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Appeals court upholds Gilbert, Roberson bribery convictions

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of a coal executive and an attorney who were accused of bribing a former Alabama legislator to sidetrack an environmental cleanup in Birmingham, a prosecutor said Friday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turned away the challenges of one-time Drummond Co. vice president David Lynn Roberson and Joel Iverson Gilbert, a former partner at Balch & Bingham law firm, U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona said in a statement.

Roberson and Gilbert were accused of bribing former state Rep. Oliver Robinson to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to expand a Superfund cleanup site in north Birmingham. Drummond would have had to pay for the work had it been found responsible for pollution.

Robinson, who was paid $360,000 through a private foundation in 2015 and 2016 to oppose the project, pleaded guilty and testified for prosecutors.

The appeals court rejected claims by Roberson and Gilbert their actions didn’t constitute bribery under the law, according to a statement from Escalona’s office.

The court disagreed and affirmed the convictions. 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.”

“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,” Escalona said. “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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