DOJ investigating Strange?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 26, 2014


There is speculation in some state political circles this week that the U. S. Justice Department is investigating several Alabama officials, including the attorney general and even the Supreme Court of Alabama for attempting to close legal bingo gaming establishments in Greene and Macon Counties.

The Supreme Court overturned a unanimous opinion of the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to close VictoryLand in Macon County. Will they do the same for other gaming establishments in the state?

Greene County Sheriff Joe Benison has given that county’s gaming establishments the go-ahead to resume operating electronic bingo machines. The establishments there, except GreenTrack, rushed to reopen over the past weekend and will likely seek the return of 1,072 machines and $312,946 in cash Strange seized in recent raids. GreenTrack was able to remove machines and money before Strange arrived.

I have learned that a Justice Department official was in Greene County last week listening to complaints from local officials and citizens about Strange’s actions and to investigate whether or not voting rights were violated. “The meeting went well,” according to Charlanna Spencer, a Montgomery attorney who represents GreenTrack. “I gave them an overview of the issues and other citizens and community leaders discussed the impact on their voting rights.

As in Macon County, where gaming at VictoryLand was also shut down by Strange, officials there believe their constitutional authorization for electronic bingo is even stronger than in Greene County. VictoryLand, however, remains closed.

“The Constitution of Alabama is the highest legal authority in our state, and this document empowers the sheriff, and the sheriff alone, to interpret and enforce laws regarding bingo in Greene County,” said Flint Liddon, a Birmingham attorney who represents the sheriff.

Strange declined to comment on Lidddon’s statement.

Luther W. “Nat Winn, president and CEO of Greentrack, says he “wants to expose what the governor, the attorney general and The Alabama Supreme Court are doing in terms of completely ignoring the voters of Greene County.

In the most recent raids, according to documents filed by the attorney general’s office, authorities seized 149 machines and $191,249 from Frontier Bingo during the most recent raid; 330 machines and $4,878 from Greene Charity and 593 machines and $116,819 from River’s Edge.

My take from all of this is that the bingo establishments must feel pretty comfortable that Big Luther will not be back. I wouldn’t be that confident.


Alabama prisons are time bombs

Alabama prisons are bombs waiting to explode and that fact is being exposed this week in a series of articles produced by the staff of, the web site of The Birmingham News, The Mobile Register and The Huntsville Times.

The series portrays a prison system that will likely be taken over by the federal government. Some of the things the inquiry found included:

We have not pursued federal reimbursements for prisoners through Medicaid and keep paying prison health care costs as neighboring states shift millions to the feds.

We have a system in which prison medical care guidelines are on the low end of the scale. We provide what is generally known as constitutionally adequate care. One of the stories reports that corrections staff ignored one female prisoner’s heart problems, suggesting she suck on ice chips to get better. She died.

Alabama spent $102 million on care for prison inmates in FY2012, reduced that amount to $90 million in FY2013.

An Alabama inmate who doesn’t have a lawyer faces significant hurdles in bringing a claim of inadequate medical care to court. And last year the Legislature made it more difficult for an inmate to sue.

Then, as I have previously reported, there is the sexual abuse at Tutwiler, the state’s prison for women. Running the prisons in a constitutional manner is not a discretionary expenditure for the state. Gov. Bentley and state lawmakers must take the responsibility of ensuring adequate funding for this responsibility.


Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: