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Poker heist suspect acquitted

A man standing trial accused of bursting in on a high stakes poker game and stripping players, including a court judge, of as much as $40,000 has been acquitted of first-degree burglary on Thursday in Mobile, Alabama.

Prosecutors argued that Sean Lamont Hawthorne, 39, was one of two men who robbed the Mobile apartment where up to a dozen people had gathered to play poker, relieving them of their cash at gunpoint.

In some cases, the victims lost thousands of dollars in cash to the thieves, they told jurors in the case, who deliberated for four hours before announcing their verdict.

One witness, Tony Hatley, told jurors earlier this week that he and several other regular players were gambling about 9.30pm. According to Hatley, a player who had just been busted out of the game opened the front door to leave, when two armed men, one of them masked, the other later identified as Hawthorne, broke in and ordered that everybody get down on the floor.

Due to there being only playing chips were on the table, the assailants began systematically relieving everyone present of their money, said Hatley, who felt that the intruders appeared to have inside knowledge of the game. He said he was suspicious that one or more regular players may have helped set the game up for a heist.

No other arrests were ever made and the masked man was never identified. Some of the victims lost thousands of dollars to the thieves, the jury heard.
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