Alabama Lobbyist Said She Conspired to Offer Bribes

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Published on:
Jul/21/2011

(Associated Press) - The first person to plead guilty in Alabama's gambling corruption investigation testified Tuesday that she conspired with others to offer $2 million in campaign contributions to one senator and a $100,000 donation to another to secure their votes for pro-gambling legislation.

"I didn't want to. I knew it was illegal," Country Crossing lobbyist Jennifer Pouncy told the jury as she wiped away tears.

Pouncy's boss, lobbyist Jarrod Massey, also pleaded guilty and testified before her about the nine defendants, including four present and former senators who voted for the legislation.

Pouncy said she and Massey were trying to secure enough Senate votes in March 2010 to pass legislation designed to protect electronic bingo casinos such as Country Crossing in Dothan, and she was assigned to work with two senators who initially opposed the legislation.

She said Massey told her to offer Sen. Jim Preuitt, R-Talladega, $2 million in campaign contributions because Preuitt was concerned the Alabama Education Association would spend $2 million to target him. She said the money would come from Country Crossing casino developer Ronnie Gilley, who also pleaded guilty.

Pouncy testified the senator said nothing when she made the offer, but he later asked her "does the commitment still stand" if the gambling bill fails in the House of Representatives?

Pouncy said she contacted Massey to make sure, and her boss told her to tell Preuitt yes. She said she relayed the information to Preuitt.

She said Massey and another defendant, Country Crossing spokesman Jay Walker, also talked about buying $1 million worth of vehicles from Preuitt's Ford dealership to secure his vote, but she was unsure if that was ever mentioned to Preuitt.

Prosecutor Steve Feaga asked Pouncy if she thought she was bribing Preuitt and if that was one reason she pleaded guilty in September to conspiracy to commit bribery.

"Yes sir," she replied.

Pouncy said that after she relayed the $2 million offer to Preuitt, his good friend, Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, contacted her. "He wanted me to ask my employer if he could get $100,000," she testified.

She said she contacted Massey and he got approval from Gilley to promise the money. She said she was so upset she could not relay the information to Means that day and waited until the next morning to tell him.

"I understood it to mean he was going to vote for the bill," she said.

Both senators ended up voting yes when the Senate passed the bill March 30, 2010, but the bill died in the House after the FBI announced its investigation.

Pouncy said a third state senator on trial, Democrat Quinton Ross of Montgomery, demanded $15,000 to $25,000 in campaign contributions leading up to the Senate's vote, although he was always a bill backer.

"Who did you conspire with to commit bribery?" Feaga asked her.

"Senator Means, Senator Preuitt, Jarrod Massey, Ronnie Gilley, Jay Walker and Mr. Ross," she answered.

Massey, the longest witness in the trial, wrapped up nine days of testimony Tuesday morning. He described routing campaign contributions for senators through political action committees so they couldn't be traced to gambling interests.

An FBI agent who worked on the investigation, George Glaser, testified Tuesday that the FBI announced its investigation two days after the Senate's vote because Justice Department officials felt they couldn't allow "potentially tainted legislation to progress through the Alabama Legislature."

Glaser said he interviewed Preuitt on April 1, 2010. He said Preuitt told him that he knew nothing about any bribe offers, but he had talked to Gilley after the Senate's vote using the phone of another defendant, independent Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb. The FBI agent said Preuitt told him that he understood a bribe would be taking an official action in return for money.

Defense attorneys objected to the agent's testimony and prosecutors pulled him as a witness until U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson rules on how much he can say about Preuitt's comments. The reason is Preuitt might not take the witness stand, and in that case the other defendants' lawyers can't question him about what the FBI agent quoted him as saying.

Preuitt ended his re-election campaign after coming under investigation. Means was defeated in November. Ross and Smith won re-election.

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