When state Sen. Harri Anne Smith returned a $5,000 check to Country Crossing owner Ronnie Gilley in May 2008, she thanked him for ads run against her opponent and told Gilley that whatever he needed done, she would do, Gilley said Wednesday in court.
“She told me that she and her campaign manager had decided not to take money from me,” Gilley said.
Or, at least, not directly.
Instead, Gilley said Smith wanted $40,000 in campaign cash channeled through consulting fees paid to lobbyist Jarrod Massey.
“She said Massey would be in touch with me,” Gilley said.
Gilley was on the witness stand Wednesday, undergoing cross examination from William White, one of Smith’s attorneys. Massey and Gilley have both plead guilty to conspiring to buy and sell votes related to gambling legislation and are now witnesses for the prosecution. Smith, a defendant, is charged with selling her vote.
According to Gilley, when Smith returned the $5,000 donation, she first hugged his neck and thanked him for ads he was running against Jay Love, Smith’s opponent in the 2008 Republican primary for representative for Alabama’s second congressional district
“She specifically told me, ‘I’m yours, whatever you need done, I’ll do it,’” Gilley said.
Love had attacked Smith, who had submitted a bill that would potentially ban electronic bingo in Houston County, for allegedly taking money from gambling proponents. At the time Smith returned the $5,000 donation, she had withdrawn her anti-bingo bill.
“I had a major axe to grind with Jay Love,” Gilley said.
Gilley also testified that in 2010, he sent checks worth a total of $230,000 to Smith through political action committees run by Bryant Raby. When White asked if Smith received that money, he said it was hand-delivered to her.
“It was hand-delivered to Harri Anne Smith, by her request,” Gilley said. “I know for a fact it was hand-delivered to Harri Anne Smith.”
When White asked if Gilley was physically present when the money was delivered to Smith, Gilley said he was not.
Gilley said he knew she got the money he sent through PACs because, he says, “she thanked me for it.” But when pressed, Gilley could not remember specific details of that occurrence.
Gilley returned to the witness stand today after being absent for more than a week. According to his attorney, Gilley became ill with a virus last Wednesday morning. U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson told Gilley not to testify.
Before the court’s lunch recess today, Susan James, an attorney for defendant Jay Walker, suggested that Gilley had reasons other than illness to try and get out of appearing in court. Judge Thompson reacted strongly to James’ suggestion, quickly and loudly admonishing her for making that implication without any evidence.
“I told him, ‘Mr. Gilley, you cannot testify,’” Thompson said to James. Thompson also said that several other attorneys were worried about being in the same room with Gilley.
“Unless you have a basis for it, don’t bring it out,” Thompson said.