Here are some more quotes, comments and tidbits from week four of the federal corruption trial:
Right and wrong
When asked who they should support for governor, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor told Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley he had talked with Joe Reed with the Alabama Education Association about Sparks.
“I think Ron is going to win the Democratic nomination. If he does and I truly believe he will, he could conceivably win in November,” McGregor said. Sparks won the Democratic nomination, but lost in the general election. Gilley also questioned how close Sparks was to the lobbyists for the “Indians.”
Gilley said he was supposed to pay defendant Jay Walker, who was the spokesman for Country Crossing, $10,000 a month. He said he only made one full payment of $10,000 and a partial payment of $2,000. Someone else paid Walker for his work during much of the time. When asked how much others involved in the project had been paying Walker, Gilley acted shocked that it was only $100,000.
Not on the phone
“I’ve got good news and don’t ask me to explain it on the phone,” McGregor said to Gilley of upcoming votes.
“The Democrats are coming after him hard and he don’t want to fight a hard campaign,” Gilley said of Sen. Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega.
Gilley said he also, through an employee, tried to send money he owed to Walker in November 2010 after they were indicted. Walker, according to his attorney, instead called to consult his attorney. “That was wise of him,” Gilley said of Walker.
When asked, Gilley said on the stand he was not trying to protect anybody when he was talking to the FBI. He said he has tried to shield his friends and investors from Nashville from the agony of the trial. “I don’t want to drag in these people with such a rigorous trial and mudslinging that is going on” Gilley said.
FBI Special Agent John McEachern said Sen. Scott Beason, a key government witness for the FBI, inadvertently recorded some of the conversations. Arguments from defense attorneys kept the agent from elaborating. He said Beason also bought his own Sony recorder and used it on one occasion because there were technical issues with the digital recorder provided to him by the FBI.
Tale of the Tape
Then-state Rep. Benjamin Lewis, according to an FBI agent, recorded 18 to 20 conversations. Beason, he said, recorded 75 to 80 conversations. Beason said on the stand he believed he recorded more than 100.
McGregor, in a conversation with Greenetrack CEO Luther “Nat” Winn, said they all need to work together as a team. He also said he had recently learned that the owners of the casino in Lowndes County were from Texas. “I don’t even know the White Hall people” McGregor tells Winn.
Leaving on a jet plane
McEachern, when asked by the prosecutor, said McGregor traveled in privately own jets — “his own aircraft.” Gilley talked about meeting McGregor at the hangar in Montgomery where he kept his airplanes. Joe Espy, lead attorney for McGregor, asked why it mattered in a corruption trial that he traveled in his own plane. Later, former attorney general and Lt. Gov. Bill Baxley, who is representing lobbyist Tom Coker, tried to bring up prosecution witness Jarrod Massey driving a Porsche, but was overruled by the judge.
Susan James, attorney for defendant Jay Walker, asked Gilley if he was so paranoid that he started having people patted down before coming into his office. He said, on one occasion, they jokingly patted down his lobbyist Jarrod Massey. “These folks haven’t been in jail. You have to tell them what a pat down is,” James said to Gilley about the jury. Gilley described how FBI agents had patted him down.
“We will make an example out of them,” Gilley said of Republican state Reps. Steve Clause and Benjamin Lewis, who represented part of Houston County and who Gilley believed were against the legislation. Gilley said he wanted to find a candidate to run against Clause.
Baxley let Gilley know his idea of having country stars come into the state to campaign was not new. Baxley said Hank Williams Jr. and Minnie Pearl were among those who had campaigned in Alabama. Gilley said he did not know Hank Jr. assisted campaigns in Alabama. Baxley asked if he knew who Williams had campaigned with. “Me,” Baxley responded. “And even with him, I couldn’t win.”
Gilley recognizes he could be sentenced to a lot more than 20 years if he received the maximum sentence. James said Gilley could face close to 400 years. “Oh that would be tough, wouldn’t it,” Gilley responded sarcastically.
McEachern has been with the FBI for about 23 years including time with the violent gang task force in south central Los Angeles and later headed up the bank robbery task force there. McEachern said he and FBI Special Agent Keith Baker briefed the director of the FBI on the investigation.
“It would be certain Senator Holley hated me,” Gilley said of Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba. Gilley, who said in 2010 he had criticized Holley for two years, said he was not fond of Holley either.
Defense attorneys Friday questioned McEachern’s knowledge of the Legislative process. The FBI agent said he had learned about some processes during the investigation.
“You know that changing bills, amending bills, revising bills to appease opposition to a a bill to bring people aboard to vote on it, that’s common place?” attorney Ben Espy asked McEachern Friday.
“I guess that’s politics,” McEachern said.
The fight next time
McGregor is quoted on one tape saying the bingo legislation would do nothing but define bingo, establish a state gaming commission and set a tax rate of no less than 25 percent.
“But don’t get in a p—— contest over the amount,” McGregor says, referring to the tax rate. “And then if it’s approved by voters November 2, we come back and have an enabling act to settle everything. And we’ll have a knock down, drag out fight.”
Life and death
On one tape, McGregor says he told Sen. Jim Preuitt, D-Talladega that the legislation was “a survival bill for me. It’s not a survival bill for (AEA executive secretary Paul) Hubbert. We can’t survive without this. The risk is on the operator. I don’t know if under the proposal if I’ll get a license or not.”
Attorney Ron Wise, who represents Preuitt, said a plan launched by McGregor and Senate Rules Committee chairman Lowell Barron to secure Preuitt’s support for the bill reminded him of “two children on a playground.” Barron told McGregor to join him in what he called a “scheme” to convince Preuitt to vote yes by pretending Barron was against the bill; Barron said Preuitt would always take the position that was opposed to his.
“Mr. McGregor and Sen. Barron (were) playing on his heart and emotions because they wanted him to vote for the bill,” Wise said.
– compiled by Sebastian Kitchen and Brian Lyman