Prosecution’s closing argument: “They all say, ‘Money to Medford’”

The prosecution in the federal corruption trial of former Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford presented its closing argument today, asserting that the evidence against the former sheriff and one of his deputies is overwhelming.

“[Imran ] Alam, [Jerry] Pennington, [Jackie] Shepherd, [Alvin Ledford], [former Capt. Tracy] Bridges, [Jim] Lindsey — they all say, ‘Money to Medford,’” Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Ellis said, referring to former illegal-video-poker operators and a confessed bagman (Bridges), who all testified that the sheriff was receiving bribes in exchange for protection and favors. “The argument that all these people made it up — that’s laughable,” he said.

On the stand Monday and early yesterday, Medford denied that he’d ever taken bribes. Ellis also presented bank records showing large cash deposits going into the accounts of Medford and his girlfriend, Judi Bell. About 30 people filled the court benches to observe the trial.

Ellis also asserted that former reserve Capt. Guy Penland, on trial along with Medford, was “no dupe — he was deeply involved in this, he duped others.”

“Is it credible that he doesn’t remember where all this cash is coming from?” Ellis asked the jury. “Could it be instead that he’s not telling the truth? Mr. Medford’s account shows $31,000 in cash deposits in 2003 alone — and he can’t tell from where it came? His statements are just not credible.”

“To believe the argument that nothing was going on — or that he didn’t know about it, you’d first have to drink from the decanter of insanity,” Ellis said. “All circumstances, all the testimony, all the evidence, point to no other conclusion: This cash was not coming from any benign form, it was coming from extortion under color of law, it was coming from him prostituting his office for his own gain.”

The defense will make its closing arguments when court resumes at 1:15 p.m. in the federal courthouse. After their arguments, the prosecution will have a rebuttal, before Judge Tim Ellis (no relation to the prosecutor), gives the jury their instructions.

— David Forbes, staff writer


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