After what seemed to be a routine day of jury selection before the one of the trials of embattled Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie, federal prosecutors are now alleging Hastie’s husband, John Melvin Hastie Jr., made attempts to tamper with the jury.
The Hasties were accused in a superseding indictment of attempting to defraud the U.S. government through tax evasion after failing to report $58,633 worth of income stemming from the sale of property.A judge’s order later severed those counts from 17 other public corruption charges Kim Hastie is facing in an unrelated criminal case slated to begin in late May. The trial related to the charges of tax evasion was on scheduled to begin Tuesday April 28, but evidence federal prosecutors plan to introduce could change the landscape of those proceedings.
According to court documents filed late this evening, John Hastie is accused of attempting to influence jurors in the pending case. Prosecutors claim they learned of the alleged jury tampering as early as this morning.
“The United States has evidence that defendant John Hastie contacted an individual under his employ and directed him to initiate contact with at least one prospective juror for the purpose of influencing that juror’s opinions at trial,” the filing reads.
Though details were few, prosecutors said they plan to call FBI Special Agent Eric Lawson and 35th Judicial Circuit Task Force Commander Alfred Carter to testify about the allegations as early as tomorrow morning.
John Hastie is being represented by local attorney Jeff Deen, who declined to comment on the developing allegations because Lagniappe’s call this evening was “the first (he’s) heard of it.”
A hearing on the aforementioned evidence is scheduled to begin tomorrow at 8:15 a.m. at the John A. Campbell U.S. Courthouse in downtown Mobile.
UPDATE: In addition to the initial allegations, federal prosecutors filed a second motion later Monday alleging a second possible instance of jury tampering — this one involving law enforcement.
“In addition to the allegations contained therein, the United States has recently learned that law enforcement officials acting in the defendants’ interests may have contacted several prospective jurors prior to voir dire to speak with these jurors about subject matters concerning the trial,” the document reads. “The United States believes that it is possible that several contacted jurors may have been selected to serve on the jury for the upcoming trials.”
As a result, prosecutors asked for a two week continuance of Hastie’s tax evasion trial “in the name of justice.”
“Accordingly, to protect the sanctity of the jury selection process and remove any presumption of prejudice against any party, the United States respectfully requests a two-week continuance and a hearing to address allegations of jury tampering,” the document reads.
At this time it’s unclear how the new developments will affect the trial scheduled to begin April 28. More updates will be added to this report as soon as a judge’s ordered is issued.