After four days in court, a case marked by allegations of tax evasion and jury tampering yielded no result, as the jury weighing the evidence against Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie and her husband was unable to reach a verdict.
The jury began deliberating after closing arguments Thursday and continued well into Friday afternoon. Finally, U.S. District Court Judge Kristi DuBose declared a mistrial when the jury’s foreman told the court “no amount of time could bring the jury to a unanimous conclusion.”
However, prosecutors announced the case accusing the Hasties of conspiring to hide more than $56,000 from the IRS will be retried in July after another jury is selected June 29.
Immediately after the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sinan Kalayoglu and Gregory Bordenkircher, who prosecuted the case, couldn’t be reached for comment. Tommy Loftis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said the government was looking forward to trying the case the again.As they exited the courthouse, the Hasties were joined by several family members and friends, many of whom were present in the courtroom throughout the trial.
As he predicted during his opening arguments, Kim Hastie’s defense attorney Neil Hanley said the government had fallen short by failing to present enough evidence to convince a jury Hastie was “guilty of anything.”
“We are now prepared to try an even better case the next time because we know what the government is up to,” Hanley said. “There’s magic about (conspiracy). It should be easy for them to prove. If she was guilty of it, they would have found her guilty.”
Since Hastie was first indicted on separate public corruption charges in November 2014, many of her supporters claimed the charges were the result of a “political witchhunt.” However, Hanley said he has no knowledge or evidence of that.
Hanley did claim he didn’t think the “average person” would have been brought to court over $13,800 in back taxes — an opinion Hastie’s supporters shared.
“The average person would have gotten a letter form IRS saying ‘you owe these taxes please pay them,’” he said. “Something happened that differentiated Mrs. Hastie.”State Rep. Margie Wilcox — a lifelong friend of Hastie who supported the License Commissioner throughout the trial and in an unrelated public corruption case — said she wasn’t surprised by the amount of support the Hasties enjoyed.
“They’re not liked, they’re loved in the community,” Wilcox said. “They’ve always been there for their family and friends, and their family and friends are going to be there for them.”
Coincidentally, Wilcox is also currently sponsoring the bill to merge the offices of the Mobile County License Commission and the Mobile County Revenue Commission, an effort prosecutors believe spawned financial and ethical improprieties at the root of the 16-count indictment Hastie was hit with in November.
Since the indictment, Wilcox introduced the legislation as planned, but the bill has had its share of hurdles including an early legislative committee hearing it barely escaped. House Bill 287 received a favorable report from a committee of the Mobile County delegation, it requires action by the full House to move forward.
Wilcox noted State Rep. James Buskey of Mobile County is contesting the bill, though she isn’t sure why.
“The strange thing is Rep. Buskey has put a contest on the bill,” Wilcox said. “He gives me no good reason why other than to say, ‘this is bad timing.’ It’s still saving the taxpayers over a $1 million a year, there is still a revenue commissioner retiring and Kim moving to to that office and there’s still two offices that have no objection to it. There’s no better time to pass that law, and there is still time in the legislature to do that.”
As the legislature concludes its first session in 2015, Hastie will be in court facing the corruption charges in May and again in July for the tax evasion retrial. As for now, the position of Mobile County License Commissioner will be vacant when Hastie becomes revenue commissioner at the beginning of the fiscal year.
Calls to Buskey’s office for comment on this report were not immediately returned.