Wednesday, March 2, 2011

BingoGate: Bigger (and older) than we thought

image h/t for the lead on this to Blue Tuna Tiger., an online newspaper based in Houston County, Alabama has been covering this week’s hearings on the admissibility of the wiretap evidence in USA vs. McGregor et al. Defendants in the case want the recordings thrown out, citing case law and the US Constitution and accusing the government of abandoning its own rules. The defendants claim that federal agents violated their privacy and the privacy of family, friends and business associates by listening to calls they shouldn’t have been.

RSN’s Bruce McAllister, who is attending the hearing, filed this report yesterday.  An excerpt:

[Ronald Gilley’s attorney Julian] Butler asked several questions about Agent Baker's role in the corruption investigation. One of which brought out an interesting new turn for the case. Baker told the court that former Alabama Attorney General Troy King and Milton McGregor had been under investigation by the F.B.I. since as early as 2004, before Ronnie Gilley and his Country Crossings was on the map. Baker said that another case had come up that caused the King/McGregor investigation to take a back-burner for a while, but as soon as the other case was out of the way, the investigation into possible bribery and public conspiracy continued.

The courtroom was cleared again, but not before another interesting piece of information. Baker told the court that when the investigation first began. To begin with, the feds had only one target. After five days, they had to report back to Federal Judge Truman Hobbs, who was overseeing the wiretap investigations, that they had identified five to seven more targets because of other crimes that had been discovered. Baker continued to testify that, after a month, seventeen more targets had been identified.

This is the first time solid evidence appears linking former Attorney General Troy King to possible corruption and his connection with Milton McGregor. King was appointed by then Governor Bob Riley in 2004. Their political alliance quickly soured as King began to differ with Riley over interpretations of statutory and case law regarding electronic bingo in Alabama.

In March 2010, King’s office released a statement that a federal grand jury probe into his office had been closed and that no indictments were produced. One wonders how close he came to legal and political catastrophe, but the lack of party support stemming from these matters certainly played a role in Luther Strange defeating him in the Republican Primary.  Strange went on to victory in the Crimson Red Tsunami of November 2010.

There is further evidence that this is bigger (and older) than we ever thought it could be. In court documents filed yesterday, McGregor opposed a timeline proposed by the government for submission of transcripts and audio files. In his filing, McGregor claims that the current investigation into political corruption and bribery didn’t start in early 2010, as had been widely believed. In fact, the government was listening to conversations as far back as 2009:



And from a Dothan Eagle report also covering yesterday’s hearing, comes this thing that makes you go “hmmm:”

Members of the media and general public were instructed to leave the courtroom on two separate occasions during Tuesday’s hearing while the parties discussed documents that had been filed under seal with the court and are not currently available for public view.

We can only speculate about the content of these documents and the evidence they represent, but we can probably guess a little better than others, can’t we? We’ve known for more than a month that the federal government had again expanded its probe beyond the scope of the October 11 indictment of McGregor, Gilley, their team of lobbyists and legislators.

And the 17 original targets are probably not the targets of the new probe. As is shown above, wiretap evidence was being developed against them as early as two years ago. They’d fall within that original scope. We also know that it’s probably not Troy King’s office, as that probe began more than five years ago and appears to be over.

Exit question: One of the men standing trial in this case has a documented business relationship with a very prominent figure in state athletic circles, and isn’t money laundering a federal crime?

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