Tuesday, April 19, 2011

BingoGate: Busy week on the docket; much more to come

image It’s no real surprise, but darned near every defendant in the upcoming bingo corruption trial are filing objections to Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel’s recommendations that their various pretrial motions be denied, along with appeals to US District Judge Myron Thompson to set aside Capel’s recommendation and rule their way.

The chief target of those motions is of course the wiretaps evidence, which form the foundation of the government’s case against Milton McGregor, Ronnie Gilley, their lobbyists and a handful of legislators they are accused of bribing to support a 2010 constitutional amendment legalizing electronic gambling in the state of Alabama.

This is going to be a long and complex trial. There are ten remaining defendants. Assuming Thompson allows the wiretap evidence to be presented, there are nearly 13,000 recorded conversations. There will be mountains of documentary evidence as well, including emails, tax and bank records, campaign disclosure forms, ad infinitum.

A great number of documents have been filed with the Court under seal, meaning no one but the attorneys and the Court knows their contents. But at some point, most—if not all—of this information will become part of the public record.

And boy, will there be an army of lawyers in the courtroom.

It is by far the biggest trial in the modern history of the state, likely overshadowing the Richard Scrushy trials of a couple of years ago. With November’s historic Republican sweep of the Legislature and every important statewide office, combined with equally historic passage of tougher ethics laws in last year’s legislative special session, this trial will close an ugly chapter in the state’s history.

Alabama residents have long suffered the ill effects of a legislative process so toxically ridden with corruption that it would make a billy goat puke. Those cheering for the prosecution in this case are cheering for some of the highest profile players in that chapter to pay the price for their alleged crimes. Those cheering for the defendants are cheering for a return to days gone by, in which powerful individuals with no accountability unduly influence legislation benefitting them and only them. Whether the verdicts come back guilty or not guilty, that door is closed forever.

There are still some viper pits in Montgomery that are in serious need of cleaning out, and those battles are certainly going to be waged in the months and years ahead. But for now, getcha some popcorn and settle in.  This trial is gonna be doozy.

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