“I’m sorry, I’m wrong and I plead guilty…” with those words Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley gained his freedom for the first time in more than two months Friday. However, by 8am Saturday morning, he is to be back at the Montgomery City jail. And he may remain a prisoner after that for decades.
The judge let him go after the plea hearing to be with his son who was having surgery Friday. Monday there will be another hearing to decide if he will remain free until he is sentenced in November or if he will go straight to prison.
Gilley’s new attorney David Harrison said his client was devastated by all he faced. He said his initial intentions were forthright and Gilley became consumed by the political pressures that surrounded him.
Gilley pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, six counts bribery and four counts of money laundering. That is half of the charges he faced in the 39-count indictment charging all 11 defendants last October.
The plea agreement stresses that of the prosecutors feel he doesn’t deliver on his end of the bargain, could face the maximum sentencing on each count totaling 145 years in prison and almost $4-million in fines when he is sentenced in November. He has also agreed to forfeit $200,000 as part of the money laundering charge.
The prosecutors say if he cooperates they will recommend the judge not go for the maximum sentence. It is expected he could face between 20 and 30 years in prison.
The agreement says, among other things:
– He cannot back out of the agreement;
– He must provide whatever documents they want;
– He will act as an agent to try and develop evidence against others the prosecutors think were involved in the case, and;
– He waives his right to counsel while he talks to law enforcement and the prosecutors.
He told the judge he entered the political arena somewhat naive and everyone there was out for personal gain. The guilty plea brings with it a possible forfeiture of property and no possibility of parole.
“He participated in a wide-ranging scheme to bribe state legislators into supporting a law that would fatten his wallet,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer.
Gilley becomes the third person to plead guilty in the gambling probe, involving four current and former lawmakers, Victoryland owner Milton McGregor and other.
Trial for the remaining nine defendants is scheduled to begin on June 6, 2011, before U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.
McGregor’s attorney Joe Espy says his client is innocent and he’s still looking forward to proving it. He says Gilley was under pressure to sign the plea deal being in jail with a sick wife, injured son and financially depleted. Espy says the government took advantage of his misfortune and pressured him to make a deal.