More Day 15: Concealing Bribery Contract is a First Amendment Right

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Joel I. Gilbert’s defense attorney, Brandon Essig,  argued that the defendants could conceal the contract with bought-and-paid-for defendant Oliver Robinson as a First Amendment right.

Essig for the most part attempted to put Oliver Robinson and the Oliver Robinson Foundation on trial today, trying to shred Robinson’s credibility as a witness.

Covering the closing arguments by Gilbert’s defense attorney, Kyle Whitmire of AL.com tweets:

Essig now arguing that lack of disclosure is a First Amendment issue — that it was their right to hide Robinson’s contract with Balch and Drummond.

Essig calls Robinson the most business-friendly Democrat in Alabama, argues that he was the logical person for them to reach out to. Robinson hosted a gala for black business leaders, which Essig says he funneled money out of into his own pocket — a fraud on the sponsors.

Essig points out moment in Robinson’s testimony where he said he never gave defendants any reason to believe that he personally was taking money out of the Oliver Robinson Foundation. (A strong point for the defense.)

Essig now talking about the meeting Gilbert had with Balch government affairs lawyer Chad Pilcher in Dec 2014 — a meeting about ethics law compliance. Essig says the meeting is evidence that Gilbert was acting in good faith.

Essig says defendants weren’t co-conspirators of Oliver Robinson. Instead, they were victims of Oliver Robinson. Essig points out Robinson and Powe side plan to administer a settlement between polluters and EPA. You can’t conspire with someone you don’t know is a crook.”

[We interject this commentary: Anyone can conspire with anyone; crooks or a nun can conspire with the mob or a law firm. Add an NDA and attorney-client privilege to seal the deal.]

The whole time Essig is speaking, he has two huge posterboards on easels. One [is] of the Oliver Robinson Foundation’s tax forms showing other companies paying into the foundation, and the other is of corporate logos of all the companies that sponsored ORF events.

Essig using the end of his closing to drop in as many times as he can that Gilbert has small children. Says that Gilbert had a lot going on in 2014/2015, including a one-year-old daughter at home.

Essig calls the United States government the most powerful human organization in the universe. Essig telling jurors they are peers of Joel Gilbert and that they should hold their government accountable.

The closing arguments conclude tomorrow with Roberson’s defense team followed by the government’s rebuttal.