MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. - A former state trooper who admitted running a sports betting ring with Coyotes assistant coach Rick Tocchet was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.
Under a plea agreement he struck with prosecutors a year ago, ex-trooper James Harney could have been sentenced to up to seven years in prison. Tocchet has also pleaded guilty and faces sentencing this month.
Harney, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy, promoting gambling and official misconduct, got a break because he cooperated with authorities. Under state rules, he could be eligible for parole in about a year.
Harney’s lawyer, Craig Mitnick, had urged a lighter sentence, telling Judge Thomas S. Smith his client deserved less time because he helped authorities.
“He immediately came forward and he said, 'I did that; that was wrong; that was horrible judgment,’” Mitnick said.
In his plea deal, Harney, 41, said he and Tocchet ran the ring as equal partners for five years.
A third man, James Ulmer, also pleaded guilty and is due for sentencing this month. He and Tocchet could avoid prison under the terms of their plea deals.
The ring became one of the biggest stories in hockey when the men were charged in February 2006 because authorities said several of the bettors were people connected to the game. The only name that was ever revealed was actress Janet Jones Gretzky, the wife of Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.
State authorities said early on that neither she nor other bettors would be charged. Placing bets is not illegal in New Jersey.
In the 40 days that led up to the charges, the ring handled $1.7 million in bets, including college football bowl games and the Super Bowl. But authorities and hockey officials have said there’s no evidence that there was any betting on hockey.
After retiring as a player in 2002, Tocchet became Gretzky’s top assistant coach with the Coyotes.
He was placed on indefinite leave from his job after he was charged.