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Jefferson County casinos reopen despite warnings from attorney generalcomment (0)

March 31, 2011

By Kristen Padilla

Casinos in Jefferson County are reopening and a court battle is heating up again, thanks to an order from Jefferson County Circuit Judge Eugene Verin on March 21.

Less than two hours after Fairfield City Attorney Michael Trucks and Jefferson County District Attorney Arthur Green jointly filed with the Bessemer division circuit court to “reinstate” its Nov. 10, 2009, order allowing “charity bingo halls” to continue operating, Verin granted their request.

In his initial order, Verin blocked any “interference of the Jefferson County Sheriff” Mike Hale and said the facilities could operate as long as the state allowed Greenetrack to remain open. Three days earlier, Greenetrack in Greene County reopened with a reportedly new form of electronic bingo.

On March 25, several Bessemer area casinos began opening including Anchor Club Entertainment Charity Bingo in Brighton and Magic City Bingo in Midfield even though Verin modified his order pending an appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court filed by Attorney General Luther Strange on Hale’s behalf.

Verin refused Strange’s motion to the circuit court to stay its March 21 order and instead relieved Hale “from his consent” to the 2009 order.

Verin also set a hearing for April 15 to address “major concerns of the principals of this case” and set April 8 as the date when “all matters for the court’s consideration must be filed.”

Strange said he was pleased that Verin “dissolved his injunction against Sheriff Mike Hale.”

“This ruling makes clear that Sheriff Hale and all other law enforcement agencies have the authority to enforce the law against any illegal gambling in the Bessemer division of Jefferson County,” Strange said in a press release. “There should be no presumption of cover for anyone planning to open an illegal slot machine operation under the guise of bingo.

“Let there be no doubt that the office of attorney general will enforce state laws against illegal gambling,” he said. “Those who undertake to resume or open a business using slot machines do so at their own peril and will face whatever law enforcement action may be determined necessary and proper.”

In other news, prosecutors and defense lawyers in the Alabama bingo probe case were still waiting to hear at press time U.S. Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel Jr.’s decision on whether or not the FBI wiretap evidence could be used at the June 6 trial.

The defense lawyers for the casino owners, lobbyists and current and former state senators accused of buying votes for a gambling bill last year asked Capel on March 22 to toss out the wiretap evidence after prosecutors failed to turn over all the documents to them. Capel told prosecutors to turn in all of the documents by the end of the day March 22, which they did, and resumed the hearing March 24.

During the March 24 hearing, one of the prosecutors said mistakes were made but they did not believe “those mistakes rise to the level of prejudice,” citing the FBI agents were using new, complicated equipment which made it difficult for them to find all relevant e-mails to turn over to the defense, The Associated Press reported.

Even though Capel had yet to make his decision, he suggested to the defense that it would be rare to see a wiretap tossed out as evidence, according to The Birmingham News.

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