Thursday, May 5, 2011

BingoGate: Hearing held on wiretap dismissal appeal

image During a May 4, 2011 hearing before US District Judge Myron Thompson, defense lawyers complained that investigators listened to too many calls—some of which had nothing to do with the case at hand. As a result, they say all of the wiretap evidence should be thrown out.

Milton McGregor—casino owner, Colonial Bank board member and prominent Auburn booster—and eleven others were indicted last October on charges of conspiracy, money laundering, bribery and fraud in connection with a failed plan to get a constitutional amendment on the 2010 ballot. The plan, according to investigators, was to bribe legislators with cash and other “things of value” in order to secure their votes.

The bulk of the evidence against the alleged conspirators consists of between 12,000 and 13,000 recorded conversations that the FBI listened to as part of a court-ordered wiretapping. Last month, US Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel recommended that the wiretap evidence be presented at trial.

Defense attorneys filed briefs arguing that Capel’s Report and Recommendations be set aside and yesterday’s hearing was to allow both sides to present oral arguments.

Thompson gave no indication for when he might rule.

Since Capel’s recommendation, fellow casino owner Ronnie Gilley has pleaded guilty and is now cooperating with federal investigators. His testimony could be another key element of the government’s prosecution. He joins lobbyists Jennifer Pouncy and Jarrod Massey as the only three to agree to plea deals in exchange for their cooperation.

The complicated, historic trial is scheduled to begin June 6.

Exit question: Legal analysts tell IBCR that the chances are better than even that one or more additional plea deals will be made before a jury is seated next month. Who’s the first to blink?

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