Emanuel Smith is a man in Cleveland, Ohio who was arrested for making a joke at a casino about his wife having Ebola. For that, he was charged with inducing panic which is a felony charge. See his mugshot and find out the details of the story that has made headlines worldwide.

Emanuel Smith

Photo: Emanuel Smith

Yes, the arrest of the 60-year-old retired municipal worker in Cleveland has drawn international attention as has his booking photo (above) in which he is seen with his eyes closed. These days with the concerns and fears about the spread of the Ebola virus, it has become a constant topic. And now, apparently not a joking matter, lest one risk winding up arrested and facing a felony.

According to Cleveland.com, quoting the Ohio Casino Control Commission, Emanuel Smith was gambling at the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cleveland where he told one of the dealers at a table that he was there because he wanted to avoid his wife who had returned from West Africa and was stricken with Ebola.

It’s further reported that according to the Casino Commission Smith was at the casino for several hours and that two hours after he left, the Casino Commission was informed by the Horseshoe Casino surveillance office that Smith had made mention of Ebola.

Thereafter, the Casino Commission closed the casino pit where Smith had been gambling. They also notified the Cleveland police as well as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local health departments.

As the newspaper goes on to quote court documents which allege that Emanuel Smith’s joking “caused panic” in the casino resulting in a portion of it being shut down. It’s further alleged that this closure let the casino to experience “a large financial loss.” Also of note, the incident took place the same day that news broke that the Dallas nurse who had been diagnosed with Ebola had visited Cleveland.

Emanuel Smith was arrested at his home in the evening and was charged with a felony, inducing panic. He was also charged with criminal trespass for allegedly “entering a place of amusement to cause a disturbance.” He was booked into Cuyahoga County jail and held in lieu of $10,000 bond.

The newspaper notes that neither Smith nor his ex-wife had been to West Africa and quotes defense attorney Kathleen DeMetz who said, “People were having a general discussion about the current situation…He made a comment regarding his former wife who had traveled to Africa sometime in the past and that he tries to stay away from her.”

During the court proceeding, on the other hand, the prosecutor alleges that resources from several agencies were squandered in order to investigate and ultimately debunk Smith’s Ebola claim and that this is the basis for the felony charge.

The Smoking Gun has obtained the full municipal court filing which can be seen here.

The case of Emanuel Smith continues to spark intense discussion and debate as there is legitimate concern — and indeed fear — in the public mind over Ebola. Good judgment is certainly called for; just as one does not yell fire in a crowded theater, Ebola is obviously not the best topic for joking in public places these days.

Check back for updates.