Many of you might remember the story of the upstanding Lehigh University student who robbed a local bank in December of 2005. Gregory Hogan, Jr., since that time, has said that it was his online poker debts that forced him into the robbery, which he performed while two fraternity brothers sat in an SUV waiting for him to make what they thought was a withdrawal they believed was completely legitimate. The ultimate word has finally been handed down in this engrossing story by the courts in Pennsylvania.
Judge William H. Platt took into account the evidence that was presented that showed Hogan had run through thousands of dollars playing Internet poker, but ultimately determined that there should be a severe punishment. He sentenced the 20 year old to ten years in prison and a stiff parole period afterwards that firmly delineated that the young man would not be allowed to access the Internet. After all is said and done, Hogan will probably only serve the minimum time in Pennsylvania state prison, estimated to be around 22 months.
Judge Platt rejected the defense requests for less time, for the sentence to be served in just the county jail and to allow the former class president work release. He did, however, sentence Hogan to a youthful offender's version of state prison, rather than casting him into the main prison system. It does seem that the testimony from the patrons and employees of the bank helped to contribute to the severity of the sentence.
One employee stated during testimony that "I don't want to hear about his gambling problem…It's just an excuse." Others noted that the consistent media attention has shattered the nerves of all the tellers and other employees of the bank, leading them to wonder if the next young person they see coming through the doors is there to rob them or simply make a deposit.
While the circumstances regarding Hogan's actions are somewhat poker-related, it was correct to sentence the young man to the time he will serve. He seemingly had it all; an excellent chance at a college education, a solid family life (his father is a reverend), and a bright future. He made the drastic decision to rob a federal institution and, as such, he has to face the music for what he did.
What isn't correct is the continual dialogue that Hogan and his family have espoused since that fateful day in December. Hogan himself has stated that poker gave him a "sick mind" and forced him to steal from not only his family but his friends as well. It was Hogan, however, who decided to multiply his problems by knocking off the bank, not online poker. While it is nice that he wants to help people by talking with them about the dangers of gambling, it isn't correct to say that it was poker that drove him to the crime. It was a desperate move by a desperate young man, nothing more and nothing less.
With the closure of this chapter in his life, perhaps Gregory Hogan can gain perspective that comes with time. Don't blame poker or gambling for what you did, accept the responsibility for your actions and move on. While we certainly hope that there are no other stories like this out there, there will always be those who blame the game for the actions and decisions that they have made.
Ed note: Party Poker have multiple tables available at every limit, 24 hours a day.