More than a year after the city of American Canyon filed a criminal complaint against Napa Valley Casino, the case is going to trial. On Thursday, Judge Thomas E. Warner set a trial date for Jan. 7 in Napa Superior Court.
In October 2011, the city filed a charge against Brian Altizer and his co-owners of Napa Valley Casino for nonpayment of the card room admission tax, a levy of $2-per-visitor passed by American Canyon voters in 2010 as a part of the city’s three-year plan to eliminate a projected budget deficit.
Altizer, his wife, Von Huang, and partner Keith Miller have fought to have the tax overturned on constitutional grounds, most recently filing for review by the state Supreme Court. The court declined that request last month.
William Ross, attorney for the city, pressed Thursday for a speedy trial and a December court date.
The card room’s attorney, David Young, of Wood, Smith, Henning and Berman law firm of Concord, said that while the case was a misdemeanor, weighty issues were involved.
“We believe the tax is unconstitutional,” Young said.
The judge said he understood the defendants’ ongoing argument, but noted, “You haven’t gotten a lot of people signing up for that (viewpoint).”
Both sides had a different view as to how long the trial would take. Ross told Warner he expected the trial would be no more than one hour.
Young said he expected the case to take “a few days at minimum” with multiple witnesses.
Ross said it was the first time the defense had informed him they planned on calling a long list of witnesses.
The judge seemed surprised, as well, questioning Young if he planned on calling every gambler who frequents the card room and observing that such testimony might quickly get redundant.
Young responded that individual experiences at the card room are different. Asked for the number of witnesses he planned on calling, Young at first said he didn’t know. When pressed, he suggested a ballpark number of 20. When further pressed, he reduced the number to five to 10.
When asked by the judge, Ross said he envisioned a jury trial.
Warner set aside up to five days for the trial, after setting Dec. 12 as the day to deal with motions either side might wish to make.