Alabama state Sen. Scott Beason, a cooperating witness in a federal corruption case, called black gambling hall customers “aborigines” when he was wearing an FBI wire and recording conversations with his fellow lawmakers, it was revealed in court this week.
Beason and two other Republican legislators were joking about economic development in predominantly black Greene County and the customers of the Greenetrack casino, the Associated Press reports.“That’s y’all’s Indians,” one Republican said.
“They’re aborigines, but they’re not Indians,” replied Beason.
The transcript was read Wednesday in the federal trial of casino owner Milton McGregor.
The Justice Department indicted eleven defendants, including McGregor, in a massive bingo bribery probe back in October. Feds charged that the four current and former state legislators, three lobbyists and two businessmen with casino interests were part of a conspiracy to influence pro-bribery legislation. Some defendants, including McGregor’s lobbyist, have plead guilty. McGregor’s trial got underway last week.
In another recorded conversation, Beason — who cooperated with the feds’ investigation and has not been charged — agreed with other Republican legislators who said that there would be a big turnout of black voters if bingo was on the ballot because casino owners would offer free buffets and gambling credits to lure African-American customers and then bus them to the polls.
Bobby Segall, a defense attorney for indicted casino owner Milton McGregor, pressed Beason on cross examination about his “aborigines” comment. Beason said he did not remember recording the conversation, but didn’t dispute its accuracy, the AP said. It wasn’t clear from press reports when precisely the recordings were made, but they likely came in 2010 ahead of the ballot measure.
Beason had previously testified for the feds that state Sen. Harri Ann Smith, a Republican-turned-independent, said he could get $500,000 in campaign funds from gambling interests if he supported pro-gambling legislation. Smith called his comments “disgusting and inexcusable” and called on him to resign, said the AP.
This isn’t the first time Beason’s mouth has gotten him in trouble. Back in February, Beason said that Republicans need to “empty the clip, and do what has to be done” to combat illegal immigration.
One theory McGregor’s defense team is exploring is that Beason only cooperated with the FBI for political reasons, the Dothan Eagle reports:
The defense asserts they wanted a Republican takeover of the Legislature and they wanted to keep a gambling referendum off the statewide ballot in November because they thought it would bring more black people to the polls.
Full coverage of the bingo bribery corruption probe here.