Former Nevada Senator Harry Reid is trying to use his notoriety to persuade a federal judge to go easy on Billy Walters, a famed sports gambler in Las Vegas who was convicted on 10 charges related to insider trading in April.
Walters, 70, faces up to 20 years in prison when US District Court Judge Kevin Castel sentences him on July 27. Walters was found guilty of conspiracy, securities fraud, and wire fraud relating to his investments in Dean Foods.
Between 2008 and 2014, Walters made over $43 million by selling and buying the company based off insider tips provided by former Dean Foods Chairman Tom Davis. The former business executive owed Walters a substantial amount of money after his gambling spiraled out of control.
Numerous persons have written to the Southern District of New York Court requesting that Walters be given probation, or little jail time.
In a letter obtained by ESPN, Reid says of his friendship, “I am sure there are people who do not like Billy Walters, but I have not met one of them. All of whom I have had contact with regard to Billy Walters have shown nothing but positive regard toward Billy Walters and his family.”
“I do not see how this man getting probation would, in any way, adversely affect the criminal justice system,” the longtime politician declared.
Reid isn’t the only famous friend Walters has. Golf superstar Phil Mickelson became entangled in the insider trading scandal when Walters passed him the Dean Foods tips.
Reiding Between the Lines
It’s unclear when the friendship between Reid and Walters began, but it’s somewhat easy to connect the dots in reviewing financial disclosures.
Throughout his career as professional gambler and golf and real estate developer, Walters has been very active in politics. According to OpenSecrets.org, Walters has made 58 contributions to lawmakers and campaign committees.
His first recorded donation to Reid came back in 1996 when he gave $1,000 to the senator. Over the years, he personally contributed at least $9,600 to Reid campaigns. In 2005, Walters gave $5,000 to the Searchlight Leadership Fund, a political action committee founded by Reid in 1997. Searchlight, Nevada, is Reid’s hometown.
Walters’ largest donation was to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In 2005, he gave $26,700 to the organization that fights to keep Democrats in DC’s upper chamber. Five years later, he gave another $5,000.
Walters backed Hillary Clinton during her Senate bid, and gave to John Kerry while he was the senator from Massachusetts.
In Vegas, Walters helped finance Mayor Oscar Goodman’s campaigns, and gave to Las Vegas City Council members Bob Coffin and Bob Beers. He also donated $5,000 each to Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Larry Brown, all Democrats.
In Reid’s letter supporting Walters, he concluded that he hopes the court “would take into consideration all the good Billy Walters has done.”
It’s worth noting that Walters’ support of Reid and the Democratic Party isn’t exclusive. The sports gambler also used his winnings to support the presidential efforts of George W. Bush, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani.