Reality met at a heavy cost

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The image was terrible.  The reality was terrible.  However, the two were not meeting.

The image was of mass corruption.  The indictments were massive and many:  126 charges ranging from bribery to conspiracy to money laundering to honest services fraud to aiding and abetting, and so on.  The details were graphic and awful: votes being bought and sold in the Alabama Legislature with millions of dollars in cash, sales of autos, services and support.  All to pass a gambling bill.

The proof appeared irrefutable:  numerous recorded telephone calls of corrupt deals being struck.  And someone who was part of the corruption now verifying the lawlessness.  There seemed no way these things did not happen.  The very words of those charged would surely convict them.  The image was really terrible.

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The lives of those charged were turned upside down.  Others steered clear of them.  Close relationships were altered, some leading to divorce.  Friendships were aborted.  Longstanding livelihoods came to a screeching halt.  No work and no income for some.  Greatly reduced income for others.  Great expenditure for lawyers.  The reality was truly terrible.

But when the trials came, it was a different story.  There were some 12,000 intercepted phone conversations.  However, not one proved a single one of the 126 charges.

At best, words and phrases taken from whole conversations created surmise, suspicion and supposition.  However, the proof just wasn’t there as required in trials.  The reality was really terrible. The jurors began their deliberations.  People from all walks of life waited on pins and needles.

Would the jury convict all out of a sense that so much smoke proved the existence of fire?   Then the verdicts came.  The jury found not guilty on 91 charges.  They hung up on 33.  Two charges had already been dismissed by the judge.  There was not a single conviction of any defendant on even one charge.  Zero!  Unofficial reports said the jurors were 8-4 or 9-3 for dismissing all charges against all defendants.  It was a massive defeat for the government.   Terrible image and terrible reality had finally met.  And terrible reality prevailed but only at a terrible cost.