|Alabama bingo defendants|
"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves."
-- Abraham Lincoln
"Honest Abe" was smart about a lot of things. And he certainly was on target about the threats that pose a real danger to America's future.
Many citizens, it seems, are preoccupied with thoughts of an al Qaeda attack or hordes of illegal immigrants coming over our border with Mexico. But signs abound that America actually is rotting from the inside. We see them on the national stage; we see them close to home, here in Alabama.
The most obvious signal, in a broad sense, came with the recent debt-ceiling debate. An issue that historically has been handled as somewhat of a formality became shrouded in ugliness, pettiness, and almost paralyzing dysfunction.
Another signal has been coming from Montgomery, Alabama, home of a federal electronic-bingo trial that clearly is tainted and might be a flat-out sham. The case went to the jury over the weekend, and a verdict could come at any moment.
Regardless of the outcome, the case has been emitting foul odors for weeks. A reasonable citizen might observe the strange proceedings and ask, "What in the name of Eric Holder is the U.S. Justice Department doing with my taxpayer dollars?"
Consider just a couple of oddities as the case wound down:
* After the prosecution rested its case, the nine defendants called one witness--and that was it. You read that correctly: The defense, for nine people who face possible combined sentences of 200-plus years, amounted to one witness. It's common for defendants themselves not to take the stand. But for nine individuals, facing what might amount to life sentences, to essentially put on no defense at all? To these ears, that sounds mighty peculiar.
* By far, the most important witness in the trial figured to be former Republican Governor Bob Riley. After all, it was Riley's crusade to stamp out gaming in Alabama that led to the bingo prosecution. It was Riley's documented ties to GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon that sullied the Alabama political landscape in recent years. In fact, Riley's apparent desire to protect the market share of his Mississippi Choctaw backers was the overarching story behind the bingo case. Attorneys for defendant and gambling magnate Milton McGregor made quite a show of their intentions to call Riley as a witness. And sources tell Legal Schnauzer that McGregor's lawyers conducted pre-trial discovery with Mississippi Choctaw officials that shed significant light on Riley's actions. The defense, however, barely voiced a whimper before closing up shop without calling Riley. What gives? Has some sort of agreement--a fix, in other words--been reached by all parties involved?
The case has been riddled with goofiness from the outset. Consider these items:
* U.S. Magistrate Wallace Capel, who ruled on several key pre-trial issues, has never been a member of the Alabama State Bar, and therefore is not eligible to serve as a federal magistrate judge in our state. The record and the law on this could not be more clear, but lawyers from neither side have made it an issue. The mainstream media, as usual, has not bothered to report the story.
* U.S. Magistrate Terry Moorer, who quashed a subpoena seeking Riley's testimony in the case, used to work for lead prosecutor Louis Franklin. It's hard to imagine a more clear conflict that should require recusal. But again, lawyers from neither side have made it an issue, and neither has the MSM.
* David J. Harrison, the attorney for defendant Ronnie Gilley, has a conviction for drug trafficking on his record. You might think that a federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine would cost a lawyer his bar card for life. But you would be wrong. Harrison is a member in good standing of the Alabama State Bar. And he somehow came to represent one of the most high-profile defendants in perhaps the most publicized trial in Alabama history. How in the world does that happen?
We are used to writing about dubious prosecutions from the George W. Bush era. After all, the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman might be the most notorious political prosecution in American history. But the electronic-bingo case is a production of the Barack Obama Justice Department, and that truly is unsettling.
Not only are we rotting from the inside, we are rotting from both sides of the political aisle--from the Republicans and the Democrats.
It's hard to know exactly what is going on in the Montgomery trial. But it almost certainly has nothing to do with legitimate justice. And when you consider the investigation leading up to the trial, probably several million taxpayer dollars have been spent to fund what amounts to a farce. And we wonder why the federal government has debt problems.
Are we rotting from the inside? Honest Abe surely would be saddened at what has become of his beloved union.