Jennifer Pouncy, a lobbyist who worked to pass pro-bingo legislation in the Alabama Senate in 2010, said today in court that conversations with some senators were unusual, and that she knew an offer made to one senator was illegal.
Pouncy testified Tuesday for the prosecution in the bingo legislative corruption case in Montgomery that in 2010, then-Sen. Larry Means (D-Attalla) asked her for $100,000 to vote for Senate bill 380, or SB380, a bill that would have mandated a referendum on the legality of electronic bingo.
Pouncy, who has pleaded guilty to one charge of federal programs bribery and faces a five-year prison sentence, said she had a close professional, social and friendly relationship with Means, as well as with then-Sen. Jim Preuitt (R-Talladega).
Along with seven others, Sens. Preuitt and Means are among seven defendants in the case. Along with Preuitt and Means, Sens. Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery) and Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocomb) are charged with selling their votes on SB380.
According to Pouncy, Means sent her a text message before the vote on SB380 and asked Pouncy to come to his office.
“He said that he was gonna have a real tough reelection campaign,” Pouncy testified. “He needed a $100,000, and needed me to ask my employer if he could get $100,000.”
Pouncy, as a lobbyist for Jarrod Massey at Massey’s firm, Mantra Governmental, represented Ronnie Gilley and his Country Crossing bingo development in Houston County. Massey left the witness stand Tuesday morning after nine straight days of testimony.
Pouncy said that in her experience as a lobbyist, she’d never before encountered such a large request for funds.
“I told Mr. Massey that Sen. Means wants $100,000 for his vote,” Pouncy said. Massey checked with Gilley, who approved the deal, Pouncy said, but she delayed relaying that news to Means.
“I didn’t want to,” a teary Pouncy said in court. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Feaga asked why she didn’t go directly to Means and tell him about the deal.
“Because I knew it was illegal,” Pouncy said through tears.
Pouncy did eventually deliver the news to Means. “He asked if we were talking about the same thing,” Pouncy said.
Pouncy also testified about conversations she had with Sen. Preuitt. According to Pouncy, Massey asked her to offer Preuitt $2 million for his vote around March 4, 2010, which she says she did. Pouncy said Preuitt didn’t react.
“He didn’t say anything,” Pouncy said. “He changed the subject.”
Days before, Preuitt had voted no on a procedural vote on SB380, called a budget isolation resolution (BIR). If the BIR had passed, SB380 would have come to the Senate floor. It didn’t, and the bill didn’t hit the Senate floor until March 30, 2010, almost a month later.
During a meeting with Preuitt on March 24, 2010, Pouncy says she and Preuitt discussed the offer again.
“Sen. Preuitt asked me if Senate bill 380 does not pass the House of Representatives, does the commitment still stand?”
Pouncy says she asked Massey, who said the deal still stands. She testified she passed this along to Preuitt.
Pouncy, who appeared in court in a blue shirt and dark blue blazer, described the conversations she had with Preuitt and Means as “unusual.” She also testified that in her experience as a lobbyist before SB380, no one had discussed campaign contributions and legislation in the same conversation.
Preuitt and Means both voted yes on SB380, as did Sen. Ross.
Pouncy also testified that Ross “demanded” a campaign contribution from Massey, through her, in late 2009.
“He became irritated and very demanding for a campaign contribution because I believe my boss was not returning his calls,” Pouncy said. “He just kept calling. He was very demanding. At one point he told me he didn’t ‘feel the love.’”
Massey eventually gave Ross a $5,000 contribution in late 2009. That check had to be returned – it was written out of the wrong account – but Pouncy said she later delivered the correct check.
Ross is also charged with taking funds in exchange for a vote.
Pouncy’s testimony is expected to continue Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.