In Alabama Macon County Judge Tom Young turned down a request by the attorney general’s office that he recuse himself from a forfeiture case involving over 1,000 electronic bingo machines seized during a February raid at VictoryLand casino. Young made his decision after hearing from lawyers for both sides of the case. Attorney General Luther Strange’s office has accused Young of being ‘prejudiced’ against their bogus case against VictoryLand. Young refused to sign a search warrant due to insufficient evidence until ordered to do so by the state’s Supreme Court. Legal observers say that Strange’s move was unprecedented and shows the lengths he will go to in pursuing his vendetta against bingo in the state.
The hearing lasted 25 minutes and after listening to lawyers Young said he had made thousands of rulings during the past 13 years and only five “have been disturbed by an appellate court at all.” Young added “No reasonable person could determine that I could not be fair in this case.” Young then read his statement. Young said that decisions on recusal should reassure the public about impartiality and should reflect “the need to prevent parties from too easily obtaining the disqualification of a judge, thereby potentially manipulating the system for strategic purposes, perhaps to obtain a judge more to their liking.”
Joe Espy, the lawyer for VictoryLand casino applauded Young’s decision. Espy told reporters “It was clear if you look at the papers that were filed that the papers and the law supported our facts and our position. And I’m very appreciative that he had the courage to follow the law and the facts, and that’s all we’ve ever asked any judge to do.” The legal brouhaha started after Young refused to sign a bogus search warrant sought by Strange and his minions. When the Supreme Court ordered Young to sign he said in a handwritten note he was signing with “the greatest judicial reluctance.” Young also said “I turned down the search warrant because I thought there was insufficient evidence.”
Deputy Attorney General and Strange’s minion Sonny Reagan said that no decision has been reached whether to appeal Young’s decision. Reagan stated “We’re very anxious to try this case in Macon County. So we would like to get on with the trial after we evaluate our courses of action after today on this recusal matter.” Given the fact that Strange’s actions have put 600 Macon County residents out of work he may want to reconsider that decision to try the case locally. The courtroom was crowded and many outside the courthouse carried signs supporting VictoryLand. Willie Patterson of Tuskegee said he worked at the casino and hotel from 2007 to 2010 when VictoryLand closed because of Strange’s vendetta against electronic bingo. Patterson sand the casino jobs are needed in the area. Patterson said “I would like to see us back in full operation.”