The Great Alabama Bingo Conspiracy!
Jennifer Pouncy, a lobbyist in Alabama and who pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy, was sentenced to 3 years probation by a federal judge for her part in a vote buying bingo conspiracy. Pouncy admitted that she offered bribes to two Alabama senators in exchange for their votes on a gambling bill. The prosecutors in Pouncy’s case recommended that the judge sentence her to 2 years in prison because they said she had committed very serious crimes. Defense attorney Tommy Spina argued for leniency on his client’s behalf stating that Pouncy was simply following the orders of her boss. Spina went on to say that his client had no intention of opening her own casino – she was simply trying to keep her $60,000 a year job.
The Alabama Bingo Conspiracy
Pouncy testified at 2 separate trials that she was reluctant to follow the orders of her boss, fellow lobbyist Jarrod Massey and Ronnie Gilley, a casino developer. Gilley and Massey are believed to have offered campaign contributions to Alabama senators in order to get their votes on a bill that would legalize electronic bingo machines in Alabama casinos. Spina pointed out that this is evidence that Gilley and Massey were the ringleaders of this conspiracy. Spina also stated that they had total control and Pouncy was just their puppet.
He also added that Pouncy is a hard-working mother to a 3 year old boy and it would not do any good to put her in prison. Pouncy was fighting to keep back her tears as she apologized to her family and the court for her actions. She said she was sorry for what she had done and wished that she was stronger for her son and her husband. However, Rae Woods, a federal prosecutor told Judge Keith Watkins that Pouncy should be put in prison because of the seriousness of her crimes as it threatened the very essence of the Alabama State government.
The Result of the Bingo Trials
Pouncy was facing up to 5 years in prison and prosecutors said they were already being lenient by only asking for 2 years. Spina claimed that Pouncy was the first person to cooperate with the investigation and her cooperation helped render guilty pleas from Gilley and Massey. Spina told Judge Watkins that prosecutors first offered to recommend probation but that was taken away by the new chief of Public Integrity at the Department of Justice. During her testimony, Pouncy endured a forceful cross-examination where defense attorneys played a phone conversation recording of Gilley and Massey.
This conversation included Gilley and Massey joking about getting Pouncy to take her clothes off for an older senator in order to win his vote. The trials were a harsh loss for prosecutors as they resulted in not guilty verdicts for casino owner Milton McGregor and 4 former or current state senators. The family and friends of Pouncy wiped their tears and clapped their hands as they judge said that he would not send her to prison. Spina said it was a great relief for Pouncy, her family and for himself. Pouncy declined to make a statement as she left the federal courthouse.