The sudden exit of the lead FBI agent from the courtroom in the bingo case prosecution on the first day of the trial in Montgomery has lent considerable mystery and speculation to the atmosphere surrounding the circus like event at the federal courthouse in the capital city.
Already the case has seen the first lead prosecutor, Peter Ainsworth, shipped back to Washington and replaced by Justin Shur. Then, on the trial’s first day of jury selection, lead FBI agent Keith Baker abruptly left his seat in the audience and did not return. Baker has been the lead investigator on this case almost since its inception during the 2010 session of the Alabama Legislature.
And something hush-hush is also going on about some notes, supposedly made by Agent Baker, which may be missing, at least that was hinted by Presiding Judge Myron Thompson from the bench last week.
At least one news blogger has suggested the following:
“One would think that the presence of an FBI agent like Baker at the jury selection process wouldn’t be that big of a deal, right? However, based on court documents filed by defense attorneys and an order entered by Judge Thompson, the team of defense attorneys has apparently filed yet another motion to dismiss some or all of the charges against their clients. At least one interpretation of the court filings indicates that Baker’s actions during either the conduct of the investigation or the hearings related to the wiretaps may be the cause for Judge Thompson to act.”
In other unusual moves, Thompson shut down the trial proceedings all day last Friday and summoned the lawyers in the case to an unusual meeting on Saturday.
In another earlier matter regarding Baker, the judge, in a meeting out of the jury’s presence, took up an issue he said “needed to be decided before qualifying of the jury.” The issue was about “Baker’s conduct during the grand jury proceedings.” Following the hearing, the judge, according to news reports, said there would be an evidentiary hearing concerning Baker and the grand jury.
No parties will comment on these issues to the media since they are under seal, but one news source, Rickey Stokes News, reported that Baker was banned from the courtroom.
Things sometimes move quickly in trials, so by the time you read this, matters may have dramatically changed. But these were unusual events that had not, I think, been reported adequately in the instant or daily mainstream media. The ‘aborigines’ factor
The leadoff witness for the feds was state Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale, one of the three legislators who wore a wire taping most anyone in hearing distance for about a year.
But the bugging equipment also recorded some very interesting remarks when Beason left it on during conversations with GOP colleagues and others.
Bobby Segall, a lawyer for Milton McGregor, had Beason read the transcripts of the remarks to jurors, half of whom are black. In one tape, Beason and others discuss their fears that many black voters would turn up at the polls if an amendment on electronic bingo was placed on the ballot.
“Every black in this state will be bused to the polls,” said a person who was not identified on the transcript. The jury is made up of six black women, five white women, and two white men.
Larry Dixon, a Republican state senator from Montgomery at the time, said the voters will be taken to the polls on “HUDfinanced buses.” Beason responded, “That’s right. That’s right. This will be busing extra.”
In another conversation, Beason and others were discussing the distressed economy of Greene County, where GreeneTrack is located. “That’s y’all’s Indians,” said former state Rep. Benjamin Lewis, R-Dothan, who also wore a tape and was appointed to a judgeship after the taping by former Gov. Bob Riley.
“They’re aborigines, but they’re not Indians,” Beason responded.
“I’m sure they are going to try. If they do, it will be a magnificent job, magnificent job because I’m not sure God himself could rehabilitate him,” said Jim Parkman, the lawyer for Sen. Harri Anne Smith.
Smith told the media after court that she thought Beason should resign from public office.