Jones Gretzky to be called to testify before grand jury

Updated: March 15, 2006, 8:20 PM ET
Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. -- Wayne Gretzky's wife will be subpoenaed to testify when a grand jury looks at charges in the case involving a betting ring allegedly run by an NHL assistant coach, New Jersey's attorney general said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.

In her first major interview since being sworn in as attorney general six weeks ago, Zulima Farber said that Janet Jones Gretzky would be called to testify about the high-stakes gambling ring as soon as a grand jury convenes.

"She would be getting a grand jury subpoena, so when the grand jury convenes she'll get a subpoena," Farber said. "She'll be served. She hasn't been because there is no grand jury yet hearing the case."

Farber said authorities would convene a grand jury to hear evidence in the gambling case relatively quickly.

"We're not talking years -- we're talking weeks or months, not years," she said.

Gretzky and Jones Gretzky have been linked to the ring allegedly run by Phoenix Coyotes assistant Rick Tocchet, a former NHL player and close friend of Coyotes coach Gretzky. Jones Gretzky is alleged to have placed large bets through Tocchet.

An attorney for Jones Gretzky said Wednesday that she has not received any grand jury subpoena from New Jersey authorities and said her client has never been informed that she was a target of a New Jersey grand jury investigation.

"I think it became a big case only because of the names involved," Farber said. "I think it would have been a routine -- if there is such a thing -- illegal gambling case if it wasn't for the names of those people involved. However, because there was a trooper involved, it was big to us."

Farber said additional charges were likely in the case and left open the possibility that charges could be brought against state police officers or other bettors.

The attorney general defended an assertion by state police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes that the gambling ring had ties to the mob, although defense attorneys have denied an organized crime link.

"If I were the defense attorney, I would deny it too -- with vigor," Farber said.

On Wednesday, lawyers representing James Ulmer and James Harney, two men charged in the case, did not return calls seeking comment. Harney is the state trooper charged in the case.

Tocchet's lawyer, Kevin Marino, did not comment.

The new attorney general also used strong language to condemn leaks in this case, especially pertaining to information gathered from phone wiretaps.

"Leaking wiretap evidence is already a crime in New Jersey," she said. "One of the defense lawyers actually showed me the statute."

She said anytime anyone leaks confidential information, the investigation could be jeopardized.

"We do best when we are holding information and we're the only ones who have it," Farber said. "From a practical point of view, we can't tolerate the leaks."

NHL commissioner Gart Bettman said Wednesday that there was nothing new to report on the league's own investigation of the gambling operation.

Robert Cleary, hired by the NHL, is scheduled to interview more people but his work "is somewhat dictated by how the authorities in New Jersey are running the investigation," Bettman said.

"What is clear, whatever may or may not have happened, it has nothing to do with the playing of hockey games," he said. "The issue is whether or not somebody or some bodies were involved in or placed bets on other sports. ... We continue to treat it very seriously. Mr. Cleary will get to bottom of it from a league standpoint."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press