By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
On August 25, at a little after 8 p.m., Jeff Chandler, Jake Frith and John Daly walked into the River City Entertainment gaming center in Lacey’s Springs and started to play a computer-assisted version of bingo.
The trio played several games, and after 30 minutes or so, they left.
What makes any of the above noteworthy is that Chandler, Frith and Daly are law enforcement officers. Chandler and Frith work for the Alabama Attorney General’s Office as investigators, and Daly works for Huntsville PD.
So, let me explain this another way: In August, two AG’s office investigators spent the better part of their day driving to Huntsville from Montgomery, playing various bingo games, driving three-plus hours back to Montgomery and filing reports on their trip.
Then, attorneys in the AG’s office spent hours reviewing those reports and writing nuisance complaints against River City Entertainment. Those complaints were then filed, along with complaints against four other casinos around the state.
In each of those five cases, multiple investigators were required to spend hours traveling to casinos and playing bingo games and writing reports.
In each of those cases, multiple attorneys were required to spend hours reviewing reports and writing complaints to be filed with the various county circuit courts.
This is the absurdity of AG Steve Marshall’s renewed bingo wars.
In a state where funding is a consistent issue, that such manpower and resources are being used on victimless, gray-area crime is a horrendous mismanagement of the office.
Because right now, possibly more than ever before in this state’s history, our criminal justice system is woefully behind. Murder cases in some counties sit for nearly three years before landing in front of a jury. Rape and assault cases are just as bad.
But instead of devoting the – apparently – available resources of the AG’s office to aid counties with those shortfalls, Marshall has chosen instead to chase electronic bingo casinos.
Not because the state is overrun with illegal gaming, or because there have been outcries from the public.
It’s not, and there haven’t been.
Because electronic bingo is no more prevalent in Alabama than ticket scalping – an illegal activity that occurs thousands of times every fall Saturday, often times with a cop or two watching the transaction. Yet, there’s no AG’s task force and no plans to crack down.
Because this isn’t about enforcing laws that are being violated or stopping an out-of-control problem or best serving the public.
It’s about PR. And about shutting down sources of campaign contributions that flow to the wrong party.
Because if the AG of this state truly cared about utilizing his office’s resources in a manner that best served the people of Alabama, instead of sending agents out to play bingo, he would use them to aid county district attorneys.
It’s not like he doesn’t know they could use the help.
As part of Marshall’s filings against the five casinos earlier this month, he included a letter from Macon County DA E. Paul Jones to AG office attorney, John Kachelman.
Kachelman had written to Jones to request that Jones’ office investigate illegal gaming at VictoryLand in Shorter. Jones responded by saying he’d be glad to do so, just as soon as his office got finished working on real stuff.
“I have 10 weeks of criminal jury trials in five separate jurisdictions and far more cases scheduled in each of these courts than can possibly be tried,” Jones wrote. “These cases range from capital murder to rape, robbery, child molestation to any other crime you can name. Our resources are paper thin, as I am down to one actual investigator, and we have subpoenas which have to be served personally on witnesses all across this state.
“I point this out to say, if you have time on your hands, you are welcome to come to the Fifth Circuit and help us try some of these cases.”
There was no reply to Jones’ offer. And there was no help sent to the Fifth Circuit.
Because helping convict murderers or getting child molesters off the streets apparently doesn’t grab enough headlines.