(Note: Includes update at 7:30 p.m. on 7/11/12. See the end of this post.)
A former assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute a high-profile murder case from the civil-rights era was found dead in his Brandon, Mississippi, home last Friday.
Jack Lacy Jr., 69, died from a single gunshot wound to the head, and authorities say it is a probable suicide. Comments at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger Web site have several family members and friends contradicting public statements that Lacy suffered from anxiety and depression. The comments hint that some people close to Lacy do not believe he killed himself.
An item buried in most press accounts might be of keen interest to those of us in Alabama. In his most recent position, Lacy served as state prosecutor for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Ironically, Lacy's death comes almost exactly one year since the FBI raided two Choctaw casinos in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
According to news reports, the resulting investigation centered on two Atlanta-based companies that focus on gaming. But very little has been reported on the case since last summer. The last substantive story I've seen on the raid came last August 17 when the tribe's outside auditing firm quit.
Those who have followed Alabama news over the past 12 to 15 years know that the Choctaws have caused enormous problems for our state, mainly from dubious efforts to ensure that gaming operations did not pop up next door. Much has been written about the underhanded efforts of the Choctaws to undercut Alabama gaming initiatives that might have chopped into their market share.
Most famously, Republican Party felon Jack Abramoff has admitted to funneling roughly $20 million into Alabama to help defeat former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. Was much at stake? Abramoff wrote in his recent book that about $400 million in annual revenue was on the line.
Abramoff's efforts succeeded, with Republican Bob Riley managing to beat Siegelman in 2002 when votes for the incumbent Democrat mysteriously vanished overnight in the GOP stronghold of Baldwin County. Through much of his eight-year reign, Riley went to extraordinary means to fight gambling in Alabama, leading to two federal corruption trials that resulted in zero convictions against pro-gaming forces.
The raid last July in Mississippi came amid reports that the gaming facilities there were hemorrhaging money. And the casinos' financial woes coincided with Bob Riley's efforts to close down gambling operations in Alabama.
Where does Jack Lacy fit into this equation? That is not clear. For now, he remains best known for his role in the 2003 conviction of former Ku Klux Klansman Ernest Avants for plotting the murder of a black sharecropper named Ben Chester White. The case was part of a failed plot to assassinate the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
But in his role with the Choctaws via the state attorney general's office, Lacy almost certainly was involved, in some fashion, with the FBI raid and Justice Department investigation.
Was Lacy's role to seek the truth about possible misconduct related to tribe facilities? Was his role to thwart the truth by trying to cover up wrongdoing? Did he kill himself because of stress related to the federal probe? Did he uncover information that put his life in danger?
We don't have the answers to those questions, but we do know that news has been awfully scarce for months about the investigation of Choctaw gaming. And we know that Jack Lacy has died under curious circumstances.
My guess is that Alabamians should pay close attention to this story.
Update at 7:30 p.m., 7/11/12--Those following the Jack Lacy story might be interested in the string of mysterious "suicides" we've covered here in Alabama. I've reported on at least four of them. Here are two of the most recent posts on the subject:
An Independent Investigation Is Needed on Mysterious "Suicides" in Alabama (May 18, 2011)
Another Mysterious Death Darkens the Political Landscape in Karl Rove's Alabama (December 21, 2010)