A federal judge accused two state Republicans, called by federal prosecutors in a massive Alabama corruption case, of cooperating with the feds because of their “ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias.”
State Sen. Scott Beason and former Rep. Benjamin Lewis, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson wrote, “lack credibility for two reasons.”
“First, their motive for cooperating with F.B.I. investigators was not to clean up corruption but to increase Republican political fortunes by reducing African-American voter turnout. Second, they lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent,” Thompson wrote.
The judge’s order, first reported by Birmingham News, continued:
Beason, Lewis, and their political allies sought to defeat SB380 partly because they believed the absence of the referendum on the ballot would lower African-American voter turnout during the 2010 elections. One of the government’s recordings captured Beason and Lewis discussing political strategy with other influential Republican legislative allies. A confederate warned: “Just keep in mind if [a pro-gambling] bill passes and we have a referendum in November, every black in this state will be bused to the polls. And that ain’t gonna help.”
Thompson also brought up Beason’s reference, while wearing an FBI wire, to African-Americans as “aborigines” (a comment he later apologized for).
“The court finds that Beason and Lewis cooperated with the F.B.I. in order to secure political advantage. The evidence at trial showed that black communities in Alabama tend to support electronic bingo. The evidence further demonstrated that black voters tend to be Democrats,” Thompson said. “Indeed, Beason’s and Lewis’s scheme was predicated on their belief that blacks supported electronic bingo and Democratic candidates.”
Thompson continued: “It is, perhaps, unsurprising that politicians have political motives to disrupt and defeat legislation advanced by opponents. But Beason, Lewis, and other influential Republican politicians did not target Democrats generally in their opposition to SB380; they plainly singled out African-Americans for mockery and racist abuse.”
“Beason’s and Lewis’s statements demonstrate a deepseated racial animus and a desire to suppress black votes by manipulating what issues appeared on the 2010 ballot,” Thompson said. “Lawmakers who harbor such sentiments lack the integrity expected from elected officials.”
Thompson also dismissed the Justice Department’s contention that “the issue of racism is irrelevant to the crimes alleged in the indictment” because Thompson said “the issues of motive and bias are directly relevant to evaluating the credibility of the government’s cooperating witnesses.”
There is “no indication whatsoever that the prosecutors in this case condoned or shared any of the biases of their cooperating witnesses,” Thompson said. “But eliminating bribery will treat only one symptom of political corruption in this State. To cure the larger disease, it is essential to address with equal force the politics of racial prejudice and exclusion.”
Despite all of his criticism, Thompson ruled in favor the federal prosecutors, finding that statements of alleged co-conspirators could be admitted at an upcoming trial.
Reached by TPM, a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment because the case is pending.