Tuesday, February 15, 2011

BingoGate: Busy court docket, hearing set today and… intrigue! UPDATE: Trial postponed until June.

Scroll to the  bottom for update.

There’s an age old stereotype of public perception that government employees are overpaid and underworked. They get comfy benefits and don’t work a full 40-hour week like you and I.

There’s one group that breaks the mold, and that would be Sheila Carnes and her staff of clerks in the Criminal Division, Middle Alabama US District Court. By my count, between Saturday, February 12 and yesterday, February 14, roughly three dozen documents were entered, filed and posted on the court’s system. Each one is meticulously inspected and any problems are dealt with by a swift “nasty-gram” called a Notice of Deficiency. There were two such filed yesterday, admonishing careless attorneys regarding the Court’s rules when filing documents.

Carnes’ job is difficult enough, especially when lawyers are practically lining up at the courthouse door to meet filing deadlines. But for that staff to handle all these filings so efficiently and make sure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted is nothing short of outstanding. “Highly Successful,” as they say in OPM parlance.

Among the flurry of documents filed yesterday was an order by District Judge Myron Thompson setting a hearing for today at 11:30 at the US Federal Courthouse in Opelika. The stated purpose of the hearing is to allow all sides to make oral arguments on the various motions to continue (delay) the trial and sever defendants. Judge Thompson has no fewer than six motions to continue and at least three motions to sever defendants and hold separate trials.

Defendants Harri Anne Smith, Milton McGregor and Robert Geddie have all asked to be severed from the remaining defendants and tried separately. Geddie offers also to be tried with McGregor, his former client.

It’s important to remember that this is a very big, very complicated case. With so many counts and so many defendants, busy docket days like yesterday and today isn’t unexpected at all.

In a bit of intrigue, the government has filed a motion requesting that the Court release Jarrod Massey from the custody of the US Marshalls into the custody of two FBI Special Agents.

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Recall that Jarrod Massey, the Auburn-educated former lobbyist, has pled guilty to the charges of bribery and conspiracy and has agreed to cooperate with the government. Special Agent Keith Baker is an investigator, not a prosecutor.

Exit question: What in the world could Agent Baker be working on? (updated to add the link)

UPDATE: Max Reiss, Raycom Media Reporter for Alabama Politics attended today’s hearing and reports that Judge Thompson has agreed to move the trial to a June open.

 

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