|Joe Espy and Milton McGregor|
We certainly did not see that one coming.
The trial portion of the proceedings ended on Friday, with Judge William Shashy instructing both sides to submit briefs, which he will consider before making a final ruling. That process is expected to take about 45 days.
How did Strange's lawyers, at least in our eyes, admit that the VictoryLand machines play bingo? They seemed to focus heavily on whether the constitutional amendment allowing bingo in Macon County allowed "electronic" forms of the game. In fact, Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan repeatedly asked Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford why the word "electronic" was not in the constitutional amendment.
In the past, Strange's office had focused on the notion that the VictoryLand machines did not constitute the game commonly known as bingo, that they are slot machines or gambling devices that are illegal under Alabama statute. Perhaps I missed it, but I don't recall seeing in court documents where the Strange team argued in previous proceedings about the word "electronic" being absent from the amendment.
Is that because Strange this time did not have an expert witness to counter VictoryLand's contentions that the machines do, in fact, play bingo? Perhaps.
But by focusing on the "electronic" issue, Reagan seemed to admit that the machines play bingo. His argument this time, more or less, was: The machines are illegal because they are electronic, not because they don't play bingo.
We already have cited three grounds, under the law, that require Shashy to rule in VictoryLand's favor and force the AG's office to return machines and cash to the casino.
Reagan's argument seems to create a fourth reason that Shashy must rule in VictoryLand's favor. Perhaps that's why the Montgomery Advertiser quoted casino lawyer Joe Espy sounding confident about the outcome:
"In all my years of practicing, that was quite honestly the weakest case I've ever argued against," attorney Joe Espy said. "I don't see how the state can survive what's happened here these last four days."