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Derry lawyer told: Pay up or face time

| Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

A Derry lawyer was told Friday he has two months to pay up or he could be sent to jail or serve an extended probation sentence for a conviction three years ago on operating illegal poker games around Westmoreland County.

Attorney Lawrence Burns said in court he has purposely refused to pay more than $2,000 he owes in court costs while he contemplates filing yet another appeal of his 2009 convictions.

β€œIt is my intention to appeal,” Burns said.

Burns, 69, was convicted of 12 misdemeanors in connection with running Texas Hold'em poker tournaments and was sentenced to serve one year on probation.

Immediately after his arrest, Burns challenged the criminal charges and at his trial in 2009, he claimed he should have been acquitted because poker is a game of skill, not chance.

That has been the theme of Burns' appeals, which were finally rejected last April by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Burns said he now wants to file another appeal in federal court. He said a recent ruling in the western New York federal court that determined poker was a game of skill strengthened his resolve to continue his fight.

β€œI can have these charges removed if I file an (appeal),” Burns said.

Burns served all but one day of his probation sentence, but had the final 24 hours of his supervision stayed to allow for his series of appeals to be filed.

In court on Friday Burns said he believed he would lose the opportunity to appeal if he paid his court costs and had his probation terminated.

But Judge Al Bell said Burns still has to pay his costs and gave the lawyer two months to do so.

Following Friday's hearing, Burns was served with three arrest warrants issued by Greensburg District Judge James Albert for unpaid parking tickets in the city.

Burns was released after he scheduled a hearing before Albert on Jan. 22.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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