Oliver Robinson pleads guilty, will cooperate with Feds to avoid 100 year sentence

Former Alabama state representative Oliver Robinson plead guilty in federal court Thursday to seven counts of bribery for his role in preventing an EPA Superfund site from being created in north Birmingham. (

Oliver Robinson admitted Thursday in federal court he knew he was breaking the law when he accepted bribes to keep the EPA out of north Birmingham.

Robinson changed his plea after facing seven counts of federal bribery charges for his role in a scheme related to preventing a potential EPA Superfund site. The former Alabama state representative could still face a maximum sentence of 100 years in prison and a fine of $1.6 million. His path to avoid the sentence is clear; cooperate with federal investigators as they dig further into the case.

The guilty plea officially marks the end of the public career for a well known Birmingham native. Robinson's plea agreement means he will never again serve in public office, vote, or be able to legally carry a weapon.

"There's no bigger inhumanity to man than the betrayal of a trust. He had the trust of the people and he betrayed them. There's nothing lower than that," said former Birmingham city council candidate Robert Walker, who attended the plea hearing.

Friends of Robinson including his former teammates on the UAB Basketball team were inside the courtroom as a show of support. Robinson's attorney says he expects the disgraced lawmaker to serve time in prison. "I would say I don't think nobody is equipped to handle prison you know what I'm saying? But one thing about it, I think because of his faith and his strength he will be able to go in and do what he go to do and get out," said former teammate Daryl Braden.

The message could be problematic for the Drummond coal company and the law firm of Balch and Bingham. The plea deal lists unnamed employees from both as being responsible for bribing Robinson. The U.S. Attorney's Office has made it clear their investigation is ongoing.

According to a release by the Department of Justice, Robinson's plea agreement described the scheme in detail. The EPA designated an area of North Birmingham, including the neighborhoods of Harriman Park, Fairmont and Collegeville, as a Superfund site after finding elevated levels of arsenic, lead and benzo(a)pyrene during soil sampling.

In September 2013, EPA notified five companies, including ABC Coke, a division of Drummond Company, that they could potentially be responsible for the pollution. A company determined to be responsible for pollution within the site, known as the 35th Avenue Superfund Site, potentially faced multi-million dollar clean-up costs and fines

"We take these matters seriously, and are taking all appropriate steps to assess the situation,” said Balch and Bingham in a statement released in June. The law firm according to prosecutors coordinated the coal company's response to the EPA and contracted Robinson to represent them exclusively before the Alabama Enviornmental Management Commission in February 2015. “Honesty and integrity are core values at Balch & Bingham, and they will guide us as we evaluate these allegations."

The Drummond Company has declined previous requests for comment.

“This lamentable pursuit of self-interest masquerading as beneficial for the little guy is more than a violation of our laws. This was a violation of the public trust and among the worst breaches of our social contract,” said U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town. “All those engaged in public corruption must be brought to justice, and it matters not their benefactor or station.”

Robinson will be sentenced on December 7th inside the federal courthouse in downtown Birmingham.

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