By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
SHORTER—The sorted case that has become Luther Strange verses VictoryLand just keeps getting more unusual.
Last Friday around 5:00 p.m., the State ABC Board announced final approval for a expanded liquor license for Milton McGregor’s VictoryLand.
According to a report in the Montgomery Advertiser, the ABC Board said, “‘after considering the testimony, substantial documentary evidence and arguments it could not conclude the specific gaming and machines at VictoryLand were illegal and that the legality or illegality would have to be determined in court.”
The Attorney General said the ruling by the ABC Board was a moot point.
But attorneys for VictoryLand don’t exactly see it as a moot, they see it as an opening.
McGregor’s attorney, Joe Espy, said, “When we had an opportunity to be heard at the ABC Board proceedings, the ABC Board, which is a state agency, determined that there was not sufficient evidence to show that our machines were illegal…therefore, we are encouraged.”
A hearing had been set for March 19 concerning the search warrant issued to raid VictoryLand. Of that hearing Espy said, “In the search warrant proceedings VictoryLand did not have any opportunity to present its side. The court has said in that case the only ruling was on the search warrant, they are not ruling on the merits.
We believe if we had an opportunity to be heard on the search warrant case we would have gotten a similar ruling.” But the search warrant case has hit a snag with the AG’s office filing a motion of recusal for Macon County Circuit Court Judge Tom Young in that case as well as in the forfeiture case.
In the motion for recusal it states, “Judge Young’s Refusal To Sign the Search Warrant and His Actions and Commentary After Being Ordered to Sign a Search Warrant Indicate a Prejudice and Bias Toward the State’s Evidence in this Case.”
It further goes on to state that, “On January 25, 2013, the State of Alabama filed its Petition for a Writ of Mandamus after Judge Young refused to sign a search warrant for the VictoryLand casino. The Supreme Court of Alabama issued a sealed Order on February 15, 2013, directing Judge Young to sign the search warrant ‘immediately’ and further ordered that “this proceeding and this order shall remain under seal until further order of this Court following the execution of the warrant.’ The sealed Supreme Court Order was hand delivered by the Marshall for the Supreme Court of Alabama on the afternoon of Friday, February 15, 2013. After the Attorney General’s Office received its copy of the Supreme Court Order, the two investigators that had previously presented Judge Young with probable cause evidence in support of the search warrant immediately went to meet with Judge Young again at the Tallapoosa County Courthouse. The investigators waited outside of Judge Young’s courtroom for the Judge to conclude court and then attempted to present the search warrant to Judge Young for his signature as ordered by the Supreme Court. When Judge Young stepped down from his bench, one of the investigators followed the Judge out of the courtroom, calling his name several times, in an effort to get his attention and discuss the search warrant. Despite the Supreme Court of Alabama’s Order to sign the warrant ‘immediately,’ Judge Young refused to speak with the investigators an told them, ‘I don’t have time for this right now, I will see y’all later.’ Judge went on to say that he was ‘late for a show’ and he exited the building. Even though he was in the physical presence of the investigators, Judge Young refused to ‘immediately’ sign the search warrant as ordered by the Alabama Supreme Court. After leaving several telephone messages for Judge Young, one of the investigators received a return phone call from Judge Young later that evening and the Judge agreed to meet on Saturday, February 16, 2013. The investigators met with Judge Young the next morning and presented the search warrant for the Judge’s signature. Instead of simply signing the search warrant as ordered by the Supreme Court, the Judge wrote a long note on the bottom of the warrant where he expressed his strong negative views about the State’s evidence and went on to disclose the existence of the sealed mandamus proceeding on the face of the warrant even though the Supreme Court Order stated ‘this proceeding and this order shall remain under seal until further order of this Court following the execution of the warrant.’
“Judge Young’s comments, accusations, and insinuations would lead a reasonable person to question his impartiality in these proceedings. The comments indicate a direct personal bias or prejudice against the State’s evidence in this matter. His written comments on the warrant also indicate his strong preconceived judgment of the State’s evidence and his biased views of pursuing criminal or civil actions against the VictoryLand casino.”
According to Espy, the judge has basically three option, “The judge himself first looks at it and makes a decision as to what, if anything, he wants to do. The second option would be he could issue an order asking us to reply to it since we have not filed anything. The third option is he could have a hearing.”
As of the time of this report we have not heard what Judge Young has decided.