By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Late Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Luther Strange filed a formal appeal in the VictoryLand Bingo case with the State Supreme Court.
In a 62 page motion, the Attorney General is asking the Court to overturn the ruling by Montgomery Circuit Court Judge William Shashy, who found the machines played at VictoryLand to be legal, and found the Attorney General had violated the Equal Protection Clause.
In his filing, the Attorney General argues: The trial court erred by dismissing the case based on an equal-protection, an argument that no party raised, erred by dismissing the case on the grounds that the word “bingo” in Macon County’s local amendment means something completely different than the same word in comparable local amendments that apply to other counties and the electronic machines seized from VictoryLand do not fall under the definition of the Supreme Courts Cornerstone Ruling.
The filing relies heavily on the testimony of former Special Agent Howard “Gene” Sisson, who was fired from the Attorney General’s Office because he conspired to undermine the Grand Jury in the investigation of House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Hubbard, who is indicted on 23 counts of public corruption, is currently awaiting trial.
They also contend that the “six-factor test,” used to define the game of bingo in Cornerstone is the only applicable test, saying, the machines at “VictoryLand were unlawful gambling devices, not “the traditional game of bingo.”
They further state that legislative or voter intent is not to be considered a “single legislator or a handful of voters is irrelevant. When interpreting a law, the court cannot rely on the words of the legislator or a group of voters in derogation of the law’s plain text.”
Attorney’s for VictoryLand have argued that Cornerstone is not applicable to their case because the ruling listed all the Constitutional Amendment that it affected and that Macon County’s Constitutional Amendment 744 did not appear in the ruling.
In the Attorney General’s motion, he paraphrases Cornerstone stating, “This Court has made clear that Alabama’s constitution and statutes “prohibit the vicious system of lottery schemes and the evil practice of gaming, in all their protean shapes.” This at a time when Gov. Robert Bentley is saying he is open to a clean bill on a lottery and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is preparing to reintroduce an omnibus gaming bill.
General Strange’s motion also comes at a time when he and the Governor are at odds about his authority to further prosecute gambling violations, and when the Secretary of statewide law-enforcement has made it clear state resource from his office would not be used to enforce gambling raids.
Strange and company find themselves eerily isolated in this matter. Politically, the winds are blowing in the opposite direction from the Attorney General.
Strange says he wants the issue settled once and for all, and is asking the Supreme Court make the call.