Robinson Testified He Hoped to Make Millions off Bribery Scheme

The trial of two attorneys and one coal executive accused of conspiring to bribe former state Rep. Oliver Robinson featured some major developments in its second week — most significantly, the testimony of Robinson himself.

Balch & Bingham attorneys Joel Gilbert and Steven George McKinney, along with Drummond Vice President David Lynn Roberson, face six counts — conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and three counts of wire fraud — on allegations they paid Robinson to stymie EPA efforts to clean up north Birmingham neighborhoods affected by Drummond’s ABC coal plant. Robinson has pled guilty to accepting the bribes and agreed to cooperate with investigators.

Robinson’s testimony provided context and a timeline to the conspiracy, which he says started with a 2014 meeting and he hoped would culminate in millions of dollars from a potential settlement.

The trial resumed this week. Here are highlights from the trial’s second week:

  • Drummond CEO Mike Tracy knew about Robinson’s involvement. Drummond CEO Mike Tracy, the employer of defendant David Lynn Roberson, testified Tuesday. He spoke about a meeting he had with Roberson and Gilbert regarding community outreach to battle EPA efforts. According to Tracy’s testimony, Gilbert recommended using the Oliver Robinson Foundation; Tracy told prosecutors he knew who Robinson was and asked if that was legal. Gilbert, he said, assured him that it was. Tracy said he believes Roberson is honest and that he remains employed at Drummond.
  • Robinson takes the stand. Saying he feels he sold out his community, Robinson took the stand Tuesday and Thursday. He testified that he met with Gilbert and Roberson, who were looking for someone to run against Councilor William Parker, in 2014. Parker had worked with the EPA in north Birmingham. Robinson said he couldn’t find someone to run against Parker, but he said he could use as his influence as a lawmaker to oppose the EPA in those communities. That meeting is where he says the bribery first began.
  • Robinson spent $250,000 on personal expenses from his nonprofit. He says he lied to his accountant and his wife about those expenditures.
  • Robinson asked the Alabama Environmental Management Commission to intervene in north Birmingham cleanup efforts. His argument, provided by Balch and Bingham, was that the superfund designation would destroy property values by labeling neighborhoods a toxic waste dump.
  • Hezekiah Jackson under fire. Robinson named Birmingham metro NAACP President Hezekiah Jackson as someone who received money that Balch & Bingham had given the Oliver Robinson Foundation. Jackson received $4,000 per month from the foundation. Jackson has denied taking any money, and he has refused to step down from his position at the NAACP until proof can be given he was paid.
  • Robinson hoped to make money from a potential EPA settlement with Drummond. Had such a settlement gone forward, Robinson said he had planned for his foundation to be the administrator of any resulting funds. Text messages between him and his business partner, John Powe, show that they had hoped to make millions from the deal.