State Sen. Culver Kidd and former Baldwin County Sheriff Buford T. Lingold were found innocent yesterday of all gambling conspiracy charges by a federal court jury that heard videotape testimony from President Carter as a prosecution witness.
The jury deliberated three hours before reaching its verdict on an indictment charging the two with conspiracy to obstruct gambling laws while Carter was governor and lying about it to a grand jury.
"I feel wonderful," Kidd said after the verdict. He praised the jury system, saying that it 'protects the rights of the innocent."
He said he would issue a written statement next week, apparently dealing with what he claims was Carter's responsibility for his court trouble. A Democrat and former legislative foe of Carter, he has accused the president of being "so vindictive" as to push for prosecution because of old political animosity.
Carter was a key prosecution witness, testifying by videotape made in Washington that Kidd offered to swap his legislative vote for advance word on gambling raids in Kidd's home county in 1972.
Kidd testified that Carter and others who linked the legislator to obstruction of state gambling laws were mistaken.
Jury foreman Calvin Jones said the innocent verdict was based on "the overall arguments, not any particular testimony."
Asked if the rare testimony by a sitting president made any difference, he answered, "I would say no."
Alternate juror George Jones, who was with the other jurors during the week-long trial but did not take part in their decision, said the videotaped testimony was "no big deal." He said he thought it would have made a difference if the president had testified in person.
U.S. District Court Judge Wilbur D. Owens Jr. turned the case over to the jurors after a 90-minute charge in which he painstakingly detailed what the law requires to prove conspiracy to obstruct gambling laws, and perjury. Maximum prison sentences upon conviction would have been five years on each charge.
George Bureau of Investigation agents testified during the trial that Lingold told them local officials wanted slot machines in the county and that Kidd had cleared it with the governor.
Former Senator R. Eugene Holley of Augusta said Kidd asked him to approach Carter with an offer of a proreorganization vote in exchange for tipoffs about any gambling raids in his home county.
Kidd said he never asked Holley to tender such an offer and that he had not promised local officials to protect illegal gambling from the state level.