People Ban: DE: Infante Fights!

Delaware

DE: Smyrna bar owner fights for freedoms. And those other people smoking at the bar? Not sure what they’re smoking, but Infante, 37, said that’s not his problem. The bar’s responsibility, he said, is to inform patrons of the law – not to enforce it. The law was the reason he decided to run for governor.

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Infante charged in gambling raid

By JAMES MERRIWEATHER
The News Journal
04/22/2006

Former gubernatorial candidate Frank Infante Jr. has been arrested on charges stemming from the confiscation of three slot machines from his Smyrna saloon last month.

Infante was freed on secured bond of $2,250 and faces arraignment May 19 in Kent County Court of Common Pleas. He was charged with three counts of possessing a gambling device and single counts of keeping a gambling device and providing premises for gambling.

All charges are misdemeanors. Taken together, they pose sentences of up to four years and 30 days in prison and fines totaling $9,775.

Infante’s Bulldozers Saloon was among six establishments raided statewide last month after state agents conducted investigations into reports of illegal gambling. All told, officers seized 23 video poker machines and $9,077.

Agent Todd M. Ritchey of the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement said in court records he was one of two agents who saw three slot machines after walking into Bulldozers about 10 p.m. Feb. 1. Fifteen minutes later, the second agent, whose name was blacked out in court documents, put $5 into one of the machines, received 100 credits and started to play.

When the agent said he was ready to cash out, the bartender took $10 out of the cash register and gave it to the agent, authorities said.

On March 15, Ritchey, in the same fashion, accumulated 400 credits, approached the bartender and Infante, and reported he was ready to cash out. After verifying the point total, the bartender handed over $20, and Infante bid the agent good day as he left the saloon, Ritchey said.

State law authorizes the operation of slot machines only at the state’s three “racinos” — Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Midway Slots & Simulcast.

Motivated by his opposition to the state’s smoking ban, Infante, 39, who was freed Wednesday, ran for governor in 2004 on both the Independent and Libertarian party tickets.

Last month, Infante told The News Journal he had been absent when the slot machines were hauled away and that he didn’t know if authorities had evidence that the slot machines had been used for anything other than entertainment purposes.

Contact James Merriweather at 678-4273 or jmerriweather@delawareonline.com.


Smyrna bar owner fights for freedomsBy BETH MILLER / The News Journal 10/24/2004

No, no, Frank Infante Jr. said with a laugh, those are not regular cigarettes he has been pulling out of a Marlboro pack and smoking in the Smyrna bar – Bulldozers Saloon – his family owns.

Those are the nontobacco substitutes the bar sells for $7 a pack. He just puts them in a Marlboro wrapper.

And those other people smoking at the bar? Not sure what they’re smoking, but Infante, 37, said that’s not his problem. The bar’s responsibility, he said, is to inform patrons of the law – not to enforce it.

Notices of Delaware’s smoking ban are posted on Bulldozers’ walls – along with a picture of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, who signed the law, framed in a toilet seat.

Enforcement of the ban – which prohibits smoking in most public indoor places, including bars and restaurants – is one of the biggest problems of the law, Infante said. “There’s no enforcement,” he said, “and I think I’ve been proving it.”

The law was the reason he decided to run for governor. That meant he had to register to vote. On Nov. 2, he will vote for the first time in his life.

“This is my way of fighting for rights and freedoms,” he said. “As governor, you can really help guide the ship.”

His slogan is “One of Us in Office,” and Abbie Argoe, assistant manager of Bulldozers who accompanies him on the campaign trail, said it resonates with people.

“The following he has picked up is tremendous,” she said. “People used to laugh at us. Now people come up and say, ‘You’re that Infante guy. You’re running for governor.’ He’s for the normal, hard-working American, and he will not forget that.”

His views clicked with the Independent Party of Delaware and the Libertarian Party, both of which endorsed him.

Infante is the oldest of the four sons born to Mary Ann and Frank Infante. After high school, he worked for a while in his father’s printing business, then moved to Delaware and worked at a car dealership in Smyrna. He was a partner, he said, in Delaware Auto Auction in Smyrna, a business that has since folded, though he said he still owns the real estate on U.S. 13.

For a while, he and two of his brothers – Wyatt and Kenny – played with two other guys in a heavy metal band they called OMSF. The public explanation for the acronym is Our Mad Sychotic Frenzy.

The group made two albums, Frank said. The wrapper on the band’s 1994 “Lords of Metal” warns of explicit lyrics, a caution well-heeded by the squeamish, and the liner notes list Frank’s quote of choice as “If everyone hates you, you’re winning.”

The band’s lyrics are sometimes threatening – “I gotta settle the score, not gonna mess around, I’m gonna bring you down” – sometimes despondent and mournful. One song, “Mercy Kill,” is about a son who kills his father to end his suffering. Another, “Blind Eyes,” is about the danger of drug abuse.

Infante, who favors the music of Ozzy Osbourne and Slayer, said life in a heavy metal band was wild. But his brushes with the law were minor, he said.

“I’ve never been convicted,” Infante said, though Delaware County, Pa., court records disagree. “But I did all kinds of things when I was a kid – stuff like drinking too much beer. I lived like a heavy-metal musician. We were not always little angels, especially when we were young guys.”

His experiences, though, give him a valuable perspective, he says. “When you’re approaching 40 years old, you always think of things you’d do differently,” he said. “But I wouldn’t be the person I am. Maybe I wouldn’t be as well-rounded to represent all those people. Maybe I’d have gone to Harvard, but I might not be the kind of person I’d vote for. Maybe making mistakes – which we’ve all done – turns you into the person you are. You’re able to represent people without judging.”

Court records show some of Infante’s mistakes include a DUI conviction in 1987, a suspended driver’s license, and, more recently, a resisting arrest conviction in 1996 – “petty stuff,” he said. His first wife filed for a protection from abuse order at the time of their divorce in the early 1990s, but Infante said “that happens quite often when people go through a bad divorce.”

Infante said he withheld child support for Frank III, who lives with his mother in New Jersey, for a while, but is paid up now.

“I couldn’t find them a lot of the time,” he said. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t make the payment. I just couldn’t get help from the Family Court system. And in my youth and arrogance, I said, ‘If I’m not going to see my son, I’m not going to pay this.’ ”

With two young children at home now – Frank IV, 4, and Frankie Rose, 6 – Infante said he lives a very different lifestyle with his younger children’s mother, Melissa. Infante said he and Melissa, who live in a house behind the bar, were married by a minister on a Florida beach 12 years ago, though Florida officials said they have no record of the marriage. Frank said he didn’t care about having the official papers.

Infante’s brother, Wyatt, said Frank presents a much different image as a candidate than he does out of the public eye.

Wyatt managed Bulldozers until April, when he broke off his affiliation and stopped supporting it with his money because of differences with his family. Court records show he is suing Frank to recover more than $10,000 worth of personal property, including a pair of Corvettes he says Frank will not return to him. Frank said the issue will be resolved “quite shortly.”

Wyatt said he will not vote for his brother.

“Some of his points are valid, but he is in no way even close to being someone who should hold any office in this state, let alone governor,” he said.

Though his candidacy was sparked by the smoking ban, Infante has developed a wider platform, including a casino to provide revenue for Wilmington and expanded gaming for Delaware casinos.

Infante said he would not do away with the smoking law, but he would change it so businesses could buy a special license to allow smoking. He would grant incentives to businesses that don’t allow it. With a ponytail that reaches his shoulder blades, tattoos on his arms, a heavy-metal band on his r?sum?, and Biker Night at the New Castle-area Hooters on his campaign-stop agenda, Infante isn’t your garden-variety Delaware candidate. Which is just fine with him.

“It’s a little easier on me than most candidates,” he said. “I’ve taken the approach of saying what I think, not holier-than-thou. I’m allowed to make a mistake. I’m allowed to be a little noisier or drink a beer.

“It gains you more freedom, and it’s appealing to people. I tend to be honest.”

Staff reporters J.L. Miller and Esteban Parra contributed to this article. Contact Beth Miller at 324-2784 or bmiller@delawareonline.com.

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