Jurors in a federal corruption case against nine defendants, many of them Alabama state officials, reached a unanimous verdict on some charges Tuesday but are apparently deadlocked on others, The Birmingham News reported.
After speaking with attorneys in the case, District Judge Myron Thompson asked jurors to continue trying to reach a verdict on the remaining counts, and they planned to continue deliberation Wednesday.
It remained unclear how many of the 37 counts jurors had resolved, but a note suggested they strongly disagreed on the remaining counts.
“This jury feels we will never reach unanimous consent on all counts,” the jury foreman wrote.
Their deliberations involve whether, in 2010, VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor abandoned legitimate lobbying efforts and resorted to bribing state lawmakers in a bid to win support for a constitutional amendment that would have allowed electronic bingo machines in state casinos.
VictoryLand and other state casinos were forced to close by then-Gov. Bob Riley’s gambling task force, and prosecutors say McGregor, who owed about $200 million from the expansion of a casino facility in Shorter, Ala., couldn’t pass up the potential for millions of dollars generated by the machines.
But defense attorneys have argued that prosecutors failed to tie the defendants to three others who pleaded guilty of offering lawmakers bribes.
Ronnie Gilley, who owns another casino and testified for the prosecution after pleading guilty, identified McGregor as his partner in the illegeal scheme to win influence in the Legislature. Two of Gilley’s lobbyists, Jarrod Massey and Jennifer Pouncy also pleaded guilty.
Lawmakers on trial include state Sens. Harri Anne Smith,, Jim Preuitt, Quinton Ross and former state Sen. Larry Means,, all of whom voted for the amendment when it passed the state Senate in March 2010. Two days later, the FBI announced a corruption investigation of the lawmakers, and the bill died in the House without coming to a vote.
Former County Crossing spokesman Jay Walker, former legislative employee Ray Crosby and lobbyists Tom Coker and Bob Geddie also face charges in the trial.
Despite the jury’s apparent division on the remaining counts, Judge Thompson has told jurors to expect a verdict soon, and several attorneys told reporters that a unanimous decision wasn’t impossible.
“I don’t know if their usage of the word ‘never’ means they will never reach a verdict,” attorney Lewis Gillis, who represents Ross, told the Birmingham News.
But if the jury does remain deadlocked, Thompson could accept verdicts on the counts jurors did agree on, and send the jurors back into deliberations once again. He could also issue a “dynamite charge,” which would essentially admonish jurors to go back and try harder to compromise.
McGregor’s attorney, Joe Espy, said he believes it’s too soon to resort to that option.
“We are still very, very hopeful we are getting a verdict,” he said.