U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson discussed the possibility of beginning the second federal corruption trial of casino owner Milton McGregor and six other defendants to January because of the possible hardship on jurors during the holidays, a defense attorney said Wednesday.
Thompson, defense attorneys, and prosecutors discussed the issue during a private conference call on Wednesday morning.
Thompson, during a conference call on Monday, indicated he would like to begin the trial on Oct. 3.
Jim Parkman, an attorney for Sen. Harri Anne Smith, said that has not changed, but that Thompson was sensitive to the potential effects on jurors and their families during Thanksgiving and Christmas. He said Thompson, as he should have been, was not as concerned about attorneys and defendants, but Parkman agreed with his concern about jurors.
If the trial started in January, it would likely continue into the legislative session that starts Feb. 7.
Last week, Thompson declared a mistrial for outstanding counts against seven of the defendants in the corruption case because the jury could not reach a unanimous decision on those counts. The jury found two of the defendants, state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery and lobbyist Bob Geddie, not guilty on any of the counts against them.
The remaining defendants are McGregor; Smith; former state Sens. Larry Means of Attalla and Jim Preuitt of Talladega; lobbyist Tom Coker; former Country Crossing spokesman Jay Walker; and former legislative analyst Ray Crosby.
They are accused of participating in a conspiracy in which casino owners and their lobbyists offered cash, campaign contributions, and campaign appearances by country musicians to bribe lawmakers to vote for legislation that would legalize electronic gambling in the state.
On Monday, prosecutors talked about severing the defendants into three groups for three separate retrials.
Parkman said Thompson told them on Monday that he had received an opinion from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the appeals court for this district, that indicated that the judges there did not like severing cases.
“That’s got to be dealt with. That was not dealt with at all,” Parkman said.
He said nothing was settled on Wednesday.
“The call was somewhat productive in that we did discuss different alternatives,” Parkman said.
He said there is the possibility, once Thompson determines if the case should be severed, that it could be moved to January.
Parkman and Susan James, an attorney for Walker, said Monday they hoped the next trial would begin after the first of the year to allow them to get their professional and personal lives back in order after the two-month trial that ended a week ago. Parkman said he has other clients he needs to work with.
“It gives us time,” Parkman said of the potential for a January trial. “There’s some motions we’d like to file and regroup a little bit. I think all defense lawyers were pretty tired after this.”
Having a break, Parkman said, they would be able to “get the adrenaline going again.”
Parkman said a Tuesday meeting with federal prosecutors was “very quick.” He said the defense attorneys indicated they opposed severing the cases and talked about some potential dates for motions to be filed.
“We want to move together as a group again and get this over with at one time,” Parkman said.
Several defendants originally filed, following their arrest in October, to have separate trials from the other defendants, but those were all denied. Now, after prosecutors did not achieve a single conviction on any of the more than 120 counts in the case, they said they would like to sever the defendants into three groups with Smith being tried by herself and McGregor being retried with Crosby.
The other four defendants, if the prosecution was successful, would be tried together.
– posted by Sebastian Kitchen