“This, for that. Quid pro quo. Bribery. Not politics as usual.”
That was the refrain sung over and over again today by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Kang, a prosecutor in the bingo corruption case. Kang, along with fellow prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin, spent a little over three hours today on closing arguments, pounding on the nine defendants in the case.
Victoryland owner Milton McGregor was a frequent target of Kang and Franklin. Kang reminded the jury of statements McGregor made that reflect how important Senate bill 380, or SB380 (the 2010 bingo legislation at the center of this case) was to McGregor’s business.
“It’s a survival bill for us,” Kang said, quoting tapes of McGregor. “My ass is on the line, I’ve got a $200 million dollar note that I’ve got to pay with interest.”
“Ladies and gentleman of the jury, those were the words of that man, right there, Mr. Milton McGregor,” Kang said, pointing to McGregor.
SB380 was so important to McGregor, Kang said, and he would do anything to pass it. “So what did he do? He resorted to bribery. He resorted to what he thought was a sure bet.”
“The evidence has proven to you beyond a reasonable doubt these defendants worked together to corrupt the Alabama legislative process, and the reason was greed,” Kang said, referencing the prosecution’s opening statement repeated references to greed.
Kang took aim at various defense arguments, including one that SB380 was about allowing the people the vote on electronic bingo (had it passed, SB380 would have allowed Alabamians to vote on a Constitutional Amendment allowing some electronic bingo).
“Milton McGregor was not motivated by some strong civic duty to allow the people to vote. In fact, just the opposite,” Kang said. “You see, Milton McGregor had no interest in supporting democracy. He had one interest, and one interest only—lining his pockets with money.”
Kang said McGregor was desperate to pass SB380–desperate enough to offer things of value to people he didn’t agree with, like Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Rep. Barry Mask (R-Wetumpka), both of whom testified for the government.
In a Feb. 18, 2010 meeting, Kang said McGregor told Beason that if Beason supports the pro-bingo position, he’ll support Beason. “This, for that. Quid pro quo. Bribery,” Kang said. He also mentioned that McGregor told Beason he needed an answer about his support of SB380 within days.
“What made Milton McGregor think that he had that kind of power, to boss around a state senator? The answer is simple: money,” Kang said.
“Neither McGregor nor [lobbyist Tom] Coker were innocent bystanders in the effort to bribe Preuitt,” Kang said, referring to Sen. Jim Preuitt. “They were knee deep involved in it.” After the bingo vote, Kang said Preuitt mentioned conversations with Coker and was trying to collect on a bribe, and said Coker went to speak with Preuitt and Sen. Larry Means. McGregor “turned Coker loose” on Preuitt and Means, Kang said.
Count three of the indictment, which involves an alleged bribe offered to Rep. Barry Mask and delivered by McGregor lobbyist Bob Geddie, has been dismissed, but a related obstruction of justice charge related to a ledger Geddie allegedly changed before producing is still in play.
“Geddie knew that if he was truthful on the ledger, and reflected the payments coming from McGregor, people would ask questions,” Kang said, arguing that the checks would have looked odd coming from McGregor because Mask was anti-gambling.
The ledger has McGregor’s name crossed out, and replaced with others.
Kang attacked all nine defendants, including Country Crossing spokesperson Jay Walker. He, Kang said, “would do whatever it took to be part of Gilley’s team, even if that meant resorting to … bribery.” Walker is charged with helping to bribe then-Sen. Jim Preuitt (R-Talladega).
Harri Anne Smith
Sen. Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocomb), who was kicked off the Republican ballot in April 2010 for her support of Democrat Bobby Bright in 2008, was also a target.
“Sen. Smith had to somehow fill the void created by her loss of Republican backing,” Kang said. “Getting quick, easy money from Gilley was her motive, even if it meant resorting to bribery.”
Kang said that legislative analyst Ray Crosby, then an employee of the Legislative Reference Service, made “substantive changes” to SB380 and worked on weekends for McGregor.
“He [Crosby] had to come through … because that’s exactly what McGregor was paying him $3,000 a month for–for him to be on call,” Kang said.
Kang also emphasized that Crosby was a public employee working for the taxpayer, and that Crosby hid his payments from McGregor by not disclosing them on publicly-filed forms.
Kang said that the defense had argued that Country Crossing lobbyist and government witness Jarrod Massey’s monthly payments to former Rep. Terry Spicer (D-Elba) were bribes, but McGregor’s payments to Crosby weren’t, but the defense can’t have it both ways.
“Folks, a bribe is a bribe is a bribe,” Kang told the jury. “There’s no difference between the payments that were made to Spicer and the payments that were made to Crosby.”
In reference to former Sen. Jim Preuitt (R-Talladega), Kang brought a up a call from gambling developer Ronnie Gilley to Sen. Smith, in which Gilley also talked to Preuitt. In the call, which came after Preuitt had voted for SB380 (and the prosecution says he had accepted offers of bribes from Gilley), Kang says Preuitt didn’t tell Gilley that his solid arguments in favor of bingo convinced him to vote for the bill.
Instead, Preuitt says, “Well, you probably knew we had a couple of decent conversations prior with Jay [Walker], and then we’d get back to [Tom] Coker.”
“Sen. Preuitt right here, he’s trying to collect on his bribe payments,” Kang said.
“Sen. Means was greedy,” Kang said of former Sen. Larry Means (D-Attalla). “He wanted a piece of the action that Sen. Preuitt was getting.”
Sen. Quinton Ross had “the leverage,” Kang said of the Montgomery Democrat, “and he was squeezing McGregor and Gilley.” Ross called lobbyist Jarrod Massey and Massey employee Jennifer Pouncy requesting contributions, and also called McGregor. In calls to McGregor, he mentioned the vote count on SB380, and then asked about money. One of the counts against Ross is extortion.
“You only have to find Sen. Ross was trying to get money from McGregor in exchange for vote,” Kang told the jury.
Kang also mentioned a statement by Ross to McGregor that “the window was closing fast.” Defense attorneys have said that “the window” refers to a window in which Ross could raise campaign funds, while the government has said the window refers to time until the vote on SB380–implying Ross was holding out on his vote.
“When he was talking about the window was closing fast, there is no reasonable doubt he was referring to the vote,” Kang said, and then went back to hit the refrain again: “This, for that. Bribery. Not politics as usual.”
More to come as we update later.