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Jury deals out not-guilty verdicts in Alabama casino corruption case

March 08, 2012|By Richard Fausset
  • Casino owner Milton McGregor, background, and his wife, Pat, hug supporters outside the federal courthouse in Montgomery, Ala., after McGregor and five other defendants were found not guilty on all counts Wednesday in a gambling corruption trial.
Casino owner Milton McGregor, background, and his wife, Pat, hug supporters… (Mickey Welsh / Montgomery…)

Reporting from Atlanta — Like a grandma dogged by bad luck at the bingo table, federal prosecutors in Alabama have failed for a second time to score any courtroom convictions in the state's high-profile political corruption and gambling case.

On Wednesday, a jury found six defendants -- including Milton McGregor, owner of the VictoryLand casino; two former state senators and a sitting senator -- not guilty of charges stemming from accusations that they either offered or accepted bribes related to a 2010 gambling bill, according to the Birmingham News.

A casino developer, two lobbyists and a state representative pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges after an extensive federal investigation and testified against the defendants in court.

The News' Kim Chandler wrote that during the trial, prosecutors portrayed the defendants as "greedy criminals that resorted to bribery because of their lust for money and power."

The defense, Chandler reported, countered with an argument that the case was built on the testimony of witnesses with plea deals who had political axes to grind.

At the heart of the case was an effort by former Gov. Bob Riley, who wanted to shut down "bingo" casinos like the one owned by McGregor -- which are packed with "electronic bingo" machines that look a lot like slot machines. Bingo is legal in Alabama, but slots aren't.

The alleged bribes occurred over a bill that would have exempted bingo casinos from a measure that sought to shut such casinos down.

"I love my country. But I despise what my government has done to me and the other defendants," McGregor said in a statement, according to the News.

The government failed to earn guilty verdicts against seven defendants after the first trial in August 2011. Earlier this year, just before the scheduled retrial, one defendant, Joseph "Ray" Crosby, an analyst with the state's Legislative Reference Service, was found dead at his home.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the coroner determined that Crosby, who was accused of accepting a bribe, died of heart trouble. The Associated Press reported that Crosby, who had filed for bankruptcy, had $618,000 in liabilities, including credit card debt, a mortgage, and attorneys' fees.

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