Thursday, March 3, 2011

BingoGate: Judge rules that defendants will be tried together

image Not surprisingly, US District Judge Myron Thompson has issued an 11-page opinion denying the various motions for separation, meaning that all remaining defendants in the BingoGate federal corruption case will be tried together.

The trial is scheduled to begin on June 6 in Montgomery at the US Federal Courthouse on Church Street. Jarrod Massey and his employee Jennifer Pouncey have both pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the prosecution. Massey is now in the custody of the FBI.

In the ruling handed down yesterday, Judge Thompson notes motions to sever filed by defendants McGregor, Geddie, Means, Ross, Smith, and Walker. Defendant Geddie’s motion to sever suggested the option of trying him and McGregor together while separating them from the other defendants. Thompson declined that as well.

From Thompson’s ruling:

An inquiry into whether severance should be granted requires two determinations: (1) whether joinder has been proper under Rule 8(b) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure; and (2) whether joinder would be prejudicial under Rule 14 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The court concludes, first, that there has not been misjoinder under Rule 8 and, second, that the current record does not warrant the conclusion that joinder of the moving defendants with the others for trial would be unduly prejudicial. The motions to sever will therefore be denied.

The motions to sever were never given much chance of passing the Court’s smell test. When you’re charged with conspiring with others to commit federal crimes, you really don’t want to be sitting next to your alleged co-conspirators at trial. Thompson notes case law establishing that defendants indicted together and charged with a conspiracy to commit the same federal crime should be tried together.

Also yesterday, US Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel heard the last oral arguments and testimony on motions before the Court to suppress the wiretap evidence the government plans to introduce at trial. Capel wrapped up a three-day hearing on the matter and gave all parties until Monday to file additional briefs and arguments. Capel’s decision could come at any time following that deadline.

The wiretaps represent the linchpin of the government’s case against the alleged conspirators. Throwing that evidence out would be a monumental victory for the defendants, as the government’s case with literally disintegrate and perhaps even cause Massey and Pouncey to reconsider their plea agreements.

Legal analysts tell me that, like the motions to sever, the attempts to quash the wiretap evidence face a significant uphill climb and don’t have much chance of succeeding. However, it remains the moment of greatest peril for the government in the largest and most wide-ranging political corruption case in recent Alabama history.

Exit question: Speeding towards the June 6 trial date, any chance that one of the two defendants tied to McGregor decide to fold their hand and cooperate? We know Geddie won’t…

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