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Daily Inter Lake The Daily inter Lake Two strangers walked into Whitefish's Cowboy Cabin late on the morning of Jan. 31, 2007... "Cowboy Ron" Turner stood behind the big brown wood counter -- which looks like the bar in a Wild West saloon. The Cowboy Cabin is actually an upscale Old West Antique shop. Turner, dressed in his Western gear. Big cowboy hat. Full snow-white beard. Looks like Western actor Keenan Wynn, but doesn't sound like him. "Howdy, partners! – Welcome to the Wild Wild West...Nice to have you here," Turner told the strangers. They didn’t answer just walk past him and spied out the 4000 sq. ft. shop filled with Old West History. Ron went after them and repeated himself...Welcome! "We'll see if you can still say that after you see who we are," Turner quoted one agent saying. ..that is when “the strangers flashed their badges into the face of Cowboy Ron, 3” inches from his eyes and they said, We are the law in Montana, we are with the Department of Justice's Gambling Investigation Division, to be exact and you have broken the law! The agents said, it is against the Law to have Gambling devises. And we are going to confiscated all you have...Cowboy Ron remember thinking do these guys know that these items are genuine historical Old West Antiques? So he politely stated that you do realize that these items are Antiques that are from the Old West period. To which one of them replied, I don’t care if they are from the days of Jesus Christ they are illegal and you are going to go to jail for 10 years for each of the 10 items we see right here. Ron, remembered thinking, am I really in Montana or the Soviet Russia? They repeated that you will also be fined $50,000. for each of the 10 items. I couldn’t believe what was happening and even considered it was some kind of joke. Until they began to pick up several Old West gambling items from the floor of Cowboy Cabin, and laughing and saying this is illegal as hell -- They took two 19th Century Roulette wheels, two early 20th century punchboards and a Chuck-a-luck. A chuck-a-luck is an small hourglass-shaped cage that spins -- with three dice inside. One roulette wheel and its table dates to the 1880 s. It was used in the saloon on the CBS television series "Gun smoke." One of the old punchboard was framed behind glass just for display in someone’s recreation room. If you ever were lucky at Winning on a punchboard the owner of the business would give a prize like a 5 cents, a candy bar or one cigarette. The agents marked as evidence and left a huge craps table, a blackjack table, a roulette table and an smallish craps table top -- all 19th century items to be picked up later. The blackjack table is a half-circle table with green felt on top and no markings, which the Turner thought eventually would be bought as a bar for a recreation room. All the remaining gambling gear has been moved into storage in the back, except for the huge, almost unmovable craps table. The agents ordered Ron and his wife, Eila, to cover the big craps table with furs. The Turners recently moved from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., to Whitefish to be with their daughter and son-in-law, Alisha and Clint Walker. The Turners are longtime Old West Antique Dealers who owned their Western antique store for 18 years before opening the Cowboy Cabin just a few days before Christmas / December in the old Closed down Dire Wolf Restaurant / bar in northern Whitefish. We, the reporters, were told that the two state agents were just routinely checking up on business’ and decided to see what had gone into the old tavern, said Gene Huntington, administrator of the state's Gambling investigation Division. However, the Turners said the agents immediately walked to the back of the store's display area where the gambling tables and equipment were located. A third agent showed up 45 minutes later. The agents told the Turners that having unlicensed gambling equipment is against the law in Montana -- the stuff would be confiscated. Ron Turner said: "Some of these things are over 140 years old. These are not gambling devices. These are historical Old West Antiques ... There are Old West Gambling Collectors who search these type of high end items. It's a historical collection... Our Shop is not a gambling operation! It never has been nor would ever be Gambling enterprise. Gambling equipment about 10 items in all, appears to make up a tiny fraction of the Cowboy Cabin's rustic-looking inventory. It has hundreds of Old West cavalry and Indians items. There are oil paintings, saddles, Colts and Winchesters....lots of guns, and holsters and log furniture, huge number of Western movie posters, old-time photos and a huge 19th Century Bar with a painting of a reclining Woman, of likely easy virtue, hanging behind the bar. Arguments flew back and forth: Historical antiques versus illegal gambling equipment. Ron Turner contended that the equipment is too old, battered and expensive to be used viably for gambling. As they argued, Eila Turner began to cry. "I was in a state of shock," she said. Ron phoned his son-in-law, Clint Walker, for advice. Walker called the Whitefish police to ask that officers check up on the state agents to make sure they were genuine and not con artists. Two Whitefish officers showed up at the Cowboy Cabin, asking the agents to verify their identities. One agent got mad and yelled at the police officers, who remained calm, Turner said. Whitefish Assistant police Chief Mike Ferda verified that one state agent was rude and "went a little over the top to our officers." After checking the state agents' identities, the Whitefish officers had to back off. The Turner’s said they did not realize, nor have they ever heard of such a thing anywhere they have set up at Antique Western Shows in just about every western State there is... that “just possessing” certain gambling equipment, according to the Agents was illegal in Montana. Ron said, we have had a Shop for 18 years with numerous Law Enforcement, even Chief’s of Police Dept.s everywhere who are our customers and no one has ever even for a minute said anything we did or sold was illegal! They, the state agents told them that ignorance of the law is not a defense. Ron, thought to himself, he said, how come there are no charges!, No paper work! nothing...just taking a $100,000. dollars of Antiques out the door without even a warrant to even come into our shop and scare all the customers out the door. They (Cowboy Ron & Eila) said, when Ron said it doesn’t seem right that you can do this without any warrant or anything? and ‘one agent sarcastically said: "Welcome to Montana.!" The agents did note that a rifle rack -- two spurs nailed to a backboard painted to look like a roulette table -- might also be confiscated, the Turners said. Two agents returned Tuesday to the Cowboy Cabin. They scolded the Turners for not removing the huge fur-covered craps table from the public display area. Ron Turner took a photo of them, intending to store it on his computer. One agent got mad and told Turner that he would confiscate the camera as evidence unless the photo was deleted, Turner said. He deleted the photo while they observed. Huntington said the agents thought Turner threatened to put their photo on the Internet. The state has not charged the Turners. The most likely potential charge would be a misdemeanor of possessing illegal gambling equipment, Huntington said. The confiscated and to-be-confiscated items are worth $100,000, the Turners said. Some of those items were being sold on consignment for others. Also, other people selling items through the Cowboy Cabin on consignment have withdrawn those antiques out of fear of future confiscations, the Turners said. Those withdrawn items are worth about $300,000, they said. Cowboy Ron said, that he asked, I don’t want to be rude, but may I ask...what will you do with these Antique items. They rudely said...normally, we would take it all outside and take a sledge hammer to all of it! Ron gasped. These guys are nuts...this is part of our American Old West history. They added, but... If the State decides to hang on to the confiscated equipment, it can destroy them, or use them for training, or donate them to a museum. Huntington said the state has to apply the anti-gambling-device laws consistently -- regardless of whether the items are in an antique shop or being used to gamble in the back room of a tavern. The confiscated items fall under the state' anti-gambling laws, which don't address antiques except for old slot machines, he said. (Cowboy Ron wanted us to clarify that he had never even had a slot machine in all of his Antique Business. There is no way for the state to legally determine whether an old craps or roulette table will not be used for gambling, Huntington said. The Turners asked the State about shipping the equipment back to California or to their clients who had put them on consignment. Huntington said federal law prohibits transporting gambling equipment across state lines. The Turners contended that they had displayed and sold antique gambling equipment for years in their San Juan Capistrano, Ca. shop, and never ran afoul of the law. Huntington said: "Our quick evaluation is that California has a similar law to ours [on gambling equipment]." The Daily Inter Lake could not get a reply Thursday afternoon on this specific issue from the appropriate California authorities. The Turners have spoken with several acquaintances about their problems, including some attorneys, they said. One or more of those attorneys have talked to the state Gambling Investigation Division, the Turners said. However, they have not formally retained a lawyer. Huntington said the state would discuss the issue with the Turners' attorney. "We're doing what we can to resolve this." he said. Ron Turner said: "We want all the stuff returned and to be allowed to sale our Antiques freely." (revised RT) Copyright © 2007, The Daily Interlake. All rights reserved. The information contained In this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Hagadone Newspapers The Daily Inter Lake 727 East Idaho Street / Kalispell, Montana 59901 / or Cowboy Ron Turner. Note: Cowboy Ron Turner fought the Law and Won. He and Eila spoke on the floor of both the House and the Senate’s Committees in Helena and received a overwhelming unanimous vote of Support. The Senate Voted and The Law was changed in full support of Cowboy Ron & Eila and all of the items had to be returned immediately. So, one of the Senators said that “not in a 100 years has anyone beat the Law” in the State of Montana. The result of Cowboy Ron’s efforts is that now “everyone was able to personally own, possess, sell, and buy gambling items freely in the State of Montana. This did not mean you could publically have them in operation in a business, but you could have them and use them for personal recreation with your family and friends in your home. It was reported to Ron a couple of years later, that all of the agents involved, that harassed him and his wife... had lost their jobs. “Justice” in the DOJ in Montana. Thank you Cowboy Ron.