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FBI: More Than 12,000 Phone Calls Intercepted in Alabama Political Gambling Scandal

Written by:
Guest
Published on:
Mar/01/2011

By Phillip Rawls

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An FBI agent who investigated corruption allegations at the Alabama Statehouse defended in court Monday how the agency intercepted 12,000 phone calls during more than a month of wiretaps on the phones of two indicted casino owners and a jailed lobbyist

Defense attorneys for the two casino owners, Milton McGregor and Ronnie Gilley, maintain the FBI didn't follow its own rules for the wiretaps. They want a judge to prohibit prosecutors from using them when the two casino owners and eight other defendants go on trial June 6 in Alabama's gambling corruption probe.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel Jr. will hear testimony through Wednesday and then decide, but he said the disputed wiretap recordings would not be played in the courtroom during the three-day hearing.

McGregor, Gilley, four current and former legislators, two casino lobbyists and two others are accused of buying and selling votes on legislation designed to reopen McGregor's VictoryLand casino in Shorter and Gilley's Country Crossing casino in Dothan. They had closed their electronic bingo machines under the threat of raids by the gambling task force established by Gov. Bob Riley. Besides running VictoryLand's casino, McGregor was an investor in Gilley's operation.

The FBI wiretaps also included the phones of Jarrod Massey, who lobbied for Country Crossing and has pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges. He is currently in jail and cooperating with prosecutors.

FBI agent Douglas Carr, who supervised the wiretaps, testified Monday the wiretaps ran from March 1 to April 7, 2010. Federal agents notified legislative leaders of the investigation on April 2. The pro-gambling bill died after that without ever coming to a vote in the Alabama House.

Under questioning by prosecutor Eric Olshan, Carr testified the investigation started with a few targets, but as agents listened to the phone calls, the probe "did get larger and larger as the time period went on."

He said McGregor and Gilley began to suspect a wiretap on their main phones and started using other phones that they mistakenly thought weren't wiretapped.

"They were more limited in the things they said on their main phones," Carr testified.

Carr said 25 FBI agents and four agents from the Alabama Bureau of Investigation listened to the phone calls. He described how they went beyond normal FBI procedures to exclude calls between the defendants and their lawyers, which are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Under questioning by defense attorneys, Carr said transcripts and recordings were made of some calls before they were determined to be with attorneys, and he could not guarantee that all the copies were collected by the FBI after the calls were determined to be privileged.

Carr also acknowledged some errors between the FBI's records of the phone calls and summaries of phone calls that the FBI gave to a federal judge supervising the wiretaps.

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