This story is an update of this morning’s post. Scroll to the bottom for updates.
Oral arguments were heard today on a motion filed by Ronnie Gilley and eight other defendants in the ongoing probe into political corruption in Alabama. Gambling magnate Milton McGregor and State Senator Harri Anne Smith are the only two defendants not seeking a continuance, and the Government strongly opposed it.
The deadline for motions and discovery had originally been set for December 30 of this year. If US District Court Judge Myron H. Thompson kept the April 4 trial date and the December 30 deadline in place, interesting things could take place as those dates approach.
Milton McGregor is a gambling and racetrack magnate in Alabama. He is also a prominent Auburn University booster and served on the Board of Directors for the failed Colonial BancGroup. Colonial was the $26 billion bank holding company founded by another prominent Auburn supporter, Bobby Lowder. Lowder has been on the Auburn Board of Trustees for decades, and has been accused of meddling and micromanaging the affairs of the university. As a result of Board of Trustee micromanagement, the Southern Associations of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed Auburn on probation.
Media reports have also linked McGregor to the ongoing probe into alleged pay-for-play schemes for athletes at Auburn. Those issues were brought to the forefront when ESPN.com broke the story that current Auburn Quarterback, Cameron Newton, had been shopped to at least one SEC school in late 2009. The FBI has already interviewed at least one of the key players in the scheme, John Bond. The FBI has refused to publicly acknowledge an investigation, but multiple and independent sources close to the investigation have told this blogger that the feds probe focuses on gambling, extortion, money laundering, human trafficking and conspiracy.
The NCAA, which granted eligibility status to Cam Newton earlier this month, has also refused to acknowledge that its enforcement division is currently investigating Auburn, but media sources close to the matter have been told that enforcement probes continue, and carefully worded press releases and statements by NCAA representatives strongly indicate this as well.
Judge Thompson is expected to release his decision on the motion to continue the BingoGate® trial as early as the end of the week. His decision, and the effects it has on key role-players in the various probes, could produce developments associated with yet another federal probe, this one into bank fraud on the part of Lowder, McGregor and other people close to Auburn University.
This blog is also running a Timeline on the investigations, which is updated as news becomes available. Please bookmark and visit often.
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UPDATE: That was fast. About an hour after the hearing, Judge Thompson refused to move the trial, but will revisit his decision in February or March, according to news reports.
MONTGOMERY, AL. (WSFA) - A judge ruled Tuesday not to move the trial date for suspects in the Bingo Corruption case.
The trial date was originally set for April 4, 2011.
The Defense argued they didn't have enough time to sort through all of the evidence in just four months.
Victoryland casino owner Milton McGregor, Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley and state Sens. Harri Anne Smith, James Preuitt, Larry Means and Quinton Ross Jr. were indicted back in October on federal corruption charges.
UPDATE II: The court is also modifying case deadlines. US Magistrate Wallace Capel ordered the prosecution to submit all discovery by Monday and identify the documents specifically pertaining to each defendant, and provide that information to the defense team in early January.
UPDATE III: An eyewitness to today’s oral arguments provides the following information:
“McGregor asked to be severed from the other defendants. It is widely believed that Senator Smith has flipped, but that did not come out in the hearing.
“Based on the hearing, I am fairly confident in saying that early reports that pay for play was not mentioned on the wiretaps are unfounded. It may be that McGregor knows that just because he never mentioned it on the phone, but it is not due to a review of the wiretaps themselves. The transcripts are voluminous and no one, other than the government, really knows what is on them yet.
“Several mentions were made to another investigation in northern Alabama. The parties were rather obscure about what exactly that meant.”