some gutsy calls, and though my chip pile is only treading water, my eyes are on the money. Beating the card game is always the easy part.
On the dead roulette game behind us, there is a nosy dealer who keeps trying to see our cards. If we had a third teammate, weíd send him to play roulette. Itís important to turn observers. This dealer is nosy to the point of being rude, and is costing the crew some tips, at least from me.
At around 4 oíclock, after three hours of play, Mike and I are ahead $18000, right at expectation. I am up only $800 of that, and we are not splitting, but I have enough for my muffin. I turn to Mike and whisper, "Now the question is: At what point do we leave?" Mike answers, "At 7 oíclock? What are you talking about? Where are you gonna find a game as good as this?!" That isnít the point, but our decision is made for us about 15 minutes later.
With no prior warning or indication of heat, we suddenly get the tap on the shoulder. We are told to step away from the table. We are the only ones playing (probably why the tap came at this moment), and we know weíll be barred, so without much more than a "Sure, whatís the problem?" we step back and stand there, surrounded by three security guards. Our chips are still sitting on the table, and Iím relieved when they say we can take our chips, an indication that they are going to bar us, but that that will be the end of it. We put the chips in our pockets, and then continue to stand there. And stand there. For twenty minutes we stand there by the table, as security waits for instructions. In the distance there are suits on phones, and it sounds like Gaming Control agents are already on the premises, and have been here for an hour or so watching us play.
We have dealt with incompetent Gaming Control agents before, but in the end, they will have to concede that we have beaten the game legally, and weíll be out of here, off to laugh about it over coffee. The guards will not answer any of our inquiries about what is going on, and why it is taking so long. They say only, "Thank you for your patience." In the past, I have recommended that players in similar situations proceed to the exit with cautious confidence. In general, thatís still my advice, but I also always say that each situation is unique, and the playerís response must weigh all factors carefully, and quickly. Here, Mike and I consider it, but agree that there is no chance we could leave. The exit is far away, and we are surrounded by guards. There is no doubt in my mind that any move to the exit would be denied by the Caesars grunts, and the situation would escalate. Worse, the guards would then claim that we "tried to escape" or "created a public disturbance," or some nonsense. It is clear: we have to stay cool, be sharp, and hope that the Gaming Control agents are not complete morons.
After twenty minutes of staying cool and being sharp, a suit comes over and asks for our names and birth dates. He is apparently a Caesars person; we have no obligation to tell him anything. I hope Mike realizes this, and, true to form, Mike fires off an alias right away, and the guy writes it down. Then I give an alias: "Jack Pozzi, 7/6/51." Having given names, Iím expecting the guy to read us the Trespass Act and then kick us out. Then the unthinkable happens. The suit announces, "Iím taking you into custody for cheating," and with that we are handcuffed and led through the casino to a back door.
I have been interrogated once before in my career, surrounded by security and threatened with handcuffs on another occasion, and chased on many other occasions, but the outcome was always just another story for a cocktail party. Nothing like this has ever happened to Mike or me.
While the incompetence of Caesars and Gaming Control cannot be overstated, I donít understand how they could believe that we were cheating. I think that the more likely causes are envy, malice, and the libelous records of the Griffin Detective Agency regarding Mike. As we are led through the casino, past the gawking eyes of civilians, I am furious, stunned, and a bit nervous. It is comforting to have a partner, the truth, and the law on my side.
The Back Room
We are led into a small room with a desk and a bench. The bench has a metal bar on each end, perfect for handcuffing two prisoners. On the wall are two signs quoting the Nevada Revised Statutes supposedly giving them the right to imprison legal players. (For those of you who are not lawyers, Iíll translate: In the interpretation of Caesars and Gaming Control, if you win a lot of money, they have "probable cause" to arrest you for cheating.) On another wall, facing the bench, is a camera with a sign saying that the room could be recorded by both visual and audio equipment. Sitting on the desk is their in-house still camera. Only a few months ago, a card counter was handcuffed at Caesars. I wonder if he was brought to this same room.
After a moment, guards and suits come, and each of us is searched, and all of our stuff is placed on the desk. Itís a hole-card playerís toolkit: $23000 cash, $80000 chips, 30 playerís cards under different names, 2 baseball caps, 2 pairs of sunglasses, and a bottle of eye drops. They donít seem surprised that there are no illegal devices in our possession. They are going to have to think for a while longer on what they can fabricate in the way of "probable cause."
The suits go away, and we are left handcuffed to the bench, guarded by one or two uniforms at all times. As the minutes tick by, I keep my eyes glued to that desk. The guards canít stop ogling the heap of money and chips, and they all joke, "We should go playing with you guys sometime." Yeah, right.
At one point, Cod, a guy whom we had not seen previously, comes storming into the room, walks straight up to Mikeís face and yells, "Lemme see your hands, front and back! Iím the guy whoís going to take you to jail!" Mike shows the guy his hands, and the guy yells, "Both sides!" [Uh, hello, dude, Mike just showed you both sides and you were too busy gloating to look.] What is curious about the moment is that the guy is yelling in Mikeís face, even though we have been calmly sitting there handcuffed the whole time. It is disturbing to see how gleeful the guy is about the prospect of taking Mike to jail, and more worrisome that he announced with conviction that he will take Mike to jail, even though the body search turned up nothing, and we have not yet been questioned by anyone. The most curious thing is that the guy leaves the room without saying anything to me, or even acknowledging me. He clearly has a burning desire to hurt Mike. The guy probably has determined that Mike is the "big" player. His envy is showing. He is just a small Gaming Control agent who naively equates sadism with power.
Mike, though, is weakening. He looks depressed, and is hanging his head part of the time, and then getting chatty with the guards, telling them heís a professional player, and so on. At one point, he even mentions my book [Beyond Counting, RGE, 2000], and I have to hush him and hope the guards didnít notice. This is not yet the moment to divulge information, and the guards are just peons anyway. I want him to keep his mouth shut, or talk about the weather, and help me keep an eye on our stuff. Unfortunately, being handcuffed on opposite sides of the bench, and probably being recorded by both video and audio, I am having difficulty communicating with Mike.
It is not clear what is going on, but we surmise that Caesars and Gaming Control are reviewing videotape of our play. At about 6:10 p.m., I look over at Mike, and we decide that having been handcuffed for an hour and a half, and with Caesars and Gaming Control apparently still unable to figure out anything, the quickest way out of there is to tell them how we beat the game. Hole-card play is legal, after all.
When the head of Caesars security comes in the room, Mike just lays it out for the guy, explaining that we were playing a break-in dealer who was poorly trained. I give the executive summary: "If youíre playing a card game, and you know your opponentís cards, youíre going to win. Itís totally legal." The other guards nod and agree that if the dealer isnít doing the job right, it isnít our responsibility to fix it, and why shouldnít we take advantage? The security chief just says, "Thatís very interesting," and leaves the room.
Now that they know how we beat the game, it shouldnít be long before we get out of here, and Iím hankering for coffee and a muffin. Itís almost dinnertime, after all.
"Good Cop, Bad Cop"
At about 6:30 p.m., the agents come in and say that they want to question us, me first. They uncuff me and lead me into an office, where GCB agent Duck sits at the desk, Cod stands on the side, and a Caesars uniform stands in the corner. I am glad she is here, because she is the one person who seems to have a shred of integrity. They Mirandize me and say that I donít have to talk to them, but it is quite clear to me that if I do not talk to them, they will just throw me in jail. At this point, Iím still thinking that cooperation will lead to their grudging admission that while we are not desirable Caesars patrons (i.e., we are not losers), we were playing legally. Since these are actually "officers of the law," I agree to talk to them, triggering a "Good Cop, Bad Cop" shtick that makes Laurel and Hardy look like Shakespearian thespians.
First, the harassment begins over my identity, since I am not carrying ID. In the back room, I already gave my real name and Social Security number, but Bad Cop isnít satisfied: "How tall do you say you are?" he asks, his tone dripping with sarcasm. "I donít know, 5í 10"? 5í 11"? I got my driverís license long ago, and I donít know if the physical description is quite right." Then he gets loud with me: "No! Hereís what I think: Youíre not ĎJames Grosjean.í Thatís just some guy you know." Apparently, Bad Cop isnít interested in the truth, but thatís all heís going to get out of me: "Well, I am. I was a lot lighter then, too."
Then, Bad Cop tries to get some dirt on me: "So where else [besides Caesars] have you played this week?" OK, the only point of this question is so he can call up those places and have me barred all around town, and get more videotape to figure out who my associates are, how we play, and so on. I tell him: "I donít see how thatís productive," and seeing Bad Copís head about to explode, I turn to "Good Cop," who dismisses that line of questioning. Bad Cop asks: "What other games do you play?" I tell him that I play lots of games, anything with an edge. I try not to get specific. "Where did you stay last night?" Again, theyíre looking to hang me at other places, but the truth hurts: "I slept on Mikeís couch."
Having told them Iím a statistician, I start spouting numbers about hole-card theory. Iím giving the guy the statistical edge for this scenario, and that scenario. I donít think Bad Cop has ever interrogated a statistician, and heís getting frustrated. Theyíre not questioning my numbers, but they are obviously unsatisfied. Then I say, "Anyone sitting on the left half of the table could have seen those cards." With that, Bad Cop triumphantly yells, "So youíre cheating, because youíre using information not available to everybody at the table!" By his interpretation of the law, a counter at third base, or even a BS player at third base, would be cheating, because he uses hit-card information that is not available to the first-base player. The guy is obviously not a legal scholar, nor am I, so I just say, "Thatís not what the law means. The point is that Iím no special guy. Anyone could have sat down in that seat and seen this dealerís cards. Itís totally legal. Itís described in the book, Blackjack and the Law, by Nelson Rose and Robert Loeb."
Oh, boy, Bad Cop doesnít want to hear citations: "Well thatís a book. Youíre in the real world now!" I see, so in this "real world" of Gaming Control, the law isnít relevant. He continues on this line of argument: "Youíre going to put all this on a book?" and again he says the word "book" with utter disdain. "I have no choice. Thatís how we were playing. Iím cooperating as much as I can." With that, he again has the look of triumph: "Aha! Youíre cooperating Ďas much as you caní." Even when he twists my words, his argument is flaccid. After a bit of further frustration, he says, "Iím not talking to you anymore." OK, now comes "Good Cop."
"Well, Iíve looked at the cards, and the aces and tens are bent." Ah, finally they have figured out something to fabricate, but duh, we werenít playing blackjack. Why would a cheater bend the aces and tens? I again try to explain to him that with full hole-card information, bending the cards would be useless. Heís not disputing any of my hole-card information, but heís sticking to his garbage: "Mike has a long history of [card bending]." With that, he shows me a libelous page from the Griffin book with Mikeís picture. Now I know that they really want to get Mike out of the game, and they donít know what to make of me, and then "Good Cop" confirms that by saying: "Weíve never seen you before, and weíre surprised. You and Mike seem to be from two totally different worlds. How did you meet each other?" Without going into the long story, I just answer, "At the tables."
So then "Good Cop" pretends to give me some "career advice": "With your education, youíve got a bright future ahead of you. If you go get a job, you could make $80000 a year." I interrupt him by saying, "Actually, it would be more than that." He continues: "But I can tell you this: if youíve got a felony on your record, then youíre not going to get hired. Theyíre not going to say why; they just wonít hire you." At this point, Bad Cop is still festering, and Iím starting to put "Good Cop" in the "Bad" category as well. Heís desperately trying to get me to roll on my partner, and heís saying that the tape shows a "subtle move" by Mike where he could be bending the cards. He admits that the "move" is very subtle, which tells me that the tape shows the truth, that thereís absolutely nothing there. It was a hole-carding play, pure and simple. They donít accuse me of making this "move," but I think their strategy is to get me to somehow incriminate Mike, but Iíve already told him that I was not bending cards, Mike was not bending cards, and that our win was right at expectation given our edge from hole carding. Now Bad Cop wants to get back into it: "Get Russo in here! Keep íem apart."
So they lead me out of the room and make me stand facing the wall while Mike enters for his interrogation. Then they take me back to the back room, and recuff me. Not wanting to talk to the uniform about anything gaming related, I get him going on some macho stuff: tanks and military background. After a while, Mike returns, and we sit for a while. Weíre worried. We donít know if the whole "the cards are bent" is just a bluff to try to get us to accuse each other of things we didnít do, or whether some Caesars or GCB guys actually tampered with the cards and bent them. Itís obvious that they hate Mike, but weíre still hoping that the truth will be enough to set us free.
After a few minutes, the badges come into the room, and the unthinkable happens: "We are going to arrest you for cheating and take you to the Clark County Detention Center." Now that this announcement has been made, Bad Cop is on Cloud 9. He starts gleefully counting up the cash and chips again, now that they will be seized as evidence. After counting Mikeís money silently, with us watching along, he looks up and asks Mike, "Well, how much?" Then he looks and points over at me and says, "I know you know" [as if to say, "No help from the audience."] Then he says heís going to give us some advice, and it is: "When you get to CCDC, donít let íem know that youíre in there for a gaming offense." "Good Cop" comments that weíd better keep our pants on real tight at CCDC.
The GCB agents are about to confiscate all of our cash and chips, and then they have a private word outside the room with a Caesars person, and then come back in and announce that they will confiscate only our cash, our Caesars chips, and our baseball caps. Our non-Caesars chips will go with us to the Card Counter Detention Center, where the Las Vegas Police Department will take custody.
Before leaving the Caesars back room, they use the in-house camera to take a front shot and profile shot (without our permission). Itís about 9:30 p.m. Weíve been held captive for about five hours already.
Friday Night at The Joint
Still handcuffed, we get into the GCB car and drive to CCDC, which is only a few blocks from the Fremont Street Experience. One at a time, we are processed by LVPD, who inventory all of our stuff and ask some basic questions. Meanwhile, Bad Cop is hamming it up with the LVPD, telling them that we were bending the Aces and Tens (BC: "Thatís my story, and Iím sticking to it!"). I donít trust these cops, and Iím keeping an eye on all my chips sitting on the table, and then the cop checks off the box on his form saying that my "Attention to officer" is "Poor"! Well, excuse me, having never been to jail before, I donít know the drill, and the verbal instructions are mumbled and vague. Having been stripped of our watches, wallets, and other personal items, but still wearing our street clothes and shoes, we enter The Tank.
There are about 20 guys in the tank, which is a room with a dirty, concrete floor, a wooden bench around the perimeter, a toilet in the corner, a TV with a plexiglass shield, and three phones. The first thing I notice is that there are apparently people sleeping or hiding underneath the wooden benches along the wall. How pathetic, or so it seems. I donít like the fact that one guy, who looks like a gangbanger, seems to be drooling over us, and I hear him mutter, "Look at the homies they just brought in here."
Each of us received his "sheet" listing the charges, arresting officers, and so forth. Finally, we get to see the official charges: "Cheating at gambling," and, since there are two of us, "Conspiracy to cheat." Each is a felony charge with bail set at $3000, so we need to find someone with $12000 to get us out.
Our first priority is to get on a phone. One phone is apparently broken, and half the people in there are trying to use the remaining two. The phones are finicky. If all goes well, we get a dial tone, dial the number, wait as the number is processed, then hear the tones as the computer redials the number. If someone answers, a pre-recorded voice announces, "This call is coming from the Clark County Detention Center. To accept the call, press 1." Often the phone doesnít work, blasting static or computer gibberish, and we have to hang up and start over. It takes some time before we figure out all this, and we donít want to display our ignorance by asking too many questions. What is clear is that the phone will not allow any long distance calls, 800 numbers, pager numbers, credit cards, or calling cards. Cell phones can sometimes be reached, but the software controlling the phones is apparently adaptive, because the same jail phone would subsequently reject calls to that cell number with a message: "The number you have dialed is blocked." Basically, the only numbers we can call are local, Vegas home numbers.
That limits our options. The big stumbling block is that Mike, though he lives in Vegas, doesnít know anyoneís home number. He has these numbers programmed into his cell phone, so he never dials them personally! There is one local number, though, that both of us know ó our lawyerís. He has done some civil work for us, and we could sure use him now. The problem: he went on vacation in Hawaii a few days ago. But, with only one number to call, we call it. We leave messages with his answering service. We try, then get back in the phone line to try again a few minutes later.
There is a list of bail bondsmen on the wall, but unless we can get someone on the outside to bring collateral, the bondsman isnít going to put up the $6000 to get one of us out. If we could reach someone on the outside, we wouldnít need the bail bondsman! By some miracle, on the nth try, our call is relayed through to our lawyer in Hawaii. I give him some long-distance numbers to call, and through the fraternity of skilled players, he arranges for a player to come down and post bail for Mike. The guy doesnít have enough cash to get us both out, but if he gets Mike out, Mike can fetch some money to get me out. This guy and Mike had a falling out in the past, but in crunch time, the vile, illegal actions of the casino bring players together. I have no doubt heíll bail out Mike, but how long will it take? It is about 3 a.m. Saturday. So much for a good Friday.
We try to nap a bit on the concrete floor. Additional arrestees have arrived, so the room is quite crowded. I try to stay away from the gangbanger, who keeps eyeing me hungrily. We donít want to talk to anyone about our case; it is no oneís business. Contrary to popular belief, the first question isnít, "What are you in for?" Here and there I gather that the guys are in here for various offenses ó drugs, theft, driving-related crimes, and outstanding warrants in other jurisdictions ó but for the most part, each guy is in his own hell, and doesnít care about anyone elseís problems, so there isnít much personal inquiry. New people arrive, some of whom have the same, age-old questions: "How do these phones work?" "How do you get bailed out?" "When do we get food?" Having been here a few hours already, we are no longer at the bottom of the totem pole, so we give some expert answers to the newbies.
After a few hours, we are called to be photoed and fingerprinted. The fingerprints, both ink and laser scan, will be sent to the FBI. Theyíll check their files to try to identify yours truly, John Doe. I donít think there are many professional card players running around in the FBI files, so I have no idea what will happen after the FBI check turns up nothing. Texas holdíem players wind up on ESPN, celebrated by the media, personally congratulated by old man Binion, anointed with titles and honors, and photographed with a $1 million cash prize. I get photographed with a number in front of my chest. The $800 I won was from Caesars.
Breakfast comes around 4:30 a.m., now Saturday morning. This is the first food we have had since Thursday night. Each of us receives a plastic tray with a carton of milk, some orange wedges, some eggs, and some waffles (I think) soaking in syrup. The oranges and milk are welcome, and I dare to eat the eggs, but the waffles? Yeah, right. Others immediately ask for my waffles, and there is much bartering of food ó the prison economy begins.
When my name gets called out, I am not as excited as Mike was earlier, when we thought bail had been processed. Now I understand that I am in the pipeline, and itís just my turn to see the jail nurse. As the only non-tattooed people in here, we donít want to appear soft, so I like the fact that they call out my name as "John Doe." I am the only John Doe in the tank. Donít mess with me. The nurse asks about drug use, diseases, medications, and takes my blood pressure. The highest itís been in my life. Correlation does not imply causality, but I suspect that jail has something to do with it.
As the morning wears on, I become annoyed that the TV is set to a channel that seemingly shows "Cops" several times a day, and some other "court" shows. Having witnessed the apathy of the LVPD, and the malicious incompetence of the G.C.B., I find it nauseating to be subjected to "Cops." Mike is taking this hard, I think, so it is fortunate that his bail was posted, around 4 a.m. They tell us it could take 24 hours to process, but there is a certain relief in the inevitability of it, that in a day or less, he will be free.
At around 11:30 a.m., my name is called again. Now it is time for my ROR interview. As a John Doe, I canít be released on my own recognizance, and this potential avenue of release (only three avenues ó bail, own recognizance, and judge) will be terminated if bail is posted, which I expect to happen as soon as Mike gets out. Nevertheless, I let the clerk fill out the ROR interview form with names of friends who could vouch for me. I donít name any family members, because I donít want them to panic if they receive a call from the Clark County Detention Center. My friends will worry, but not panic. Though I donít take the option, I think it is a good deal that you can list your wife to vouch for you. (I think thatís a good deal.)
As I am escorted back to the tank, I see a glorious sight ó Mike is being escorted out. His bail has been processed and he is leaving! I give him last instructions to get my ID from his apartment and bring it to the jail. I am quite nervous about being left alone, but Mike can do more for me on the outside.
The Shower Room
I call Mike soon, and he has found my ID, but wonít be able to present it to the jailers until 3 p.m., Saturday afternoon, when the desk opens to outsiders. When he does so, they refuse my ID, saying that as a John Doe, they must wait until the FBI verifies my prints. Well, yeah, but thatís because most John Does donít subsequently present their legal identification! But there is no point arguing with a bureaucrat. In answer to our inquiry about why the FBI is taking so long, their answer is that the FBI is closed over the weekend ó a lie. I tell Mike to try during another shift.
Meanwhile, I am moving through the CCDC pipeline. My name is called, and I stand in a line in the hall, apparently to go take a shower. I have no desire to take a shower. The guards seem to treat this as a service, like, "Youíll get to have a nice shower, and some new clothes." Yeah, right. Not only am I about to go take a shower, but the guys in my line are from other holding tanks, so I donít know any of them. The guy next to me in line is protesting; he wants to get help for the burning sensation in his penis. The guardís expert medical advice: just let the hot water run on it, and itíll feel better. Great, we have to take a shower with Mr. STD over here. The guy keeps wailing, and everyone in our line is thinking, "Please get this guy out of here." Our prayer is answered.
So, we proceed to the shower room, where we surrender our clothes to the guard. We are given towels and some lye soap, and we take turns in the three showers. After time is up, we line up for inspection, still naked. One by one, we have to open our mouths and raise our arms for the guard. Then we have to lift our testicles. Then we have to turn around and bend over. Iím in here for being good at a card game.
Each of us is issued the jumpsuit, some loose blue pants and shirt (emblazoned with "CCDC," of course), and a pair of rubber slippers. They give us a toothbrush and, inexplicably, our choice of comb or pick.
It angers me that their procedures, and in some cases, the holes in those procedures, threaten my safety more than is necessary. We have already showered ó why do any of us need combed hair? Why are they satisfying a cosmetic purpose at all, especially by supplying devices that can be fashioned into weapons? And, the guard makes the mistake of leaving the room before us, so one or two of the guys do smuggle towels out of the room under their shirts. They could have smuggled other things.
After showering, we are returned to a new holding tank. This one is a bit more spacious, clean, and bright, but otherwise it is the same ó a concrete floor, a wooden bench around, a TV with a shield over it, a toilet, and phones. I call Mike to tell him that I have been showered and moved to a new holding tank, where all of us have the CCDC team uniform. There is still no progress on bailing me out. Mike is told that a John Doe cannot be bailed out, so it doesnít matter if he can put up the $6000 or not; we have to wait until they can identify me. He is getting the red-tape job from hell, and canít do much for me, but it is so comforting to have someone on the outside, someone trying.
I look around, sizing up this new group: a few Spanish speakers; an outgoing, black kid; an old man with diabetes; a meek Russian whom I met in the previous tank; a tall, aggressive, white guy who has been around the block (he laments how boring it is that "None of us have Ďequipmentí yet."); and a few others who donít seem noteworthy or threatening. Black Kid and White Guy are the two who are potentially the most dangerous.
Mike is still trying to give my ID to the Booking Sergeant, and Iím trying to pass the time. Time passes slowly on the inside. The best thing to do is try to sleep. The air conditioning is too strong, so itís a cold day in hell. By this time Iíve discovered that the best place to sleep is underneath the wooden benches along the wall. Itís a bit darker, more sheltered from being stepped on, and itís out of view ó the best way to stay safe is to go unnoticed.
Dinner consists of something inedible. I give my sugar packets to Black Kid, whoís hoarding them: "These are worth 10 cents a piece upstairs." I hope Iíll never see "upstairs." Meek Russian tries to give his milk away to White Guy, and as he holds it out, Thirsty Guy grabs it, at which point White Guy says, "You better watch what youíre grabbing. I believe he was giving that [milk] to me, and I find [your grabbing] offensive." A bit later I try to placate White Guy by offering a milk I saved from the previous meal. I tell him the milk is no longer cold, and so he declines, but he is appreciative. Now I have to discreetly throw away the milk, because I donít want to anger White Guy by allowing someone else to drink the milk that he has "dibs" on.
As the hours creep on, I begin to think that I wonít get out over the weekend. The FBI supposedly wonít be able to verify my prints until Monday, and I wonít be able to see a judge until Monday at the earliest, so Iím stuck. I donít know how long I can last in this room, but I am curious to see if weíll have any special food tomorrow, Easter Sunday. Yeah, right.
Breakfast at 4:30 a.m. is the same old stuff. A piece of cake. A hot dog. A milk. As Sunday wears on, I am looking forward to the Lakers game that will be broadcast this afternoon. That will kill three hours. The trick is turning the channel. The guard promises to fetch the remote to change the channel, "if she has time." Yeah, right. We wedged plastic spoons underneath the plexiglass shield to change the channel before, but the spoons were removed during a sweep of the room earlier today.
Together with St. Thomas (who is from the Caribbean), I am able to use our CCDC-issued combs for the same purpose, and the holding tank crowd is quite pleased with our handiwork. The TV reception is horrible, but it is something. Were I at home, I would watch this game anyway, but I find that itís a completely different experience to watch the game with people I donít know, mostly criminals, sitting on a concrete floor, with no food and drink, with no freedom, and with uncertainty over what will happen to me. The game ends. I donít know which team won.
I call Mike frequently, and try to nap, using one slipper as a pillow and the other as a hip cushion against the concrete. My hip is already bruised. I am starting to get hungry, but I am glad I havenít eaten too much, because going to the bathroom is something I want to minimize. There are three or four guys in the room who have rolls of toilet paper, because they have taken the communal supply and co-opted the rolls for use as pillows. Asking these guys for toilet paper isnít something I want to do, but no one can hold out forever.
Late that evening, "John Doe" is called. I am going "upstairs."
Room 9A ó RFB at CCDC,Compliments of Caesars
They tell me to grab a bedroll, which is a sheet, a blanket, a toothbrush, soap. I am then escorted to Room 9A. Now this is more like it! Here is my RFB comp from Caesars. This is a large, carpeted, L-shaped room. In the middle of our wing are cots, and I am assigned to one of them. The other wing of the L has tables and chairs to serve as a cafeteria area during meals. Around the perimeter are wooden doors to cells. The doors have only a small window, so the cells do afford privacy, but privacy terrifies me. There are staircases leading up to a balcony around the perimeter, with more cell doors. All together there are about 50 cells. In terms of physical accommodations, this is better than some youth hostels Iíve stayed in long ago.
Of course, it isnít the physical accommodations that I care about. There are rules posted on the wall, and I quickly and discreetly read them when I get into the room. The main rule that I learn right away is that except for free time (one morning session, one afternoon, and one evening), I am to stay on my cot at all times. During meals we may leave the cots, but only according to the instructions of the guards, and only to enter and exit the line to receive a food tray. Phones may be used only during free time. There are some books on a shelf, and during free time we may pick up books and bring them back to our cot.
Mike informs me that I am scheduled to see the judge Monday morning at 7:30 a.m., so I expect to spend only Sunday night in Room 9A. Yeah, right.
Our 4:30 a.m. breakfast Monday morning is the usual. Crazy Guy is on the cot next to me, so I gave him my extra bread. I donít want to appear weak, so there are occasions when I trade food instead of giving it away, but then I discreetly throw away the food I receive, because Iím not about to eat anything that another prisoner has touched. After picking up a tray, eating lasts about five minutes, and then we must queue up to return the trays.
Then everyone goes back to sleep. In three hours, Iíll be before a judge. I donít understand how the judge is able to release me either. If Mike canít bail me out because Iím unidentified, how can a judge release me if Iím unidentified? Our lawyer isnít sure how this will work either.
At 8:30 a.m., I awake in a panic. Would they have let me sleep through my 7:30 appointment with the judge? I calmly ask the guard what is going on, because I was supposed to see the judge at 7:30 a.m. "I didnít call you, because your nameís not on my list." I canít believe it. What is going on? I ask if he sees "John Doe" on any list, but of course, all he can tell me is, "This is my list, and youíre not on it, so I didnít call you."
I call Mike, who went to the courthouse, expecting to see me. He, too, discovered that I am not on the Monday list. The clerk had erroneously told him that I was scheduled for Monday morning. In fact, I am scheduled for Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. I canít tell you how gut-wrenching it is to expect release on Monday morning, and then find out that itís going to be two more days. Even then, would release be certain? I donít know how I will last two more days. Time stands still on the inside.
"Arnold, Hold the Presses!"
During free time, Cot People are allowed to walk around, and Cell People may leave their cells. Some people play chess, dominoes, cards. Not me. I learn that itís not wise even to watch others play these games. These folks are territorial, and defensive about strangers watching them play. I make a small joke at the chess table, and Irritable Addict doesnít think itís funny. When he starts commenting about how Iíll make a cute couple with this other guy, I nonchalantly slip away, with a vow to avoid the chess players. Luckily, it will take only a few minutes before Irritable Addict gets angry at someone else or something else.
I donít like the fact that the prisoners have access to "equipment" now. When free time ends, and the prisoners scurry back to their cots and cells, there are quick exchanges of contraband near the cell doors. In some cases, I suspect that drugs are being exchanged, but even money is contraband. Prisoners have access to pens, pencils, and other items that can easily be fashioned into stabbing weapons. There is a pencil sharpener mounted on the wall, available during free time! Cell People there long enough are able to acquire razors! I still think that the safest thing to do is to stay on my cot and keep to myself. Expecting to be there only another two days, I think it is less important for me to make friends than to avoid making enemies.
So I decide that the best way to stay on my cot, even during free time, is to pretend to be reading books. If I can find something good on the shelf, I could even read it. Too much to hope for to find Feller, Volume I, but Iíll settle for any classic. Most of the titles are best-selling mystery thrillers, and I am in no mood. So, I pick up the only classic I can find, The Great Gatsby. I read it long ago in high school, and now I reread it, with better comprehension than the first time. My teacher would be proud.
Since it no longer seems possible to expedite my release, the next order of business is to get a hold of Arnold Snyder somehow. He is about to publish my gaming book, Beyond Counting, and now in light of what has happened, I need him to delay the publication. I need to update some of my advice for players; I need my lawyer to review certain passages; and I need to make sure that the cover is going to be professional-looking, just in case I ever have to face a jury and use my book as evidence. I canít make long-distance calls, so I tell Mike to call Arnold. Mike does not know Arnold, and in fact, I have never met Arnold either, so this is all quite bizarre.
We make the lucky discovery that if I call Mike using the jail phone, Mike can use Three-Way Calling to get Arnold on the line as well. Arnold tells me that the book is supposed to go to the printer tomorrow, but, out of legal necessity, I tell him, "Arnold, stop the presses!" I need him to wait until I get released, get home, review passages with my attorney, make necessary revisions, and give him a new printout. This will cause a delay of about a week, but it is necessary. [Delaying Arnoldís pipeline may also cause a delay in the release of the second edition of Blackjack Attack, but I hope Don Schlesinger and the readers of that book will forgive me.]
It is ironic that while other prisoners are using their free time to call family and friends, I am calling my publisher. Arnold also agrees to testify as an expert witness on legal advantage play, if it ever comes to that. I canít say how uplifting it is that a man I have never met would do that for me. It makes me want to fight.
Once per week the prisoners with money in their accounts may fill out order forms for the "commissary." The following day is like Christmas, with each prisoner receiving his goodies in a big plastic bag. The bags are filled with junk food, stationery, and toiletry items. Giving them candy bars is one thing, but the big sheets of plastic are scary.
One morning, prisoners with shoes may spend an hour out in the recreation yard. I still have only my rubber slippers, but I would not participate anyway. On TV at least, the rec yard is where bad things happen ó fights and stabbings. I sleep on my cot.
Some of the prisoners have hobbies. Artist Guy does portraits and nature scenes, sometimes selling illustrated envelopes to other prisoners. Rose Guy made out of toilet paper the most beautiful rose I have ever seen. It has a stem with thorns, and perfect petals. It is the scariest rose I have ever seen.
I finally get word that the FBI has processed my prints. I have no idea how they can release me if the FBI database search turns up nothing. In the end, donít they have to use my driverís license, and if so, couldnít they have used it days ago? Mike posts my bail right away, but it could still take 24 hours to process the bail. Having finished Gatsby, I embark on some lighter reading, a teen "novel" called This Place Has No Atmosphere.
As little as I have in common with any of the guys here, there is one unmistakable bond that we have ó we are prisoners, and the guards are guards. After one meal, a couple of guys go to the sink to drink some water, which is not unusual. This particular guard, though, has issues: "Thereís no water unless I say so. Sit back down! You just cost everybody half an hour of free time in the morning." The guard is trying to get us to blame these two prisoners for our loss of free time, but the unanimous feeling among the prisoners is that the only one to blame is the guard. He enjoys the capricious exercise of authority, and such behavior only strengthens our collective resentment of him and his office. Furthermore, we know he is bluffing, because he will not be on duty in the morning to enforce the half-hour reduction in free time. The guard is as weak and foolish as he is sadistic.
As time passes, I become afraid that I will progress to the next step in the pipeline ó getting assigned to a cell. Being confined to a cot for most of the day may be safe, but having a roommate? Iím not into gambling.
I am awakened by a tap on the shoulder. My bail has been processed! I will be free in minutes. Not so fast. First I have to get my clothes back, so I am taken to a holding tank, as dingy as the first one. I sit there waiting with a few other guys. Why it is taking so long is a mystery, but a common mystery on the inside. After nearly an hour, a guard comes to process us, and he fetches our bags one by one from storage.
When his bag is returned, Shoeless Guy is missing one shoe. The guard says, "If itís not in the bag, then you didnít have it when you got here." "I came in here with two shoes," says the prisoner. Then the guard asks, "What size was the shoe?"! The guard goes back to the storage area to "look for the shoe." Meanwhile, the prisoners speculate that the guard will just go and steal someone elseís shoes from a bag. Sure enough, the guard returns a few minutes later with a pair of shoes. Shoeless Guy takes the shoes, and gives up arguing about his missing shirt. Another eternity passes, but finally we all have clothes.
I agreed with Mike that I would call him and make a beeline for his car when he comes to pick me up. We are worried that cops on the inside will tip off their mugger friends on the outside that we are being released with a stash of chips. We donít want to tarry and give muggers that chance.
As a guard escorts me down the hall to the property window (like a casinoís cage) to get the rest of my stuff, he says, "Thereís a hole in the outer bag, but the inner bags are sealed." I get to the property window where they produce the bag with my stuff. I see the bags of chips inside the bigger bag, which indeed has a hole in it. I donít think much of it, and sign for my stuff, and then get escorted to the lobby.
As I wait for Mike in the lobby, I decide to count my chips. When I take out the inner bags, I have a sinking feeling when I see that the inner bags are not sealed, as the guard said. They are just Ziploc bags. I count all the chips, and sure enough, $2000 is missing!
I immediately complain to the guard in the lobby, who summons the other guards, including the Watch Commander. I had been escorted to the lobby, and remained in the empty lobby the entire time. Furthermore, the lobby is being filmed. I offer to let them search me, to show that I do not have the four missing purple chips in my possession.
Naturally, instead of having the slightest concern that a felony theft has occurred in his police station, Watch Commander just says, "You could have counted it back at the window, but you signed the paper." I argue that I signed for $54,000, not the $52,000 that is in the bag. Further arguments are useless, because the bottom line is that Watch Commander is completely apathetic to my loss of $2000. Looking in his eyes, it is clear that there is nothing I can do, and nothing that I could have done to get that $2000.
Even if I had counted it down at the window, so? Thereís $2000 missing. The cops will back each other up. There will conveniently be no film or access log of the property area. They will claim that the $2000 was never there ("You must have come in here with only one shoe!") To get the money would then require a lawsuit. While $2000 is a nice bonus for a corrupt cop, itís just small enough that it is not worth my effort. Even if the money could be recovered in a lawsuit, lawyers would eat up most of it. And, with a double felony charge pending, can I risk stirring up animosity by fighting with the LVPD?
By this time, Mike shows up, so we just chalk it up as a business expense, and hop in the car. Itís graveyard shift, and after 4Ĺ days in jail, the Vegas lights have an eerie glow.
The Dream Team
Our court dates are scheduled for exactly one month after our release from jail, so Mikeís is several days before mine. Our first order of business is to get lawyers, and we are in full agreement that we will spare no expense in fighting. All of our legal advisors say that each of us should have a lawyer, so, we retain the two top criminal lawyers in Vegas, in addition to our lawyer-friend on vacation in Hawaii. But they are criminal lawyers, with little understanding of my background, and the nuances of legal, skilled play.
We have seen a group of baccarat players go to jail because of the incompetence of their lawyers, who knew nothing about legal skilled play, so we decide to add none other than Robert Loeb to our team. Heís a criminal lawyer, but also a gaming lawyer and author. And, I know Mr. Loeb personally, having first met him two years earlier at a blackjack table! He will understand the nature of our case at many levels.
The first court date in late May will only be to schedule a Pre-Trial Hearing before a judge, probably in late summer. If the judge decides that there was Probable Cause, he will schedule a date to enter a plea a few weeks later. When we enter a Not Guilty plea, they will then schedule a trial, probably several months after that. So, a trial might not be until December or January, but it is still hard not to think about what would happen there. Were the Gaming Control agents prepared to lie and say that the cards were bent? Worse, had they already bent the cards? The videotape would show no bending, but would they get Griffin "experts" to testify about "subtle moves" and other nonsense? Would a jury of uneducated gamblers have any appreciation for the fact that what we do is legal, and that Gaming Control agents are hardly the unbiased, third-party experts that they pass themselves off as. Naturally the Caesars bosses would lie to protect their careers. In another story ("A Night at the Maxim") we have court documents that show a casino lying to the Gaming Control Board in an effort to avoid redeeming our chips, so we have no doubts about the corruption of the casinos.
We analyze and overanalyze every scenario. The biggest hypothetical, and one that is relevant to every defendant: If they offer a plea bargain, will we take it? Of course weíre innocent, but what if the prosecutor takes his option to bypass the Pre-Trial Hearing in favor of a Grand Jury? In a Grand-Jury hearing, we would not be present, and even our lawyers would not be present. The prosecution makes its case, and with no rebuttal, itís quite easy to convince a Grand Jury of probable cause, especially when the prosecution witnesses are prepared to lie and tamper with evidence. So then we could suddenly find ourselves facing a jury that knows nothing about skilled play. Suddenly our use of alias player cards will look "suspicious," and no doubt our back-room testimony will be taken out of context and twisted. With the truth on our side, and plenty of evidence on our side, weíd be overwhelming favorites, but what if thereís even a 1% chance that a jury could be erroneously convinced that we are cheaters? Is it worth a 1% risk of destroying our lives with felony convictions, or should we admit to something we didnít do and accept some kind of plea bargain for "Misdemeanor Theft" or something?
It is not an easy question. The ideologue in you may say, "I would never accept a deal where I had to admit to crimes I did not commit." A piece of me says that same thing, but is it that easy? A felony conviction is so much worse than a misdemeanor, and no matter how innocent you are, facing a jury on a felony charge is gambling. If someone on the casino side tampers with evidence, are you still confident? Vegas is a "company town," and you would face an uphill battle all the way. Even finding experts to testify in your defense is difficult, because many of the experts either want to retain their anonymity for playing purposes, or they now do casino consulting, and will not "betray" their new taskmasters. Even if you want to fight, and are confident that youíll ultimately win, a trial process of a year or longer is stressful and costly.
I wonít tell you my decision to that hypothetical. In the end, we never had to answer. The May court date came and went, and the charges were never filed by the District Attorney. I guess the DA is not interested in fabricated cases. Perhaps he didnít want to face our Dream Team of Bill Terry, Richard Wright, Robert Loeb, and Lawyer X. It cost us $23,000 to retain the four lawyers through the Pre-Trial Hearing. The Pre-Trial Hearing never occurred, so I guess thatís the best money we ever spent. So much for my muffin.
In the interrogation, I think the GCB agents thought that an academic would be easily intimidated. Perhaps they thought that handcuffs and jail would chase me out of the game forever. What do you think?
Thereís a moral to every parable. This one has many. The great irony of casino countermeasures and intimidation tactics is that they often backfire and lead to innovations by players. As a player, I am so much more dangerous now. As a teacher, perhaps Iím more dangerous still. I will share the lessons that I took away from this incident, but you must decide what is relevant to your own circumstances. The lessons are both from the things we did right, and the things we did wrong.
1. Memorize the local numbers for a lawyer and for some friends. If these friends have access to cash, so much the better. Your cash will be confiscated.
2. While I donít want casino personnel to see my ID, I do want the police at CCDC to see my ID, to avoid being booked as a John Doe. There is a way to have your cake and eat it, too. Contact me if you want to know.
3. If you carry lots of cash and chips, realize that this gives the casino personnel, GCB, and LVPD more loot to confiscate and steal. Also, an inventory of chips tells GCB agents other casinos where youíve been playing. (In my case, the funny thing was that while I had chips from casinos throughout Vegas, I had barely played at any of them on that trip. Some of the chips were from over a year earlier. I wonder if the GCB guys wasted time checking these other places.) Thereís a tradeoff here, because carrying an inventory of chips and cash facilitates play. The game sometimes demands spontaneity.
4. Hold the cards as gingerly as possible, using only one hand, so that the GCB cannot accuse you of bending (cheating). Itís probably best to pick up the cards in the middle. Put them down so that itís clear that the corners are not jamming the table.
5. Do not hold anything in your hand, not even money or chips. When I was paid a purple chip for winning a big hand, I held it in my hand. In interrogating me, the GCB agents wanted to know what was in my hand, insinuating that I had a cheating device! Donít assume that the tape will show whatís in your hand. They may have the wrong angle; they may be focusing on your partner; they may not be zoomed in enough. In this case, I donít know what it looked like on tape, but I wouldnít at all put it past these GCB guys to tell a jury that the object in my hand is most likely a cheating device in their "expert opinion."
6. Your partnerís heat comes down on you. There is no doubt in my mind that we were arrested because my partner was libelously listed in the Griffin book. I knew this, and it was my choice to play with him. In the future, I would think carefully about whether itís worth playing with someone so hot. Or, at least, if I think we should leave a casino, and he wants to keep playing, Iíll leave without him.
7. Even if GCB gets involved, donít say anything to them. When they said they wanted to interrogate us, I assumed that they were trying to make an objective decision about whether to arrest us. I agreed to be interrogated, because I assumed that these were honest people. I was wrong. The decision to arrest us had already been made, but they were hoping to get some dirt to hang us. Anything you say can and will be used (and twisted) against you. And, they will ignore things you say that do not suit their purpose. Theyíll threaten to take you to CCDC. So what? Youíre going there anyway, and if you have ID, youíll be out of there in 12 hours.
8. If they ask you where else you have played, donít answer. Of course, you shouldnít be talking to them at all.
9. If they ask you where you are staying, donít answer. If itís a hotel, theyíll just call up that joint and get you barred there. If itís your friendís house, theyíll use that to try to fabricate a "conspiracy" case.
10. Donít get flustered if they say, "Your partner said [this] and your partner said [that]." They will lie about what your partner said, in an attempt to intimidate you, fluster you, trick you. They used this ploy with us, lying to Mike about what I had said (I said I had slept on his couch, but they told him that I said I slept at a casino hotel. They didnít even ask me how I got to the Strip from the airport, but they told Mike that I had said he picked me up.) Unfortunately, it is legal for them to lie during interrogations, so you should expect it. Of course, you should not allow them to interrogate you.
11. When you get released from CCDC, count everything before you sign. When they steal your money, you still will be powerless, but Iím curious to see what their story will be at that point. In my case, they had no story to explain the missing $2000, nor did they accuse me of hiding it; they merely said that I signed the sheet, so I had no legitimate complaint. So, next time, I want to hear their story when you count before signing.
12. Donít talk much in jail.
13. Donít eat food touched by other prisoners. One guy in our holding tank had hepatitis.
14. Even if you are jailed with a partner, hire one lawyer for the initial stages. If the DA never files the charges, you will have saved money by not hiring too many lawyers. If the DA does file charges, there will be plenty of time to hire additional lawyers once the Pre-Trial Hearing is scheduled, or even after that. We jumped the gun in this regard. The process is quite slow. If you end up having to go to trial, then donít skimp on your legal defense, but donít get too ahead of yourself thinking about a trial and juries and the like. Thatís a lot of unnecessary stress and money. Small steps ó small steps.
15. If an incident like this does happen, donít let it deter you from playing. Most places are not like Caesars. Donít be paranoid. If you play wisely, you can minimize this risk. Just know that it can happen. ♠
For more articles by James Grosjean see CTR-Averse Betting, 42.08%, Scavenger Blackjack, Beyond Coupons, James Grosjean's It's Not Paranoia If...", and James Grosjean's A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Forum in the Blackjack Forum Professional Gambling Library. James Grosjean is a member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame.
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Las Vegas Casinos Use False Cheating Charges and Arrest as a Surveillance Countermeasure Against Professional Gambler James Grosjean
We've been seeing an increase in the number of false arrests of professional gamblers in Las Vegas casinos. James Grosjean describes his false arrest after using a legal hole-card technique to win at Caesars Palace. James Grosjean also provides advice on how to deal with casino surveillance countermeasures like false cheating charges and illegal detainment (or backrooming). James Grosjean filed successful lawsuits against Imperial Palace and Caesars Palace for false arrest. In his successful lawsuit against the Griffin Detective Agency for libel, James Grosjean single-handedly bankrupted the company.