Racial bias was shown in the FBI investigation of electronic bingo in Alabama said Federal District Judge Myron Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama, Northern Division.
According to Thompson’s opinion, “The United States conducted in-person electronic surveillance of the defendants with the assistance of three lawmakers: State Senator Scott Beason, State Senator Benjamin Lewis, and State Representative Barry Mask.”
“As a preliminary matter, the court finds that Beason and Lewis lack the credibility that the government sought to establish. The evidence introduced at trial contradicts the self-serving portrait of Beason and Lewis as untouchable opponents of corruption. In reality, Beason and Lewis had ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias.
“The court finds that Beason and Lewis lack credibility for two reasons. First, their motive for cooperating with F.B.I. investigators was not to clean up corruption but to increase Republican political fortunes by reducing African-American voter turnout. Second, they lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent.”
In a separate conversation, during which Lewis asked whether the predominantly black residents of Greene County were “y’all’s Indians?,” Beason responded by derisively referring to blacks as “Aborigines.” While this remark is primarily targeted at African-Americans, the court notes that it also evidences Beason’s racist animus toward Native Americans.
Judge Thompson issued this opinion on October 20, 2011. He had presided over the first trial where charges against the defendants were based on actions taken to pass Senate Bill 380 (“SB380”), which would have authorized a constitutional referendum in various counties in Alabama on whether or not to legalize electronic bingo.
Following the first trial, two defendants, Lobbyist Bob Geddy and State Senator Quinton Ross were found not guilty of all charges. Thompson’s opinion concerned defendants VictoryLand owner Milton E. McGregor, Lobbyist Thomas E. Coker, former State Senator Larry P. Means, State Senator James E. Prueitt, State Senator Harri Anne H. Smith, former public relations spokesman for Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley Jay Walker, Jr., and Legislative Analyst Joseph R. Crosby. They were charged originally in a 39-count indictment, which included charges of federal programs bribery, extortion, honest services mail and wire fraud, money laundering, making a false statement, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.
The jury that found Geddy and Ross not guilty on all counts, found McGregor, Coker, Means, Prueitt, Smith, Walker, and Crosby not guilty on some counts but was unable to reach a verdict on the remaining counts.
These defendants will be retried at some point, probably early next year.
In his 44-page opinion, Thompson concluded the following: “However, the court again emphasizes that, because these findings of fact are based not on the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard but rather on the less demanding preponderance-of-the-evidence standard, this opinion should not be construed as finding that these six defendants are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That determination is within the province of the jury and is not for the court to decide. Indeed, if the applicable standard here were beyond a reasonable doubt, the court might very well reach contrary findings in this opinion insofar as these six defendants’ participation in the alleged conspiracy is discussed.”
Greenetrack CEO Luther Winn in an open letter to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, stated “Those of us in Greene County are not surprised by Judge Thompson’s findings because we have seen this treatment firsthand. State officials elected to enforce our laws have violated those very laws in a deliberate effort to deprive us of our constitutional and civil rights.”
A recent law review article confirms that no court has ever held that electronic bingo is illegal in Greene County and concludes “that the Task Force on Gambling did not clear up the bingo issue as promised; it just added fear to the chaos,.
“As we have said all along, our fight is not about bingo, but about the willingness of those in authority to violate the fundamental rights of citizens of Greene County. In the past, the authorities used dogs, firehoses, and bicycle chains to carry out their racist and oppressive agenda. Today, they use more sophisticated weapons like illegal search warrants, altered documents, false testimony and corrupt manipulation.
“These findings by Judges Thompson and Brown clearly demonstrate that while the methods have changed, the motives and the goals have not. The cries of bloodied victims have been replaced by the silent suffering of the invisible people whose rights they trample.”
Winn concluded his open letter with a challenge to Governor Bentley, “Governor Bentley, you campaigned on the promise that you are a doctor, not a politician. A capable doctor would recognize that racism and inequality still infect our state, which, like a disease left untreated, destroys a body.
“In your Inaugural Speech you quoted Dr. King: ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ Governor Bentley, the people of Greene County now ask: Where do you stand?”
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