Ronnie Gilley had a rough day on the stand, and spikes in his temper proved that his patience started to wear thin towards the end of the day.
William White, attorney for Sen. Smith, continued with his line of questioning. White asked Gilley if the only bribe he could remember making in 2009 was to Rep. Ben Lewis – which Gilley testified to yesterday. Today Gilley “remembered” that Sen. Smith was in “continuous solicitation” for “bribes” for Beason, Benefield and Lewis. Gilley began getting agitated by the way White was forming his questions. Gilley accused White of mischaracterization and incorrect assumptions. At one point, Gilley turned and faced the jury and said, "Sen. Smith was the one responsible for soliciting a bribe for Sen. Beason. She was responsible for the whole deal. Please make note of that for the record."Gilley also said that Smith was solely responsible for the attempted recruitment of Sen. French, "Sen. Smith was by and far the biggest recruiting lobbyist that we had in Montgomery."
White made note of a conversation between Beason, Massey and Gilley where Gilley said, “There is no quid pro quo between Harri Anne Smith and I.” Gilley said at the time of the conversation, he was working to bribe Sen. Beason. Gilley reiterated that he didn’t trust Sen. Beason from the moment he met him. During the previous proceeding Gilley told the court that initially he had liked Sen. Beason because he “had backbone.” White pointed out to the court their either one statement or the other was a lie under oath.
A lot of time was spent breaking down money that Gilley allegedly paid out to Sen. Smith. White wanted to know where the money came from, how it was doled out and when. In all, Gilley says he gave around $600,000 to Smith for her campaign – a campaign Smith said cost $600k to $800k. A large amount of time was spent discussing the “10 for 10” fundraiser Gilley threw for Smith. White wanted to know where Gilley got the money for the fundraiser since Gilley claimed at the time that he was broke. White pointed out some of Gilley’s bank records showing a large transfer made by one of Gilley’s investors, Dr. Russell Wright. White wanted to know if the money Gilley used for the “10 for 10” Wright’s money. Gilley answered no. White then asked if it was Gilley’s money that paid for the “10 for 10” and Gilley told him that he didn’t know, “Monies were very convoluted…it would take at least a week to go through the records to track it.”
The “10 for 10” fundraiser was part of Gilley’s Democracy Tour. Gilley told the court that the event, which was held in December 2009, was basically one big bribe for Sen. Smith. This was another 2009 “bribe” that Gilley failed to mention during earlier testimony. Gilley also disputed that the money used for the fundraiser came from Dr. Wright. Gilley then told White that it was incorrect to characterize “10 for 10” as a bribe. Gilley had previously said in his own words that it was a bribe.
It was at this point that Gilley began to get angry. Gilley asked if he could give a narrative since Judge Thompson told him not to. Gilley wanted to “explain” because White kept “mischaracterizing” things. Gilley told Thompson it would be best to discuss outside the presence of the jury. Thompson actually dismissed the jury and Gilley went on a 5 minute rant/diatribe that very much sounded like tattling regarding how White was posing questions. Gilley started out, “With all due respect your honor…” then started referencing the “deceptive speech” White “made to the jurors yesterday in regard with…I’m sorry, I just drew a blank about the issue that was at hand yesterday.” White asked that Thompson bring the jurors back in, Gilley interrupted White saying, “I would like the chance to finish your honor.” Gilley talked for several more minutes, the entire time Thompson stared down at his paperwork. When Gilley was finished, Thompson asked Gilley to answer White’s question and he brought the jury back in.
White continued to pose questions about the “10 for 10” event. Money was raised at the event that night for Smith’s campaign, the checks were donated by private citizens or entities other than those owned by Gilley. Gilley told the court that money was not a bribe, “None of those people that came to that event had any idea about what I was doin’." However, Gilley’s entities did write checks for Smith’s campaign totaling between $19,000 and $20,000. White wanted to know where those entities got the money to donate if Gilley was, by his own admission, broke at the time. Gilley maintained that wasn’t Wright’s money even though a wire transfer showed the money going into Gilley’s account before the event. Documents showed that Gilley owned the company that provided the BBQ for the event, a company called Shicky G’s. The documents state that Gilley essentially paid himself $41,000 for the food that night. When asked how many people attended the event, Gilley couldn’t provide a number. Gilley told the court all of the money he spent on the event was an in-kind contribution for Smith’s campaign – only Gilley never filled out any kind of form stating the funds were contributions. Gilley said donations that night accounted for about $50,000. He got up on the stage at the event and said they’d raised approximately $250,000 for Smith’s campaign – Gilley included that amount in the $600,000 he estimated he “bribed” Smith with. But only $50,000 was actually raised, money that shouldn’t be included in the bribe amount since it didn’t come from Gilley. In the overall amount given to Smith, Gilley also includes the money that he paid out to PACs. But Smith never got that money – it’s wasn’t immediately available for her use. White argued that since the money couldn’t have gone to her campaign, it wouldn’t have been a bribe.
At one point, White played a phone call between Sen. Smith and Rep. Lewis. In the call Ben Lewis can be heard saying, “My thing with Ronnie, you know, is the comments he made…Ronnie’s a snake.” Smith told Lewis she thought he was sincere. She told Lewis that when it came to SB 380, he had to do what he thought was best. “If you don’t feel like I do, then don’t vote for it. You got to feel in your heart like I do. If you don't feel in your heart like I do, you don't need to vote for it." Gilley concurred that there was no mention of money by either Lewis or Smith on that call – Gilley told White he didn’t agree with White’s characterization of that call. In that call Lewis called Gilley a crook and a snake. Gilley says he didn’t like that Smith didn’t correct Lewis, but that wasn’t why he was testifying in the trial.
The last bit discussed between White and Gilley was the statement where Gilley told Smith that his support for her was “unconditional.” White asked Gilley if he told her that his support was unconditional, then why did he attach the condition of her vote? White said Smith took Gilley at his “unconditional” statement. Gilley told the court, "I think she knew what the conditions were when she called and asked for money either for her or someone else."White asked, "Did you tell her your support was conditional?" Gilley replied,"I told her a lot of things."
Ron Wise, attorney for Sen. Preuitt was the next to question Gilley.
Wise started off by clarifying that David Mowery wasn’t Preuitt’s campaign manager as Gilley previously stated. Gilley testified in a previous proceeding that he had a telephone conversation with Preuitt on March 2, 2010, which was the day before the BIR vote. Gilley told the court that he had a brief conversation with Preuitt where he asked for support regarding the bingo bill. Gilley had said in the previous trial that he couldn’t remember what they had talked about. When that was brought to his attention, Gilley says he vaguely remembered the substance of the conversation, “There were no inappropriate measures taken on March 2, I am sure of that."
Gilley told the court that no one ever went to buy trucks from Sen. Preuitt, no money was ever paid to Preuitt, no entertainment was ever provided for Preuitt’s campaign. Gilley was asked about the phone call he had with Sen. Preuitt where Preuitt started off the phone call by saying, "Mr. Gilley I don't want your money I finance my own campaign.” Gilley told the court that he didn’t remember that conversation.
The next attorney up was Bill Baxley, representing Tom Coker. Baxley was very gruff with Gilley.
Gilley told Baxley the first time he ever spoke to Tom Coker was around March 22, 2010. The vote for SB 380 was just over a week later. The first time he met Tom Coker in person was when they were arrested. On phone calls that were played for the court Gilley couldn’t remember Coker’s name. On another call, Massey had to call and leave his phone number for Coker since he knew Coker wouldn’t have it – that conversation was just four days for the vote.
Baxley then went to work attacking Gilley’s credibility. Gilley didn’t like that one bit. Baxley re-visited Gilley’s statement where he said he’s never defrauded an investor. Baxley played the conversation where he told an investor, Rick Carter, that they had 24 votes all set for SB 380. Carter was pledging Gilley $2 million in exchange for an interest in Country Crossing. Gilley told Carter about the “votes” so that he would be more likely to lend the money. Gilley told the court today that Sen. Bedford told him the votes were set, not that they had 24 votes. Gilley says there was a very good chance the bill would have been passed suggesting it didn’t matter that he lied to his investor.
Baxley asks very short, to the point, yes or no questions. Gilley kept trying to elaborate on his answers as Judge Thompson had ordered him not to do. Baxley cut Gilley off in the middle of one of his longer answers and asked, “Do you have trouble understanding English?” Gilley very facetiously replied, “Sometimes I do, yes sir.” Gilley continued to get agitated with Baxley. He kept telling the court that Baxley was mischaracterizing things. These were the first real shades of the old Ronnie Gilley coming out. He was combative, argumentative and clearly angry over Baxley’s questioning. It’s important to note that Baxley does have a very rough way of questioning a witness, he’s a former drill sergeant and he runs his questioning the way you would expect a drill sergeant to do.
Baxley played additional conversations where Gilley told an investor that they had the money ready for the Mississippi project – Gilley told the court that they didn’t actually have the cash on hand at that time. In another conversation Gilley told an investor that BamaJam was a “cash producer” and that they were about to get the doors back open to Country Crossing. At the time of that call, BamaJam had lost money for three years running and the investigation into SB 380 had already been made public – Gilley was nowhere near to being able to re-open his facility.
When Baxley finished, Susan James got back up to ask Gilley a line of questions she wasn’t allowed to breach during her cross because of a matter that had to be ruled on by Judge Thompson. James asked Gilley about Beason’s racist remarks yet again. Gilley said they were horrible during previous testimony. Gilley called Beason a “gutless wonder.”
James played a conversation for the court that we hadn’t heard before – it was a conversation between Gilley and a woman named “Dawn.” Gilley called Dawn and she answered, he asked her what she was doing, her response was, “Getting ready to go listen to some n******.” Gilley laughed at that answer, the derogatory term for African-Americans. He then told her, “Sounds like fun.”Gilley told the court he had a major problem dealing with racists after all, that’s what he said about Beason’s racist remarks. The person on the call, “Dawn” was actually Gilley’s sister-in-law. Gilley became enraged at James’ questions. He told the court, "This is a very serious allegation that you've made, Ms. James." Gilley explained that he’s won an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award and he has taken in African-American children who needed help so he could make a difference in their lives. He said he could fill the courthouse with people who could disprove what James had just said. Ronnie Gilley did not like being called a racist. But with that, James’ questioning was finished. One thing that is interesting to note here is that the jury isn’t incredibly racially diverse – 13 members of the jury are African American and 3 are Caucasian.
Prosecutor Kendall Day got up to re-cross Gilley. Day asked why he responded that way to his sister-in-law. Gilley, still incredibly angry, wanted to demonstrate with text messages that he’d had issues with Dawn. Day could tell Gilley was upset and told the court he would go on to a different line of questioning and Gilley couldn’t get back on topic, "Excuse me, but I'm sort of flaming inside right now."
Even after Day finished up his questioning Gilley tried to tell Judge Thompson that the publishing of the “racist remark” transcript to the jury was a private issue for him. Thompson dismissed him and with that, Ronnie Gilley is done on the witness stand for this trial.
Thursday will start off with Lynn Byrd, an accountant still on the payroll for Milton McGregor on the stand. Following Ms. Byrd will be Agent Nathan Langmack who will present toll records to the court, and a Ms. Hamby who we believe is an employee of the Legislative Reference Service.