Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gilley says he received millions in loans, gave box of cash

Attorney Joe Espy, left, and his client Milton McGregor ar­rive for the gambling corruption trial at the federal court­house in Montgomery on Friday
Attorney Joe Espy, left, and his client Milton McGregor ar­rive for the gambling corruption trial at the federal court­house in Montgomery on Friday

Ronnie Gilley
Ronnie Gilley

Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley testified about receiving millions of dollars from VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, about giving a box of cash to a state legislator, and about other bribes he participated in while he was on the witness stand Friday in a federal corruption trial.
In tapes secretly recorded by the FBI and played in court Friday, indicted state Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb also tells Gilley she needs $400,000 for her 2010 state Senate campaign. He said he pulled together the money.
Gilley has already pleaded guilty for his role in a scheme to bribe state lawmakers to support pro-gambling legislation. McGregor and eight other defendants, including four current or former state senators, are on trial for their alleged roles in the corruption scheme.

Box of cash

Gilley, who was on the stand for a second day and will be back Monday morning, said Friday that he gave a box of cash to then-Rep. Terry Spicer.
Gilley said Spicer, who lost his race for re-election in 2010, had threatened to hurt the Country Crossing project in the Alabama House of Representatives if he was not paid $50,000.
"He came to my office and picked up a box of cash," Gilley said.
Gilley said he gave Spicer, D-Elba, $20,000.

More money

Gilley said McGregor gave him more than $8 million to assist with Country Crossing, which was being built near Dothan.
McGregor reached out to Gilley after Gilley said he did not like legislation that McGregor supported.
Gilley, who said he grew up respecting McGregor in Enterprise, said he wanted the same inclusions and exclusions for Houston County that Macon County, where VictoryLand is located, would receive in the legislation.
Gilley talked about meeting with McGregor at the hangar McGregor has for his airplanes in Montgomery. McGregor, Gilley said, told him that Country Crossing would hurt his business by 22 percent.
The men then, according to testimony, reached a contractual agreement in which McGregor provided financial support to help build Country Crossing in exchange for profits from the casino there.
McGregor originally would receive 14 percent of the gross proceeds from the casino, but that was later increased to 20 percent."He now owned more of Country Crossing than I did," Gilley said of McGregor.
McGregor, Gilley said, agreed to lend him $5 million for the project in two installments. He later gave him an additional $2.8 million.
At times, as Gilley struggled to pay bills, he said McGregor provided money.
"Mr. McGregor made additional loans as time went on," Gilley said.
Gilley said the original plan was to spend $15 million on a 50,000-square-foot bingo pavilion.
He said McGregor said it needed to be bigger, successfully pushing for one twice that large, which Gilley said would cost an additional $20 million.
Gilley said Country Crossing was open for just seven and a half weeks because of attempted raids by a task force created by then- Gov. Bob Riley, who believed the games were played on slot machines that are illegal in the state.
Gilley said the $5 million was for building and for promoting the legislation they supported, which would have legitimized what they called electronic bingo, taxed it and created a state gambling commission.
Gilley said he used some of that money to pay for a fundraiser for Smith's 2010 Senate re-election campaign. He spent $217,000 in in-kind services for the fundraiser in Enterprise, which featured entertainment by singers Lorrie Morgan and John Anderson.


Smith called Gilley, in a conversation recorded by the FBI, and said she needed an additional $400,000 to finish her 2010 campaign, where she ran as an independent after the Alabama Republican Party kicked her out for endorsing a Democrat, then-Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright, for Congress in 2008.
Gilley agreed to get the money, writing checks and having other people write checks to political action committees, which then got the money to Smith.
Gilley agreed to get $200,000 to her the next week and $200,000 more the following week.
The prosecution played those conversations between Gilley and Smith and between him and Rick Hartselle, who they said managed Smith's campaign. Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin also produced an email between Gilley and Hartselle.
"I know between now and Friday, she is going to get somewhere around $200,000," Gilley told Hartselle in a recorded conversation.In a conversation recorded soon after that, Gilley tells Smith, "I'll get with him (a Gilley employee) and we'll get those checks busted up the way they need to be."

Earlier support

After Gilley gave Smith $5,000 at a 2008 fundraiser when she was running for Congress, Gilley said she brought the check back to him and said she and her campaign manager did not think it looked good for them to take the money.
Gilley said Smith told him that her campaign manager had been working with Gilley's lobbyist, Jarrod Massey, on a way to get the money into the campaign without it coming directly from Gilley.
Gilley said he wrote two checks for $20,000 each to Massey, who was to "bleed money into Senator Smith's campaign."
"She came by and thanked me for it," Gilley said of the money to Smith.
Gilley said Smith told him: "Thank you. ... Whatever you need, I'm yours."
Gilley said he and his supporters probably put $600,000 toward Smith's 2010 re-election campaign, including the $217,000 for the fundraiser.

Who bribed who?

Gilley also talked about a March 2009 dinner at Garrett's restaurant, where he tried to sway two lawmakers, Sen. Scott Beason and then-Rep. Benjamin Lewis, to support Country Crossing. He got into an argument with Lewis, who represented Houston County, where his project would be located. Gilley said he became angry and hit the table.
Lewis said he went to the authorities after he felt Gilley tried to bribe him at the dinner, allegedly offering campaign money to support the legislation. Gilley said Friday that Lewis tried to solicit that money from him and that he told people about it after the dinner.
The men have different accounts of the event, which McGregor attorney Joe Espy pointed out as they left the courthouse Friday. He said two government witnesses couldn't get their stories straight on who was being bribed.
Gilley said, also at the restaurant, that Smith asked if he and McGregor would be willing to contribute $500,000 to Beason's campaign.
"I said absolutely," Gilley said.Smith and her attorney have denied that there was ever discussion about $500,000. Beason, who like Lewis cooperated with the FBI and secretly recorded conversations, said on the witness stand that Smith said $500,000 could be available if he supported the project.
Gilley said he told McGregor about the $500,000. He added that he kept McGregor informed when he and Massey later offered Beason $1 million a year. That conversation was on audio recorded by Beason.
Franklin, who is trying to connect that the men collaborated in the scheme, played conversations between them Friday. He also played a profanity-laced tirade from Gilley after he found out Beason was not voting for the legislation.
When asked Friday if McGregor had knowledge that Gilley and Massey had offered bribes, Espy said "none whatsoever" and said they will present evidence to show that.
Espy said Gilley was selling his story and pushing hard to get his sentence under 20 years.
Franklin had Gilley tell the jury he had pleaded to 10 counts including conspiracy, money laundering and bribery, and that he was looking at a sentence of more than 20 years, which could be reduced for his cooperation.
Also on Friday, Bill Baxley, an attorney for lobbyist Tom Coker, moved to dismiss a count of wire fraud in the indictment. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said he will not dismiss a count in the middle of the prosecution's case, but said the sides should be ready to debate after the prosecution has presented its case.
Prosecutors, on Friday, also indicated they were hesitant to call Massey, who also has pleaded guilty, to the stand, but decided they would.

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