Gambling corruption trial brings ‘not guilty’ verdicts

Published 8:26 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Wednesday morning announcement by a jury seated in a controversial gambling corruption case brought the case to an end with their decision.

Milton McGregor, owner of VictoryLand, and five other defendants in the case were found not guilty of all charges in a retrial of a government corruption that has taken nearly a year to bring to a close

Throughout the retrial in the case, prosecutors attempted to portray the six defendants as greedy criminals who leaned toward bribery in an attempt to gain money and power.

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Defense attorney Joe Espey and others working on the case maintained no evidence in the case pointed to the defendants wrongdoing.

The case was first heard last summer and ended after a weeklong deliberation by jurors returned not guilt verdicts but said they were deadlocked on other charges.

A noticeably paired down version of the case was presented in this retrial and took prosecutors just two weeks to present evidence compared to nearly two months in the first trial.

McGregor; lobbyist Tom Coker; former Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker; Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb; and former state Sens. Larry Means, D-Attalla, and Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, are on trial accused of offering or accepting bribes in connection with a 2010 gambling bill.

In his response to the announcement of the not guilty verdict, McGregor gave thanks to those who worked on the case in his behalf.

“This is a day for thanksgiving – maybe Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one,” McGregor said. “Through this, we’ve been sustained by family, friends, and faith. “We deeply appreciate the jurors in both trials. We will be eternally grateful for their personal sacrifice and extraordinary courage. Because of them, the system works.”

Alabama Democrats Chairman Mark Kennedy also commented on the verdicts handed down by jurors Wednesday.

“Our Founding Fathers felt strongly that a fair, impartial and objective judicial branch was extremely important to American democracy,”Kennedy said. “They were absolutely correct. The Bill of Rights protects citizens accused of crimes by ensuring they are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers. As a former judge and Supreme Court Justice, I know from experience that jurors take this responsibility very seriously. Obviously, the prosecution in the federal bingo cases failed to convince two separate juries in two separate trials that these defendants are guilty. Therefore, the verdict is entirely appropriate.”