MONTGOMERY 8 March 2012. Federal jury acquitted State Senator Harri Anne Smith, former Senators Larry Means and Jim Preuitt, Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker, Victory Land casino owner Milton McGregor, lobbyist Tom Coker, I-Slocomb, D-Attalla, and R-Talladega. It took seven days for jurors to deliver the not guilty verdict. Family members in the gallery sobbed in relief, and when court recessed, there were hugs all around.
The federal investigation of vote buying started when three Republican legislators told the FBI they were offered campaign contributions if they would support legislation designed to let electronic bingo games operate in Alabama.
Federal prosecutors said the two casino operators and their lobbyists were offered millions in campaign contributions, benefit concerts by country music entertainers, free polling and other incentives for votes.
The trial was the second for the defendants. Smith and the former senators were accused of agreeing to accept bribes in return for their votes.
The jury found McGregor and the others innocent on charges that included conspiracy and bribery.
The case was the latest in a series of government corruption investigations in Alabama, including the conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery charges in 2006 and a probe of Alabama’s two-year college system that brought down three legislators and the system’s former chancellor in 2008.
The three Republican legislators who cooperated with the FBI recorded calls and meetings and the FBI tapped phones during a yearlong probe that coincided with Republican Gov. Bob Riley creating a task force to shut down electronic bingo.