The Alabama Supreme Court stopped a hearing involving the seizure of electronic bingo machines and a large sum of money from Center Stage Alabama. Attorneys for both sides of the issue were in the courtroom at 9:00 am Wednesday morning, ready to proceed with motions involving the case. Circuit Clerk Carla Woodall was seen heading into the office of Circuit Judge Michael Conaway with the order which stopped the hearing before it ever began.
The delay had been sought by Ernie Hornsby, an attorney for the Houston Economic Development Authority which oversees bingo games at Center Stage. Among other things, he wants Conway to recuse himself from the case which the judge, on two separate occasions, has refused to do.
"Judge Conaway was recommended to former Governor Bob Riley for appointment as a Circuit Judge by local businessmen John Watson and John Downs, close associates of former Governor Riley and major contributors to anti-bingo causes and candidates," an earlier filing by Hornsby and other attorneys states. It further says, "Judge Conaway is also a business partner of Mr. Watson from which the judge generates over $78,000 annually in personal income." The property in question is a real estate development known as Eight-Four West.
Hornsby, speaking outside the courtroom Wednesday, said he'll wait on a ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court on whether it will force Conaway to step aside. "It's just asking the Supreme Court to look at the recusal issue and that's probably about all I need to say at this time," said Hornsby.
The case stems from the July raid at Center Stage during which over 600 electronic bingo machines and $283,000 cash were confiscated. The raid was instigated by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. Separately, Strange is presenting evidence to a grand jury though specifics of that investigation are not known at this time.
Hornsby said he would not predict when the case will move forward saying it's all dependent on the Writ of Mandamus filed with the higher court seeking Conway's removal from the case.