The judge overseeing the case against indicted Black Friday banker John Campos has decided to accept the plea deal worked out with prosecutors last month. Campos, the former vice-chairman of Utah’s SunFirst Bank, was originally charged with five felonies for his role in helping to process payments for online poker companies. Unlike most of the indicted figures in custody, Campos and his co-defendant Chad Elie decided to take their chances in front of a jury. But less than two weeks before the trial was set to commence, Elie announced he’d reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy. The next day, Campos announced his own deal, in which he agreed to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor count of “causing a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to process illegal gambling transactions.”
But Campos’ sweetheart deal hit a snag when Judge Lewis Kaplan questioned its leniency. Kaplan pointedly asked prosecutors whether they were “basically walking away” from the case, and prosecutors admitted they had genuine concerns about their chances in front of a jury, especially given the DoJ’s recent about-face on the applicability of the Wire Act towards online poker. There was also the concern that a ‘not guilty’ verdict may have jeopardized future trials of the other, more senior, Black Friday figures. Unconvinced, Kaplan ordered prosecutors to submit a written argument in favor of the deal.
US Attorneys Preet Bharara, Arlo Devlin-Brown and Andrew Goldstein duly put pen to paper, claiming that Campos’ involvement was “relatively minor” compared to some of the other indicted figures. The feds also suggested that the sentencing guidelines for the lone misdemeanor charge were about the same as the original felony charges. Kaplan appears to have bought into this argument, and Campos now faces a maximum of six months in jail when sentence is pronounced on June 27.