By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The State’s Attorney General’s Office on Monday, asked the Alabama Supreme Court to stay Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge William Shashy’s order to return the machines and money confiscated from VictoryLand to their rightful owners.
On October 2, Judge Shashy ruled in favor of VictoryLand saying that the machine play at the casino was legal, in accordance with the voters intent in Constitutional Amendment 744, which authorizes electronic bingo in Macon County.
The stay request written by Solicitor General Andrew L. Brasher, asked the Supreme Court to intervene in what the State characterizes as “very unusual order.”
Brasher argues that, in his ruling, Judge Shashy failed to address the “Cornerstone test” to evaluate the State’s evidence. Judge Shashy didn’t apply the Cornerstone test to the machines, because he ruled voter intent was to allow for electronic bingo. In the State’s motion they point to the Cornerstone Test, but fail to mention that Macon County Constitutional Amendment 744, is not listed in the ruling while every other county is.
Judge Shashy gave the Attorney General’s Office 45 days from October 2 to return the machines to their owners. VictoryLand doesn’t own the bingo machines, they were leased from another company. The outdated machines are being housed by the State at a privately owned facility for around $20,000 a month, or around $600,000 and counting in taxpayer dollars as of the Mid October. The Attorney General’s Office has said the cost of the appeal to the Shashy ruling would “costs us almost nothing—paper and attorney time,” failing to mention the monthly storage fees for machine that do not even belong to VictoryLand.
In his argument for the State, Brasher cites testimony by former AG investigator Howard “Gene” Sisson as the State’s star witness who identified the VictoryLand machines as being illegal. “The State’s witness [Sisson] testified that the gambling devices at issue did not play the game of bingo, as that game is allowed under certain local constitutional amendments in Alabama.”
Sisson was fired from the Attorney General’s Office for conspiring with the Henry T “Sonny” Regan to undermine the Lee County Grand Jury investigation which lead to Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) being indicted on 23 felony counts of public corruption.
In Sisson’s termination letter State’s Attorney General Luther Strange wrote, “I cannot trust you to follow Office policies and to be faithful to the rule of law; I cannot trust you to keep the work-related confidences of your co-workers; and I cannot trust you to conduct yourself with honesty and integrity in the workplace.”
Of Reagan, who was the lead attorney in the State’s case against VictoryLand, Strange wrote, “To be clear, my decision to terminate Mr. Reagan’s employment was based solely upon the fact that Mr. Reagan breached his duty of loyalty to the State of Alabama and this Office, failed to safeguard the confidences of the Office, and violated the trust of his colleagues, all in violation of the policies of this Office and the Rules of the State Personnel Board. Mr. Reagan’s conduct fell far short of the high standard of honesty, integrity, and professionalism that the people of the State of Alabama have a right to expect of employees of this Office, and that you have come to expect from your coworkers.”
These two men who left the Attorney General’s Office in shame are now held forward as credible agent in the investigation and prosecutors of VictoryLand.
Judge Shashy ruled, “Unless the State of Alabama initiates legal action and/or forfeiture proceedings within 45 days against the four casinos (l,232 electronic bingo machines) in Greene County and the two casinos (566 electronic bingo machines) in Lowndes County, then all seized equipment, records, and currency shall be returned to KC Economic Development, LLC,” (aka VictoryLand).
Brasher argued to the Supreme Court, “This case is another in a long line of gambling- related appeals arising from so-called ‘electronic bingo’ gambling machines.” A long line that leads back to 2009 when then Gov. Bob Riley began his war on bingo, an action that has cost taxpayer around $6 million dollars.
Judge Shashy has said, that the State has unevenly prosecuted the case, with VictoryLand being the target, while others continue to operate unmolested.