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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
A second charity representative started off testimony on the
ninth day of the Macon County Casino civil trial.
Lula Bridges, the founder of Hope for Families and Community
Services Inc. charity explained how she became involved with Lucky Palace and
ultimately, this lawsuit.
Bridges testified that her charity provides parenting
classes, anger management services, substance abuse counseling, and other
services to Macon County. She learned about Lucky Palace from a member of her
board and the man who testified on Thursday for his charity, Lawrence McRae.
"I thought it was an excellent opportunity for our
charity," explained Bridges. "We were hurting for money at that time
and were looking to get it any legal way we could."
Bridges said she submitted an application for a Class B
bingo license to operate at Lucky Palace for her charity - she didn't send the
application to the sheriff, she, like McRae, gave her application to Lucky
Palace President Paul Bracy Jr. who turned it in approximately six months later
- he also paid the $1,000.00 application fee for the charity.
Bridges said her charity never received any information from
Macon County Sheriff David Warren regarding issues with the application. Bracy
testified that he received the entire packet back from Sheriff Warren and all
applications had been denied due to Lucky Palace's lack of a "qualified
location." She explained she thought the casino had the required location
because she had inspected the land where it was expected to be built and had
seen the schematics for the building.
Bridges told the court that her charity joined the lawsuit
because her charity, "wanted to be treated as fairly as [other] charities
were treated." She added that as a result of its involvement in the
lawsuit, schools that previously worked with her charity opted to find help
When asked about her financial involvement in the lawsuit,
Bridges explained that she believed Mr. Bracy and Lucky Palace were paying all
of the attorneys fees associated with the trial. She referenced a question
asked during her deposition by Sheriff Warren's attorney James Anderson.
Anderson had asked her if she knew that if his team was successful that he was
going to ask the judge to tax the charities for payment of the defendant's
fees. Bridges testified that she felt threatened by this statement however she
chose to continue on because her charity needed the money.
Doris Overton, a representative of three other plaintiff
charities gave similar testimony as to why she chose to affiliate with Lucky
Palace. Overton, a Southeast Alabama Self Help Association (SEASHA) employee
represents three charities under the umbrella of SEASHA. Those three charities
are all apartment complexes, Rose Garden Apartment, Inc., Tubman Gardens, Inc.,
and the E.D. Nixon Apartments. SEASHA holds a charity license for bingo at
VictoryLand. Overton knew she could get more money if she affiliated with Lucky
Overton explained that while the apartment organizations do
get grants from the Alabama Department of Housing and Urban Development, they
also solicit donations from the community. That's why, when she learned of
Lucky Palace from Lawrence McRae, and they amount the casino was offering to
charities, she signed applications for all three organizations.
Like Bridges' application, Overton's applications were
turned in to Bracy who paid the fees and submitted them several months later.
Also like Bridges' application, Overton never got a reply from Sheriff Warren.
She decided to enter her charities into the lawsuit because she knew they
hadn't gotten a license yet, not because she specifically knew the applications
Overton told the court that she's never read the rules for
the operation of bingo in Macon County. She signed the application without
inspecting a facility; she knew Lucky Palace didn't have one. And, to this
date, she's never read the lawsuit her charities are named in.
Jurors also got the chance to hear from VictoryLand attorney
John Bolton. Bolton is the attorney Milton McGregor asked to help Sheriff
Warren and his attorney Fred Gray Jr. draft the rules if they needed it.
Bolton testified that he spoke with Gray Jr. on the phone
first and was given specifics that the Sheriff wanted included in the rules.
Gray told Bolton that the sheriff liked the Montgomery
County paper bingo regulations and wanted to model the Macon County electronic
bingo regulations after them. He especially wanted to use a rule that required
a facility that the sheriff could inspect before he issued the Class B bingo
licenses to the charity applicants.
"No effort was ever made by me to disguise the rules I
sent to Fred Gray Jr. from Sheriff Warren," explained Bolton.
He also said that he represented VictoryLand when he drafted
the rules, but he did not draft the rules to benefit VictoryLand.
"I don't believe that would be appropriate and I don't
think that happened in this case," said Bolton. "I was drafting the
rules pursuant to the instructions I got from Fred Gray Jr. for what Sheriff
Bolton testified that he worked to "hurry the rules
along" because he knew VictoryLand wanted to be open around Christmas
2003. He submitted drafts back and forth with Gray until Sheriff Warren felt
comfortable enough to sign them so he didn't think the time frame damaged the
rules. Bolton also said that Milton McGregor had no input into the drafting of
Bolton was listed as an attorney representing VictoryLand
until less than a week before the case was due to start. That's when he
received his subpoena from the plaintiffs to testify and had to withdraw from
One of the biggest contested points of the case was the
purpose and source of the "60 charity maximum" rule. Most of the
charities in the case allege they were shut out from getting licenses because VictoryLand
had enough charities shortly after the promulgation of the "Second Amended
Rules" to prevent Lucky Palace from reaching the "15 charity
Bolton explained that before the litigation, he'd never
spoken to anyone about Lucky Palace or its charities. He was told by Fred Gray
Jr. that Sheriff Warren 'didn't want a bingo hall on every corner' and
therefore limited the number of charities that could be licensed to 60. Gray
told Bolton that Warren believed this would limit the number of bingo
facilities to no more than four.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs rested their case around 4 p.m.
Friday afternoon. The defense is expected to present its first witness on
The civil suit between 17 Macon County Charities and Lucky Palace LLC. against Macon County Sheriff David Warren, Milton McGregor and VictoryLand started litigation in federal court on Monday, May 7, 2012.