Good morning. My name is Lanny Breuer. I am the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Justice.
I am pleased to have my friend and partner, FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, here with me today, as well as Special Agent in Charge Timothy Fuhrman.
This morning, federal agents began arresting 11 individuals on charges that they conspired over an approximately 19-month period to corrupt the legislative process in Alabama. Also this morning, we unsealed a 39‑count indictment against these individuals, which a grand jury sitting in Montgomery, Alabama, returned last week.
The 11 defendants named in the indictment are charged with forming a corrupt network of legislators, businessmen and lobbyists, whose aim was to manipulate the democratic process for personal gain. We allege that from February 2009 through August 2010, two owners of gaming and entertainment establishments and one of their employees; three registered lobbyists working on their behalf; four Alabama state Senators; and one State-employed legislative analyst, all participated in a wide-ranging conspiracy to buy and sell votes on legislation in Alabama that would directly benefit the business interests of two of the defendants, Milton McGregor and Ronald Gilley.
The alleged criminal scheme was astonishing in scope. Indeed, as alleged in the indictment, the defendants’ corrupt conduct infiltrated every layer of the legislative process in the state of Alabama. Specifically, as charged in the indictment, Mr. McGregor and Mr. Gilley employed lobbyists, including defendants Thomas Coker, Robert Geddie and Jarrod Massey, in a full-scale campaign to bribe and coerce state legislators and others into supporting pro-gambling legislation that they favored. Put simply, they are charged with having offered huge sums of money and other benefits in exchange for the legislators’ votes. Defendants Larry Means, James Preuitt, Quinton Ross and Harri Anne Smith, who are all current Alabama state Senators, are charged with accepting or agreeing to accept – and, in some cases, demanding – these bribes, in the form of campaign contributions, campaign appearances by country music stars, fundraising assistance and other things of value. Additionally, one of the defendants, a legislative analyst named Joseph Crosby, is charged with having accepted monthly payments of $3,000 from McGregor in exchange for taking official action to amend the pro-gambling legislation in a way that would benefit McGregor. Also today, a plea agreement with former lobbyist Jennifer Pouncy was unsealed. Pouncy has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy for her role in the vote-buying scheme.
In carrying out this scheme, the defendants are alleged to have gone to great lengths to try to keep their criminal conduct from coming to light – including by repeatedly calling one another on what they perceived to be “safe” phones, meeting with one another in person instead of using telephones to communicate, and agreeing to use “backdoor” ways to transfer campaign and other contributions in order to avoid detection.
Despite these efforts to obscure and conceal their conduct, the indictment alleges that the defendants’ tactics became increasingly brazen as a vote on the corrupted legislation drew near. Ultimately, we allege, in the scramble to secure the necessary votes to pass the pro-gambling legislation, McGregor and Gilley authorized their lobbyists and other co-conspirators to give the legislators whatever they wanted, as long as it secured their vote. For their part, the state senators---Smith, Preuitt, Means and Ross---solicited, and in some cases demanded, these things of value in exchange for their critical votes on the legislation.
In short, the indictment describes a brazen criminal scheme to buy and sell votes, thereby depriving the people of Alabama of the honest services of their elected representatives. The people of Alabama, like all our citizens, deserve to have representatives who act in the public’s interest, not for their own personal financial gain. The kind of conduct alleged here undermines the public’s faith in our democratic institutions, and cannot go unpunished.
Public corruption investigations and prosecutions are among the most difficult that the Criminal Division undertakes. These cases, in which the stakes are always high, often attract great scrutiny and require the utmost professionalism to pursue. I want to commend the dedicated and talented attorneys in our Public Integrity Section for their work on this case, as well as the two Assistant U.S. Attorneys assigned to this matter, and the hardworking FBI agents who have been investigating it.
I have said before that we will follow the facts where they lead and root out corruption wherever we find it. Today, the facts have led us to arresting and charging these 11 defendants with federal crimes. I’ll be happy to take a few questions but first let me turn it over to Assistant Director Perkins.