Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Defense attorneys hammer Gilley, play tape of him making comments about lobbyist

Attorney Joe Espy, center, and his client Milton McGregor, right, talk with reporters Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Montgomery. McGregor and eight others are on trial on federal conspiracy and bribery charges in a vote-buying scheme in the Alabama Legislature.
Attorney Joe Espy, center, and his client Milton McGregor, right, talk with reporters Tuesday outside the federal courthouse in Montgomery. McGregor and eight others are on trial on federal conspiracy and bribery charges in a vote-buying scheme in the Alabama Legislature. 
Defense attorneys pounced on Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley on Tuesday, playing a tape the FBI secretly recorded of him suggesting a female lobbyist undress for a state senator, pushing that Gilley was cooperating to lessen his time in prison, and outlining his massive debt.
The defense attorneys also pointed out Gilley's efforts to bribe his lobbyist with a share in Country Crossing to stop him from cooperating with the FBI.
Walter McGowan, an attorney for indicted casino owner Milton McGregor, played a tape of Gilley talking to his key lobbyist, Jarrod Massey, and instructed him to tell lobbyist Jennifer Pouncy to pull out her breasts and show them to then-Sen. Jim Preuitt to help get legislation passed. And, to tell Pouncy, if she allowed Preuitt to put his mouth on one of them and film it, he would pay her a $50,000 bonus. Gilley's language was much more colorful in the FBI-taped conversation played before the predominantly female jury. Pouncy is a lobbyist who worked for Gilley and Massey.
Gilley, Massey and Pouncy have pleaded guilty in a federal corruption trial alleging casino owners and their lobbyists bribed state legislators to pass legislation that would have helped casinos in the state. McGregor, Preuitt, R-Talladega, and seven other defendants are on trial for their alleged role.
McGowan asked Gilley if he asked a married employee to offer her body to pass the bill.
Gilley said he was not being literal and it was "a very distasteful joke."
"I had no excuse for the comments," Gilley said and apologized to Pouncy, the jury, the court, his wife, and the spouses of Pouncy and Preuitt.
When asked by McGowan, Gilley acknowledged that was the first time he had apologized for the comments. Pouncy was not in the courtroom.
Gilley said Pouncy had also been involved in similar conversations when they were joking.

Paying for silence

Gilley admitted he also offered Massey a 1 percent ownership in Country Crossing not to cooperate with the FBI. He said, even after they were indicted and arrested, that he let Massey know that offer was available.
Gilley said that even though the conditions of their bonds ordered that they not to talk to other defendants or potential witnesses, he approached Massey twice after they were arrested in October.While they were out on bond, Gilley said he was able to pay Massey about $12,000 of the $80,000 to $90,000 he owed him.
Gilley had also indicated that the offer was still there for Massey to have 1 percent of Country Crossing. He said Massey hadn't pleaded guilty yet at the time.
Gilley said he also, through an employee, tried to send money he owed to defendant Jay Walker, who was the spokesman for Country Crossing, in November 2010 after they were indicted. Walker, according to his attorney, instead called to consult his attorney.
"That was wise of him," Gilley said of Walker.
Gilley acknowledged that his bond was revoked earlier this year and he went to jail because of the potential of him being involved in more corruption and being a danger to the community.
Gilley said the conditions at the city jail in Montgomery were deplorable and that there was bad hygiene. He said originally he was locked in a 6-foot-by-8-foot cell with three other inmates. Gilley only slept four hours the first week he was incarcerated.
"Magically, when you pleaded guilty the doors of that jail house opened up," McGowan said.
The defense attorneys used Gilley's criticism of the jail and his effort to try to keep from going back as a major reason he cooperated. They have said he is trying to please the prosecutors.
"It was a great day," Gilley said of when he got out of jail and said he does not want to go back.
Gilley said he did not believe him pleading guilty was the reason for his release.
At the hearing about his release, Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin said the government did not have an opinion on Gilley's release. Prosecutors had previously pushed hard for him to be jailed for violating the conditions of his release.
Gilley said it is his hope that his truthfulness will help him get a lighter sentence.
"I am going to do what my agreement calls for me to do and that is cooperate," Gilley said.

Growing debt

Gilley said he and the project, in 2010, had about $160 million in debt. He said he and his entities had contributed about $46 million to Country Crossing.
Gilley said boxer Floyd Mayweather invested $4 million in Country Crossing and Gilley said he would pay him back $5 million, but has not.
While Mayweather might be one of the most prominent investors, other people and entities invested much more.
Gilley acknowledged that Jeff Rubin, a financial adviser for professional football players, invested more than $30 million in the Country Crossing project. Lord, Abbett & Co. LLC issued more than $21 million in bonds, and gambling machine manufacturers IGT and Multimedia contributed $17.6 million collectively.

Partners in crime?

With prosecutors trying to connect that McGregor and Gilley conspired on the bribes, McGowan had Gilley read along with him a transcript of a secretly taped conversation from March 2010 in which Gilley blasts McGregor. Gilley, talking to Rick Carter, said that he and McGregor had a verbal altercation over disagreements about legislation and that he hung up on McGregor.
"He is so greedy and he thinks everybody else is ---ing ignorant," Gilley told Carter of McGregor.
Gilley also admits supporting another alliance that McGregor was against and that was against McGregor's interests.
In court, Gilley said he also wanted McGregor to attend the meeting that he and Massey had with Sen. Scott Beason, who also cooperated with the FBI, at the Books-A-Million in Prattville.
"I absolutely wanted Mr. McGregor to be at the meeting" Gilley said.
Gilley has contended that he talked to McGregor about the $1 million offer that Massey made to Beason and about other offers. McGregor's attorneys have denied McGregor had any know-
ledge of the bribes.
Beason recorded Massey making the offer to him at a Zoe's restaurant in Homewood and recorded Gilley and Massey vouching for the deal at Books-A-Million. McGregor was not at either of those meetings.
Gilley, who previously had said he used a $5 million loan from McGregor to bribe legislators through fundraisers featuring country musicians, acknowledged that $5 million was used for construction and "it was gone."Gilley had said McGregor had a prepaid "drop" phone to try to avoid detection, but admitted Tuesday that McGregor always had the same "850" number. He said, when asked, that he did not know the phone was registered with McGregor's business.


Gilley confirmed that prosecutors and agents came to speak to him four times in jail.
During 12 meetings with the FBI, McGowan said Gilley spent a total of approximately 48 hours with them. Special Agents Keith Baker and John McCarron and Franklin went to his house in Enterprise on two of those occasions and the others were at the FBI office, Gilley said.
Gilley said he was also allowed to take home a disc with 50 to 75 taped conversations, which he said he still has.

Crossed up again

Gilley again contradicted the testimony of another government witness. Gilley has testified that during a March 2009 dinner at Garrett's restaurant that then-state Rep. Benjamin Lewis tried to bribe him to contribute to his campaign.
Lewis, who later secretly recorded conversations for the FBI, said he went to authorities because he thought Gilley and other Country Crossing supporters had tried to bribe him to support the legislation.
Gilley said on Tuesday that Lewis would be wrong if he said Gilley tried to bribe him at Garrett's and if Lewis said he did not ask Gilley if it was OK if he did not vote on the legislation.
Lewis and Gilley agree that Gilley later offered Lewis a bribe in Gilley's Enterprise office.
Gilley also was unclear on where his "war room" was located. On the stand, Gilley said it had been in his office and that the time frames they had drawn up there had been thrown away because his office was foreclosed on while he was in jail.
But later, when pushed by attorneys, Gilley said he told authorities the war room was in his house.

'Into the fire'

Gilley said, as he did when he pleaded guilty, that he became involved with politics in Montgomery because he needed to pass legislation to help his project, but that he soon "jumped into the fire" of corruption that consumed State House politics.
Gilley said he paid $25,000, through lobbyists and consultants, that was supposed to go to state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, to stop anti-gambling legislation by Sen. Harri Anne Smith, a defendant in the case who is also an independent from Slocomb. Smith later backed away from the legislation.

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