Lawyer, Drummond Exec Convicted of Bribery

Jul 23, 2018

A prominent Alabama attorney and a coal company executive have been convicted on federal charges involving bribery of a state lawmaker.

The verdict against Joel Gilbert, a partner with Balch & Bingham law firm, and Drummond Company Vice President David Roberson was announced Friday after a four-week trial. Jurors found the two men guilty of conspiracy, bribery, three counts of honest services wire fraud and money laundering.

Prosecutors said the two men bribed former state Rep. Oliver Robinson to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's expansion of a Superfund site, and also to oppose prioritizing the site's expensive cleanup.

Robinson pleaded guilty last year to bribery and tax evasion. He has not yet been sentenced.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town released a statement saying the case was not about the EPA or about pollution:

"This was a case about greed at the expense of too many. The findings of guilt for these three individuals, by trial or plea, should forewarn anyone who would be corruptly motivated to act in similar unlawful interest. Voters deserve public officials who seek to represent them honestly and fairly. When elected officials, corporate executives or their lawyers violate our federal laws, they should expect to suffer the fate of these three guilty defendants. We appreciate the dedication of the federal agencies that worked tirelessly on this case."

The Drummond Company issued the following:

"We are disappointed by the jury's decision to convict our employee, David Roberson. While we respect the judicial process, we consider David to be a man of integrity who would not knowingly engage in wrongdoing.

"When an environmentalist group raised allegations regarding our operations in the Birmingham area, Drummond responded by hiring one of Alabama's most well-respected environmental law firms. As testimony in the trial showed, we were assured the firm's community outreach efforts on our behalf were legal and proper."

A third defendant, Balch & Bingham attorney Steven McKinney, was dismissed from the case one day before closing arguments began.