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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Why is an easy decision in the VictoryLand forfeiture case running about two months behind schedule?


Milton McGregor
When the VictoryLand forfeiture trial was conducted back in September, published reports indicated Circuit Judge William Shashy would have a ruling in about 45 days--which would have been around November 1. Here we are past January 1, into a new year, and we still have no ruling.

What gives? Perhaps Shashy figures that Alabama courts have handled electronic-bingo cases peculiarly for years, so he might as well stick with the pattern. But this one is especially hard to figure because it's not a complicated case; the facts and the law are clear that VictoryLand is due to have its property returned--and its casino should be reopened, after raids from the Alabama Attorney General's Office forced it to close in February 2013.

The issues are so clear-cut that Shashy should have been able to make a ruling at the close of testimony in September. Here are three reasons why:

(1) AG Luther Strange's primary argument has been that VictoryLand's e-bingo machines violate state statutes that prohibit slot machines and gambling devices. It has been long established under Alabama law, however, that the state constitution trumps a statute. And voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2003 that paved the way for e-bingo at the facility in Macon County.

(2) Strange also argues that the machines do not meet a lawful definition of bingo. But again, Amendment 744 is controlling law, and it states that the Macon County sheriff will "promulgate rules and regulations" for the operation of bingo in the county. The sheriff has found that the machines play a form of bingo, and by law, that should end the discussion. In fact, the machines at VictoryLand operated lawfully under the sheriff's definition for five years--and that only changed when former Governor Bob Riley, the beneficiary of funding from Mississippi Indian gaming interests, decided to launch a crusade against non-Indian facilities in Alabama.

(3) At September's trial, VictoryLand presented expert testimony that its machines were legal and did, in fact, play bingo. The AG's office presented no expert testimony, nothing to controvert VictoryLand's evidence. That would seem to make Shashy's ruling awfully easy--in a sense, the AG forfeited at trial.

A side issue seems to make the picture even more curious for the AG. Sonny Reagan, one of Strange's top assistants and his point man on gaming issues, was forced to resign in December over allegations that he had leaked information from a grand-jury investigation in Lee County.

If Strange has admitted that his chief bingo prosecutor has behaved in an unethical manner on one case, shouldn't the public be asking, "Well, how did Mr. Reagan handled his responsibilities in the VictoryLand matter and other bingo cases? Did he try to undermine the legal process in those cases?"

What if Shashy rules against VictoryLand? From here, it seems the casino and owner Milton McGregor would have grounds to ask not only for an appeal but also for a criminal investigation into Sonny Reagan's handling of the case.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Maybe the decision isn't as easy as you think it is.

Anonymous said...

How about this for a wager?

If the court rules as you expect, you win.

If not, you lose.

With your extended court losing streak, I think we all can see how much you know about the law.

legalschnauzer said...

You don't seem to grasp what this blog is about, @4:17. It's about what the law actually says, which is often quite different from how courts rule. Any dolt can write about how courts rule; they hand out press releases for that. It takes more work to look up the actual law and analyze whether a court is acting under the law, in the public interest, or not.

I'm not a wagering guy, but I would bet that the trial court or the Alabama Supreme Court (or both) will rule against VictoryLand, regardless of what the law says. The high court has acted corruptly on this and other issues for a long time, so I see no reason to expect that will change.

Anonymous said...

The decision is easy. But it takes some time for the court to make sure they understand what Bob Riley wants them to do.

Anonymous said...

You have got this correct LS. The entire bingo debacle has been a scam and sham from the get go. Another Riley corrupt action. Molli.

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Supreme Court pretty much rule in the HEDA case that electronic bingo is illegal in Alabama, that the game can't be played on circuitry of any kind?

legalschnauzer said...

Yes, @6:55, that's how I read it. Not sure how high court came up with that, given that no expert witness testified to such.

Patboy47 said...

Should he win is he entitled to damages

legalschnauzer said...

I'm not sure, Patboy. The state caused the problem, but getting damages out of the state can be difficult. The AG himself probably is immune from suit. I'm guessing that a knowledgeable attorney could figure out a way to jump through the right hoops and get damages.

It's also possible that the casino is covered by insurance for such losses. If that's the case, the insurer might seek compensation from someone responsible.

Patboy47 said...

YShould he recover what was lost/taken/confiscated does he have the option to reopen and or sell to the Indian owned casino's or is this part of the ruling?

Patboy47 said...

BTY we have had 5 Schnauzer , the only one we have now is Lucy she is 6 the rest lived from 12-18

legalschnauzer said...

Schnauzers are great. Sure you loved yours like we loved ours. We hope to have another someday.