Gambling trial like a Grisham novel
Published 6:20 pm Thursday, July 28, 2011
The sensational political gambling trial continues to play out in Montgomery. The scene is analogous to a theater production. The show is a blend of Broadway and Hollywood that resembles a movie based on a John Grisham novel.
As the trial drones on in the Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Federal Courthouse, it is apparent that as predicted it will last at least three months. It began on June 6 and has now been playing for eight weeks. We are only at about intermission. It will probably not close until after Labor Day.
Allow me to share some observations and highlights of the saga or soap opera from Montgomery. My first observation is that the audience for the show is made up primarily of Montgomerians as is usually the case in Alabama politics. The folks in the Capital City are much more attuned to state politics than the rest of the state. My guess is that the good people of Huntsville or Sand Mountain are completely unaware of the trial or could care less. Even the Birmingham media is not totally enthralled with the happenings of the case. They always have their own corruption to cover. They are tittering on bankruptcy due to overt, massive and pervasive fraud and greed perpetrated by their public officials. They observe all politics and politicians with a jaundiced eye after their experiences.
This Montgomery only interest is exemplified by a cursory look at the television stations covering the trial. Everyday there are three television trucks with reporters outside the courthouse. Two of them are from Montgomery and one is from Birmingham. There are none from Huntsville or Mobile or anywhere else.
Another caveat that accentuates the trial being a Montgomery only event is that all of the jurors are from Montgomery or the River Regions surrounding Montgomery. Due to protocol in the Middle District the venire list was made up of only prospective jurors from the middle section of the Middle District. As would be expected, the jury mirrors Montgomery demographically.
The most glaring observation is the disparity between the legal talent amassed by the defendants versus the paltry team assembled by the federal government. The young inexperienced lawyers shipped in to Montgomery to do battle with the plethora of legal acumen and experience assembled by the defendants could be likened to David versus Goliath. Because it is summertime and baseball season, a more accurate comparison would be like pitting the Montgomery Biscuits against the New York Yankees. The best defense lawyers in Alabama are pitching for the defense. On the mound and in the bullpen are the likes of Joe Espy, Bobby Segall and Fred Gray pitching for Milton McGregor. Tom Coker has Bill Baxley. Quinton Ross has Lewis Gillis. Larry Means brought in the famous criminal defense lawyer Bill Clark from Birmingham. Jim Preuitt has Ron Wise. The most flamboyant and colorful of the Dream Team is Jim Parkman, who represents Harri Ann Smith. Parkman earned his spurs by hurling a perfect game in Birmingham a few years ago when he got the infamous Richard Scrushy cleared of vast fraud charges. Espy and Parkman are fabulous. They are a show to behold. They are brilliant and the jury loves them.
At the end of the day it will all boil down to one key issue, is a campaign contribution a bribe. A total misnomer in this entire scenario was that the prosecution had no evidence of any bribe being offered or accepted by anyone, only the innuendo of a campaign contribution offered by Ronnie Gilley and Jarrod Massey.
Gilley is the ultimate creepy con man. He has already pled guilty, along with his lobbyist Jarrod Massey. Gilley and Massey have been the only ones implicated. They are not very credible witnesses. Gilley is not only sleazy and scurrilous but makes no excuses for the fact that he is a compulsive liar and crook. He even acknowledges his lack of character on the stand. His taped conversations played to the jury are interlaced with continuous diatribes of vulgar despicable language that would make a sailor blush. His explicit off color sexual discussions could not be playing well with the almost all female jury. In fact, every minute Gilley is on the stand hurts the prosecution’s case. The irony is that the lackluster prosecution lawyers chose to cut a deal with Gilley to get him to testify on their behalf. After the jury watches Gilley and his lackey Massey, who arrives to testify shackled and dressed in a prison jumpsuit, you have to wonder where these federal lawyers from Washington went to law school.
We will keep you posted.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers served 16 years in the state legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.