The stage is taking shape for a jury trial next month after defense attorneys today said there was no chance Mobile County Licence Commission Kim Hastie would take a plea deal for any of the 17 counts of public corruption laid out against her in an indictment handed down late last year.After several months of back and forth between Hastie’s attorneys and federal prosecutors, a 10-day trial is now tentatively scheduled for the end of May before U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose. However, an exact start date has yet to be finalized.
Meanwhile, jury selection is scheduled to begin April 27 for the case, which in addition to the charges against Hastie, include nine counts against Deputy Licence Commissioner Ramona Yeager that include conspiracy, extortion, wire fraud and a deliberate plan to disseminate the private information of Mobile County residents for a political purpose.
It’s possible two juries could be selected because there are two defendants, though Hastie and Yeager are being tried together despite attempts from Yeager’s attorneys to have her charges severed and tried separately.
According to comments from the bench, Judge DuBose also specifically requested a joint jury be considered for count 17 of Hastie’s indictment because it’s the first time the charge of using private information for political purposes is being tried in the 11th Circuit.
According to a superseding indictment issued against Hastie in January, she is accused of orchestrating a scheme to disclose the email addresses of 30,853 Mobile County residents without their consent to publicize her support for Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s mayoral race in August 2013.
Neil Hanley, Hastie’s lead defense attorney, said he and Yeager’s attorneys would only need three days to defend the pair against the allegations, while prosecutors have requested up to eight days of the court’s time to present their evidence.
One of the only outstanding issues is an appeal to Judge Katherine Nelson challenging her ruling to disqualify Attorney Buzz Jordan from representing Hastie during the trial. One of Hastie’s three defense attorneys, Jordan was disqualified March 30 after the government made it clear prosecutors planned to question him about a letter he sent to Hastie prior the indictment advising her to repay license commission funds she had spent from a restricted fund.
Attorneys also discussed stipulations about whether audio interviews of Hastie will be played in their entirety with an accompanying transcript at the trial, which the defense has requested.
Despite those outlying issues, both sides said they would likely be settled through motions and said there shouldn’t be a need for any courtroom action until the jury selection process begins.
When asked if the defense was prepared, Hanley said, “We’re ready for trial, your honor.”
As previously suggested, both Hastie and Yeager denied a final opportunity to plead guilty to the array of federal charges they’ll face next month. Their rejection of a plea agreement was finally confirmed during today’s hearing.
A source close to the investigation, who wished to remain anonymous, claims the deal would have included an 18-month jail sentence, but those reports couldn’t be confirmed through the U.S. Attorneys Office.
Under sentencing guidelines, Hastie faces more than 55 years in prison if she is found guilty of all charges.