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Wiretap Suggests Country Stars Made Singing Offer to Alabama Senator for Vote on Gambling

  • randy-owen

    Randy Owen makes an appearance on Fox News Channel in Nov. 17, 2008.

  • george jones

    George Jones hugs Jean Shepard after inducting her into the Country Music Hall of Fame during the private Medallion Ceremony at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn. on Sunday, May 22, 2011.

Country music stars George Jones and Randy Owen offered to perform with a former recording artist-turned-state lawmaker in Alabama in exchange for his vote on pro-gambling legislation, according to phone calls secretly recorded by the FBI and played this week during a federal gambling corruption trial.

The stars sought to capitalize on a request that then-state Sen. Bobby Denton, known as the "singing senator," made before he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in March 2010, the Montgomery Advertiser reported.

When Denton had asked Owen, lead singer of the country band Alabama, if he could sing a song from his Christmas CD, Owen told him he would sing with him if he voted for the gambling legislation, according to wiretap of a casino developer and his two lobbyists who discussed the conversation.

Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley told lobbyist Jennifer Pouncy and her boss, Jarrod Massey, to let Denton know that if he voted for the legislation, Jones would sing with him too and that music executive James Stroud would produce it, the newspaper reported. All three involved in the case have pleaded guilty to charges relating to corruption, bribery and conspiracy.

Gilley said earlier in the trial that Owen, who may still be called to testify, also pushed then-state Sen. Charles Bishop to vote for the legislation.

Owen's manager did not return a message from FoxNews.com seeking comment.

Denton, who had traditionally opposed gambling legislation, voted for the bill that month. Even though it passed in the Senate, it died in the Alabama House after the FBI announced its investigation of state corruption the next month.

Denton, known for recording some of the first hits out of Muscle Shoals, retired from the Senate in 2010 but is not a defendant in the trial. He has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the testimony on Wednesday focused on him to show how hard supporters of the bill were working to get the necessary 21 votes.

Pouncy has testified that she offered $2 million in campaign contributions to indicted Sen. Jim Preuitt and $100,000 to indicted Sen. Larry Means to win their votes for the legislation. Country Crossing, a family entertainment center that opened in 2009 with more than 1,700 electronic bingo machines, closed after being raided and accused of running illegal slots. 

The bingo games have not been allowed to operate since the state Supreme Court tightened the definition of what constitutes an electronic bingo machine. Cross Country's facilities may be allowed to reopen this year if new machines are installed. 

Venues at the facility are named after country singers, including Owen, Lorrie Morgan, John Anderson and Darryl Worley. A bed and breakfast is named for George Jones.

Denton said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that he was not influenced by Jones' and Owen's participation in the induction. He said he decided to vote for the bill to avoid a fllibuster so the legislative session could get on to other critical issues like the state budget.

"As far as pressure or taking about the issue, we didn't do it," he said.

Prosecutors say they could wrap up their portion of the seven-week-old trial early next week after Pouncy's testimony wraps up Friday and four more witnesses are called. Defense attorneys are trying to stop two of the remaining witnesses from appearing.

Prosecutors want one of Gov. Bob Riley's former aides, Josh Blades, to testify about what Preuitt told Blades about another defendant, Sen. Harri Anne Smith. Prosecutors also want to present an FBI agent to offer government and bank records to back up testimony that has been presented by Gilley and others.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.