Jones Gretzky, others could be called as witnesses

Updated: February 16, 2006, 2:56 AM ET
By Mike Fish | ESPN.com

A spokesman for the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice told ESPN.com on Wednesday that it is unlikely that additional people will be charged in connection to a gambling ring allegedly financed by Phoenix Coyotes assistant Rick Tocchet and a New Jersey state trooper.

John Hagerty said Janet Jones Gretzky, who allegedly wagered through the ring, and others could be called as witnesses in the case but indicated that Jones Gretzky would not be charged because she has not done anything illegal.

"All the names that everybody is focusing [on] that have never been officially confirmed [by law enforcement], these people are not charged," said Hagerty. "They have not committed a crime in this state. They are fact witnesses."

Tocchet and two others summoned in the gambling ring -- New Jersey State Trooper James Harney and James Ulmer -- are scheduled for a first appearance and arraignment Tuesday in Mount Holly, N.J., before Burlington County Superior Court Judge Thomas Smith.

Jones Gretzky is currently in Torino, Italy, where her husband, Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky, is overseeing the Canadian Olympic hockey team.

Asked if Jones Gretzky or the others might ever be charged, Hagerty said, "It is highly unlikely. Again, they are witnesses." As such, they could be called to testify at trial, Hagerty said.

Robert Cleary, who is heading the NHL's internal investigation of the matter, declined to comment. A spokesperson said he wouldn't discuss the case until completing his investigation.

Representatives for law enforcement and the defense faced off Wednesday over how organized crime may or may not have been involved with the gambling ring.

A law enforcement official told ESPN.com that Harney, accused of being a partner in the ring with Tocchet, was involved with the Bruno-Scarfo crime family, operating in Philadelphia and southern New Jersey.

"There was obviously contact between Harney and individuals who were known members of that crime family," said Capt. Al Della Fave, a spokesman for the New Jersey State Police.

The interaction was observed during an undercover operation, but Della Fave said it hasn't been determined what if any role crime family members may have played in the alleged bookmaking scheme. Asked if Tocchet or Ulmer, also charged in the bookmaking ring, had had contact with organized crime, Della Fave said, "Again, that is to be seen. That will all be part of the continuing investigation."

Tocchet's attorney, Kevin Marino, told ESPN.com: "It is untrue that Rick Tocchet ever had any involvement with organized crime, period. ... There are a lot of things being bandied about. The allegation that Rick Tocchet ever had ties to organized crime is false."

Craig Mitnick, the attorney for Harney, is on vacation and didn't return telephone messages.

"This is not some organized crime connection like I have read, which is the most ridiculous, laughable, nauseating statement that could come out of a prosecutor's office," said Charles A. Peruto Jr., who represents Ulmer. "Because there is no -- and I mean no -- tie, remotely or otherwise, with these accused individuals and organized crime. And to say that is irresponsible. And it's one where they are going to end up with egg on their face."