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Mistrial declared in forfeiture trial

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A mistrial was declared this afternoon in a civil forfeiture bench trial with $100,000 in cash and three gambling machines at stake.

The target of the suit is Vijay Patel, who was arrested in January 2011 on allegations that he was operating a gambling place at his First Stop Covenience Store at 2762 Tobacco Road. The felony and two misdemeanors are still open against Patel, but the state went forward Thursday with its civil action against him, which seeks to let Richmond County keep the money and machines seized by sheriff’s investigators.

Patel took the stand around 3 p.m. as a witness for the defense, but his testimony was abruptly stopped when Superior Court Judge David Roper inquired about his proficiency with English. Patel said he came to the United States in 2000 from his native India understanding English, but he had difficulty with technical terms.

That concerned Roper, who heard lengthy legal arguments between Assistant District Attorney Geoffrey Fogus and Patel’s attorney, Charles Lyons, just before Patel took the stand. The judge declared a mistrial and ordered a new bench trial with a Hindi interpreter for Patel.


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