Less than a week after a hung jury caused a mistrial in the tax evasion case of Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie and her husband, John Melvin Hastie Jr., federal agents have charged an individual in connection with the allegations of jury tampering that marked the beginning of the trial.
According to court records, Jonathan Lawrence Oneal of Monroeville has been charged with a federal crime after an investigation determined he “corruptly endeavored to influence a member of a jury.”
The details leading to the arrest warrant were spelled out in an affidavit from FBI Special Agent Eric Lawson, who cited an interview he conducted with the wife of a potential juror in the case. In the affidavit, the spouse was stated to be a resident of Monroeville and identified only as JT.
“A potential juror had notified the court that his wife was approached by [Oneal] at her workplace, a restaurant located in Monroeville, and that [he] had requested a favor from her and her husband since the husband was a potential juror,” Lawson testified.
The affidavit continues to to detail an interview Lawson conducted with Oneal, who works directly under John Hastie at Cooper Marine & Timber. Oneal told agents that three days before jury selection, Hastie provided Oneal the names of some of the potential jurors and their workplaces.
“Hastie asked Oneal if he would talk to JT in order to ask her and her husband to pray for Hastie on his behalf since Hastie was Oneal’s boss,” Lawson testified. “Oneal told the agents that is all Hastie asked.”
However, in subsequent interviews with JT and her boss, Oneal allegedly discussed several details about the case. According to Lawson, Oneal told JT’s boss to relay a message that “Hastie was on trial in Mobile and that he was good man. He was accused of embezzlement and he did not do it, just forgot to pay his taxes since he did not receive anything in the mail to remind him.”
According to JT’s testimony, her boss then called her to relay the message to her and her husband, who at that point was still a potential juror. On April 27, the morning of jury selection, Oneal came and visited JT personally.
She told agents she was reluctant to talk to him, but listened because he was a customer at the restaurant where she works. According to her interview with Lawson, Oneal allegedly discussed several details about the case during their conversation.
During an interview with JT on May 4, she told agents she was “nervous how anyone could find out who she was and the her husband was a potential juror,” but had immediately contacted her husband and informed him of the message her boss had passed on to her about the trial.
She later reported the incident to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and her husband reported the incident to the court during the jury selection last Monday.
Jury tampering is a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 and carries a term of up to 10 years in prison.
Hastie’s attorney, Jeff Deen, said he hadn’t been made aware of the arrest warrant at the time Lagniappe called for comment. However, he did say he didn’t “believe John Hastie was involved with any kind of jury tampering.”
The FBI is continuing to investigate the case, and Lagniappe will have more on this story as it develops through the day.