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‘Bingo’ corruption trial under way in Montgomerycomment (0)

June 16, 2011

The federal corruption trial revolving around electronic bingo in Alabama commenced with opening remarks by defense lawyers and prosecutors June 10 in Montgomery. At press time, opening statements were expected to fill most of the afternoon.

According to reports from the Press-Register, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson reserved more than six hours for the prosecution and defense teams to make their opening statements.

“Folks, this was not politics as usual,” Justin Shur, a prosecutor with the U.S. Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section, said in opening statements according to the Press-Register. “It was not legitimate lobbying.”

Joe Espy, attorney for VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, said, “This man (McGregor) did not cross the line. This man did not bribe anyone.”

The case stems from charges that votes on an electronic bingo bill were bought and sold in the Alabama Legislature and involves McGregor and eight other defendants, including four legislators.

Casino owner Ronnie Gilley, developer of Country Crossing entertainment center in Dothan, pleaded guilty in April to 11 counts of conspiracy, bribery and money laundering. Lobbyists Jarrod Massey and Jennifer Pouncey pleaded guilty earlier in the process.

In 2009 and 2010, Gilley promoted legislation that would have legalized and expanded slot machine-style gambling. The public corruption investigation stemmed from gambling supporters’ attempts to illegally influence legislators to pass the bill.

Gilley is expected to be a key prosecution witness.

The jury was selected June 9. According to news reports, the panel consists of 10 women, two men and five alternates. According to The Birmingham News, lawyers have projected the trial may take up to four months.  (TAB)

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