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Legend lost: Slim breaks his silence Pt. 2
This is the second of a two-part interview between Amarillo Slim and Nolan Dalla, who was on assignment from PokerListings for this exclusive feature.
Part two focuses on the legal proceedings with regards to the indecency charges, Slim's strained relationships with his family and the poker community's reaction to the controversy. If you haven't read part one catch up here.
NOLAN DALLA: Let's talk about the legal case. You ended up pleading guilty to assault charges.
Editor's note: Despite Nolan and Slim referring to his plea as "guilty," Slim actually pled no contest.
AMARILLO SLIM: Yes, to get this over with. God damn, it's breaking up my family. It was the best thing to do. All I had to do was accept the charges and get probation. That wasn't anything.
There were no felonies. I could accept that. And the main reason was I didn't want to be in the courthouse as an enemy to my wife and family, and especially my grandbaby. I'm going to end up being the enemy, if we go to court. I can't stand for that.
NOLAN DALLA: But the bottom line remains that you pled guilty to assault charges. You stated in a court of law that you were guilty. Why would you ever plead guilty to something you did not do if you were truly an innocent man?
AMARILLO SLIM: When my lawyer told me there's an easy way to end all this, I asked him "How?" And he said to do a plea bargain. So, I said yeah - go ahead and do it.
So, he came out of court and said I got you probation and you pay a $4,000 fine. I was told it was just a misdemeanor for simple assault, whatever that means.
I asked him what he thought about the plea bargain, and he said - this will keep your family out of the courthouse and end it. See, I was trying to protect my family.
NOLAN DALLA: You decided to plead guilty to assault. Before that, did you fear a felony conviction and being sentenced to prison?
AMARILLO SLIM: No! The felony charges were already dismissed. I didn't even have a bond set. Don't you think that if I'd had felonies against me they would have arrested me and made me post bail?
NOLAN DALLA: Some have speculated as to the reasons for your guilty plea. They suggest it might be justifiable for a man in his late 70s, facing possible jail time, to accept any deal which would keep him out of a Texas prison.
AMARILLO SLIM: That's not it. I would not have had to fight the case in court much. It would have been very easy for me [to win]. But I didn't want my family dragged through a trial and being made my enemy in the court. I didn't want my 12-year-old granddaughter to have to take the stand.
NOLAN DALLA: You must have known the public would hear about this controversy and suspect you might be guilty of worse crimes. Weren't you afraid of the harm this might do to your reputation?
AMARILLO SLIM: No, I'm not even scared of a big old grizzly bear. I just did what was appropriate - or at least what I thought was appropriate.
NOLAN DALLA: Were you depressed?
AMARILLO SLIM: [Expletive] yes. Everything I loved was gone. It was taken away from me.
NOLAN DALLA: But now you say you have your family's support. At what point did they come back to you and want to move on?
AMARILLO SLIM: Yeah. They came to me when they realized they had it all wrong. I can't remember when exactly that was, but all of a sudden everybody was calling and visiting and everything.
We were all sitting in the same room, eating the same food, swimming in the same pool. Everybody did a complete 360.
NOLAN DALLA: I think you'd acknowledge that you have a reputation as a master manipulator and a hustler. You know how to get things done. You can fix things. In short, you are capable of just about anything. Did you buy these people off?
AMARILLO SLIM: No. People might think that, but they can think what they want. Just so they know I didn't molest a child or fondle a child or anything like that. I didn't.
NOLAN DALLA: Let's discuss the public's reaction to the controversy.
AMARILLO SLIM: The Associated Press found out about it but they didn't want to touch it. Why not, I don't know. Then, John L. Smith [a writer with the Las Vegas Review-Journal] wrote the most damaging article you ever saw in your life.
But I never talked to him and there is nothing factual in the entire thing. He said they now call me "Amarillo Slime." I haven't heard that. I might interview him with a baseball bat.
NOLAN DALLA: But Smith was basing his article, as are most writers, on court records and ...
AMARILLO SLIM: On the word of an assistant district attorney.
NOLAN DALLA: Yeah, but also the fact that you did plead guilty to three charges.
AMARILLO SLIM: I already told you how that was.
NOLAN DALLA: Yes, I can appreciate and even respect that. But you did plead guilty - yes?
AMARILLO SLIM: Yes, because I was advised to plead guilty. Because - we needed to end all that mess. It was also to assault, not to being a molester or doing something like that.
Then, everyone got a hold of it and the next thing I read was that I had pled guilty to whatever it was, being a child molester, and a pedophile. It just got worse and worse.
And it wasn't true. I can't even say the word pedophile. I resent it. I resent it with every bone in my body. I was 77 years old and all of a sudden I'm going to start molesting kids?
Huh? Not a lot of logic there, is it? There was a site [WickedChopsPoker] which called me a pedophile. I'm considering suing them if they don't publish a retraction because none of it is true.
Back when I could have sex, I don't have it anymore - I can't help that - I would have had it when I could. How come I waited until I was impotent to do something like this?
NOLAN DALLA: But can you see how a writer or journalist following this story might conclude that since you pled guilty in a court of law, then that opens you up to speculation about what really happened?
AMARILLO SLIM: I guess so. But saying I committed molestation? No. That's when I fight back. You want to know how many psychiatrists and child counselors I went and saw? Five. The D.A. set all these up while I was being investigated. To a person, every one of them said "There's nothing we can do for this man. He's no more a sex molester than I am."
NOLAN DALLA: If you could do this all over again, would you do things differently?
AMARILLO SLIM: I have tried to have an understanding with all of my family about what I was doing [during the court case]. Now, they know what I was doing. I know it, and they know it. I was trying to protect my family. Hell yes, I would do the same thing over again.
NOLAN DALLA: But when you walk into a poker room today, some of the people in that room who once respected you might think differently.
AMARILLO SLIM: Yes, and that bothered me. But I have never had anyone say anything negative to me. Whether I was playing, or not playing. I think there are a bunch of hypocrites in the poker world and a lot of them are obligated to me.
Not a one of them has showed up and stood beside me ... I don't hear from them anymore. Some of them could have said something and shown their support. But they didn't.
NOLAN DALLA: Care to name any names?
AMARILLO SLIM: They know who they are.
NOLAN DALLA: Did you get support from anyone in the poker community?
AMARILLO SLIM: No, I didn't seek any. But I sure should have had some. I will say that one person did speak up and say that what I was charged with couldn't have possibly happened.
He told everybody that we had traveled together for years and slept in the same room. He said it never could have happened what was said about me.
NOLAN DALLA: Was Doyle Brunson the player who spoke up?
AMARILLO SLIM: Yes.
NOLAN DALLA: No matter what, some people are still going to say, he's Amarillo Slim. He beat the rap. He beat the legal system. That's who he is, and he's guilty. What do you say to that?
AMARILLO SLIM: They don't know the truth. They are wrong to condemn someone without any substance whatsoever. There's not one single person who ever got up and testified I did something wrong.
The little girl never saw any counselors, because it never happened. The [felony] charges were dismissed against me. The grand jury never heard that I passed a lie detector test.
All of my family is on my side now, including my grandbaby. I don't know how I can make it more clear that all of this was wrong. And now, I am ready to do something about it and speak out.
Special thanks to Michael Hirschensohn for his efforts in setting up the interview.