Entries in Corruption (3)


Alabama Lawmakers Acquitted in Gambling Corruption Case

Hemera/Thinkstock(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) -- All six defendants in a sweeping corruption prosecution, including three current and former Alabama state lawmakers, have been acquitted on charges of trading bribes for votes on gambling legislation.

In addition to the three current and former lawmakers, a powerful casino owner, a casino employee and a gambling interest lobbyist had been charged in the widespread alleged corruption scheme, according to ABC News Montgomery affiliate WNCF.

The first federal probe into the alleged corruption began in 2008, when then-state senator Paul Stanford, along with two other Republican legislators, went to the FBI claiming that not only had he personally been offered $250,000 as a bribe, but said there was widespread corruption in Alabama's statehouse.

"There's always a backdoor deal going on in somebody's office or in the corner of the chamber or over dinner with a lobbyist," Sanford said during an ABC News investigation in 2010. "There's always somebody working an unusual angle to try to sway your vote or entice you with a vote."

When several officials were arrested in 2010, Sanford called it a "dream come true" because the arrests "[told] the people of Alabama that integrity does matter."

The most recent case was the second time the officials had been in front of a jury -- a previous trial ended in August without decision for most defendants and with two others being acquitted. One other defendant, legislature bill writer Ray Crosby, died reportedly of natural causes in January before the retrial began.

Even before the 2010 arrests, authorities in Alabama said it was becoming clear that the lobbyists seeking help with bingo legislation were pressing the limits.

"If you're going to be in politics you're going to have to raise money but when it gets to the point that there's a quid pro quo -- I will give you this if you do that, then I think it's gone too far," Alabama Gov. Bob Riley told ABC News in 2010.

Riley first began waging a campaign to stop the spread of electronic bingo machines in 2008. He argued they were nothing more than slot machines. "I [think] anyone who has ever played bingo understands you can't play it in six seconds," he said.

After an electronic bingo bill passed in the state senate last spring, with several lawmakers switching their votes in the final hours, authorities began to harbor suspicions. Federal agents received permission to eavesdrop on suspects using wiretaps and convened a grand jury.

Reacting to the news of indictments, the governor's office released a statement calling the arrests "disappointing but hardly surprising."

But in the end, the defense for the remaining suspects argued that the case was based on lies told by those who already pleaded guilty who were hoping for less harsh punishment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Rod Blagojevich to Take the Stand Next Week in Retrial?

Tim Boyle/Getty Images(CHICAGO) -- Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is planning to take the stand in the retrial for corruption charges brought against him, a source tells ABC affiliate WLS in Chicago.

Blagojevich, who currently faces 20 counts, has maintained his innocence since his 2008 arrest.
Defense attorneys for Blagojevich told WLS that he has been prepping to take the stand, but that the decision to have him testify is not definite.

Court is in recess until Monday for jurors.  However, lawyers are expected to meet Friday with Judge James Zagel to discuss the defense's witness list, which may hint at defense plans for their arguments, scheduled to begin Monday.

After three weeks of arguments and witnesses, the prosecution rested its case Thursday.  

Defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky tells WLS their case could take up to three days to present.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Purple Heart Vet Sues for Retaliation; Blew Whistle on Alleged Corruption

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A decorated Army colonel is suing the Military Order of the Purple Heart after he said the veterans organization for soldiers wounded in combat turned on him after he blew the whistle on alleged corruption and wasteful spending among the top brass.

Ret. Col. Henry Cook III alleges that after he spoke out in an ABC News investigation, he was wrongly removed from his position as the National Commander.

In an affidavit filed in the lawsuit, Cook says the organization retaliated against him and dismissed him "for my exposing of the mismanagement of funds and grants of 'Purple Heart Dollars' on national television."

Cook tells ABC News that he doesn't believe anything has changed in the organization since he left and that only a small fraction of money donated makes it to veterans.

"I want to see change," Cook said. "I want to see something come of this. If I have to fall on that particular battlefield and be expelled, I'll pay that price if we get the change. But I've decided I'm not going to pay it if they're not going to change, so I'm fighting them."

Charity watchdog group the American Institute of Philanthropy, still ranks the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation an "F" in its latest charity rankings. The report says that only 32 percent of donations are actually spent on program services, and the organization spends $63 to raise every $100.

In a statement to ABC News, the Military Order of the Purple Heart said, "We absolutely disagree with Mr. Cook's allegations in the lawsuit, and we also disagree with Mr. Cook's effort to 'try' his case in the media. We will not otherwise comment on pending litigation, but rather will let this matter run its course through the court system."

John E. Bircher III, director of public relations for the group, said, "Speaking personally, I am a 30-year veteran and a Purple Heart recipient myself and I am extremely proud of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation whose members work tirelessly to provide needed services to the membership and all veterans."

Cook says that donation dollars should be directed locally.

"I think if you want to help combat wounded veterans, find the local [MOPH] chapter," Cook said. "Because that's where the good work for veterans really takes place. They have no overhead."

The original ABC News investigation led to a congressional hearing into veterans charities that collect a lot, but contribute relatively little to vets. The story featured Cook as he blew the whistle on his own organization, saying foundation leaders threw lavish parties, including a $40,000 retirement party for a top charity official with guests flown in from across the country.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio