Federal Jury Acquits All Six in a High-Profile Alabama Federal Corruption Case

March 8, 2012

AJC.com on March 7, 2012 released the following:

“Jury acquits all 6 in Ala. casino corruption case

By PHILLIP RAWLS
The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A jury acquitted a casino owner, three current or former state lawmakers and two other defendants on all counts Wednesday in a high-profile federal case that alleged the legislators were being bribed to legalize gambling in the state.

The jury returned its verdict after seven days of deliberations. One-by-one, each defendant stepped up to a podium in front of the judge to hear the verdicts. They nodded in agreement with the jury’s decision, squeezed their attorneys’ hand or bounced nervously as the clerk said not guilty. Family members in the gallery sobbed in relief, and when court recessed, there were hugs all around.

“We feel like this case was built on innuendos, lies and half-truths,” said Tom Coker, a casino lobbyist who was among those acquitted.

The federal investigation of vote buying began with three Republican legislators telling the FBI they were offered campaign contributions if they would support legislation designed to let electronic bingo games operate in Alabama.

Federal prosecutors said behind the scenes, two casino operators and their lobbyists were offering millions in campaign contributions, benefit concerts by country music entertainers, free polling and other incentives for votes.

The trial was the second for the defendants. The first ended in August with no convictions, two defendants acquitted, and the jury unable to resolve all charges against the remaining defendants.

“This is truly a day to celebrate, and ladies and gentlemen, the celebration starts now,” said VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor.

State Sen. Harri Anne Smith said she would walk into the Senate on Thursday and get to vote again.

“I got my life back today and I want to thank God for that jury,” Smith said.

Also acquitted were former Sens. Larry Means and Jim Preuitt, and Country Crossing casino spokesman Jay Walker.

McGregor, the casino owner, was accused of offering large campaign contributions to legislators for their votes for gambling legislation. Smith and the former senators were accused of agreeing to accept bribes in return for their votes.

The jury found McGregor and the others innocent on charges that included conspiracy and bribery.

The case was the latest in a series of government corruption investigations in Alabama, including the conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on bribery charges in 2006 and a probe of Alabama’s two-year college system that brought down three legislators and the system’s former chancellor in 2008.

The three Republican legislators who cooperated with the FBI recorded calls and meetings and the FBI tapped phones during a yearlong probe that coincided with Republican Gov. Bob Riley creating a task force to shut down electronic bingo. Riley said the machines, featuring flashing lights and sound effects, were illegal slot machines and not simply an electronic version of paper bingo.

Riley’s task force seized machines and won court battles while casino operators failed in 2009 and in 2010 to pass protective legislation.

Ronnie Gilley, the developer of Country Crossing casino, and two of his lobbyists, Jennifer Pouncy and Jarrod Massey, pleaded guilty to conspiracy. Former state Rep. Terry Spicer of Elba also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Massey and Gilley. All four helped the prosecution and are scheduled for sentencing in April.

Prosecutors said Gilley provided Smith with $200,000 in campaign money, plus a fundraising concert by John Anderson and Lorrie Morgan. They accused Gilley and McGregor of promising Means $100,000 for his vote. They accused Gilley, McGregor and Walker of promising Preuitt $2 million in contributions, a fundraising concert by country music starts and other campaign support.

Defense attorneys argued the case was based on lies told by the guilty in hopes of getting lighter punishment.

All three indicted senators voted for the gambling legislation when it passed the Senate on March 30, 2010. The FBI announced its investigation two days later, and the bill died in the House without coming to a vote.

McGregor’s casino, 15 miles east of Montgomery, was once the state’s largest with 6,000 machines, but it has been closed since the crackdown in 2010. Other casinos, including one in Dothan operated by Gilley’s former partners, are operating.

One thing that was never in dispute in the trial was the profitability of electronic bingo. McGregor’s attorneys acknowledged his casino in Shorter made $40 million in 2009 when it was operating all year and lost $4 million in 2010 when it was closed most of the year.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Former Pontiac Schools Assistant Superintendent Jumanne Sledge Indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for Allegedly Taking District Funds and Money Laundering

March 7, 2012

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on March 6, 2012 released the following:

“Former Pontiac Schools Assistant Superintendent Indicted for Taking District Funds and Money Laundering

Former Pontiac Schools Assistant Superintendent Jumanne Sledge, 40, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, was charged in an indictment today with taking $236,000 in district funds and with money laundering, United States Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.

Joining McQuade in the announcement was FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena.

The indictment charges that in 2010, Sledge committed program fraud upon the district, which annually receives more than $10,000 in federal funding, by directing a district employee to write Sledge a vendor check in the amount of $236,000 payable to “Leadership Academy,” which Sledge deposited into an account which he controlled. Approximately two months later, Sledge opened another account, where he deposited $200,000 of the funds, which he then used to pay personal expenses.

If convicted, Sledge faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the program fraud count and up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000.00 on the money laundering count. The indictment also seeks forfeiture of more than $236,000.

“Corruption in any form is a serious crime, but when a defendant steals from a school district, he robs children of funds intended for their education and their future,” McQuade said.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena said, “This type of public corruption not only violates the trust of the community but also robs children of opportunity. The FBI is committed to stopping those who steal from our youth.”

The case was investigated by agents of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney J. Michael Buckley.

An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. It will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Be Careful

Federal Crimes – Be Proactive

Federal Crimes – Federal Indictment

Federal Crimes – Detention Hearing

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


List of Blagojevich convictions, maximum sentences

December 6, 2011

Chicago Tribune on December 5, 2011 released the following:

“The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — A judge will sentence former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on 18 counts of corruption this week. Jurors at his first trial last year deadlocked on all but one of 24 counts, convicting him only of lying to the FBI. At his retrial this year, jurors convicted him on 17 of 20 counts. Combined, the charges formally carry a maximum 305-year sentence, though he’s likely to get closer to 10 years.

The convictions and maximum sentences from the retrial are:

TEN COUNTS OF WIRE FRAUD, nearly all of which are related to the allegation Blagojevich tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat. Each count carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

ONE COUNT OF ATTEMPTED EXTORTION related to an attempt to shake down the CEO of Children’s Memorial Hospital for a campaign contribution. Maximum penalty of 20 years.

ONE COUNT OF SOLICITING A BRIBE in the shakedown of the children’s hospital executive. Maximum penalty of 10 years.

ONE COUNT OF EXTORTION CONSPIRACY for conspiring with an aide to shake down a racetrack executive. Maximum penalty of 20 years.

ONE COUNT OF BRIBERY CONSPIRACY, related to shakedown of the racetrack executive. Maximum five-year sentence.

ONE COUNT OF EXTORTION CONSPIRACY, related to the Senate seat. Maximum penalty of 20 years.

ONE COUNT OF ATTEMPTED EXTORTION, related to the Senate seat. Maximum penalty of 20 years.

ONE COUNT OF BRIBERY CONSPIRACY, related to the Senate seat. Maximum of 5 years.

And from the first trial:

ONE COUNT OF FALSE STATEMENTS, for lying to federal investigators about his fundraising. Maximum of 5 years.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
Federal Criminal Defense Attorneys Videos:

Federal Crimes – Appeal

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Prosecutors: Blagojevich should get 15 to 20 years

November 30, 2011
former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
“In this June 27, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich speaks to the media at the federal courthouse in Chicago. Federal prosecutors said Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, Blagojevich should be sentenced to 15 to 20 years in prison. Blagojevich’s attorneys are expected to respond with their own recommendation later Wednesday. His sentencing hearing is scheduled to begin Dec. 6. Blagojevich was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File)”

The Associated Press (AP) on November 30, 2011 released the following:

“By NOMAAN MERCHANT
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich deserves a sentence of 15 to 20 years in prison for his convictions on corruption charges, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Blagojevich, who was convicted of 18 corruption-related counts including that he tried to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama, should receive more time than his predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, and a key former fundraiser, Tony Rezko.

Ryan is serving 6 1/2 years on racketeering and fraud charges. Rezko was sentenced last week to 10 1/2 years, minus time served, on convictions for fraud, money laundering and plotting to squeeze more than $7 million in kickbacks from companies seeking state business.

Blagojevich, who is to be sentenced next week, had campaigned as a reformer following Ryan and “was acutely aware of the damage” Ryan had caused, prosecutors said. And Blagojevich was an elected official, unlike Rezko, who also offered limited cooperation to the government, they said.

“As the chief executive of the state, Blagojevich was in a special position of responsibility to the public,” prosecutors said. “His abuse of office is particularly grave given the faith put in him by the citizens of Illinois.”

Blagojevich, 54, was convicted at two trials of 18 counts, including lying to the FBI. His attorneys are expected to make their own sentencing recommendation later Wednesday, ahead of Blagojevich’s sentencing by U.S. District Judge James Zagel on Dec. 6.

Prosecutors appeared to preemptively attack any argument that Blagojevich deserves leniency. They said he should not be seen as a family man and governor who helped the state, but as a common criminal. The former governor “appears to be committed to his wife and daughters,” prosecutors said, noting that defendants in other cases also often have families that suffer when they go to prison. And any good work he did as governor shouldn’t mitigate the charges against him, prosecutors argued.

“Many criminals are productive members of society, holding down jobs that they ably accomplish when they are not otherwise engaged in criminal activity,” they said.

Prosecutors also enclosed a packet of news releases and articles about other convicted public officials who were sent to prison for 15 years or more.”

Government’s Sentencing Memorandum

Government’s Sentencing Memorandum – Exhibit A

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Federal Judge denies Blagojevich request to hear new tapes

November 29, 2011

Associated Press on November 28, 2011 released the following:

“By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) — The federal judge who will sentence Rod Blagojevich had harsh words for the former Illinois governor’s attorneys as he denied a request Monday to play new federal wiretap tapes in court.

Blagojevich was convicted at two separate trials on 18 corruption counts, including allegations he tried to sell or trade President Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich will be sentenced next week, and his lawyers last week submitted a list of 180 secret tape recordings the FBI made of the governor and others.

Parts of some recordings were played during his trials, but Blagojevich has long argued that authorities should “play all the tapes.” He says some of the recordings hold evidence demonstrating his innocence.

But Judge James Zagel said Blagojevich’s attorneys hadn’t said what they specifically wanted to prove and what sections of the tapes they wanted to use, echoing complaints made by federal prosecutors.

“What this motion requests is my blind approval of the use of whatever excerpts it decides are relevant to ‘lack of ill intent’ and admissible … at sentencing,” Zagel said. “That request is denied.”

Zagel also derided the timing of Blagojevich’s motion, which was filed Thanksgiving Day. He said the federal courts were closed except for emergencies both Thursday and Friday, and there was no reason for Blagojevich — who was convicted on 17 of 20 counts in June — to wait this long.

He also pointed out that the motion was dated Monday, Nov. 28, even though it was filed Thursday, and that his attorneys did not notify the judge when they filed it.

“This practice is difficult to defend under any circumstances and made more so because of the nature of the motion,” Zagel said.

Blagojevich attorney Sheldon Sorosky did not return messages seeking comment. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment.

Blagojevich’s first trial ended deadlocked with jurors agreeing on just one of 24 counts — that Blagojevich lied to the FBI. Jurors at his recent retrial convicted Blagojevich on 17 of 20 counts, including bribery and attempted extortion related to his handling of a U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Most legal observers expect the 54-year-old former governor to receive about 10 years in prison, though he technically faces up to 305 years in prison. Both sides are expected to file their suggestions on sentencing this week.

Judges generally frown on felons who continue to maintain their innocence at sentencing, Chicago-based federal defense attorney Gal Pissetzky said last week.

“At sentencing, you need to accept the jury verdict and then fight for your innocence later on appeal,” he said. “If you continue to shove it in the judge’s face by fighting your innocence at sentencing, it takes away from your goal of less time in prison.”

The judge scheduled a Friday hearing on another Blagojevich request related to a government witness, John Wyma. Blagojevich’s attorneys are questioning whether Wyma helped the government “in exchange for a government benefit.” Prosecutors denied that allegation at trial.”

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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Several remain at large in Ark. corruption probe

October 12, 2011

The Associated Press (AP) on October 12, 2011 released the following:

“By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Federal officials continued their search Wednesday for several people who remained at large following a widespread crackdown on corruption that culminated in the arrests of dozens of others this week in eastern Arkansas.

FBI spokesman Steve Frazier said the bureau and other law enforcement agencies were still hunting for the last of the 70 people indicted on racketeering, money laundering and drug charges as part of the four-year investigation known as “Operation Delta Blues.” Five law enforcement officers were among those indicted.

Fifty-one people were arrested Tuesday, and another five were arrested Wednesday, including some who turned themselves in, Frazier said. Those detained were expected to appear Thursday morning in federal court.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer said in an interview that he expected some defendants to take guilty pleas “relatively quickly.” He declined to say if any of the defendants had agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

“If they want their day in court, we’re willing to give it to them,” Thyer said.

News of the investigation rocked Helena-West Helena, a Mississippi Delta town plagued for years by crime, poverty and allegations of corruption. Some residents awoke Tuesday to the sound of helicopters buzzing overhead.

“I’m thankful,” said Linda Walters, a school bus driver who waited outside a press conference Tuesday afternoon after hearing the news.

She said the constant gunfire outside her home had forced her to look into moving to another city.

“I have to go sleep, hit the floor every time I hear a bullet shot,” she said. “I’m so upset.”

Helena-West Helena Mayor Arnell Willis sat next to reporters during the news conference. Willis had gone to Little Rock a month ago to plead with Thyer for federal help. Thyer didn’t tell Willis about Operation Delta Blues until Tuesday’s arrests, but Willis said he didn’t mind.

“Welcome to the dawning of a new day in the Delta,” he told reporters afterward.

The indictments accused the five officers of taking payments to guard shipments of cocaine and other drugs. Phillips County sheriff’s deputy Winston Dean Jackson is allegedly caught on a federal wiretap talking to another deputy about a payment by a defense lawyer in exchange for “failing to perform law enforcement duties.”

The unidentified deputy said the payment fell under “the good old boy” system and that anyone not involved would “get rolled over.”

Thyer would not comment on any future indictments but said the investigation was still ongoing.

According to the indictment, Jackson responded, “You get rolled over, exactly. Cause nobody say … ain’t nothing but the good old boy system.”

Helena-West Helena police officers Herman Eaton, Robert “Bam Bam” Rogers and Marlene Kalb allegedly escorted drug shipments, each receiving $500 from someone posing as a drug dealer. A Marvell police officer, Robert Wahls, is charged with accepting money from an informant and escorting a drug shipment.

It was not immediately clear if the five officers had attorneys yet. Relatives of the officers could not be reached. The federal public defender’s office in Little Rock did not return requests for comment.

Hundreds of officers from the FBI, Arkansas State Police and other agencies helped make Tuesday’s arrests. An FBI special agent was shot during one arrest, but was not seriously injured and later released from the hospital.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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FBI Arrests Dozens in Arkansas

October 11, 2011

CBS News on October 11, 2011 released the following:

“(CBS/AP) LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The FBI plans to announce dozens of arrests, including of five police officers, stemming from a major four-year investigation into corruption in eastern Arkansas, law enforcement sources said Tuesday.

Authorities have called a 2 p.m. press conference in Helena to announce the results of the investigation.

An FBI official tells CBS News that 49 of the 63 people indicted have been arrested, including five law enforcement officers. One agent was grazed in the leg in a shooting at one of the arrests.

A U.S. law enforcement source tells CBS News the arrests were related to drug trafficking. Agents from the ATF, DEA and state and local police assisted with the sweep, which is still ongoing.

Those indicted in the investigation are expected to appear in federal court in Little Rock on Thursday.

The five officers are from Helena-West Helena, about 70 miles southwest of Memphis. Helena-West Helena Police Chief Uless Wallace, in an interview Tuesday morning, said the arrests were “a good thing.”

“I’m not going to stand for corruption,” said Wallace, who became police chief Sept. 1. “Everybody was duly warned when I took office.”

Wallace said the department had problems long before he arrived and that he was “still cleaning up.””

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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