Four Alabama state legislators and three lobbyists are among a group of 11 people charged in a bribery conspiracy rooted in the buying and selling of votes tied to pro-gambling legislation.
Justice Department officials announced the charges today, calling the alleged scheme "astonishing" in scope. The officials said the conspiracy, which allegedly began in February 2009, lasted more than a year.
DOJ officials said four Alabama state senators—Larry Means, James Preuitt, Quinton Ross and Harri Anne Smith—are charged with accepting or agreeing to accept bribes in the form of campaign contributions, campaign appearances by country music stars and fundraising assistance. Means and Ross are Democrats, Preuitt is a Republican and Smith is an independent.
“[T]he indictment describes a brazen criminal scheme to buy and sell votes, thereby depriving the people of Alabama of the honest services of their elected representatives,” Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer of the Criminal Division said in prepared remarks today at the Justice Department. “The people of Alabama, like all our citizens, deserve to have representatives who act in the public’s interest, not in their own personal interest for their own financial gain.”
Charging documents allege two defendants, Milton McGregor and Ronald Gilley, owned controlling interests in gambling developments in Alabama. McGregor and Gilley, according to DOJ officials, employed lobbyists to promote electronic bingo gambling. A lead lobbyist for Gilley, Jarrod Massey, was charged in the scheme. Massey is president and founder of Mantra Governmental in Montgomery, Ala.
Breuer said the Supreme Court’s decision in June in Skilling v. U.S., where the court gutted the honest services fraud law, did not threaten the state corruption case in Alabama.
“Obviously the one part of the Skilling case that remains … is honest services fraud dealing with bribes and kickbacks,” Breuer said today. “Here, we allege the conduct constitutes bribes. So this case was not particularly held back because of the Skilling case.”
Preuitt is not running for re-election. Means, Ross and Smith are on the November ballot.
Breuer said the department is sensitive to bringing charges close to elections. “In a case like this, though, we just had to go with where the facts and law were and we had to make the decision at the appropriate time,” he said. “That’s 100 percent what dictated the timing of this case, irrespective of when an election may or may not occur.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Alabama, led by U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, appointed by President George W. Bush, was recused in the investigation, according to Breuer. He said the case came out of the Public Integrity Section at Main Justice.
Two assistant U.S. attorneys in Mobile assisted in the investigation, in addition to Brenda Morris, a former Public Integrity supervisor who is one of five attorneys under criminal investigation for the botched prosecution of Ted Stevens in Washington federal district court.