Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jury selection for gambling trial starts; Riley, country music stars among potential witnesses

VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor arrives with his attorneys for the first day for the gambling corrup­tion trial at the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Montgomery on Monday.
VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor arrives with his attorneys for the first day for the gambling corrup­tion trial at the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown Montgomery on Monday
(AP)-The long list of potential wit­nesses in a high-profile federal corruption trial includes former Gov. Bob Riley, Alabama Educa­tion Association head Paul Hub­bert, country stars George Jones and Lorrie Morgan, and former Attorney General Troy King, ac­cording to information revealed Monday.
A host of current and former state legislators are also on the list of people who could testify in a federal trial against Victory­Land owner Milton McGregor, two current state senators, two former state senators, two promi­nent lobbyists, and two others. They are accused of conspiring to buy and sell support for pro-gam­bling legislation.
The trial started with jury se­lection Monday at the Frank M. Johnson Jr. Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse downtown.
The other defendants include current state Sens. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, and Harri Anne Smith, an independent from Slo­comb; former state Sens. Larry Means, D-Attalla, and Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega; lobbyists Tom Coker and Bob Geddie; legislative anal­yst Ray Crosby; and Jay Walker, who was a spokesman for the Country Crossing development.
Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley and his lobbyist, Jarrod Massey, have already pleaded guilty and agreed to coop­erate with the prosecution. Lobby­ist Jennifer Pouncy, who worked for Massey, has also pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.
Other potential witnesses for the prosecution include Hubbert, state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gar­dendale; former state Rep. Benja­min Lewis, R-Dothan; Rep. Barry Mask of Wetumpka; former Sen. Steve French of Mountain Brook; Sen. Paul Sanford of Huntsville; former Sen. Larry Dixon of Mont­gomery; former state Sen. Lowell Barron of Fyffe and former House Speaker Seth Hammett, D-Andalusia.
Beason, Mask and Lewis, who is now a district judge in Houston County, cooperated with the in­vestigation and wore recording devices.
Other potential witnesses in­clude former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Retirement Systems of Alabama director David Bronner, Rep. John Knight of Montgomery, former Rep. David Grimes of Montgomery, former Sen. Wen­dell Mitchell of Luverne, former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, her husband Bill Canary of the Busi­ness Council of Alabama, former Lt. Gov. Steve Windom, former Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford, Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, fed­eral agents involved in the case, and businessmen including Greg Calhoun and Jimmy Rane
A number of political consul­tants or lobbyists in Alabama are among those who could tes­tify including Joe Fine, Steve Raby, Joe Perkins, John Anzalone, Paul Ham­rick, Zac McCrary, David Mowery, Rick Heartsill, Greg Jones, Johnny Craw­ford, John Teague, Jerome Gray and Claire Austin.First Baptist Church sen­ior pastor Jay Wolf and for­mer Frazer Memorial Unit­ed Methodist Church pastor John Ed Mathison were also on the list.
The sponsors of the legis­lation at the heart of the trial, bills that would allow people to vote on whether they wanted to legalize electronic gambling at cer­tain locations in the state, are among the potential wit­nesses. The sponsors were Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Rus­sellville, and Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia.
Between the prosecution and the attorneys for the nine defendants, they listed more than 100 potential wit­nesses or people they could refer to during the trial. The potential jurors were asked if they knew any of the defendants or their fam­ilies, the attorneys, or any of the potential witnesses.
Attorneys for McGregor are pushing for Riley to tes­tify. Riley formed a task force to try to stop what he said were illegal slot ma­chines at VictoryLand and Country Crossing. Riley is fighting the subpoena, ac­cording to the Associated Press.
The Alabama Senate passed the gambling legisla­tion in March 2010. The next day, federal authorities informed legislative leaders from both parties of the in­vestigation into potential corruption related to the legislation. The House nev­er passed the proposal.
The government alleges that bribery and other crimes were committed in 2009 and 2010 as McGregor and Gilley and their lobby­ists pushed for passage of the legislation.
At the same time, Riley's task force was ramping up its pressure and trying to shut down the casinos, which was successful either through raids or the threat of raids.
Much of the indictments and the prosecution's case are based on wiretapped conversations between the defendants.
U.S. District Judge Myr­on Thompson said Monday that jury selection would likely take two more days including today. The legal teams begin combing through another panel of po­tential jurors at 8 a.m. to­day.
Smith, as she walked out after the first day of trial, said she was excited the federal trial had started aft­er eight months and that there seems to be a "great pool of people interested in fairness," which she said is all someone in her situation could ask for.Smith, who said the pro­cess is a new experience for her personally, said the de­liberations were slow to start with on Monday, but that it was a good produc­tive day.
Montgomery attorney Bobby Segall, one of several lawyers representing McGregor, asked potential jurors repeatedly about their views on gambling and its legality, about their reli­gious and political views, about how they viewed those who have made mon­ey from gambling, and whether they knew about conservative organizations such as Eagle Forum or the Christian Coalition.
David McKnight, an at­torney for Coker, asked po­tential jurors if they had a negative connotation of lob­byists and if they thought because someone was in that profession that they are involved in sinister activi­ties.
McKnight asked jurors if they could keep an open mind until after prosecut­ors, who will present their case first, are finished and the defense lawyers are able to present their case. He said that could take weeks or months.
Other defense attorneys asked whether potential ju­rors had a problem with a candidate asking for and re­ceiving campaign contribu­tions to run for office.
Ron Wise, attorney for Preuitt, asked whether the juror pool took issue with his client owning a car deal­ership and whether they have had negative dealings with car dealers.
Lewis Gillis, attorney for Ross, asked the potential ju­rors whether they believe people expected something in return if they give a cam­paign contribution.
"The jurors look bright and energetic, and we look forward to presenting our case to them," Gillis said after court adjourned for the day about 6 p.m. Mon­day.
Segall also asked the ju­rors whether they would try to keep their conversations private if they believed the government was trying to intercept them.

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