Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Bordenkircher is asking a federal judge to allow correspondence between Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie and her attorney to be used as evidence against her in an upcoming public corruption trial.
U.S. Magistrate Katherine Nelson is currently debating whether to allow a letter sent to Hastie by attorney Buzz Jordan regarding the improper use of License Commission accounts to compensate Jonathan Gray of the lobbying firm Strategy Inc.
According to recent court filings, Hastie arranged to pay Gray from a segregated account known as the “$1.25 account,” which prosecutors are alleging was violation of Alabama law.“On July 17, 2014, the FBI interviewed Jonathan Gray, a consultant who received a payment drawn from the License Commission’s $1.25 account for his services to Hastie. Mr. Gray returned the payment to the License Commission days after being interviewed by the FBI,” the court records say. “On Aug. 5, 2014, one of Hastie’s lawyers, Buzz Jordan, provided her a legal opinion concerning the payment. The letter says in relevant part that ‘Strategy, Inc. was not eligible to be paid from the account.’”
Gray previously confirmed to Lagniappe that he was paid around $10,000 to write Hastie’s proposed legislation to consolidate the offices of revenue and license commissioners, a plan she had championed for some time, claiming it would save the county $2 million per year.
Both Grey and Hastie initially claimed the services weren’t compensated.
Lagniappe began questioning Hastie about the payments to Strategy and Strateco — a company whose compensation the government says was covered up through falsified invoices — in early July. On July 18, a day after being interviewed by the FBI, Gray was asked in a phone interview if he was aware of an ongoing investigation. At the time he said he was not.
The prosecution claims Jordan’s letter is a non-hearsay statement that it plans to use as “evidence of Hastie’s criminal conduct,” but attorneys for Hastie believe it could violate the attorney-client privilege between Hastie and Jordan.
However, the prosecution argues precedent has shown attorney-client privilege is not absolute in every scenario.
“If disclosed to third parties, (those) communications are no confidential and are not protected by the attorney-client privilege,” prosecutors said in a recent court filing citing United States v. Suarez.
The letter Hastie received from Jordan, which was submitted to the court today, was originally courtesy copied to Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross, License Commission attorney Tyler Pritchett, Gray and Neil Hanley, Hastie’s personal attorney.
Because the letter was distributed to third parties through the courtesy copies, the government has maintained Jordan’s letter couldn’t have reasonably been expected or understood to be confidential.
A ruling from Nelson is pending. The applicable court documents, including Jordan’s letter to Hastie, are attached below.