After a two-week trial, Mobile County License Commissioner Kim hastie has been found not guilty of all 16 charges filed against her in a federal indictment unsealed last November. However, she was found guilty of 17th charge — misusing personal information — that was added in a superseding indictment in January, Her deputy license commissioner, Ramona Yeager, was acquitted on similar charges yesterday.
Though the jury didn’t find enough evidence to support allegations of extortion, conspiracy, wire fraud and mail fraud — the jury did bring a conviction against Hastie based on the 30,000 email addresses of private citizens she turned over to the campaign of Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson in 2013. The email addresses were taken from a federally protected database used to register motorists at the Mobile County License Commission.
That misdemeanor “infraction” carries no jail time and is only punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. Because Alabama law requires a felony for a politician to be removed from office, Hastie will retain her position as license commissioner and transition into revenue commissioner in October — a position she was elected to without opposition last year.
However, the distribution of those emails is also basis of a civil suit filed against Hastie that’s still pending in federal court.After beating almost all of the government’s accusations, Hastie exited the courthouse this morning to thunderous applause. Many of her supporters — family, friends and employees from the license commission — attended the entire nine days of the trial and jury deliberations.
“Ramona and I have been through a horrible time, and we did not deserve this,” Hastie said. “We’re thankful for all the support we’ve been given. Our family, our friends and especially God.”
As she finished, Hastie’s lawyer Neil Hanley asked, “what about your lawyers? — a statement that prompted a joyful reaction the crowd. Hastie agreed that Hanley and his son, Stewart Hanley, were the “best lawyers in the world.”
Hanley himself spoke to reporters as Hastie left with her family. As she passed, one supporter could be heard yelling Hastie’s famous campaign slogan, “10 Minute Tags.”
“In the 41 years I’ve been doing this, it’s still amazing how things just always seem to turn out right,” Hanley said. “From the arraignment, I told you Kim Hastie hadn’t done anything illegal or improper.”
Throughout his comments in the case, Hanley often pointed to government overreach as the reason Hastie was on trial. As it ended, he continued the narrative.
“How much money do you think they spent on this trial? Hundreds of thousands of dollars they spent investigating this case,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars and they were trying to convict Kim for a $2,500 charge for trying to inform the people by putting out a newsletter. It’s absurd.”After the cheers of Hastie supporters faded, a more stoic press conference was held by U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown and the staff who prosecuted but failed to convict Hastie of more serious charges.
“Mrs. Hastie was not convicted of a felony offense, but she was convicted of an infraction,” Brown said. “I think that’s still great evidence of corruption. Those emails should not have been used in that fashion. But, we certainly respect the decision of the jury that’s been handed down in this case.”
Brown also pointed out that Hastie may not be out of the woods yet. She and her husband, John Melvin Hastie Jr., still potentially face a retrial in a tax evasion case that ended last month with a hung jury.
In that case, there were allegations of jury tampering against the Hasties that ultimately spawned a separate court case again Jonathan Lawrence Oneal, John Hastie’s coworker. Prosecutors originally said they would retry the case, but on Friday, Brown said “we’ll make a decision on that once we have a chance to regroup from this case.”
In the past two months, Brown’s office has had a mistrial declared, seen Yeager be declared not guilty and has only been able to convict Hastie on the very least of her 18 federal charges.
When discussing the setbacks in the recent cases, Brown said his prosecutors were dealing with a “very popular politician.” However, he said his office was still satisfied with being able to show Hastie misused her public office for political means.
“This job isn’t for the faint of heart,” Brown said. “You go after corruption and crimes where you see them occurring, and you leave it to the people to decide whether there’s been enough evidence to prove it. We’ve done our job. The jury has done its job.”
DAILY COVERAGE OF THE KIM HASTIE CORRUPTION TRIAL
June 4: Deputy license commissioner acquitted, Hastie returns to court Friday
June 2: Final day of testimony in Hastie trial features former consultant, character witnesses
June 1: Political consultants close testimony against license commissioner
May 29: Defense continues to grill key witness in Hastie corruption trial
May 28: Hastie defense scrutinizes whistleblower’s billing practices
May 27: Hastie: ‘I only put what I wanted them to see’
May 27: Employee testimony: ‘Hastie asked for a list of emails’
May 26: Opening arguments presented in Hastie corruption trial
This page is available to our local subscribers. Click here to join us today and get the latest local news from local reporters written for local readers. The best deal is found by clicking here. Check it out now.
Already a member of the Lagniappe family? Sign in by clicking here