Alabama Scene

A $50,000 contract for no work: WOW



One of the prosecution’s star witnesses, who wore a wire for the FBI in its investigation into possible vote-buying in the bid to allow the people of Alabama a vote on electronic bingo, has testified he received $10,000 to $50,000 a year from a lobbyist who represented the Poarch Creek Indians and their gaming interests.

When asked what he did to earn that kind of money, State Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, said “nothing.”

Mask testified he received the funds for referring a client to lobbyist Steve Windom. Mask said the client was a computer firm, but the Poarch Creek Indians, who own three bingo casinos in Alabama, were also clients represented by Windom, a former lieutenant governor. The prosecution presented no evidence to back up the testimony of Mask about the computer company.

Mask also said on cross-examination that he likes to play poker for money. Defense attorney Joe Espy on cross examination told the court Mask’s card-playing habits were relevant because he was acting "holier than thou." Espy represents VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, one of the 11 originally charged in the case. Sources in Elmore County have told me that Mask’s poker-playing habits are well known in the area and that the games are not “penny-ante.”

Mask told McGregor on one of the conversations he taped for the FBI that the people in his district “don’t like gambling and would go hog wild” if they knew he was accepting money from gambling interests.

Somehow, I don’t think they will like a legislator hosting “high-stakes” poker games any better.

Former Alabama State Rep. Benjamin Lewis, now a Houston County district judge appointed by Bob Riley, testified that “Ronnie Gilley was a con man and crook.” Gilley, who was originally charged in the case, pleaded guilty in return for a possible lesser sentence.

Lewis testified that Gilley would stab you in the back to get you to do something. “I don’t think Ronnie Gilley is trustworthy, he’s a crook.” Lewis was asked why is Ronnie Gilley a crook. His answer; “because he is a shady person.”

I don’t know how this trial is going to turn out, but the Justice Department is sure spending a lot of money in an attempt to ruin a lot of lives. By the close of the last fiscal year the feds had spent $25 million of taxpayer dollars on this investigation and that has probably doubled by now.

At this point, based on what I have read of the testimony, they haven’t proven that any of the remaining defendants offered anything specific to influence passage of the electronic bingo bill other than their support. To prove their charges they must show a specific offer. If offering “support” for or against legislation in Montgomery is a crime then most people who have talked to a legislator would be considered criminals by these mostly out-of-state feds. State’s DUI laws get tougher

The state’s drunk-driving laws have gotten tougher. Gov. Robert Bentley recently signed legislation that requires the use of ignition interlock devices for those convicted of driving under the influence.

To start a car with the device installed, a driver must breathe into a Breathalyzer. If an alcohol level greater than established limits is detected, the car will not start. The device may also require the driver to breathe at several points while driving and logs failed tests without stopping the operation of the vehicle.

Under the law, first-time DUI offenders who injure someone, have a blood-alcohol level of .15 or greater, refuse to provide a blood alcohol content, or have a child under 14 in the car would be required to have the ignition interlock device for two years after a 90-day suspension of their license.

Subsequent convictions would increase restrictions. A second conviction, regardless of the circumstances, would require the installation of the device for two years after restoration of the license. Third-time offenders would be required to drive with the devices for three years; subsequent offenses would require the devices be put in place for five years.

The costs of the devices vary but they can be leased at somewhere between $70 and $140 a month. A means for providing the devices to the indigent is included in the bill.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: