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Remembering April 6, 1965

April 6, 2015

I’m sure some other stuff went on 50 years ago today, but of interest here is that it was the day FBI Director and All-Around Scumbag J. Edgar Hoover decided to renew his attack on the sports wagering community. With basketball playoffs going and baseball warming up, it was time to wipe out bettors and bookies once and for all.

Well, fuck you, Edgar.

Oddly enough, something good for all Americans came out of all this shitty jackbooted thuggery–and a version of it would come to be used in Canada as well. Eventually swept up in the FBI’s overreach was Mr. Charles Katz, one of LA’s most skilled pro gamblers.

Long before the Internet, Charlie had places he could call and bet across the US, and Charlie could arbitrage prices to guarantee a profit. Gambling across state lines was (and is) a federal crime. The FBI found the payphones Charlie was using to place his bets and recorded his calls. Charlie was cuffed and stuffed.

Katz vs. United States, 389 U.S. 347 made it to the Supreme Court in the autumn of 1967.

Trial and appeal courts had given Charlie no joy. Sure, the fuzz had no warrant, but Charlie used a public payphone–and for what it was worth, the listening device wasn’t on the inside of the booth, but strapped on the outside of the top of the booth.

Down to their last shot, Katz’s lawyers changed their argument: The cops should have needed a search warrant because any average, reasonable person had a reasonable expectation of privacy when using a phone booth if the door was closed and he wasn’t screaming. Wiretapping should be seen as a fourth-amendment search, physical intrusion is not necessary for a search to occur, so no warrant = no lawful arrest.

The justices agreed, 7-1.

Charlie walked, and became a minor celebrity in the wider world for awhile, which was bad for business.

Privacy, search, and seizure law would never be the same in the US, with similar rulings following in Canada, the UK, and Australia.

Many years later, Harvey Schneider, one of Charlie’s appellate lawyers, wrote a pretty readable narrative from his perspective:…/06_schneider_master1mlr40.pdf

Celebrate your right to be left alone by the government: patronize your local bookie all season long, huh?

That is all.

Ah, let’s say it one more time: Fuck you, Edgar.


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