Birmingham lawyer, coal company executive confirmed guilty in bribery

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions of a Birmingham lawyer and an Alabama coal company executive in a scheme to bribe a state legislator to oppose Environmental Protection Agency actions in north Birmingham.

A jury found Joel Iverson Gilbert, former Balch & Bingham partner, and David Lynn Roberson, former Drummond Company Vice President of Government and Regulatory Affairs, guilty of bribery, honest services wire fraud, conspiracy and money laundering.

At trial, the government showed that Gilbert and Roberson bribed former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson to advocate Drummond’s opposition to EPA’s prioritization/expansion of the north Birmingham Superfund site near Robinson’s district. The bribe came in the form of a consulting contract that paid Robinson $360,000 through the Oliver Robinson Foundation, a non-profit organization, between 2015 and 2016. In return, Robinson spoke to EPA officials and state environmental officials, secretly taping his meetings, and cast a vote for a state resolution drafted by Gilbert opposing the EPA’s efforts.

On appeal, Gilbert and Roberson contended that their actions did not meet the legal definition of bribery. however, the Eleventh Circuit disagreed and affirmed their judgments of conviction. It held that the two “concealed payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to an Alabama Representative through his charitable foundation” in exchange for his official acts “intended to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s . . . efforts to clean up a Superfund site,” according to court documents.

“The Eleventh Circuit confirmed what the jury understood. Joel Gilbert and David Roberson paid a state representative to deprive the voters of north Birmingham of their voice,” U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona said in a press release. “The appellate court’s decision makes clear that the very purpose of our bribery laws is to prohibit such efforts to subvert the will of the community.”

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