Friday, August 12, 2011

12 AUG 11: You Can Be a Partial Winner, Too

Statistics and percentages can be funny things. If you went three for 17 as a baseball hitter, your average wouldn't be very good. But if you picked three winners in 17 dog races, you might make a profit on the day and go home happy. And if you're three for 17 in romance, I think you match Jennifer Lopez's marital record.

VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor went three for 17 Thursday in the most high-stakes gamble of his life - a federal corruption trial. Jurors in Montgomery acquitted him on a few counts, but deadlocked on 14 others. If a blackjack table had this many "pushes," there probably would be a very different investigation.

The jury acquitted Milton McGregor of one bribery count, along with two counts of wire fraud. Those two accused McGregor of making "interstate phone calls" about a bill to regulate electronic bingo in Alabama. I'm not sure where McGregor would have made those calls. Does he really have to scout Biloxi casinos for trends?

A mistrial was declared on the 14 other counts against Milton McGregor, including four bribery charges. Federal prosecutors seem ready to put McGregor on trial a second time - much like the old country song where the losers cry, "Deal again."

Milton McGregor's attorney was Joe Espy (not related to the cable TV awards show). He insisted during the trial several secretly-taped conversations about a bingo bill didn't prove anything criminal. And besides, offering lawmakers lots of money has made our government the greatest in the world for decades....

One of the counts which deadlocked the jury was an alleged million-dollar bribe from Milton McGregor to an Alabama state senator. That may seem like a lot of money, but keep one thing in mind. VictoryLand never promised to educate four-year-olds, the way Georgia gambling promoters do.

The news was all good Thursday for two other defendants in the bingo corruption case, as they were acquitted of all charges. But it was a bad day for federal prosecutors, as the jury announced absolutely NO guilty verdicts. Of course, some of the defendants have much more knowledge about how to rig games....

The prosecution said practically nothing to the news media during the trial, and there was no public comment about Thursday's verdicts. But federal attorneys clearly will have to do better if they go forward with a retrial. Is there some way to call Nick Saban and Gene Chizik as prosecution witnesses?

Don't you wonder what Ronnie Gilley thought when he heard about Thursday's verdicts? The one-time promoter of The Phenixian complex reached a plea-bargain with federal prosecutors, and now is in prison. How curious that a "business developer" took a painful sure thing, while the gamblers who went to trial remain free.

(Gilley admitted on the witness stand McGregor invested more than 14 million dollars in his Country Crossing complex in Dothan. McGregor was promised 20 percent of the profits from electronic bingo - so on busy weekends McGregor's call could be: "Owe 75-hundred.")

While the bingo corruption trial seems destined for a rematch, the VictoryLand complex in Macon County has a closed greyhound track, a shutdown Oasis Hotel and limited betting on televised races at other places. Truly Milton McGregor's empire is a shell game of its former self....

You may be waiting for a comparison between this trial and our poker nights. But we have another blog for that sort of thing - so we'll check other Thursday news, starting in another courtroom....

+ A Muscogee County jury found former Columbus police officer Mitchell Brock NOT guilty of witness tampering. The Ledger-Enquirer reports closing arguments took a strange turn, with attorneys comparing Brock's trial to the Kenneth Walker case. Carlton Gary's lover may be disappointed to learn his name never came up.

+ A frantic search developed for a missing five-year-old student at Wesley Heights Elementary School. The boy was found safe and sound, after he took a different school bus with a friend to a Boys and Girls Club. There's a lesson here for parents of young children - friends don't tempt friends with fresh-smelling Play-Doh.

+ The National Infantry Museum showed off a new combat simulator that visitors can try. Well, I suppose it beats playing video games on the IMAX movie screen....

+ The last armor for the U.S. Armor School arrived at Fort Benning, after being shipped from Fort Knox, Kentucky. So which tank has all the military families hidden inside?

+ Quitman County seized the lead for the lowest gas price in Georgia, with one station in Georgetown at $3.21 per gallon. Columbus's best price dropped a few cents to $3.44 near the Civic Center - so this could mark the first time in history that Georgetown has led Columbus in trend-setting.

+ A parade was held in Smiths Station, to send a youth baseball team off to the Dixie World Series in North Carolina. It's a Southern version of the Little League World Series - except it doesn't have teams from South America, or even southern Japan.

+ Instant Message to Bobby Cox: I hope you enjoy tonight's ceremony, inducting you in the Atlanta baseball Hall of Fame. But please, once more for old time's sake -- can you get yourself ejected from the ceremony, for arguing about the wording on the plaque?

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