After eight days in the courtroom, a jury has found deputy license commissioner Ramona Yeager not guilty in an alleged conspiracy with Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie to defraud taxpayers.
Yeager shared nine charges with Hastie related to conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud — all of which were related to invoices submitted through a third-party contractor related public relations works performed in Hastie’s office in 2014.Throughout the trial, Yeager’s attorney Dennis Knizley’s held a theory his client only “had a clerical involvement” in the case if any. In the normal course of her job, Yeager handled invoices the PR firm Strateco the same way she would deal with invoices from other subcontractors, he said.
Prosecutors said Yeager sat in on multiple recorded conversations with Hastie discussing the changes to Strateco’s invoices and also made comments about not wanting to “bring attention” to the invoices, but that wasn’t enough to sway jurors who voted unanimously to acquit Yeager Thursday afternoon.
“She should have never had to go through this,” Knizley said after the verdict. “Even though she’s found not guilty it has a tremendous detrimental on her and her family. She’s in tears — the whole family is, and I couldn’t be happier.”
In his closing arguments the day before, Knizley railed against the government for dragging his client into this case, saying it was “preposterous and absurd” to think his client had anything to do with fraud. He also suggested she was only named in the 2014 indictment to be used as leverage against Hastie.
“Sometimes when the government brings cases, to bolster their main case, they use indictments to pressure others to be more cooperative,” he said. “Whether that was the case here, I don’t know, but I’ll let yall figure that one out.”
The jury will return for its ninth day on Friday to finish deliberating the 17 charges Hastie faces. A verdict for both defendants was almost reached this afternoon, and attorneys for both sides expect the jury to reach a final decision early in the day.