Authorities on the scene of the raided Victoryland Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013.
Handwritten note from judge explaining why he was signing the warrant with which he disagreed.
Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford speaks with the media. He went to the Governor's office but was turned away.
SHORTER, AL (WSFA) -
A search warrant was served Tuesday at the VictoryLand casino in Shorter, Ala. by law enforcement agents from the Alabama Attorney General's Office and the Alabama Department of Public Safety.
According to the AG's office the law enforcement action was taken in response to illegal gambling operations. "Today's actions are the culmination of an investigative process over the last several months," said Attorney General Strange. "From my first day in office, I have worked to ensure that illegal gambling laws are enforced consistently across the state."
Joe Espy, III, who represents Victoryland and its president, Milton McGregor, released a statement saying "We know what motivates them. The question now is who will have the courage to stop them." Espy promised a fight, saying regardless of one's stance on legal gaming, "this is a sad day for Alabama."
In what appears to be a related event, Attorney General Strange also filed a lawsuit in an Elmore County circuit court Tuesday morning to stop the operation of slot machines at casinos owned by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Governor Bentley said he learned of the Creek Indian lawsuit Tuesday and said he agrees with the attorney general's determination that Native Americans cannot operate gaming machines is others cannot. Espy called the lawsuit a "smokescreen" and a waste of taxpayer money.
The Victoryland search warrant was signed by Alabama Circuit Court Judge Tom Young and was dated on February 16, 2013. In signing the warrant, Judge Young wrote that while he did not believe there was sufficient probable cause for filing the warrant in this hearing, as he says he also ruled a month ago, he had no choice but to sign it after receiving a writ of mandamus from the Alabama Supreme Court. The Supreme Court effectively ordered the lower court to sign the warrant.
"This Court will, as always, follow the mandates of the Supreme Court," Judge Young wrote, "although, it does so with the greatest judicial reluctance."
VICTORYLAND VS. STATE
This is not the first time Victoryland has been the target of a state raid. In January 2010, Milton McGregor thwarted a raid on his property after obtaining a restraining order.
In August 2010, Victoryland voluntarily surrendered its liquor license and closed its doors to prevent a raid during the administration of former Governor Bob Riley, who effectively managed to close every major non-Indian casino in the state through his Task Force on Illegal Gambling.
Gambling machine manufacturers removed their machines from Victoryland in 2011. But the casino reopened in December 2012 with electronic bingo machines that Victoryland said were legal. State law enforcement agents say they're not legal.
Victoryland does not own the machines in question; it only rents them from manufactures. In December, just prior to reopening, it allowed members of the media to view the machines, which gaming industry experts said passed 60 diagnostic tests that proved it was in compliance with the 2003 Macon County amendment that allowed such machines. Even Macon County Sheriff David Warren gave the machines a 'green light'.
All the tests did nothing to sway the attorney general's office regarding their legality.
"My office worked to try to resolve this matter with minimal controversy," said Attorney General Strange. "Unfortunately, the VictoryLand casino was operating in open defiance of the rule of law and we have been left with no alternative but to treat this as we would any other law enforcement matter."
The search warrant culminated in the seizure of several hundred gambling machines and an undisclosed amount of cash from VictoryLand. The machines, along with the seized money, will be held as evidence and will be subject to a forfeiture procedure in the Circuit Court of Macon County. At least 7 large moving trucks were brought to the property to remove the machines.
Residents in rural, poor Macon County have come to expect the fight between the state and the county's largest employer. When asked, most had the same reaction as Daphne Pollard. "Here we go again," she said. "I don't even know what to say," she sighed.
Pollard, a native Shorter resident, doesn't think her community can catch a break. She's always seen Victoryland as "a way of life." With many of her own family and friends as longtime Victoryland employees, Pollard was even thinking about opening her own business nearby to cater to the workers. "My sister and I, we were actually intending on bringing a daycare here for the workers that worked overnight."
Mayor Willie Mae Powell, realizing the tug-of-war between the State and Victoryland creates inconsistencies, is looking for other ways to keep the city going financially. She says she's looking for other businesses to come into the town as a way of diversifying the economy.
Powell says she spoke with Milton McGregor before Victoryland reopened and says he told her he felt he was in a "good place" about reopening.
The exact number of employees Victoryland employed from December to the current date is not immediately known, but Espy said there were hundreds who will be affected.
WSFA 12 News broke this story on Twitter after receiving a call from a Victoryland employee at around 8:30 a.m. who said that when she showed up for work this morning the doors to the facility were locked and that state troopers had ..."swarmed the front door."
Sunday, May 19 2013 10:04 AM EDT2013-05-19 14:04:50 GMT
Richmond County dispatch received a call around 7:20 a.m. that the Millbrook Apartment building was on fire located off of Skinner Mill Road. Firefighters were on the scene until around 8:30 a.m. No injuriesMore >>
Richmond County dispatch received a call around 7:20 a.m. that the Millbrook Apartment building was on fire located off of Skinner Mill Road.
Sunday, May 19 2013 9:38 AM EDT2013-05-19 13:38:04 GMT
Richmond County Dispatch confirms there has been a stabbing at a Family Dollar. Deputies say it happened on the 2900 block of Dean's Bridge Road around 7:18 tonight. Information is limited at this tiMore >>
Richmond County Sheriff's Office deputies confirmed a stabbing at the Family Dollar on Dean's Bridge Rd. around 7:15 this evening.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 11:38 PM EDT2013-05-19 03:38:46 GMT
Aiken County deputies say they searched with New Ellenton police officers for two armed men who shot dogs on Sizemore Avenue on Saturday night. Aiken County deputies say they started searching for the suspectsMore >>
Aiken County deputies say they searched with New Ellenton police officers for two armed men who shot dogs on Sizemore Avenue on Saturday night.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 10:32 PM EDT2013-05-19 02:32:22 GMT
One person has been transported to the hospital after being shot at Axis Barbershop in Beech Island. Aiken County dispatch said it happened around 2:30 p.m. Saturday. There are at least two suspects,More >>
One person has been transported to the hospital after being shot at Axis Barbershop in Beech Island.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 7:23 PM EDT2013-05-18 23:23:19 GMT
A fundraiser was held Saturday in honor of Wesley Spires. Local firefighters held a boot drive to honor their fellow volunteer firefighter who remains in critical condition after he was beaten by whatMore >>
A fundraiser was held Saturday in honor of Wesley Spires. Local firefighters held a boot drive to honor their fellow volunteer firefighter who remains in critical condition after he was beaten by what investigators said was a bat along the Augusta Riverwalk on May 3rd.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 7:05 PM EDT2013-05-18 23:05:19 GMT
Instead of spending the day at the computer, some Augustans spent their day learning about it. People gathered at the Imperial Theater for Web Afternoon. Mayor Deke Copenhaver gave remarks about Augusta'sMore >>
People gathered at the Imperial Theater for Web Afternoon. Mayor Deke Copenhaver gave remarks about Augusta's growth in the technology sector.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 5:55 PM EDT2013-05-18 21:55:44 GMT
Michael Robert Bradford, an employee of DynCorp International, has been killed in Afghanistan.Bradford was a Grovetown resident, according to information from a DynCorp spokesperson.The spokesperson toldMore >>
Michael Robert Bradford, an employee of DynCorp International, has been killed in Afghanistan.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 2:47 PM EDT2013-05-18 18:47:31 GMT
Georgia Power crews are working to fix power lines at William Few Parkway and Knob Hill that were struck from a car crash around 9 a.m. Saturday. Columbia County dispatch said two cars were involved withMore >>
Georgia Power crews are working to fix power lines at William Few Parkway and Knob Hill that were struck from a car crash around 9 a.m. Saturday.More >>
Saturday, May 18 2013 2:40 PM EDT2013-05-18 18:40:22 GMT
Richmond County Sheriff's Office released the following information in regards to Deputy Creech: Sheriff Roundtree and the family of Deputy Alton Daniel Creech would like to thank everyone within our community forMore >>
Funeral services will be held at First Baptist Church of Augusta, 3500 Walton Way Extension, Augusta, Georgia on Tuesday morning, May 21, 2013 at 11am. Deputy Creech will lie in state for one hour prior to the service.More >>
Friday, May 17 2013 11:31 PM EDT2013-05-18 03:31:56 GMT
Hundreds of people sang through their grief Friday night as they mourned the death of Richmond County deputy Alton Creech. Two of Creech's close friends, who go by Solo and Ruff, say they've been unableMore >>
Hundreds of people sang through their grief Friday night as they mourned the death of Richmond County deputy Alton Creech.More >>