This story was written by Kyle Whitmire and reported by Madison Underwood.
Alabama Sen. Scott Beason and former state Rep. Benjamin Lewis were not credible witnesses because of blatant political bias and racism, the federal judge presiding over the “bingo” corruption trial of Milton McGregor and eight codefendants said in a court filing Thursday. The comments were included in a ruling over whether statements from co-conspirators would be admissible in a retrial slated for early next year.
“As a preliminary matter, the court finds that Beason and Lewis lack the credibility that the government sought to establish,” U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote. “The evidence introduced at trial contradicts the self-serving portrait of Beason and Lewis as untouchable opponents of corruption. In reality, Beason and Lewis had ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias.”
Thompson, who is black, found that both men attempted to disenfranchise minority voters, particularly black voters in the Alabama Black Belt.
Beason and Lewis cooperated with federal investigators in 2009 and 2010, while gambling advocates pushed legislation to legalize electronic bingo through the Alabama Legislature. During that investigation, Beason recorded not only conversations with defendants in the bingo corruption trial, but also conversations with his political allies in which they disparaged black voters. In one recorded conversation with Lewis, Beason referred to African-Americans in Greene County as “aborigines.” Beason has since apologized publicly for his comments.
Judge Thompson noted the peculiarity of Beason recording his political allies as well as enemies.
While prosecutors argued that the men were frightened and angered by efforts to buy their votes, Judge Thompson found that the lawmakers intended instead to use the Justice Department to cripple their political enemies, particularly legislative Democrats.
“Beason’s and Lewis’s statements demonstrate a deep-seated racial animus and a desire to suppress black voters by manipulating what issues appeared on the 2010 ballot,” Thompson wrote. “Lawmakers who harbor such sentiments lack the integrity expected from elected officials.”
Despite Beason and Lewis’s lack of credibility, Thompson ruled that statements made by co-conspirators would be admissible in the new trial.