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Judge rules 'not guilty' in Duplin County sweepstakes case

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WALLACE, N.C. - A judge ruled “not guilty” today in Duplin County’s first gambling and video sweepstakes case to go to court.

Last year, the state Supreme Court upheld a North Carolina law banning sweepstakes machines. Since then, local law enforcement across the state has started shutting down parlors.

This September authorities charged a Duplin County man with six counts of gambling and six counts of video sweepstakes violations. The defendant, Gardner Payne, owns two internet sweepstakes cafes off Highway 41 in Wallace.

His case went to trial in late October, and today District Court Judge Henry L. Stevens, IV ruled “not guilty” on all 12 misdemeanor charges.

District Attorney Ernie Lee tried the case. He tells 9 On Your Side  the judge felt like the state had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt and based his decision on several previous Supreme Court rulings.

Lee says he’s “disappointed” in the outcome of the case; but he and Sheriff Blake Wallace will continue to be “aggressive” in their sweepstakes crackdown.

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