Friday, April 22, 2011

22 APR 11: Gilley As in Guilty?

Well, well -- I guess some big dreams for Phenix City can be tossed into the dumpster once and for all. Such as that condominium skyscraper which would have overlooked the Chattahoochee River at 14th Street. All the rafting enthusiasts with wet feet would have ruined the lobby, anyway.

The Associated Press reported Thursday night developer Ronnie Gilley will plead guilty today, in a federal probe into gambling and bribery. The appearance in federal court is scheduled for sunrise in Montgomery - so Gilley may be sharing a prison cell with Richard Scrushy by lunchtime.

Ronnie Gilley got in trouble with the law over his efforts to open the Country Crossing complex in Dothan. It included a "bingo pavilion," which former Governor Bob Riley concluded was illegal gambling. Can someone please bring Riley to Columbus, to have him evaluate the "business centers" which offer sweepstakes games?

Ronnie Gilley has been accused of trying to buy votes from Alabama state lawmakers, to get laws passed to benefit Country Crossing. This allegedly occurred after Gilley ran for Congress in 2008 -- when he didn't do a good enough job of buying votes through TV commercials.

But Ronnie Gilley could have had a place in Phenix City history as well. His real estate company proposed building the Phenixian in the summer of 2006 -- a housing and retail complex taking advantage of the 14th Street pedestrian bridge. You may have noticed how well that went. The bridge now is closed, for improvements funded by government stimulus money.

The Phenixian proposal evaporated in recent years, due to a slow and complicated effort to get federal approval to develop the land. But Gilley never made the decision to abandon the project official - by bringing good friend George Jones to Phenix City to sing, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E."

Ronnie Gilley's grand plan was for a chain of electronic bingo pavilions across east Alabama. One was proposed along U.S. 431 in Phenix City, in a complex including some kind of sports facility [29 Oct 08]. St. Francis Hospital could have had a much more local "Derby Day" fundraiser every May.

The website for Ronnie Gilley Properties used to have details on many of these things. But now it offers little beyond a home page. Gilley's "BamaJam" music festival in Enterprise, Alabama apparently will NOT be held this June - since Gilley has been in a jam session with the law for months.

Country Crossing closed its doors in January 2010 -- but its website promised Thursday night the complex is "reopening" this year. Either Ronnie Gilley is going to accomplish this by selling the project, or he's going to have the most powerful remote control switch in Alabama.

If Ronnie Gilley pleads guilty today, where does this leave Milton McGregor of Victoryland? He's awaiting a federal trial in June on similar charges. And his development was put on the public auction block in Tuskegee this week because it owes more than one million dollars in property taxes. None of McGregor's aides apparently have won a Georgia lottery jackpot yet.

-> A strange thing happened when we went all-in at Thursday night's live poker tournament. Read what happened at our other blog, "On the Flop!" <-

BLOG UPDATE: "Al from Dadeville" called Paul Finebaum's sports talk radio show again Thursday. But this time, Harvey Updyke admitted he really did NOT want to make the call. So did someone hold a can of herbicide to his head, and force it?

Harvey Updyke stopped short of admitting on the air that he poisoned the Toomer's Corner oak trees in Auburn. But he fears he's going to prison for that act, and Updyke said he does NOT want the trees to die. Wow, Updyke should have called Paul Finebaum one day later - since today is Earth Day, after all.

Harvey Updyke apologized on the air to his children and the University of Alabama - but NOT to Auburn University or its fans. Once Updyke does his time, he could go to work for that Alabama law firm which sued Taco Bell.

Harvey Updyke went on to insist he was attacked and injured Wednesday behind an Auburn gas station, after making a brief court appearance. Trouble is, women who could see the scene of the attack from their porch told WTVM they saw nothing of the kind. Hmmmm -- did Bobby Lowder buy their silence?

Instead of offering compassion to Auburn fans, Harvey Updyke ended his radio interview by saying, "Roll d**n Tide." Considering his case is pending in Lee County Court, that plea deal his attorney wants had better include a jail cell in Birmingham or Huntsville.

Meanwhile, Auburn University fans rolled a different oak tree near Toomer's Corner Thursday night. It was in honor of the equestrian team winning a national championship. While the riders were there, their horses were absent - and imagine the (ahem) tribute to Harvey Updyke they could have offered.

Let's circle back toward Columbus now, to review other news from the last couple of days....

+ A group called "Restore Honor of Columbus" staged a one-day campaign to provide canned goods to Valley Rescue Mission. I'd never heard of this group before. Perhaps it was inspired by Glenn Beck, and is warming up for a petition drive to recall Congressman Sanford Bishop.

(The canned food drive was organized through the first confirmed case of a "flash mob" in Columbus. For those of you older than 50, a "flash mob" does NOT refer to newspaper photographers outside the courtroom at the Michael Curry trial.)

+ Kia announced it will build the 2012 Optima at its plant in West Point. That's likely to mean more jobs for the Columbus area - but that's admittedly an Optima-stic view.

+ Albany officials reported the city has 23,000 free-roaming cats. OK, but look on the bright side - Albany residents can feel comfortable leaving cheese uncovered on kitchen tables.

+ The Columbus Lions outlasted the Alabama Hammers in Huntsville 80-55. Coach Jason Gibson clearly is smarter than I am - because if I had Hammers, I'd hammer them in the morning.

+ Instant Message to the Los Angeles Dodgers: Now I'm convinced your team has financial problems. The powder-blue uniforms you wore in Thursday's 5-3 win over Atlanta look like they were borrowed from the Kansas City Royals.

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