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Coal Lawyer Convicted of Bribing Alabama Lawmaker

There is a line between advocacy and criminality, and some lawyers cross it.

Joel Gilbert, a partner at Balch & Bingham, is one of those lawyers. According to a jury, Gilbert is guilty of helping bribe a government official for a client.

The client, an Alabama coal company, said it did nothing wrong. The company didn't quite throw the lawyer under the bus, but he definitely got caught on the wrong side of the deal.

Bribery Convictions

Gilbert was convicted along with David Roberson, a vice president at the Drummond Company. According to reports, the duo paid Alabama legislator Oliver Robinson $360,000 to oppose an environmental clean-up program.

Robinson pleaded guilty in September to bribery, tax evasion, and related charges. With cooperation from the legislator, the executive and the lawyer were then convicted of bribery, money laundering and other crimes.

The scheme unraveled after the defendants conspired to avoid potentially millions of dollars in environmental clean-up costs for the coal company. The Environmental Protection Agency had notified a Drummond subsidiary about elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and benzopyrene at one of its sites.

Prosecutors said Roberson and Gilbert paid Robinson through a foundation and a tax-exemption organization to cover the money trail. Jurors returned guilty verdicts after 12 hours of deliberations.

100 Year Deal

The legislator faced 100 years in prison, plus $1.6 million in fines, when he pleaded guilty. The deal, according to reports, was that he provide "substantial" assistance to prosecutors in the case against the executive and the lawyer.

A prosecutor said the plea deal would not include jail time. "A heckuva plea," reported John Archibald for Alabama Opinion.

Meanwhile, Drummond released a statement defending its employee as "a man of integrity who would not knowingly engage in wrongdoing." Nothing about the company's lawyer, however.

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