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Defendant in Alabama corruption case found dead on eve of retrial

January 30, 2012 |  7:34 am

One of seven defendants facing retrial in a high-profile federal gambling and corruption case in Alabama was found dead in his home Sunday on the eve of new court proceedings, with police offering few details about the cause

On the eve of a retrial in a gambling and corruption case that has engulfed Alabama's political class, one of the defendants has been found dead in his home, with police providing few clues as to the cause.

Joseph "Ray" Crosby, an analyst with the state's Legislative Reference Service, was one of seven defendants scheduled to be retried in the case Monday. Late Sunday evening, he was found dead at his home, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. The Montgomery Police Department told the paper that the "cause and manner of death are currently under investigation."

It was unclear exactly what the news would mean for the vote-buying case, which has been front-page news in Alabama for more than a year. Crosby was scheduled to appear in federal court to be tried on corruption charges, along with Milton McGregor, the owner of a greyhound racetrack and casino called VictoryLand, and five other people, including two former state senators and a current senator, the Birmingham News reported.

Prosecutors allege that the defendants either offered or accepted bribes in an effort to pass a 2010 gambling bill that would have allowed casinos such as VictoryLand to continue to operate electronic bingo machines similar to slot machines.

Reporter Sebastian Kitchen of the Advertiser reported that Crosby went through a "messy divorce" as his legal troubles unfolded.

In August, after a 10-week trial, a jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision on a bribery charge against Crosby. Jurors also failed to return convictions against any of the other defendants.

Prosecutors alleged that Crosby had illegally taken checks from the casino owner in exchange for crafting the bill. But Kitchen reported that defense attorneys showed during the trial that Crosby had drafted legislation that would have "financially devastated" McGregor.


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Photo: Electronic bingo machines are at the heart of a gambling and corruption case in Alabama. Here, a woman plays an electronic bingo game in Sacramento. Credit: Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times