You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Juror says scant evidence led to corruption acquittals

State legislators, casino operators, lobbyists were on trial

- Associated Press - Monday, August 15, 2011

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A rural mail carrier who served as a juror in Alabama's gambling corruption trial said Monday that the majority of the predominantly female jury wanted to acquit the defendants on all charges because of scant evidence and a dim view of some prosecution witnesses.

In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Teresa Tolbert said she was among those favoring acquittal on all charges. She said federal prosecutor Justin Shur told the jury in his opening statement that wiretapped phone calls and secretly recorded meetings would tell a story of greed and corruption at the Alabama Legislature, but the tapes never lived up to his billing.

"From the very beginning when we were listening to the tapes, I was like, 'Surely this can't be all they have.' I kept waiting and waiting," she said.

The jury of 11 women and one man issued a split decision Thursday after meeting for 39 hours over seven days. The panel returned not guilty verdicts on 91 charges and could not reach a unanimous decision on 33 charges.

Two defendants, state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery and VictoryLand casino lobbyist Bob Geddie, were cleared of all charges. The remaining seven defendants are subject to retrial.

Ms. Tolbert said the panel was split 8-4 in favor of acquittal on all undecided charges but one. On that charge, it was divided 11-1 for acquittal of former Sen. Jim Preuitt of Talladega on a charge of lying to the FBI.

The defendants were accused of swapping millions in campaign contributions, fundraising concerts with country music stars, free polling and other compensation for votes on legislation designed to keep electronic bingo casinos operating during a crackdown by former Gov. Bob Riley's gambling task force.

Besides Mr. Preuitt, the remaining defendants who are subject to retrial are VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor, casino lobbyist Tom Coker, Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb, former Sen. Larry Means of Attalla, former legislative bill writer Ray Crosby, and Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson talked privately with defense and prosecution attorneys Monday and then scheduled a retrial for the seven remaining defendants starting Oct. 3. Justice Department attorneys asked him to split the defendants into three groups for separate retrials. Some defense attorneys objected, and the judge said he would discuss that issue with the attorneys on Wednesday.

Ms. Tolbert said that three people who pleaded guilty and testified for the prosecution - Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley and his lobbyists, Jarrod Massey and Jennifer Pouncy - lacked credibility, and that Gilley and Massey came across as arrogant and noncredible.

"One of the jaw-dropping moments in [Gilley's] testimony was when he said some powerful Democrats wanted him to run for governor, but he couldn't remember who," she said.

Ms. Tolbert said three Republican legislators who helped the FBI with its investigation - Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, Rep. Barry Mask of Wetumpka and former Rep. Benjamin Lewis of Dothan - "had obvious political motivations."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.