At the last minute, federal prosecutors who secured a conviction against Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie last month for violating the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), responded this afternoon to a motion to acquit Hastie of the lone conviction from a 17-count public corruption indictment she faced earlier this year.
Though a jury found Hastie innocent of more serious felony charges, she was convicted of simple violation of the DPPA for turning over a list of 30,000 public email addresses from the License Commission’s database to the mayoral campaign of Mayor Sandy Stimpson in 2013.Almost immediately, Hastie’s attorneys filed a motion for acquittal — calling for a new trial. In today’s response, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sinan Kalayoglu and Gregory Bordenkircher asked the judge to deny the’ request.
The nine-page response took more than three weeks to submit and appears to have just met the July 6 deadline set by U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose. Despite the close brush with the deadline, DuBose ruled in the federal government’s favor on July 7 — upholding Hastie’s only conviction.
In their motion, Hastie’s attorneys suggested there wasn’t adequate evidence presented to show that Hastie, who issues driver’s licenses, business licenses and vehicle registrations in the county, is an officer of a state department of motor vehicles and thus bound by the DPPA.
However, the government suggested those claims were unfounded and pointed out the Mobile County License Commission even cites the DPPA on its website, as well as on several brochures sent to the public through Hastie’s office.
The bulk of the claim for dismissal was based on the instructions the jury was given before its three-day deliberation of Hastie’s 17 charges last month. Upon leaving the courtroom, the jury was given instructions that included a passage identifying email address as “personal information” that would be subject the DPPA.
Prior to jury deliberations, the defense filed multiple motions to remove the definition from the jury instructions, but each was denied by the court.
“The Court has stated: ‘Under the DPPA, email addresses are personal information, and must be afforded the same protection as telephone numbers and mailing addresses,’” Hastie’s attorney Neil Hanley wrote in his motion to acquit last month. “While this may be a position that the legislature can adopt in the future if it pleases, it is presently contrary to the law and the interests of justice — particularly in the context of Mrs. Hastie’s criminal conviction.”
Hanley also claimed that by the government’s definition, “anything and everything” could be interpreted as “information that identifies an individual.”
However, the government maintains the definition of “personal information” in this case is “a settled issue,” and was resolved by a ruling from U.S. Judge Ginny Granade earlier in the case.
Prosecutors also doubled down on their claim that Hastie was in violation of the DPPA when she sent the list of thousands of vehicle owners’ email addresses to an employee of the Stimpson campaign in August 2013.
“While Hastie disagrees with the Court, she offers nothing in her latest motion that would require the Court to reconsider its order,” the government’s response reads. “The Court rightly observes that Congress enacted the DPPA ‘to protect personal information and customer privacy,’ the matters precisely at issue in Count 17.”
Bordenkircher also pointed out that Hastie’s defense offered no testimony to counter Hastie’s involvement in the disclosing of those emails addresses, a fact the prosecution supported with several of its witnesses.
Hastie is still facing some additional charges in an unrelated retrial of a tax evasion case against her husband, John Melvin Hastie Jr., in which she is a co-defendant.
In that case, which ended with a hung jury, there were also allegations of jury tampering on behalf of the Hasties that ultimately spawned a separate court case again Jonathan Lawrence Oneal, one of John Hastie’s coworkers.
Prosecutors originally said they would retry the case, but after Hastie was acquitted of much more serious charges June 5, U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown said “we’ll make a decision on that once we have a chance to regroup from this case.”
Since, more than a month has passed with no developments, the only exception being the discussion of a possible date for the retrial.
Tommy Loftis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys office, told Lagniappe on July 6 that he couldn’t confirm whether the case would actually go to a jury again, but did say the office had “asked for the Hastie case to be set at the end of the August or the first of September.”