The Associated Press June 16, 2011, 10:10AM ET

Senator in Ala. probe called blacks 'aborigines'

A state senator who recorded conversations for the FBI in Alabama's gambling corruption probe called black customers of a gambling hall "aborigines" during one taped conversation.

A defense attorney for indicted casino owner Milton McGregor presented a transcript in court Wednesday from a recorded conversation that Republican Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale had with two other GOP legislators. The three were joking about economic development in predominantly black Greene County and the customers at one of the county's largest employers, the Greenetrack casino in Eutaw.

"That's y'all's Indians," one Republican said.

"They're aborigines, but they're not Indians," Beason replied.

When quizzed by defense lawyer Bobby Segall, Beason said he didn't recall recording the conversation, but he didn't dispute its accuracy.

The transcript came on Beason's third day on the witness stand as defense lawyers sought to discredit his testimony that gambling operators, including McGregor, offered him $1 million a year to support a proposed constitutional amendment to protect their electronic bingo casinos. He will return to the witness stand Thursday.

In Beason's testimony Tuesday, he told the jury, "I'd rather be anywhere than here. This is not helping me politically."

After court ended Wednesday, one of the nine defendants, independent state Sen. Harri Ann Smith of Slocomb, labeled Beason's remarks "disgusting and inexcusable."

"He needs to resign. I would think the Republic caucus would ask for his resignation," said Smith, a former Republican who employed Beason as a political consultant in 2008.

During court Wednesday, McGregor's legal team presented a transcript of another recorded conversation in which Beason spoke with a group of Republican legislators about what would happen if the Legislature passed electronic bingo legislation and put it before voters in the election in November 2010.

Some said there would be a big turnout by black voters because casino owners would offer free buffets and gambling credits to attract black customers and then bus them to the polls.

"That's right. That's right," Beason said in the transcript.

McGregor's attorney asked Beason if that showed disdain for black customers who frequent casinos.

"I don't have disdain for anyone," Beason replied.

The transcripts came one day after Beason acknowledged in court that he had urged Republicans to support a black legislator, Yvonne Kennedy of Mobile, for speaker of the House because he considered her unorganized and unable to raise political contributions from the business community. He said he did that because he thought it would help Republicans in the long run, but his GOP colleagues didn't agree.

A jury of six blacks and six whites is hearing evidence in the trial of McGregor and eight others accused of buying and selling votes on the pro-gambling legislation. Several took notes about the Beason transcripts.

Other defense attorneys also sought to attack Beason's testimony.

On Monday, Beason testified that Smith told him told him that he could get $500,000 in campaign funds from gambling interests if he supported pro-gambling legislation.

Under questioning Wednesday by Smith's attorney, Beason said he did not record that conversation in 2009. Beason said the conversation happened about six weeks before he started helping the FBI by recording conversations.

Smith's defense attorney, Jim Parkman, asked Beason if he heard Smith say anything later about campaign contributions while he was making recordings. Beason said no.

Outside the courtroom, Smith told reporters that she never talked to Beason about campaign funds from gambling supporters.

"It didn't happen," she said.


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