More than two years after former Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie was found guilty of illegally disseminating 30,000 local motorists’ email addresses to a political campaign, it appears her attempts to appeal the conviction may have ended at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The conviction resulted from Hastie’s decision to turn over 30,000 email addresses from a database at the Mobile County License Commission to an employee of Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s campaign for mayor in 2013.
The addresses were used in an email blast sent out in August 2013 that contained Hastie’s endorsement for Simpson over incumbent Sam Jones.
Altogether, the incident led to Hastie being convicted criminally, sued civilly and condemned by the Alabama Ethics Commission.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta upheld Hastie’s conviction in April, and despite a request from Hastie’s defense team to rehear the case, the court issued a mandate of their judgment July 3.
According to the American Bar Association, the “necessary, final step” in cases appealed to a higher federal court is “marked by the issuance of [a] mandate” similar to the one the 11th Circuit issues in Hastie’s case at the top of the week.
Though it’s possible her legal team could seek to appeal the issue up to the U.S. Supreme Court, it seems unlikely at this point. An email to Hastie’s primary defense lawyer on the appeal, N. Stewart Hanley, wasn’t immediately returned.
In February, Hastie’s attorneys argued for a reversal of the 2015 conviction, which was finalized after a local jury found the then license commissioner to have violated the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA). The judges who reviewed the case on appeal ultimately agreed with the jury’s 2015 decision.
During Hastie’s larger public corruption trial at the time, U.S. District Court Judge Kristi Dubose determined that information protected under the DPPA — a federal law prohibiting employees of a department of motor vehicles from knowingly disclosing motorists’ personal information — would apply to email addresses even though they aren’t expressly mentioned in the law.
Despite her attorney’s claims that Hastie didn’t know email addresses would be considered personal information, both courts found that Hastie was likely aware that what she was doing was inappropriate “because she attempted to hide the source of the emails and later lied about her behavior” in an interview with a local television station.
As Lagniappe previously reported, if this is the final resolution of Hastie’s criminal case, it will allow a civil lawsuit against her and Mobile County to move forward for the first time since 2015.
Anitra Diamond and Labarron Yates filed that lawsuit, claiming their email addresses were among the 30,000Hastie released to the Stimpson campaign in 2013, and the 11th Circuit’s decision to uphold Hastie’s conviction bodes well for their case.
That lawsuit names Hastie as a defendant as an individual and in her official capacity as the Mobile County License Commissioner when the offense occurred. Since then, Hastie has been elected to serve as the revenue commissioner of Mobile County.
Depending on how that civil suit plays out, the cost of losing the battle could be high for Hastie and potentially for Mobile County as well. According to the lawsuit, when the DPPA was passed, the legislation included a $2,500-per-violation penalty for instances where personal information is released inappropriately.
If that holds true, the fee could theoretically be applied to each of the 30,000 bits of personal information Hastie released in 2013 — a potential penalty of $75 million.
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