Gadsden Times Staff Writer
Three men on trial in Etowah County for extortion have been acquitted on all charges.
Circuit Judge Howard F. Bryan IV ruled Wednesday afternoon that there was insufficient evidence for the trial to continue in the case against Gadsden attorney Frank Bailey, Coosa County Assistant District Attorney Frank Teel and Teel's son, Ryan McVay Teel.
The three were indicted in June 2010 for second-degree extortion.
The ruling means neither Bailey nor the Teels can be retried on the charges.
Legal counsel representing the three made a motion Wednesday afternoon at the close of the prosecution's case, and asked for a judgment of acquittal.
Roy McCord, Rod Giddens and Catherine McCord Bailey represent Frank Teel. Tommy Spina represents Ryan Teel and Morgan Cunningham and Eddy Cunningham represent Bailey.
Etowah County judges recused themselves from the case, and Bryan was appointed to hear it.
Bryan wrote in his order after the ruling Wednesday in open court, "After considering the argument of counsel, the charges as alleged in the indictment and all the evidence presented, the Court is of the opinion that the motions are to be granted."
The Attorney General's office and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Bailey and Frank Teel were arrested in May 2010 after they allegedly accepted a check for $1 million during a meeting with an attorney for Carl Weaver, a Gadsden businessman named in a lawsuit involving a 1995 murder in Coosa County in which two Etowah County men died and another was injured. Both attorneys and Ryan Teel were indicted the following month.
The trial got under way on Sept. 10 and was expected to last for several days.
"We're tickled to death for him (Frank Teel) and his family," McCord said.
Prosecutors said the men were arrested after they allegedly tried to extort $5 million from Weaver with the threat of a capital murder indictment to settle a civil lawsuit against him.
Bailey allegedly contacted the attorney to initiate the plot to extort money from Weaver.
Mickie Wayne Collins, L.C. Collins Jr. and Charles Richard Tooley pleaded guilty in the Coosa County murder investigation after Bailey's and the Teels' arrests.
A survivor in the incidents, Roger Darrell Firestone, sued Weaver, along the Collinses and Tooley, in 2010 for their alleged roles in the incidents. The Collinses and Tooley had pleaded guilty to two counts of murder.
Mickie Wayne Collins later died in prison. Weaver has not been charged in the slayings.
The three were charged in 2009 in the deaths of Charles Thomas Amberson Jr., 41, and Darrell Thomas Coleman, 39, both of Gadsden. They were charged with the attempted murder of Firestone of Hokes Bluff.
The injured men suffered severe burns in a fire and explosion in the Unity community of Coosa County.
The victims told law enforcement officers they had been tied up, robbed and set on fire by people they did not know.
All three immediately were transported to nearby hospitals, and Amberson and Coleman died within a few days. Firestone, 45 at the time, survived.
In a written statement from Bailey late Wednesday, he explained his involvement.
"At trial, evidence was presented that (Frank Bailey) was representing Firestone for injuries sustained when three assailants killed two men and set fire to Mr. Firestone in 1995 in Coosa County. Bailey began attempting to settle this lawsuit in 2009 once the three assailants were indicted in 2009 and two of which gave statements confessing that Carl Weaver had hired them to undertake this killing and horrible maiming," according to the statement. "Weaver's attorney, Jay Stover, then began secretly recording Bailey at these negotiations and by his own testimony began negotiating in bad faith with Bailey. Stover then contacted authorities who arrested Bailey and his co-defendants and brought these charges through the Attorney General's Office."
Bailey's statement said Firestone hired new attorneys who have filed a civil lawsuit against Weaver and it is pending in Coosa County.
Bailey has filed a civil lawsuit against Stove for interference with his business relationship with Firestone, according to the statement.