A federal judge ruled this afternoon there was probable cause to move forward with an obstruction of justice case against a coworker of John Melvin Hastie Jr., the husband of Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie.
The Hasties were defendants in a tax evasion trial last week that ended with a hung jury. However, a criminal complaint filed today alleged Jonathan Lawrence Oneal made attempts to contact and influence jurors on the Hasties’ behalf prior to the trial. He has since been arrested.
Less than two hours later, prosecutors filed a motion requesting to select a completely new jury for the tax evasion retrial in July and for Kim Hastie’s separate 17-count public corruption trial beginning this month. Prosecutors have also requested a five-day continuance in the latter case.
In today’s motion, prosecutors said there were “at least four reasons why the judicial examination of selected jurors” prior to last week’s case was an insufficient remedy based on the evidence suggesting someone actively tried to influence or “corrupt” the jury.Specifically, prosecutors cited the recent arrest of Oneal, a belief the Hasties or someone else on the defense leaked protected information from a jury questionnaire, and “evidence that certain law enforcement officials may have contacted individuals positioned to influence certain prospective jurors.”
Prosecutors also pointed out John Hastie had spoken to a government witnesses during the last trial during breaks from testimony “while the witness was still on the stand.”
In his initial appearance today, Oneal waived his right to preliminary hearing and the court appointed attorney Peter Madden to represent him throughout his case.
Judge Sonja Bivens ruled that despite Oneal’s income, the expenses listed in his affidavit qualified him for a public defender. Oneal will have to reimburse the court $250 monthly for up to $2,000.
Oneal was immediately released from custody after agreeing not to contact either of the Hasties or the three witnesses in Monroeville mentioned in this morning’s criminal complaint.
Because he works under Hastie at Cooper Marine & Timber, Oneal said having not contact with him could be difficult because he “runs weekly paperwork through (Hastie).”
To the extent possible, Bivens instructed Oneal to limit his contact with Hastie and have has paperwork submitted through someone else — a condition Oneal agreed to.