MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP/WSFA) - The owner of Alabama's largest casino, four state senators and several top lobbyists have been indicted on federal charges accusing them of vote buying on a bill to legalize electronic bingo.
The indictment was released Monday as FBI agents made arrests at several locations across the state.
It accused the casino owners and statehouse figures of conspiring to make payments and campaign donations to affect "pro-gambling legislation."
Victoryland casino owner Milton McGregor was among those indicted. His casino, now shut down, has more than 6,000 electronic bingo machines. Also indicted was Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley and state Sens. Harri Anne Smith, James Preuitt, Larry Means and Quinton Ross Jr.
A federal grand jury in Montgomery has been investigating whether political corruption or vote buying was involved in an unsuccessful effort to pass legislation to legalize bingo casinos.
WSFA 12 News had a crew at McGregor's home off Perry Street in Montgomery this morning when FBI agents appeared at about 7 a.m. and left about an hour later. McGregor was arrested at his home, according to his attorney, Joe Espy.
Many other subjects in the investigation were arrested around the state early morning.
GOVERNOR BOB RILEY
Jeff Emerson, Communications Director for Governor Bob Riley, on Monday released the following statement from the Governor's Office:
"An independent federal investigation by the Obama Justice Department has resulted in indictments and arrests surrounding the corrupting influence organized gambling has on the Legislature. This is disappointing, but hardly surprising. For many months, Governor Riley has warned Alabamians that organized gambling is a threat to our state because of its corrupting influence. That's exactly why Governor Riley has consistently fought the illegal gambling interests. He called the gambling bill that passed the Senate earlier this year, 'the most corrupt piece of legislation ever considered by the Senate,' and today's action by the Justice Department shows he was, sadly, right," said Emerson.
HARRI ANNE SMITH CAMPAIGN
"This is an outrage. This is a nakedly political move, coordinated by prosecutors in cahoots with the Governor's office to deny the people of the Wiregrass their right to vote and their lawful representation. We are not going to allow this to happen! I am committed to fighting these charges, and winning this election."
"First they (The Alabama Republican Party) tried to throw me off the ballot, and now they are trying to throw me in jail," Smith said. "There is no limit to what these people will do to stop me from fighting for your right to vote, and standing up for The Wiregrass."
ATTORNEY GENERAL TROY KING
AG King says this case is being handled by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. His office is not planning any comment.
JOE ESPY, ATTORNEY FOR MILTON MCGREGOR
The indictment has just been handed to us, so we have not had an opportunity to review it in detail. From what we have seen, I can say this:
The government basically alleges that a 71-year-old grandfather who has never been arrested for so much as jaywalking chose this point in his life to engage in a criminal enterprise. The facts do not support this view, and we are confident we will prove that Mr. McGregor is innocent.
Milton McGregor has followed the law every step of the way. Even his competitors say Milton goes "by the book." In business, in politics, and in his private life, he follows the rules. He served two tours of duty in the armed services. He is more devoted to his family and to those who work with him than anyone I've known. He is a man of deep faith who "walks the walk" of Christian charity. He came up the hard way and treats people with courtesy and respect.
This may be why I am particularly disappointed the government did not let Mr. McGregor turn himself in. Not allowing this courtesy suggests they might be more interested in media grandstanding than finding out the truth.
Most people in Alabama know that this is mainly a political dispute over whether or not the people will have the right to vote on electronic bingo. It is surprising to me that the government apparently only examined one side, the side that lost in the legislature. I'm surprised since the folks on the side that won have shown they will do anything and everything to shut down all competition to the Indians' casinos.
I conclude with this: Mr. McGregor's legal team is committed to making sure his side is heard and proving the truth about him. I hope the media will make sure the citizens of this state hear both sides, not just the government's one-sided and mistaken view. We are supremely confident that a trial based on the truth will show that the government's allegations are wrong and that Mr. McGregor is innocent.
AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER RON SPARKS
(Democratic gubernatorial nominee)
"These are accusations, not convictions. And just because these indictments have been handed down does not mean that gaming is going away. That is why I have been so relentless since day one that we must strongly regulate and tax gaming. If we had a plan to regulate gaming 7 ½ years ago, these kind of things would not be happening today.
"Anyone who loves democracy and freedom should be concerned with the timing of these indictments. Waiting to announce indictments after the election would have had no impact on the cause of justice. The timing of this, regardless of how you feel about it, is suspicious and must be questioned."
ALABAMA PARTY LEADERS
ALABAMA STATE SENATORS
Senator Larry Dixon says, "Certainly gives a black eye to the Alabama Legislature. I hope that everyone accused is innocent and able to prove it."
Senator Roger Bedford says, "If these arrests are not political and a crime has really been committed, then why couldn't they have waited for another three weeks until the election is over?"