Through ethics reform and last year’s cash-for-votes corruption trial, the Alabama Legislature has tried to distance itself — quickly — from the remnants of one of Montgomery’s more sordid modern-day tales.
Problem is, only time and clean living will dissolve the stain of having four legislators indicted on federal corruption charges. Time happens automatically; clean living, not so much.
The Alabama Legislature returns to work Feb. 7, but before then — on Jan. 30 — most of the high-profile defendants in last summer’s trial will again have their day in court. Alabamians hardly need reminders of what federal prosecutors allege happened between state legislators, lobbyists and casino owners, but those reminders are on the way, nonetheless.
Last August, a Montgomery jury was unable to decide on all charges against seven of the nine defendants in the trial. Thirty-nine hours of deliberations over seven days didn’t end the judicial process, though two defendants were acquitted: state Sen. Quinton Ross and lobbyist Robert Geddie. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson declared a mistrial on all undecided charges against the remaining seven defendants, which includes former state Sen. Larry Means of Attalla, state Sen. Harri Anne Smith, former state Sen. Jim Preuitt of Talladega, and well-known casino operator Milton McGregor.
Thus, Alabama’s most-anticipated trial of 2011 is getting a reprise early in 2012.
Thompson has already put his mark on the second trial. Federal prosecutors had sought to break the seven defendants into three groups that would be tried separately. Thompson refused; his remarks that the request appeared as if prosecutors were trying to cherry-pick jurors and defendants seemed wise.
This week, Thompson denied the defendants’ requests for acquittal. Lawyers for the remaining seven had contended that there was a lack of evidence against their clients. Thompson disagreed.
The trial is on.