Sunday, April 18, 2021

Longtime Balch attorney, Drummond exec found guilty in bribery case

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A jury has found longtime Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and Drummond Co. executive David Lynn Roberson guilty in a public corruption case involving the bribery of former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson.

The pair was found guilty on all six counts, which included conspiracy, bribery, three counts of honest services wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy.

They were indicted last year on charges that they provided Robinson with a valuable and confidential consulting contract in exchange for his taking official action favorable to Balch and Drummond with regard to the EPA’s potential expansion of a Superfund site in North Birmingham. A third defendant, Balch & Bingham attorney Steven George McKinney, was dismissed from the case earlier this week after an FBI agent testified she may have misled the grand jury by implying that McKinney personally met with Robinson.

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Robinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy, bribery and honest services wire fraud in 2017 and was a witness for the prosecution in the case.

According to a statement from Balch & Bingham Managing Partner Stan Blanton, Gilbert is no longer a partner or employee at the law firm, which is one of Birmingham’s largest.

Here is the full statement from Blanton:

“We respect the trial process and the jury’s verdict. The jury determined that Joel Gilbert engaged in conduct that is contrary to the standards to which each of us at Balch & Bingham is committed and expected to uphold. Although our firm was not a party to the case, I and the rest of our partners, associates and staff are deeply disappointed in any conduct that does not adhere to our commitment to the rule of law and to the communities in which we are fortunate to live and work. We all greatly value the trust our clients place in us and have redoubled our efforts to earn that trust. Mr. Gilbert is no longer a partner with or employed by Balch & Bingham.”

Drummond & Co. also released a statement following the decision:

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“We are disappointed by the jury’s decision to convict our employee, David Roberson. While we respect the judicial process, we consider David to be a man of integrity who would not knowingly engage in wrongdoing. When an environmentalist group raised allegations regarding our operations in the Birmingham area, Drummond responded by hiring one of Alabama’s most well-respected environmental law firms. As testimony in the trial showed, we were assured the firm’s community outreach efforts on our behalf were legal and proper.”

Prosecutors said Gilbert and Roberson formed a tax-exempt corporation named Alliance for Jobs and Economy and recruited corporations to contribute money to it to help fund opposition to EPA’s actions in North Birmingham. Roberson opened and controlled AJE’s bank account. During 2015 and 2016, Drummond and four other corporations contributed a total of $195,000 to AJE, according to the indictment, and Gilbert and Roberson directed almost all of that money to the Oliver Robinson Foundation. The indictment states Gilbert and Roberson also directed more than $150,000 from Drummond to the Oliver Robinson Foundation. In total, the Oliver Robinson Foundation received approximately $360,000 under the contract during 2015 and 2016.

The maximum penalty for conspiracy is five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for bribery is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The maximum penalty for honest services wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and the maximum penalty for money laundering conspiracy is 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction.

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