Defense continues questioning first witness in bribery trial of former AL Rep. Oliver Robinson

Defense continues questioning first witness in bribery trial of former AL Rep. Oliver Robinson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala (AP) - On Thursday, the defense will continue questioning the first witness in the federal bribery trial involving former State Representative Oliver Robinson.

Late Wednesday afternoon, prosecutors finished questioning the Chief Operating Officer for the law firm Balch and Bingham.

Two attorneys at the firm, Joel Gilbert and Steve McKinney, as well as Drummond Executive, David Roberson, are charged with bribing Robinson to influence a chemical cleanup in North Birmingham, which was designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Super Fund Site.

During Wednesday's testimony, prosecutors presented emails that showed Robinson forwarded information he got from the EPA and the environmental group GASP to Gilbert.

Prosecutors say Robinson got the information after separate meetings with the two organizations. Emails also show that Robinson forwarded audio recordings of those meetings.

The government claims Robinson gave the impression to the EPA and GASP that he wanted to representative the community but was actually working for the attorneys and Drummond.

Balch and Bingham's Operating Officer, David Miceli, testified Wednesday about payments made to The Oliver Robinson Foundation.

IRS 1099 forms from 2015 and 2016 show the foundation received $375,000.00 over the two years. Miceli testified that he did not know the foundation was run by a politician when the payments were set up in early 2015.

Miceli said he learned seven months later after googling Robinson's name. He testified he talked with Gilbert about the payments. After that conversation he still had questions, so Miceli then went to two partners in the firm.

Prosecutors have said those payments to the foundation were for Robinson to lobby state and federal environmental agencies.

They claim Gilbert, McKinney and Roberson were trying to limit the cost of cleaning up chemicals from ABC Coke in North Birmingham. ABC Coke was owned by Drummond. They also wanted to stop the Super Fund Site from being expanded into Tarrant.

Prosecutors also presented emails from Balch and Bingham to Drummond that showed the foundation's name was removed from invoices and changed to "general government affairs work."

Miceli said that is not a common occurrence.

During defense attorneys' opening statements on Tuesday, they seized on the fact that Robinson agreed to a plea deal with the government.

Roberson's lawyer called Robinson a cheater and a liar. Gilbert's attorney said Robinson's contract dictated that he must follow the law, and Balch and Bingham expected him to do just that.

He said Robinson was lobbying for one person, and that was himself. He claimed Robinson thought he could make a lot of money off the chemical cleanup. McKinney's attorney said of the 1,700,000 government documents that are part of this case, none of them show his client ever telling Robinson what to say or do.

All three defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

As part of his plea deal with the government, Robinson is expected to testify for the prosecution.

Testimony in the trial resumes on Thursday at 9 a.m.

Copyright 2018 WBRC. All rights reserved.