Judge orders Tyson, officers off Greenetrack property
The state's Task Force on Illegal Gambling has been ordered to leave the Greenetrack electronic bingo casino near Eutaw.
Greene County Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. ordered the task force off the property in an order issued sometime after midnight today, said task force commander John Tyson Jr.
Tyson said the task force is complying with the order and is leaving Greenetrack, for now.
"We will appeal the order to vacate to the Supreme Court today," Tyson said. He would not say where troopers would gather.
The task force raided the Greene County casino Tuesday morning and began confiscating its 800-plus electronic bingo machines when Hardaway issued an order to the task force to stop.
That order, Hardaway's second such injunction in a little less than two weeks, was appealed to the state's high court Tuesday afternoon.
The court, which tossed out Hardaway's initial injunction on Monday, has yet to rule on the Tuesday injunction or on Tyson's motion that Hardaway be removed from the case.
Greenetrack bingo casino remains under control of Alabama governor's task force
A west Alabama electronic bingo casino remained under control of the state's Task Force on Illegal Gambling late tonight.
The task force is awaiting a decision by the Alabama Supreme Court that could clear the way for it to resume its raid on the Greenetrack casino near Eutaw in Greene County.
That raid began this morning about 12 hours after the state Supreme Court tossed out an injunction by Greene County Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. Hardaway blocked the task force from inspecting Greenetrack's 800-plus electronic bingo machines 1½ weeks ago.
Just hours after the raid started today, Hardaway issued a second injunction halting the inspection and confiscation of machines at the track.
Task force commander John Tyson asked the judge to stay his order, which he refused to do. Tyson then appealed, asking the state's high court to again lift Hardaway's injunction, but also asking it to remove the judge from any further control of the case.
Shortly after dark today, Greene County Commission Chairman William L. Johnson emerged from Greenetrack and told about 50 people gathered at the gates that no decision was expected from the Supreme Court until Wednesday.
Efforts were unsuccessful to reach officials in the governor's office tonight.
Johnson thanked the crowd, made up mostly of track employees and their relatives, for staying at the gates all day despite the heat and urged them to return early Wednesday.
"Please keep your minds clear and act like you did today. We're proud of you. Please try to be back in the morning and we'll see what we see," he said.
The task force, including about 10 uniformed state troopers, moved on the bingo casino about 7 a.m. today. About 100 Greenetrack employees who were at work when the raid began refused to leave and stayed in the casino most of the day.
The trooper presence on Greenetrack property was increased later in the day to ensure security at the site, according to the governor's office.
Residents of the area said dozens of other trooper cars were gathering nearby, and trooper cars throughout the day drove back and forth in front of the track and the crowd gathered at the gate.
Only one arrest was reported during the day, that coming early in the morning. Troopers arrested Reginald Spencer, head of security at Greenetrack and former police chief at Eutaw, alleging he had interfered with officers as they began the raid.
State Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, charged that Spencer was manhandled by troopers, a charge Gov. Bob Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, denied.
The mood at the gates swung from agitated and angry at times to almost festive as supporters brought sandwiches, fried chicken and cold drinks to sustain the crowd.
Most of those in the crowd were angry at Riley for shutting down one of the major employers in the poor west Alabama county.
"I want to know who's going to pay for my Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance now that I've lost my job," Bernice Burton, a teller at Greenetrack since 2003, yelled at several troopers Tuesday. "Is Bob Riley going to pay for my insurance? Because he took my job today."
Pamela Kennard waited at the Greenetrack gates for her husband, John, to come out. Her husband works surveillance on the night shift and late in the day had yet to leave the track.
"I think he's staying in there to help keep the track open in any way he can," said Kennard. "He's afraid if he comes out he'll never get his job back, so he's in there fighting Bob Riley and John Tyson in the only way he knows how."
Workers weren't the only ones angry about the situation. Singleton, who waited at the casino all day for a decision from the Supreme Court, described himself as "mad as hell."
"The only thing these people want is a chance to work," Singleton said. "They're not asking for a hand out and I hope they don't have to depend on Bob Riley's Supreme Court, on Bob Riley's law, to feed their families."
"We're going to do whatever we have to do to try to keep Greenetrack open. Four hundred or more jobs are hanging in the balance here. Four hundred lives hanging in the balance with those jobs."
Johnson said that, if the state succeeds in keeping Greenetrack closed, he's afraid it could throw the county into bankruptcy. Johnson said the county depends on tax revenue from the casino to help provide county services such as public safety, libraries, and help for senior citizens.
With the closing of Greenetrack, the only non-Indian casino still operating in Alabama is Victoryland in Macon County. The task force is challenging a judge's ruling that barred a raid on that bingo casino.
UPDATE: John Tyson refuses judge's order to stop Greenetrack raid
courtesy of :The Birmingham News
The commander of Alabama's Task Force on Illegal Gambling said this afternoon that he has no intention of leaving Greenetrack despite an order by a circuit judge that he halt the raid on the bingo casino.
John Tyson Jr. said that he intends to keep state troopers in place inside and outside the bingo casino, waiting for the Alabama Supreme Court to overrule the latest injunction by Greene County Court Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway issued a second injunction about lunchtime today ordering the task force to cease and desist the seizure of electronic bingo machines and other equipment at Greenetrack. Earlier this month Hardaway issued a similar order, which the state Supreme Court voided late Monday.
"We are in the midst of a police action and we have no intention of vacating the property and we will do all we can to secure both the property the employees and anyone else who may be watching what is going on at Greenetrack," said Tyson.
In a related development, Reginald Spencer, Greenetrack's head of security and the former police chief in Eutaw, was arrested by state troopers this morning, state Sen. Bobby Singleton said.
Singleton, who had been inside Greenetrack, told employees outside that troopers "roughed up" Spencer, claiming he was interfering with the raid.
Singleton, leader of the opposition to Gov. Bob Riley's efforts against electronic bingo, told employees he was "mad as hell at what is going on here today. This is a one-man dictatorship with Bob Riley acting as the governor, attorney general, district attorney and judge."
A crowd of about 40 people continues to mill in the heat outside the track. Entrances and exits to the track are being guarded by uniformed troopers.
Many of the employees who worked the overnight shift in the bingo hall still are inside, refusing to leave.
Val Godson, a Greenetrack employee, emerged from the track just after 1 p.m. saying about 100 employees were refusing to leave the building. "These are our jobs you're talking about and we are not going to surrender them to Bob Riley or John Tyson," Godson said.
She described the scene inside as troopers and employees milling around sipping bottled water and waiting for the court's next move. She said troopers removed several computer servers from the track this morning.
1:15 Update of the Birmingham News
Circuit judge halts raid by Alabama police on Greenetrack; state appeals to Supreme Court
Greene County officials and Alabama state police are in the closed down Greenetrack awaiting word from the Supreme Court on whether a raid of the bingo hall there can proceed.
Circuit Court Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. ordered state police to stop the raid this morning, and that order immediately was appealed to the Supreme Court, Greene County Commission Chairman William L. Johnson told a crowd of about 50 people gathered in front of the track.
The state Task Force on Illegal Gambling moved on the bingo casino this morning after the Supreme Court on Monday struck down an earlier order from Hardaway that had barred the seizure of machines at Greenetrack.
It is the latest in a series of raids on bingo halls across the state.
Johnson had harsh words for Gov. Bob Riley and the task force after this morning's raid.
"I'd rather be back in Vietnam where people can respect me because the governor does not give a damn about me," Johnson said.
Johnson said closing Greenetrack would kill Greene County's economy.
"We don't have a prayer in Greene County if this stands. We are being treated like slaves," Johnson said.
Many of the people milling outside the chain link fence that surrounds the track are employees who showed up to work this morning only to find the entrance blocked by State Troopers. Many of them also are angry and frustrated with today's raid.
"I just don't understand why this is happening," said Nancy Morgan, a greeter at the bingo hall.
"This is the best job you can find in Greene County and just about any other place in this part of the state if you don't live in Tuscaloosa. This place is Greene County itself. This place gives us all hope that we don't have to leave our homes and move to find work," said Morgan, who has worked at the track since 2003.
Employees who work the overnight shift in the bingo hall still are inside, and some of their spouses and other relatives are waiting anxiously outside the gate for them to be released.
WTVY has confirmed reports of a raid currently underway at The Greenetrack facility.
Officers arrived around 5am this morning at the facility. They started taking electronic bingo machines from the gambling location. According to the website, Greenetrack has roughly 1500 machines.
Alabama's High Court ruled Tuesday courts have limited jurisdiction to stop law enforcement from conducting its duties.
Statement from Bob Riley:
Task Force on Illegal Gambling Takes Next Step to Enforce Law at Greenetrack Operations continue efforts begun by Greene County DA
MONTGOMERY -- The Governor’s Task Force on Illegal Gambling on Tuesday continued enforcement actions as part of a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the Greene County District Attorney. In that lawsuit, Greene County District Attorney Gregory Griggers and then-Sheriff Ronald Smith stated their belief that illegal gambling was occurring at Greenetrack, and the District Attorney filed a petition with the circuit court to seize all of the illegal slot machines at Greenetrack.
On June 4, Circuit Court Judge Eddie Hardaway, Jr. in Greene County entered an order that all the machines at Greenetrack had been seized, and the order allowed the State to inspect or remove the machines at any point for inspection. The order stated, however, that law enforcement operations could not interfere with Greenetrack’s business. When representatives of the Task Force went to Greenetrack on June 18 to inspect the machines, Judge Hardaway -- contrary to his order on June 4 -- entered a new order preventing law enforcement from carrying out the inspection he earlier allowed. On Monday, the Supreme Court of Alabama vacated the orders entered by Judge Hardaway that were preventing law enforcement officials from carrying out law enforcement operations at Greenetrack.
On Tuesday morning, a small number of representatives of the Department of Public Safety and the Alcohol Beverage Control Board went to Greenetrack to continue the law enforcement operations that had been interrupted on June 18. The Task Force took control of all the machines at the facility and immediately began to inspect and inventory them. The machines may be removed to a secure facility in coming days.
“Today’s actions are being undertaken by the Task Force in pursuit of the forfeiture proceedings begun by the Greene County District Attorney and the orders of the Governor,” said Task Force Commander John Tyson, Jr. “Whenever a forfeiture action is initiated, the State has to have control over the machines at issue. All we did today was to complete what the local District Attorney and former Sheriff started in early June.
“The Governor directed me to assume representation of the State in the case to ensure that the State’s arguments are presented fully and quickly,” said Tyson. Tyson was not at Greenetrack on Tuesday morning.
The Task Force’s actions this morning were led by Col. Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the Department of Public Safety. “The Task Force actions taken this morning involved 10 uniformed state troopers,” said Col. Murphy. “All of our actions are consistent with Judge Hardaway’s order and those of the Alabama Supreme Court.”
Ron Sparks Statement On Greenetrack Raid
Bob Riley is determined to kill every gaming job before he leaves office, and I am just as determined to let the people vote on this issue.
This issue is so important to the economy of Alabama that the people should decide its future, not one man. It is time to tax this industry and use the money to educate our kids and protect our seniors.
It is time to regulate gaming, and it is time to let the people decide this question once and for all. I repeat my pledge: my first act as governor will be to call a special session and give the people the right to vote.
My second act will be to fire John Tyson and disband the gaming task force.