By Walter Lewellyn
Cross examination opened this morning with McGregor attorney Walter McGowan tearing into gambling developer and Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley. McGowan played a deeply unflattering tape of Gilley joking about lobbyist Jennifer Pouncy allowing Sen. Jim Preuitt to “suck on her titties” in return for votes. In a seemingly superfluous effort to undermine Gilley’s credibility, the defense played a TV interview of Gilley claiming that he was “innocent until the cows come home.” Under McGowan’s questioning, Gilley admitted to offering lobbyist Jarrod Massey 1% ownership in Country Crossing for “hold[ing] the line” against the government investigation; “the eagle was about to land,” in Gilley’s words.
McGowan attempted to further undermine Gilley’s credibility by establishing his desperation in jail. Gilley admitted to getting a total of four hours of sleep in his first week in jail, as well as his difficulty with the “deplorable” conditions in his cell. Gilley pled guilty after multiple visits from the government. Though Gilley contended that some plea action was already on the docket, the defense persisted in its argument that Gilley jumped at the chance to escape. Moreover, the defense presented evidence that Gilley perhaps prematurely relished in his freedom: Gilley allegedly bragged that he wasn’t going back to jail, mentioning a “Keystone” project in the works.
Gilley repeatedly appealed to his naivete upon first arriving in Montgomery. Having arrived with good intentions, Gilley was soon “engulfed in the flames”–a phrase which entered the trial’s parlance with an impressive, and absurd, rapidity. McGowan connected Gilley’s fear of further jail time with the government’s investigation, and, accordingly, selling out Milton McGregor. Gilley met with FBI and other government agents around twelve times by his estimation, even gaining permission to listen to a recording of himself to be played in court in preparation for his testimony.
Gilley believed that Bob Riley was running Alabama like a “police state,” and used throw phones to avoid having his calls monitored. Gilley had $46 million—his entire life savings—tied up in Country Crossing, and said his “life was on the line.” Despite acquiring investments from such big names as boxer Floyd Mayweather, Gilley said that he was increasingly debt-ridden by 2010.
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