Ala gambling trial judge to jurors: keep talking

The federal judge in Alabama's gambling corruption trial on Tuesday instructed jurors to keeping deliberating after they told him they had decided on some of the charges but were deadlocked on others.

Prosecutors and the attorneys for accused casino owner Milton McGregor urged the judge to tell them to keep talking and he agreed.

Jurors for the past five days have debated the case of nine people accused of buying and selling votes for pro-gambling legislation. Those charged in the 37-count indictment include McGregor and four former or current state lawmakers. The jury will return on Wednesday morning to keep talking.

Jurors sent a note to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson late Tuesday afternoon saying they were deadlocked on some of the counts.

"In a case with lots of defendants, this is not an unusual note," said Lewis Gillis, attorney for Democratic Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery.

When the judge told jurors to keep deliberating, several nodded in agreement.

"I didn't detect necessarily a 'give up' on the jury today," said Jim Parkman, attorney for independent Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb

The federal investigation grew out of three Republican legislators telling the FBI that they were offered campaign contributions if they would support legislation designed to keep electronic bingo games operating in Alabama.

The three used recording devices to tape phone calls and meetings, and the FBI wiretapped phones in a yearlong probe that coincided with former Gov. Bob Riley creating a gambling task force to shut down privately operated casinos.

Riley contended electronic bingo machines, featuring flashing lights and sound effects, were illegal slot machines, while proponents portrayed them as a high-tech version of paper bingo, which is legal in some Alabama counties.

Riley's task force seized machines and won court battles that resulted in the closure of all privately operated electronic bingo casinos.

Casino owners and some lawmakers were seeking a constitutional amendment to protect their profitable electronic games.

Besides McGregor, Smith and Ross, defendants are casino lobbyists Tom Geddie and Bob Geddie, former Democratic Sen. Larry Means of Attalla, former Republican Sen. Jim Preuitt of Talladega, casino spokesman Jay Walker, and former legislative bill writer Ray Crosby.

The judge told the defendants to prepare for the possibility of a verdict on Wednesday. He has not ruled on whether any convicted defendants will be taken into custody immediately or allowed to remain free pending sentencing.

The judge left open the possibility that he might ask jurors if they have reached a verdict on all counts against any defendants and whether he would take a partial verdict. Thompson said any decision would depend on what type of note he gets from the jury next.