Ala. Lawmaker, Preacher on Trial in Bribery Scheme

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - A veteran state legislator went on federal trial today in what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to fleece taxpayers of hundreds of dollars.

A prosecutor told jurors that 68-year-old state Sen. E.B. McClain, D-Midfield, sent some $758,000 in grants to a private foundation run by the Rev. Samuel Pettagrue.

They say the 65-year-old Pettagrue paid the senator kickbacks totaling $306,000 for the money, which was supposed to help the community.

Lawyers for McClain and Pettagrue deny any crime occurred.

They said Pettagrue's group, the Heritage to Hope Foundation, got the grant money legally and legally paid McClain for work that included marketing and planning.

Some of the grants were for Pettagrue's foundation to work with
a program to train school dropouts to get their Graduate Equivalency Diplomas. Other funds were to help senior citizens.

The men were indicted in May on charges of bribery, conspiracy,
mail fraud and money laundering.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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