Republican legislators acted with racist and political motives when they testified for the prosecution in the federal Alabama bingo case, a U.S. District judge says in a new ruling.
Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Rep. Benjamin Lewis (R-Dothan) drew harsh words from Judge Myron Thompson. The public likely will focus on Beason’s role in the story because he has received national attention for sponsoring Alabama’s strict and controversial immigration law. But Lewis, now a state district judge in Houston County, is a close ally to former Governor Bob Riley and was appointed to a judgeship by Riley. Democrats have pointed to that appointment as a possible quid pro quo in exchange for Lewis’ no vote on bingo legislation.
Considering Lewis’ close ties to Riley, and Riley’s close ties to current House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Judge Thompson’s ruling could be seen as a full-blown condemnation of the Alabama GOP. Reports al.com:
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in an order today lambasted two key prosecution witnesses in the State House vote-buying case as being motivated by political ambition and racial prejudice.
Thompson said Republicans Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale and former Rep. Benjamin Lewis of Dothan had ulterior motives when they assisted investigators in the case. Beason and Lewis were key prosecution witnesses in the case, in which VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor and others were charged with offering and taking bribes to try to get a gambling bill approved in the Alabama Legislature. The two Republicans said they approached FBI agents after they felt gambling interests made improper offers to try to secure their votes on the bill.
Ironically, Thompson ruled for the prosecution in the order–while thrashing the prosecution’s two key witnesses. At the crux of his order, Thompson found that statements of alleged co-conspirators could be admitted at trial. (See the full order below.)
The public, however, is likely to remember Thompson’s words about GOP legislators:
“The evidence introduced at trial contradicts the self-serving portrait of Beason and Lewis as untouchable opponents of corruption. In reality, Beason and Lewis had ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias,” Thompson wrote.
“The court finds that Beason and Lewis lack credibility for two reasons. First, their motive for cooperating with F.B.I. investigators was not to clean up corruption but to increase Republican political fortunes by reducing African-American voter turnout. Second, they lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent,” Thompson wrote.
Those words pretty much shoot holes through the GOP’s contention that it is driven by a desire to bring “honest government” to Alabama. A federal judge obviously is not buying it. From al.com:
Beason wore a wire for the FBI, and the recordings picked up a conversation among Republicans talking about the effect a gambling referendum would have on voter turn-out during an election.
They talked about how “every black, every illiterate,” would be taken to the polls on “HUD-financed buses.”
In another conversation, Beason used the word “aborigines” to refer to people at Greenetrack, a casino in predominately black Greene County.
Thompson said such statements “demonstrate a deep-seated racial animus and a desire to suppress black votes.”
Racist rhetoric, political hi jinks, voter suppression? Yep, that’s the kind of “honest government” Alabamians can look forward to from the GOP.
Bingo Order–GOP RacistsRoger Shuler, a regular contributor to The Public Record, resides in Birmingham, Alabama. A 1978 graduate of the University of Missouri, Shuler worked 11 years as a reporter and editor for the Birmingham Post-Herald before working 19 years in several editorial positions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He blogs at Legal Schnauzer.