Having lived as a progressive through the Karl Rove era in Alabama, this reporter is not easily shocked. But when word started spreading early yesterday evening that a defendant had died on the eve of the Alabama bingo retrial . . . well, that was a stunner.
Ray Crosby, a former legislative analyst in the Alabama Legislature, was found dead in his Montgomery home yesterday afternoon. He was one of seven defendants to be retried in the bingo case, which was to kick off again today in Montgomery.
The first word I heard was that Crosby committed suicide, which would make him No. 5 on our list of suspicious "suicides" that have ties to Alabama GOP politics over the past two years. The strange-deaths list grows to six if you include the apparent beating death of former Bob Riley aide Zoa White in her Mobile home. And I'm not even including some apparent heart attacks of folks connected to the bingo case.
What do we know about the Crosby death? Neal Vickers reports at examiner.com:
One of seven defendants set to be tried again in the Alabama bingo corruption case is dead. Former legislative analyst Ray Crosby was found dead in his home late Sunday afternoon.
Authorities have not revealed a cause of death. The denial includes if it could have been from natural causes. Montgomery police simply say they are "conducting a death investigation".
How will Crosby's death affect the bingo trial? That is unclear. Reports Vickers:
Crosby’s death casts an ominous chill on the trial set to start Monday morning that has already had several last minute twists making some speculate the prosecution is possibly in trouble.
When asked tonight if Crosby’s death would affect the status of the trial set to begin Monday, Department of Justice spokeswoman Laura Sweeney replied "We would decline to comment".
A report out just a few minutes ago states that jury selection in the case has been suspended indefinitely.
Crosby reportedly had suffered significant personal and financial struggles in the wake of the first bingo trial, which ended with no convictions last summer. One of the best summations I've seen about his death comes from Dothan-based rickeystokesnews.com, noting that family members believe Crosby died from a heart attack:
Since the October 4, 2010 arrest and trials, Mr. Cosby, as all defendants, has suffered a lot. This arrest caused Mr. Cosby to lose his job. He has had to come up with thousands of dollars to employ legal representation to clear him. The first trial of two month ended in a hung jury. Then the evidence of the government withholding documents that would have cleared him in the first case. Then coming up with more money for a second time.
Evidence from his bosses and superiors that said they knew and approved what Cosby was doing. Their statements that is was okay. Something the public integrity unit argued against, even when they knew they had statements from his superiors that it was an approved action.
Stokes has harsh words for federal prosecutors:
The government's pattern and practice, cost you all of the money they can until you are financially broke, then convict you when you have no more money to defend yourself. Remember, not one person on the government side has to come up with one dollar. And when they are cut financially, they pull the "public safety" card or the "justice" card out in an effort to get more money.
If we knew all of the things the so called public integrity people in this case have done, including law enforcement agents, the public would be outraged. Remember, the government, which represents the people of the United States, is the one that has asked the court for a gag order so no comments can be made to the public. The people whose freedoms are at stake, they have not asked for the government not to talk. The government wants to hide true facts from the public.
Stokes pins the blame for Ray Crosby's death right where it probably belongs:
This case is the cause of death for Mr. Ray Cosby. And this case has absolutely ZERO to do with justice. It is politics, pure and simple. In the testimony of Senator Scott Beason, when he secretly taped himself, summed what this case was about. If the blacks vote, the republicans will not win. This case was about the republicans taking over the power in Alabama and they would destroy in and everyone who got in their path.