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MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) -
The six remaining defendants in the bingo retrial received good news on Wednesday morning.
Casino owner Milton McGregor, lobbyist Tom Coker, County Crossing spokesperson Jay Walker and Senators Jim Preuitt, Larry Means and Harri Anne Smith all took their turn on the podium as they were all acquitted.
After the trial, the defendants and their attorneys gathered to talk to the press about the trial. McGregor's attorney, Joe Espy, seemed especially ecstatic as he animatedly addressed the press.
"What a day! What a day," stated Espy before expressing disbelief that the Government had spent $50 million on trying to prosecute McGregor, a figure he says came from the media.
"Thank the Good Lord for total vindication," said McGregor after the trial. "I've got many many friends that I want to thank that I will name later. This is truly a day to celebrate and the celebration starts now."
McGregor did not answer questions after the trial, but he did release this statement in a press release:
This is a day for thanksgiving – maybe Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one. Through this, we've been sustained by family, friends, and faith.
Since they were babies, I've told our girls they have the best momma in the whole world. I'll never know how this beautiful, graceful, intelligent, strong Christian woman has put up with me. But I do know this: I've been blessed in more ways than I could ever count, but Pat is the greatest blessing of all -- by far.
Our family says "thank you" to the many friends who stood with us and prayed for us. Pat always reminds me that God does not give us more than we can handle. In addition to the gift of Grace, we know more than ever that He also gives us friends to help us in times like this.
We deeply appreciate the jurors in both trials. We will be eternally grateful for their personal sacrifice and extraordinary courage. Because of them, the system works.
I want to express my friendship and admiration for the other defendants, their families, and their attorneys. The war we fought together strengthened old friendships and forged new ones. We still grieve the passing of Ray Crosby, a good and honest man. Ray is in a better place, but we're sorry he's not here to celebrate this day of vindication.
The true professionals on this legal team have gone far beyond the call of duty for almost two years. Joe Espy has many accomplishments, but keeping me quiet this long may be his greatest one. Joe's our quarterback, but the whole team is great: Bobby Segall, Walter McGowan, Sam Heldman, Ben and Bill Espy, Shannon Holliday, David Martin, Ashley Penhale, Clayton Tartt, and, my friend of 30 years, Fred Gray. These lawyers and the people in their firms are simply the best. I can never thank them enough.
I'm not going to say a lot about the case today, but I will say this. I love my country. But I despise what my government has done to me and the other defendants. The government lawyers and investigators say they represent the United States, but they trampled on the constitution they're sworn to defend. They're paid by the Justice Department, but they showed no sense of justice or fairness. They're in the Division of Public Integrity, but they showed none of that either, not even a little bit. The fact that they carried out this travesty in a courthouse named for a genuine hero makes what they did even more disgusting. They should learn from Frank Johnson that doing the right thing may not be popular or easy, and that doing the right thing sometimes means having the courage to speak truth to power.
I'll have more to say later, but now it's time to enjoy the company of family and friends. We have a lot to celebrate. And the celebration begins right now.
Espy took questions after McGregor was done speaking. He discussed how he thought the government's actions were shameful and how they never had any proof against any of the defendants.
"(We are) Seriously looking at appropriate legal action," said Espy on the chance of filing a civil suit.
Espy also gave his mind about the prosecution's witnesses, saying the government had embraced "manipulators, rascists and crooks."
This is the second trial in the case and the second big loss for the prosecution. The first trial held 128 charges for 9 defendants; only 27 charges and 6 defendants remained for the retrial. Senator Quinton Ross and lobbyist Bob Geddie were acquitted completely in the first trial. Legislative aide Ray Crosby still faced a bribery charge in the second trial, but Crosby passed away before the retrial. Judge Myron Thompson cleared Crosby of the charge and removed his name from the defendants list.
Here are the charges and how each defendant was found:
Conspiracy (All Encompassing)
Federal Bribery: $1 Million to Sen. Beason
Federal Bribery: $100,000 to Sen. Means
Federal Bribery: $2 million to Sen. Preuitt
Federal Bribery: $3000/Month to Crosby
Fraud/Aiding and Abetting: MCGP $3,000 to Crosby (1/10)
Fraud/Aiding and Abetting: MCGP $3,000 to Crosby (2/10)
Fraud/Aiding and Abetting: MCGP $3,000 to Crosby (3/10)
Fraud, Aiding and Abetting: 4 Checks to Huntsville PACs meant for Sen. Smith (Signed by Ronnie Gilley)
Fraud, Aiding and Abetting: MCGP $3,000 to Crosby (4/10)