I had to have a bit of a mental war with myself in deciding what to list as the title for this blog entry. I could go with something generic like 'Beason Day 2', or 'First Witness, Second Day'. Then there's the option for something punchy, like 'When a Segall Attacks' or 'Would you like some coke? Or would you like some COKE?' or even 'Judge, may I elaborate?' (I'll explain this later). Today's witness examination was full of ammunition for this blog. So much ammunition I think that if I were to stay at my desk and type it all up, I'd still be sitting here at 2:00 a.m. I'm going to do my level best to summarize for you what was said. I wish more than anything that we could have recorded this testimony for you. It was some of the most interesting material I've ever had the pleasure of writing from during my time as a journalist. However, my summary will have to do.
The morning started of with the same tone it ended with yesterday - the prosecuting attorney was asking Sen. Scott Beason to relay information while the courtroom listened to conversations recoded by Beason who was working as an FBI informant.
The first recorded conversation took place at the Zoe's Kitchen restaurant in Homewood, Ala. On the recording we can hear the voices of Sen. Beason and Jarrod Massey. Beason tries to get Massey to detail other "deals" people have reportedly gotten for promising "the gambling team" their vote.
"If I'm gonna be with ya, I wanna know what that means." Beason is heard as saying. "I don't wanna hear in a year that Jabo, or French, or Hank Sanders got great deal. If I'm going to be in, I'm going to be in. I'm not going to be cheap like Jeremy Oden."
Massey mentions a Nashville PR firm and says they're looking to take up shop in Alabama. Massey tells Beason he could "set something up."
"You could run your business, there's a couple of different ways to do it." said Massey. "I believe there's a million dollars out there for a race that can be had, and it can go wherever."
That was the very first mention of an alleged money offer so far in this trial, and it came straight from Jarrod Massey's mouth.
"I know roughly what Milton's put in races before...at that point you become the equivalent of the state employee's PAC - that's strong," said Massey.
Beason explains to the court when asked that Massey told him during this conversation that Milton McGregor has Tom Coker, 'Fine', and Bob Geddie as well as others working for him. Beason also fishes for information on whether or not Massey or McGregor happen to be involved with Sen. Hank Sanders. Massey says Sanders is involved with "GreeneTrack backers."
Massey goes on to elaborate money and the PR Firm.
"I would suggest that would look something like $1 million would come through that PR business one way or the other..." Massey is heard saying. "There are some oddities to how we do this. You've gotta find a backdoor way, you have an entity that's not related, it's some subsidiary that's disconnected. We can work it out."
Beason is heard saying, "Some people believe that if you bring more money back to your district it makes it easier for you to get elected."
Beason explains the premise behind this conversation was that Massey was explaining that $1 million would find its way into the account of the PR Firm that Beason could be named the director of, provided he agrees to lend his vote. The sum of $1 million a year is thrown into the conversation by Massey.
Massey says, "What I'm saying is there's a million out there and you can use it however." Massey also says he's "in good with Milton and Ronnie."
Massey tells Beason he needs an answer regarding his vote on "Monday."
Massey is heard saying, "I wanna follow up and make sure we have a solid situation regarding what we talked about the other day...don't need to talk about on the phone." Massey goes on to say "we visited about it." Beason says that 'we' is McGregor and Gilley.
The phone conversation ends with Beason saying he'll get back to him.
The third and final wiretap we heard today was a meeting between Beason, Massey and Gilley at the Books-a-Million in Prattville.
Gilley is heard on tape saying to Beason, "I'm excited about the opportunities, excited about the PR, it'll be great for all of us."
Beason tells the court he met with him that one last time to make sure they were committed to "their part of the deal." He also explains to the court that the FBI never told him how to vote on the bill. They told him to go ahead and vote however he wanted to. Beason says he was always against gambling in Alabama and voted no on the measure. In a quick move before lunch, after the jury left the courtroom, Judge Thompson informed counsel that he "recieved a note from a juror." That note asked two questions - 1) "I was wondering if these conversations could be considered entrapment. And 2) Was Beason coached by the FBI?"
The prosecution explained this was not an entrapment case, however Judge Thompson ruled that was a legal issue that he would have to discuss with the jury. The matter of whether or not Beason was coached was a factual issue, Judge Thompson said the answer to that question would come out during the cross examination.
After lunch Judge Thompson addressed the jury and explained the entrapment question was a 'matter of law' and that he would instruct the jury on that after all of the witness testimony had been heard. He added that the jury's only job at this point is simply to listen to the testimony in the courtroom.
After break the prosecution only had a few more questions for Beason. They asked about the nature of the conversations Beason had with the FBI. Beason said the agents never told him what to ask - the only discussions he ever had to them was on who to talk to.
Then...it was Bobby Segall's turn to question Beason...that's where it got REALLY interesting.
As a short summary, Bobby Segall, attorney for Milton McGregor spent the entire afternoon drilling Sen. Beason on things he said over the last day in a half. Segall clearly launched a well planned attack on Sen. Beason's character - and Sen. Beason didn't like it one bit. Judge Thomson had to intervene several times during the afternoon and remind Sen. Beason to respond only to the question being asked, and if he wanted to elaborate more, he was told to ask Judge Thompson to do so. People in the courtroom repeatedly heard the phrase, "Judge, may I elaborate?"
Segall started the questioning by asking Beason about his employment. They get into an argument on if Beason knows working for the legislature is considered a part-time job. Beason is very short with Segall while not directly answering his questions. Segall is looking for yes or no answers and Beason is trying to elaborate. Segall finally explains that at this moment, he is unemployed.
Segall reminds Beason of an interview he did with WSFA, the AP, WAKA and others immediately after the grand jury hearing for this case. Beason says he remembers doing the interview, but not the content of the interview. Segall showed a portion of the interview to the courtroom. Segall points out some issues with what Beason said in that interview compared with what he said the last two days in court. Beason questions Segall's line of questioning and Segall snaps back "Your only job is to answer the question." Beason argues that they are spending time arguing about dates and nothing substantive to the trial (Segall's issue was that Beason's timeline given to the reporters was different to what was said in court). Segall calls Beason's memory into question.
Segall then brings into question the legislative pay raise Beason is on record as voting for. Beason corrects Segall as to the amount of the pay raise, then acknowledges that he is sensitive about what people say about him in his home district. He explained he went to the FBI with what he thought was going on because he thought he was doing his duty as a public official.
"I would rather be anywhere than here today. This is not helping me politically." said Beason.
Segall quickly and pointedly replied, "We're going to talk a lot about why you're here today. Don't worry about that."
Segall pointed out that Beason's recollection of something that happened two years ago is better than something that happened last year. Segall said, "I'm just sayin'..."
Segall flat out asked, Isn't it true you're using this case to promote your own personal political gain?" Beason responded, "No sir, not true."
Beason told Segall that his "conjecturing" was a "bad habit" and Judge Thompson had to restrain Beason verbally, telling him once again to only answer the question or ask to elaborate.
Segall asked, "You don't deny you're extraordinarily ambitious politically?"
Beason replied "I deny that I am overly ambitious."
Segall questions Segall if he's ever thought about running for a different office, like Governor. Beason said he's thought about it. Segall replied "So you're politically ambitious." Beason was forced to answer yes.
Segall explains that at the time of the recordings, Beason wanted to be the leader of the GOP caucus. Segal then asks a question that accuses Beason of wanting the GOP to take over the legislature as "part of his ambition." Beason said no, he wanted it for the betterment of the state. Segall asked, "Is it true you were willing to get rid of anyone who stood in your way?"
This line of questioning continues on to GOP Sen. Arthur Orr and how Beason allegedly wanted him defeated. Segall refers to recorded conversation with Monica Cooper (Sen. Jabo Waggoner staffer) where Beason says he wants to take Sen.Orr out, but Beason says he was 'playing a role.'
Segall asks, "So you were lying to your good friend throughout?" Beason replies "No, depends on context." Conversation then talks similarly of Sen. Steve French. Segall gets Beason to admit that he doesn't remember all of the conversations he recorded. The conversation in question was a recording of the GOP Caucus meeting with all of the GOP senators...he recorded it without the lawmaker's knowledge.
Segall says he wants to show that Beason would do whatever it took to rise up the ranks of the AL GOP and for GOP to take over Senate. Segall then explained that Beason's actions had to do with getting rid of Milton McGregor's influence.
Segall asked, "Wouldn't getting rid of McGregor help you politically? Wouldn't revealing his contributions to the democrats only help you?"
Segall mentions another one of Beason's "schemes to have the Democratic caucus support a black member of House for speaker because if a black person were elected it would weaken the Democrat's pull?"
Beason says that's not the truth.
Segall asks "Didn't you advocate Yvonne Kennedy for speaker?"
Beason replies, "Yes, but it had nothing to do with her being black."
Segall recalls a point in the conversation where Beason said Kennedy was "disorganized, can't raise money, and won't be able to save half of their candidates."
The prosecution onjected with this line of questioning accusing Segall of intersecting race into the trial with this line of questioning. Segall responded, "That is very unfair." to the character attack.
Beason, in his testimony, calls Kennedy his friend. Segall accused him of supporting her not because she was his friend but because he believed her leadership would lead the democrats to ruin. Segall did this to point out Beason's alleged 'political ambitions' and his attempt to remove the democrats from power thus weakening Milton McGregor's alleged influence.
Beason tells the courtroom that his involvement in the investigation had nothing to do with his political ambitions.
Segall then accuses Beason of approaching the FBI in an effort to rid politics of McGregor's influence. Beason says this is absolutely not true.
On tape Beason is heard saying he "hated the feds." He told Rep. Lewis the FBI had evil people working for them and that FBI agents didn't care, they just wanted to send people to prison.
Segall picked this part of the conversation to ask Beason why he went to the FBI if he truly had this belief.Beason said he was 'playing a role for the tapes.'
Segall replied "If we want to know the true Sen. Beason, then we need to hear the conversations we didn't record, don't we?"
Segall then attacks Beason's 'role' comment.
Segall asked, "Is it true you want everybody to know, because you're a politician, you came to the gov't voluntarily? correct? It's not because you want everyone to know you're in campaign mode?"
Beason says no. Segall asks the 'campaign mode' question multiple times in different formats. Every time Beason says no. Segall produces a portion of a wiretapped transcript and askes him to read what it says. In the conversation Beason physically says,
"Does it hurt to remind people that I came willingly to help? I always want people to know that, that's my campaign mode."
Beason tells Segall he can explain, Segall says there is no explanation necessary.
Segall then questions Beason about the nature of his relationship with FBI Agent Keith Baker. Segall asks if Baker ever tried to dictate what was said or asked to Beason. Beason says no. Segall asks Beason, if he was so eager to record conversations, then why didn't he record his conversations with the FBI?
Segall: "Didn't it occur to you that the people in this courtroom might want to know about that?"
Beason: "I thought the FBI was going to do the right thing, that they're the good guys."
Segall accuses Beason of carrying on text messages with Agent Baker, Beason says he doesn't remember any texts. Segall says there were 12 text messages on a day the Beason had already testified at length about, he also suggests once again that maybe Beason's memory isn't so good.
Segall then asks about how Beason viewed Massey's character. Beason was heard on the wiretaps saying he didn't trust Massey. Segall pointed out that Beason says Massey offered him money. Segall asks if Massey was so un-trustworthy, then why did Beason ever believe anything he said.
The next part is what I personally thought was the most interesting part of Segall's questioning...
Segall asked Beason if it was possible for people to mis-percieve the intentions of a statement. Beason makes an argument for context, but eventually agrees that yes, it is possible.
I'm going to copy the next bit directly from the live blog - the quotes are far more powerful.
- Segall introducing some kind of evidence...we can't see it
- Segal using transcripts - making a strange point, Beason says in a statement "I'm going to get some coke."
- Segall says I assume you're taking about a liquid.
- Segall says someone who didn't know you might take that out of context and think of a white powder couldn't they?
- Segall: I'm not suggesting its anything other than the liquid...but someone who did not know you might have misunderstood your intention.
Segall used Beason's own statement to prove his point. Segall then asks Beason if he knows Mr. McGregor well. Beason details that no, he does not. He has never even shared a meal with him. Segall then also asks about Massey's promise of money for his vote. Beason admits to not knowing Massey well either. He also asks questions about the statement made about the previously mentioned PR job.
Segall makes statements suggesting that since Beason admittedly didn't know the speakers very well, then it was possible that Beason didn't understand the true meaning. And in a round about way...Beason had admitted to this earlier when he agreed that you couldn't truly judge a statement unless you knew the speaker well.
That ended today's examination of Sen. Beason. Segall says he has a few more hours of questioning for him tomorrow. WIth the exception of Sen. Harri Anne Smith's attorney Jim Parkman, all attorneys said they only had a few minutes of questioning. Parkman said it would take him about two hours.
With that, I leave you all for the next week. Raycom Political Reporter Max Reiss will assume posting duties until I return.