Front page history: Gambling allegation led to arrest of police chief in 1993

Published 7:27 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Filling much of this front page 26 years ago today was news of Junction City’s police chief being arrested for allegedly gambling at a local grocery store.

Police Chief A.E. “Tex” Smith would eventually be found not guilty of a misdemeanor official misconduct charge more than a year later.

The March 7, 1993, story of Smith’s arrest began with a narrative of a raid on the grocery store by other police officers, which resulted in the confiscation of five “Las Vegas-style slot machines:”

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“It was shortly after 5 p.m. Friday and Agnes King was busy working the cash register at the West End Grocery she owns on Shelby Street. One item after another was being placed on the counter by a steady stream customers.

“A bag of chips by a little girl. A package of batteries by a teenage boy. A pack of cigarettes by a middle-aged man. And then a search warrant by a Junction City police officer.”

About four hours after that, Smith was arrested and charged with first-degree official misconduct for allegedly taking payoffs from the machines, according to the archived story. City Attorney A. Jack May said at the time while it wasn’t illegal to receive a payoff from a gambling machine, it was illegal to possess the machines and allow people to use them for gambling.

Smith had already been suspended by Mayor Harold Leach, due to a written complaint filed by police officer Paul Hatfield, who said he witnessed Leach taking a payoff.

Hatfield would go on to take Smith’s place as Junction City police chief. While the charge against him was still pending, Smith took a new job as Hustonville’s police chief.

The owner of the grocery store ultimately entered an Alford guilty plea to charges of allowing gambling. An Alford plea allows defendants to not admit guilt, but admit there is enough evidence to convict them of a crime.

On May 11, 1994, Smith was found not guilty due to a lack of “solid evidence” that he had received a gambling payoff. “I’m well pleased with the verdict due to the fact that I wasn’t guilty,” Smith told a reporter at the time.