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Great One is OK

Lawyers claim Gretzkys in clear

TRENTON, N.J. -- Wayne Gretzky will not face criminal charges in connection with a multimillion-dollar sports betting ring busted in New Jersey last week, and he is unlikely to be called to testify against others in the case, his lawyer said yesterday.

Attorney Ron Fujikawa said he received assurances from New Jersey authorities last week the former hockey great was not a central figure in the criminal investigation. Fujikawa said Gretzky did nothing illegal.

''He is not a person of interest," Fujikawa said. ''We have received no indication he is somebody who will be called before a grand jury. We have received assurances that he is at most a fact witness."

A fact witness is someone interviewed informally by authorities, the lawyer said.

Gretzky's wife, Janet Jones, also is unlikely to face criminal charges in the case, her lawyer said. Jones wagered more than $100,000 through the ring, a person with knowledge of the investigation has told the Associated Press; her husband was not directly implicated.

If correct, the attorneys' statements indicate that the first family of hockey at most placed wagers with the ring, but had nothing to do with its operations.

Under New Jersey law, it is not a crime to place a bet, even if the wager is with a bookie. People who place bets for others can be prosecuted, however, as can people who profit off someone else's bets.

Jones's lawyer, Evan A. Jenness, expects Jones to be subpoenaed to testify in the case. She said no documents had been served as of yesterday.

Jenness did not say whether Jones planned to assist officials. But Jones's spokesman, Elliot Mintz, said Jones ''plans to fully cooperate with the authorities."

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