North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

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August 11, 2011

Bingo trial ends in partial mistrial, no convictions

MONTGOMERY — The bingo corruption trial in U.S. District Court has ended, sort of.

The jury returned not guilty verdicts in some of the dozens of counts, but reported they were hopelessly deadlocked on all others. Judge Myron Thompson declared a mistrial on the undecided counts, and will hold a hearing to set a new date in about amonth.

Of the nine defendants, two were completely cleared. State Senator Quinton Ross and casino lobbyist Bob Geddie were found not guilty on all charges against them, and subsequently freed by Thompson. Jay Walker, a spokesman for the Country Crossing casino development, was cleared on all but two counts, with the jury hanging on the remainder.

Milton McGregor, the dog track owner who was they key defendant in the trial, was found not guily on three counts with the rest undecided. One count was on bribery, and the other two for honest services fraud.

Former State Sen. Jim Pruett was found not guilty on one count of bribery and 11 other honest-services counts.

State Sen. Harri Anne Smith was found not guilty of 11 counts, with the jury hung on the remaining eight counts.

The jury was undecided on the single bribery charge against Ray Crosby, a former analyst for the Legislative Reference Service.

Tom Coker, a lobbyist for McGregor, was found not guilty on all but two charges against him, with the jury hung on one bribery and one conspiracy count.

The trial, which lasted for nearly two months, focused on whether politicians had accepted bribes from McGregor and other casino supporters for their votes on a bill to legalize electronic bingo machines. State Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) was a key witness for the prosecution. Beason wore a wire to secretly record conversations with fellow politicians about the issue.

Prosecutors also depended heavily on testimony from Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley; his lobbyist, Jarrod Massey; and Gilley assistant Jennifer Pouncy. All had pleaded guilty to lesser charges in return for turning state's evidence.

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