Vindictive Federal Prosecutors Lose Alabama Bingo Case

In Alabama the politically motivated trials of several ‘bingo defendants’ resulted in two acquittals for the defendants. All of the defendants were found not guilty by a federal jury in Montgomery. The first trial lasted most of the summer in 2011. Federal prosecutors brought 138 charges against the defendants and presented tapes and elaborate testimonies. The jury found that 99 of the counts brought against the defendants had no validity. Federal prosecutors wasted $30 million taxpayer dollars on the first trial and were handed a humiliating defeat. Surprisingly the prosecution turned vindictive and federal prosecutors sought a second trial. The results were predictable and the second jury found the defendants not guilty on 27 counts.

The six defendants in the second trial were VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor; lobbyist Tom Coker; state Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb; former casino spokesman Jay Walker; former state Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla; and former state Sen. Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega. The prosecution alleged that a conspiracy took place where bribes were traded for votes on gambling bill in the 2010 legislature. The controversy centered on electronic bingo machines that anti-gambling Governor Riley said were illegal. The bill in question would have allowed a referendum on electronic bingo and would have given Alabama casino owners the same rights as Native American casinos.

The legislation came after a series of politically motivated raids by then-Gov. Bob Riley’s anti-gambling task force. The bill was introduced to clarify Alabama’s bingo laws and set regulatory standards and taxation policies for electronic bingo. The raids shot down several operations and hundreds of casino employees were out of work. The bill passed in the senate and it was revealed that the FBI was investigating the votes of house and senate members in favor of the bill. It should be noted that throughout the dispute Native American casinos continued to operate in the state and paid no state or local taxes.

After the second trial the defendants emerged from the courtroom relieved-and broke. The defendants paid a very high price for their vindication. They spent two years fighting the charges and were forced to spend most of their money on legal fees. Four of the six defendants are over 70 years old and two of the defendants say that their retirement security has been totally ruined. The justice department has been humiliated and millions have been wasted on these vindictive politically motivated federal prosecutions.

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