North Birmingham Bribery Case

Day 5: Balch Ghost Writers and Bad Legal Advice

Casper does look a little bit like Joel Gilbert, but at least Casper is smiling. Casper didn’t earn $365 an hour to suppress African-Americans from testing their toxic property in North Birmingham.

Today in the criminal trial it was a tough day for defendant Gilbert as it was revealed according to courthouse reports that Balch had ghost written numerous letters against the North Birmingham EPA clean-up site.

Politicians lining up to sign the ghost letters included then-U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, U.S. Congressman Gary Palmer, and numerous other local politicians and board members.

According to a tweet by Kyle Whitmire of AL.com, a now-retired EPA witness “testifies that letters to EPA from governor, Alabama AG, state and federal lawmakers all had similar verbiage.”

Earlier in the day, two prominent CEOs testified of their involvement in the Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE), the entity that funneled $360,000 in alleged bribes to former State Representative Oliver Robinson.

Both CEOS appear to have been assured the efforts by AJE were legal, but now appear to understand the scheme wasn’t as it appeared

Mike Tracy, CEO of Drummond, testified, and  AL.com reports:

The CEO said he met with Roberson, Gilbert, and a Drummond attorney to talk about a public relations plan, and Gilbert suggested they hire the Oliver Robinson Foundation to talk with north Birmingham residents and represent their interests. Gilbert said the foundation was run by Robinson’s daughter, Amanda. “I asked, ‘is this legal and is this ethical,'” Tracy told prosecutors. He said Gilbert assured Tracy the issue had been cleared by lawyers in the Balch office, and everything was fine.

AL.com reports than Van Richey, CEO of American Cast Iron Pipe Company (ACIPCO) testified as well.

Richey believed the purpose of his AJE dues– $30,000 a year–were to be used for community outreach, scientific research, and legal help, Richey said. He did believe the group would hire a consultant at some point, but he didn’t know they had hired the Oliver Robinson Foundation. “Now, sitting here today, I might have done something differently,” Richey said. “I’d have contacted my lawyers.”


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