Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More big names make gambling trial witness list

Alabama lead singer Randy Owen Alabama lead singer Randy Owen

The names of more potential high-profile witnesses in the federal corruption trial of VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, sitting state lawmakers and lobbyists became clear Tuesday during the second day of jury selection.
Those potential witnesses include Randy Owen, the lead singer of the legendary country music band Alabama; Troy University Chancellor Jack Hawkins; and Secretary of State Beth Chapman, who could all be called by McGregor's attorneys.
Other people who could be called by McGregor's defense team include Col. Chris Murphy, former director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety, who now has a similar position with the city of Montgomery; current DPS Director Hugh McCall; Director Bobby Timmons of the Alabama Sheriffs' Association; lawyer and Secretary of the Alabama Senate Pat Harris; and Greenetrack operator Luther "Nat" Winn.
The prosecution could call Josh Blades, the chief of staff for House Speaker Mike Hubbard who was a high-level staffer for former Gov. Bob Riley, and Jim Sumner, director of the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Attorneys for Tom Coker, a lobbyist charged in the case, could call Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price and Philip Bryan, former communications director for the Alabama Republican Party who is now chief of staff for Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. Greg Pappas, clerk of the Alabama House of Representatives, is also a potential witness for Coker.
Attorneys for state Sen. Quinton Ross, a Montgomery Democrat who is a defendant, said they could call Tonea Stewart, an award-winning actress who is now on staff at Alabama State University, and professors D'Linell Finley and Brad Moody of Auburn Montgomery.
Craig Pouncey, deputy state superintendent of education, is also listed as a potential witness for Ross.
Ross's attorneys could also call Stewart Burkhalter and Al Henley of the Alabama AFL-CIO.
The other defendants in the trial include state Sen. Harri Anne Smith, independent from Slocomb; former state Sens. Larry Means, D-Attalla, and Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega; lobbyist Bob Geddie; legislative analyst Ray Crosby; and Jay Walker, who was a spokesman for the Country Crossing development.
They were all allegedly involved in a conspiracy to buy and sell support for pro-gambling legislation, according to the indictments.The other potential witnesses who have been named include former Gov. Bob Riley; former Attorney General Troy King; former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue; Alabama Education Association head Paul Hubbert; David Bronner of the Retirement Systems of Alabama; and country stars George Jones and Lorrie Morgan.
Owen, Jones and Morgan were supporters of the Country Crossing development near Dothan and spoke in ads supporting people's right to vote on pro-gambling legislation.
None of the country music stars have been implicated in any way in any of the allegations.
Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley and his lobbyist, Jarrod Massey, have already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate with the prosecution.
Joe Espy, lead attorney for McGregor, said leaving the courthouse Tuesday night that the attorneys had received a list of unindicted coconspirators, but he would not elaborate on who was on the list or how many people were on the list.
The third day of jury selection begins today.
Espy said that they made a lot of progress in selecting the jury. He said they will begin with a third panel today. There could be enough jurors after the third panel, Espy said, but there could be a need for a fourth panel. He said they were looking for a jury that would be "fair and impartial," people who would "call it right down the middle."
Prosecutors and defense attorneys disagreed on some questioning of the potential jurors Tuesday.
Espy acknowledged that it "got a little contentious today ..."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga told potential jurors that the case was not about whether gambling was good for Alabama and asked about whether there were concerns from them about the government wiretapping defendants' phones to gather information.
Susan James, attorney for Walker, objected to the type of questions Feaga was asking. Feaga pointed out that the defense asked very similar questions Monday.
When another defense attorney objected to long introductions to questions by Feaga, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson reminded defense attorneys they asked similar questions and said "I think the government is entitled to it. Overruled."With the second set of more than two dozen potential jurors in the courtroom Tuesday, defense attorneys and prosecutors asked a variety of questions about religion, politics, gambling and other issues.
McGregor attorney Bobby Segall asked the jury pool if they thought gambling was a sin, did they believe there was any redemption.
Segall also asked the potential jurors their thoughts on "salty language," which he let them know was in phone conversations between those involved and emphasized that those having them thought the discussions were private. Federal investigators taped hundreds of hours of phone conversations, which the indictment indicated contained colorful language.
"Think as bad as you can think. Double it," Segall told them.
One juror responded: "I've heard a lot of bad language so it wouldn't bother me at all."
Lewis Gillis, attorney for Ross, asked whether the jurors thought it was wrong to take phone conversations out of context.
During the questioning by McGregor's attorneys, potential jurors were asked whether they had any perceptions about Paul Hubbert of the Alabama Education Association, and about the Business Council of Alabama and its leader Bill Canary.

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