Bribery Trial Guilty Verdict Sends Message Through Alabama Politics

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ABC Coke, a subsidiary of Drummond, is among the industries thought to be a source of soil contamination in around north Birmingham.

Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, WBHM

Alabama’s latest corruption trial ended Friday with guilty verdicts. A jury on convicted attorney Joel Gilbert, formerly of the firm Balch and Bingham, and David Roberson, an executive with coal company Drummond, of bribing a state lawmaker. Prosecutors say the two paid former State Representative Oliver Robinson to help fight expansion of a toxic cleanup site around north Birmingham. Drummond would have been responsible for some costs if that happened. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager discussed to the verdict with Alabama Media Group columnist John Archibald.

Interview Highlights

How he reacted to the verdict:

“It was a little astonishing, honestly, because it sends such a message really. This is the sort of thing that many looked at as business as usual sometimes. It probably wouldn’t have come to trial if Oliver Robinson hadn’t been caught up in more crimes involving tax evasion. And if a couple of people on both sides hadn’t written it down in places where this was visible, it would have gone under the radar.”

On who else deserves scrutiny following details revealed in the trail:

“A lot of people do…There was testimony that the head of the [Birmingham] NAACP, the [Jefferson County chief] deputy tax assessor had involvement on one end. Everyone who contributed to Robison’s foundation in other forms, the biggest businesses in Alabama…at least have some connection to this. That of course was used as a defense for him to say he was legitimate. What we see here is that across the state all of the powers that are involved in this sort of activity just need to be looked at.”

How this trial differed from other corruption trials:

“The focus of this trial was not the public official. The focus of this trial was the mechanism that allows that sort of bribery to continue always. And we characterized bribery as something different than we have in the past. It doesn’t have to be an envelope full of money.”

Andrew Yeager

Andrew Yeager