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Friday, January 29, 2010

Riley, King spar over attempted raids


Two of the state's top elected officials sparred Friday over attempted raids on two casinos by a task force assembled by the governor.
Attorney General Troy King, in a letter hand delivered to the governor's office on Friday morning, wrote that he thought the actions of Gov. Bob Riley's Task Force on Illegal Gambling exposed the state to liability and that the situation could be resolved through the judicial system. The state's top law enforcement official also expressed concerns about the task force disregarding private property rights and due process.
Riley, in his response, wrote that he was "deeply disappointed that you continue to show more concern for the casino bosses in Alabama than for the enforcement of the law by dedicated law enforcement officials."
The governor accused King of "parroting the talking points of the gambling bosses."
King, soon after news of the attempted raids on VictoryLand in Macon County and Country Crossing near Dothan, advised the governor to use "caution in your approach." He said it is his constitutional duty to offer legal advice to the state and its officers.
"Regrettably, today's actions continue to escalate matters after weeks of news stories reporting on the public feud between you and the operators who were targeted this morning, about the discrediting and resigning of your first task force commander, and about the revelations of the large gambling contributions your new task force commander has taken from the competitors of those you raided," King wrote.
"Now, apparently, you have sent hundreds of Alabama state troopers, without a search warrant, onto private property at multiple locations. As I presume you know, (since your past actions have been taken under the cover and protection offered by a search warrant), the lack of a search warrant will shift the burden of proving probable cause to you."
Riley said the caution King urged would allow gambling interests to continue to flout the rule of law. He said the attorney general had no appreciation for the many hours of investigation undertaken before Friday's actions.
King also wrote that, along with the disregard for private property rights and due process, he is concerned that the actions are exposing the state's taxpayers, the commander, the directors of public safety and the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and Riley himself to liability.
"While your personal exposure is not my professional responsibility, you do remain my friend," King wrote. "However, the protection of the state treasury is my responsibility."
Riley and King have a longstanding disagreement over whether electronic bingo is legal in Alabama. Riley formed the task force in late 2008 to combat illegal gambling in the state and appointed former Jefferson County District Attorney David Barber as the commander.
Barber resigned Jan. 13 after winning $2,300 at a legal Indian casino in Mississippi. Riley appointed Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson, a Democrat, as commander on Monday.
Riley and King are both Republicans and the governor appointed King to his current position in 2004.
The attorney general wrote that he has advised Riley before and again even more strongly advised him now "to take the most civil and orderly way to proceed while respecting the legal process. I again urge you to file and litigate a declaratory judgment action which will develop the facts which can then be placed before the Alabama Supreme Court."
He wrote that the "current course could disadvantage the state if it places these matters in front of judges whose criminal court rulings are unappealable by the state."
King, in his closing, wrote that he thought the best course was for people to vote to resolve the issue over the legality of gambling.
Riley wrote that the people of Alabama have already expressed their will.
"Rather than concern yourself with efforts to change the law, I suggest that your time would be better spent enforcing the law as written," the governor wrote. "That is what the people elected you to do."
Chris Bence, chief of staff for King, said the letter was not sent out in mass to the media, but only to the outlets that requested it.
Riley, on the other hand, responded with a letter sent to state media.
He said he was puzzled why King was not more concerned about the "lawless action of the circuit judge in Macon County who enjoined an ongoing criminal operation notwithstanding that the Alabama Supreme Court ruled just two weeks ago that circuit judges have no jurisdiction to do that."
Riley said opinions by the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday and in November reiterate that bingo must be played by people, not machines, and that people must physically mark their cards. "Without any shadow of a doubt, every machine at Country Crossing, and every machine at VictoryLand, makes those determinations for the player," Riley wrote. "Therefore, those machines are simply not legal under any bingo amendment."
Mentioning an opinion by King, Riley said the Alabama Supreme Court has ruled two times in three months "that you were wrong."
"While you might prefer declaratory judgment actions that will take months to resolve while the gambling bosses continue to rake in illegal profits, there is no stronger declaration than the one made by our supreme court," Riley wrote.
Bence also emphasized that the task force was operating without any communication with King, the top law enforcement officer in the state.
"We are not a part of the task force and we were not invited to be in it," Bence said. "He purposely excluded us. We have no connection with the task force and do not know what its activities are. However, as attorney general, Troy King does have the obligation of informing the governor, which we are doing by letter, of our concerns about the process."

-- posted by Sebastian Kitchen

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January 31, 2010 at 12:50 AM  

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South Union Street is the blog of Montgomery Advertiser political reporters Markeshia Ricks and Sebastian Kitchen. Always check here for the latest on the Legislature, elections and other activities and players in Alabama.

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