By Stephen Nodine
Attorney General Luther Strange made promises and a commitment to District Attorneys throughout the State of Alabama during his 2010 campaign that he would not interfere with local District Attorneys’ cases. Strange has failed miserably to keep his promise.
Strange openly criticized then-Attorney General Troy King for meddling with local District Attorneys, yet one of Strange’s first acts was to do just that – meddle.
The Stephen Nodine case in Baldwin County was one of a malicious and wrongful prosecution of a factually innocent man. Luther Strange took over this case from the current District Attorney Hallie Dixon soon after Dixon and her team did the due diligence and presented a duly empanelled grand jury that found “no probable cause on charges of felony murder…and stalking.”
1. The death of Angel Downs was ruled consistent with suicide by the Baldwin County Coroner, State of Alabama Department of Forensic Science, and three other experts in forensics, crime scene reconstructionists, and every investigator that worked the scene on May 9, 2010.
Yet in spite of overwhelming evidence, Luther Strange received Sheriff “Hoss” Mack and former District Attorney David Whetstone – two former allies and friends of former disgraced District Attorney Judy Newcomb who started the injustice against Stephen Nodine – and allowed them to talk Strange into breaking his campaign pledges to both the Alabama Bar Association and the District Attorney’s Association.
2. Fast-forward to last year: the charges against Stephen Nodine for murder were dismissed “with prejudice” because the tragic fact is Angel Downs took her own life. The state wanted some skin from Nodine. They charged him with committing perjury – a felony – for filling out an indigent form incorrectly. Nodine thought it best for both families and the citizens of Baldwin County to accept a plea deal that included a plea (Alford Plea) to Harassing Communications and Perjury, even though Nodine had informed the court that he inadvertently filled out the form incorrectly and that the Federal Court had already deemed Nodine indigent. Nodine was hammered with a 12-year sentence, the first time in Alabama history a defendant was charged with perjury for wrongly filling out an indigency form.
3. Last week, Nodine filed a motion to be released on probation to help his son and ex-wife meet expenses after being financially devastated by Nodine’s wrongful prosecution. Luther Strange again had former District Attorney David Whetstone fight to keep Nodine in jail in spite of the investigative reports and spotlight on the national CBS 48 Hours episode, “Power and Passion,” that showcased this continued injustice.
4. Strange’s proxy, Whetstone, who was arrested for DUI in 2008, expressed to the Judge hearing the case that releasing Nodine would be like “putting the fox back in the hen house.” Whetstone, who hand-picked Judy Newcomb in 2006 to take over his duties as District Attorney, was indeed acting like a fox in the henhouse himself. Whetstone used his influence with Judy Newcomb to get his DUI knocked down to a misdemeanor in front of his former legal buddy and acting Judge Buddy Brackin.
5. Whetstone, with Strange’s assistance, continues to deny Stephen Nodine the ability to help his family, who are the real victims of Angel Downs’ suicide. Luther Strange has laid up the biggest “airball” of his political career with the Stephen Nodine Case.
It’s time to right a wrong and allow Stephen Nodine, a man with 30 years of service to his community and country, to be placed on probation like any other non-violent offender in the State of Alabama.