Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Auburgeddon and BingoGate: Feds closing in on new targets?

image About two weeks from today, defense lawyers in the US v. McGregor et al case will get their first look at the unredacted wiretap binders and federal form FD-302’s. The prosecution alleges that these materials comprise compelling evidence that prominent casino owner, Auburn booster and state powerbroker Milton McGregor conspired with business partner Ronnie Gilley to bribe legislators into voting for an electronic gambling bill during the 2010 session of the Alabama Legislature.

Attorneys for Tom Coker, one of two lobbyists employed by McGregor, had asked the court for the unredacted materials late last year. The government didn’t strenuously object to rcomplying, but with one caveat—they could not release the materials until on or about January 31. 

The reason? Since the October 4 indictments and arrests of the McGregor Eleven, the feds had expanded their probe beyond the original scope of the gambling conspiracy indictments, and the contents of the binders and 302s could compromise the expanded investigation, according to court documents filed in the case. The prosecution indicated that the expanded probe would no longer be compromised if release of the wiretap binders and 302s were delayed until January 31.

A lot happened between the October 4 round up and Coker’s December 20 motion to compel access. From the standalone Timeline Page:

November 4, 2010

The ESPN Story breaks. Reporters Pat Forde, Chris Low and Mark Schlabach allege that Cecil Newton approached Mississippi State in a pay for play scheme involving his son, then Blinn Junior College Quarterback Cam Newton.

November 9, 2010

ESPN.com’s Joe Schad files a report, claiming that Mississippi State recruiters confirmed that a pay-for-play plan was discussed during two separate phone conversations. In one, Cam Newton told a MSU representative that he chose Auburn because the “money was too much.”

Sources: FBI becomes involved in the case.

November 11, 2010

In a wide ranging radio interview, Kenny Rogers fingers Cecil Newton as the originator of the pay-for-play scheme.

November 13, 2010

Cecil Newton admits to talking money, per a WSBTV report, but denies that Auburn, Cam or Cam’s mother were aware of his negotiations.

November 16, 2010

John Bond is interviewed by the FBI.

Sources say the FBI is also interested in links between McGregor and pay-for-play at Auburn. McGregor, through his attorney, denied involvement in the pay for play scheme.

On December 17, this blog explored links between defendants in the Alabama corruption scandal and the ongoing investigation into Auburn’s recruitment of Cam Newton. One of the defendants in the corruption trial—Robert Geddie—is a graduate of Auburn University and partner in the lobbying firm of Fine-Geddie. Fine-Geddie has a multimillion dollar relationship with the Auburn University Athletics fundraising organization, Tigers Unlimited Foundation.

Geddie is the other lobbyist hired by McGregor.

imageimage  It is also worth noting that current Auburn University Athletic Director Jay Jacobs was President of Tigers Unlimited, and that the foundation has flourished in part due to the financial support of former Colonial BancGroup CEO Bobby Lowder, the mega-Trustee and prominent Auburn booster.

As shown in the viral December 17 post, Sam Franklin—a prominent attorney in the state of Alabama and a partner of the law firm Lightfoot Franklin White—appears on the chop list of court documents filed in motions by the defense in the corruption probe. Franklin is also the chief counsel for Auburn in the NCAA probe, and represents Bobby Lowder in the multimillion dollar class action lawsuit filed by Colonial Bank employees.

This begs the question: Who, or what, is the target of the expanded criminal investigation that according to the prosecution, goes beyond the scope of the original October 4 indictments?

Is the federal government closing in on new criminal conspiracy?

DOJ is famously tight-lipped when it comes to discussing matters currently (or not) under investigation, so it is anybody’s guess as to what they may have uncovered and who the new players may (or may not) be. But isn’t it interesting that three parties to three separate matters—Auburn in the NCAA probe, Geddie in the BingoGate case and Lowder in the class action lawsuit—have all hired the same lawyer?

A lot of these questions could be answered in the next two weeks. But just as dramatically, a lot more questions may be asked.

Getcha some popcorn, sports fans. This one might be headed to over time.

Update: The wiretap binders are due today, January 18. The unredacted 302s are due on January 31.


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