Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie is asking a federal court to delay an ongoing civil suit against her on the grounds she’ll soon appeal the criminal conviction it’s based on.
Arnita Diamond and Labarron Yates filed a lawsuit against Hastie in April over an email blast Hastie organized to support the campaign of Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson in 2013.According to the lawsuit and federal prosecutors, the 30,000 email addresses included in that blast were illegally obtained from state motor vehicle records. Hastie allegedly asked an employee to gather the addresses of Mobile County residents living within the city of Mobile and place the information onto an electronic storage device.
Based on the allegations in the civil suit, a supporting federal indictment and testimony from several witness during Hastie’s recent trail, the email addresses were then sent to the Stimpson campaign through Candace Cooksey, a PR specialist employed by the Public Relations Firm Strateco at the time.
In June, Hastie was found guilty of violating the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA) because of the dissemination of those emails addresses. During the week-long trial, Hastie’s defense team made no attempt to deny Hastie’s involvement and instead argued the emails were not considered “personal information.”
The civil suit filed by Diamond and Yates claims their privacy was violated by the release of such “personal information,” but that suit was put on hold throughout Hastie’s public corruption trial. A stay delaying the suit is scheduled to expire on Sept. 1 — three days before Hastie’s sentencing.
On Aug. 20, Hastie’s attorneys asked for an additional nine-month stay (through June 2016) in anticipation of appealing the license commissioner’s conviction over the emails. In those court documents, attorneys for Hastie called her conviction “unconstitutional” and said it was “based upon a vague definition from a confusing statute.”
In the DPPA, several examples of personal information are listed, but the statute does not mention email specifically. However, federal prosecutors argued successfully that the 1997 statute was written prior to the widespread use and knowledge of email, and as a result, the jury instructions for Hastie’s June trial included a definition of “personal information” that included email addresses.
As was hinted at during the trial, part of the planned appeal centers on whether that particular jury instruction was appropriate.
“Accordingly, Mrs. Hastie respectfully moves the court to extend the stay in this case for nine months, until June 1, 2016, pending the outcome of the appeal of the criminal conviction,” court documents read. “Should the appeal and final resolution of the issues on appeal conclude prior to the nine-month stay, Mrs. Hastie will agree to this Court lifting the stay early.”
On Monday, U.S. Judge Kristi DuBose ordered attorneys representing Yates and Diamond to respond to the request for an extended delay by Aug. 28. In the past, both Yates and Diamond have declined the opportunity to speak with Lagniappe about this pending litigation.