Two of nine defendants in an Alabama corruption case that involved several electronic bingo halls were exonerated from all charges in federal court yesterday. The remaining seven, including VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, were found not guilty on some charges, but could be forced to return to court for a retrial on others.
McGregor and others were charged with bribing lawmakers to pass pro-gaming legislation that would have kept the bingo halls, VictoryLand, Country Crossing and others, opened. The facilities had been declared illegal by Alabama’s previous Gov. Bob Riley in 2008. Defendants also included lawmakers who were charged with extorting funds from bingo operators.

McGregor was acquitted of one count of bribery and two counts of honest services fraud. A mistrial was declared by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson on the 14 other charges he faced, as well as for dozens of charges faced by McGregor’s co-defendants. In all, 120 charges were filed in the original 65-page indictment. "We appreciate the jury’s service in this important public corruption trial,” said Laura Sweeny, a Justice Department spokeswoman. “Our prosecutors will discuss next steps as we move forward in this matter,’’

Commenting on the case to radio station WBHM in Birmingham, former federal Judge John Carroll said political corruption cases are typically difficult to try, but the prosecution shouldn't be counted out yet.

“ When you’re dealing with campaign contributions, there’s a significant amount of the population that thinks all politicians get this kind of money so why are we looking at these people; what did they do different?” said Carroll, who nonetheless said a retrial could still result in convictions. “The government does generally have the upper hand in the case of a retrial. They still have witnesses in reserve, and they know where the weaknesses are in the cross examination and in the case.”