Former Trooper Pleas Guilty in Hockey Gambling Ring Case

A former New Jersey state trooper pleaded guilty Thursday to helping run a gambling ring and promised to help authorities with their case against former hockey star Rick Tocchet and others.

In a negotiated deal, James Harney, 40, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, promoting gambling and official misconduct. He faces up to seven years in prison at his sentencing Oct. 27.

He had initially faced more than 25 years in prison.

The plea comes nearly six months after New Jersey authorities charged him, Tocchet and a third man, James Ulmer, with running a ring whose alleged bettors included a handful of current NHL players and actress Janet Jones, the wife of hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

Authorities have said they did not expect to charge any of the bettors with crimes, and NHL officials say there were no bets on hockey games.

Still, the connection to the professional hockey league made the gambling bust a major sports story earlier this year.

Harney and Tocchet became friendly in the 1990s when Tocchet played for the Philadelphia Flyers and Harney tended bar near the arena where the team played.

Harney was suspended from his position with the state police after he was charged in February. In a letter Wednesday, he resigned from his job, apologizing for "the disgrace which I have placed upon the Division, myself and my family."

State police said this week that a grand jury has not yet been convened to consider whether to issue indictments in the case.

After Tocchet was charged, he took an indefinite leave of absence from his job as the top assistant coach of the Phoenix Coyotes, who are led by Gretzky.

Gretzky has denied any wrongdoing. His attorney Ron Fujikawa said after the story came to light that he had received assurances from New Jersey authorities that the hockey great was not in any way a central figure in the criminal investigation.