Did Birmingham's Balch & Bingham law firm sell out one of its own, former partner Joel Gilbert, in the North Birmingham Superfund case? Is that one reason a number of veteran attorneys have bolted the firm in recent years? Those questions are at the heart of a banbalch,com post, which raises a number of sobering issues -- given that Gilbert was convicted in a federal trial, and now is part of the grass-cutting team at a federal prison in Montgomery. Writes Publisher K.B. Forbes under the headline "Did Balch Intentionally Screw Gilbert? Former Top Partner Now Mowing the Lawn in Prison":
Ex-Balch & Bingham partner Joel I. Gilbert has been assigned gardening responsibilities at the Federal Prison Camp located at the Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery.
Now that legacy Balch partner Rob Fowler dumped the once-prestigious firm for a job at a coal facility that currently is not operating, insiders are curious what internal strife is happening at Balch to cause Fowler to run to the emergency exit.
Sources tell us that Gilbert may have been intentionally screwed by his own law firm, just like ex-Drummond executive David Roberson appeared to be screwed as the “fall guy” by Drummond.
The “lone wolves” theory peddled by disgraced ex-U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town appears to have been a line of crap.
And federal investigators agree.
Does that mean Gilbert and Roberson were left holding a post-trial mess while other issues -- and those connected to them -- were neatly swept out of view? It sure looks that way, writes Forbes:
Gilbert, the father of two beautiful young children, was sentenced to 5 years in federal prison, and Balch appears to have blamed him for the scandal after his conviction three years ago. Stan Blanton, managing partner at Balch, had the audacity to try to pivot the bribery scheme away from the firm, saying “our firm was not a party to the case.”
But is that the truth? Wasn’t the criminal scheme born at the offices of Balch & Bingham? Did other Balch attorneys and representatives lie or perjure themselves? Were documents manipulated or evidence destroyed? What did the executive committee at Balch know?
Let's consider just one mind-blowing possibility: That up to 20 other Balch attorneys were involved in the scandal, but Gilbert is the only one doing time. That leads Forbes to consider other troubling issues that linger like a dark cloud over the North Birmingham case:
One of the items we discovered that has bothered us is the possibility of evidence tampering. We wrote at the height of the criminal trial in 2018:
On December 1, 2014, indicted Balch & Bingham partner Joel Gilbert dispatched a letter of intimidation to GASP, the health and environmental public charity that they tried to undercut by allegedly buying a politician for $360,000.
It appears that Gilbert may have been on vacation the week of Thanksgiving, because his last billing is for Friday, November 21, 2014. The letter is dated December 1, 2014, a Monday, but nothing shows up in the December billings.
Evidence tampering or we just can’t find it?
Then again, maybe prosecutors need to look at an example of the alleged alteration of evidence in the Newsome Conspiracy Case—Balch & Bingham’s other quagmire.
Nothing should surprise them. Nothing.
If records suggest Gilbert did not author the letter, who did? Where could that trail lead?
Now outsiders believe someone else could have paid for the letter of intimidation. Could it have been Alabama Power or a related entity?
And what about those alleged indemnity deals to cover-up and protect alleged unsavory if not criminal misconduct?
Michael S. Regan of the EPA needs to send his investigators to Montgomery and interview Gilbert. Then they need to knock on the door of embattled Alabama Power CEO Mark A. Crosswhite and find out more about the Miller Steam Plant and the alleged toxic ash ponds. Finally, the investigators need to visit with the “confused’ General Counsel of Drummond Company, Blake Andrews.
In return, Gilbert should get time shaved off for his cooperation.
Inherent goodness needs to prevail. For the sake of the residents of North Birmingham and for the sake of Gilbert’s young children.