By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY – Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is asking for the recusal of Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Johnny Hardwick in the criminal case against former Alabama Department of Education official Deann Stone and her husband, as well as in several other civil cases. The AG’s office says the recusal is necessary because their office is currently prosecuting Judge Hardwick’s son on attempted murder charges.
Khalfeni Ahmed Hardwick has plead not guilty on the charges against him, which stem from an argument at a Montgomery apartment which ended when Hardwick allegedly shot someone in the back of the head.
This case, one of many in Judge Hardwick’s court in which the AG’s office is a party, began in early 2012 when the federal government began an investigation into the allocation of stimulus money spent by the Alabama Department of Education. Particularly, they took interest in about $24 million spent on three school districts in the state, all districts at which Deann Stone’s husband worked as a consultant.
The Stones surrendered to the Montgomery police in August of 2012, but their trial is now being held up as the AG’s office seeks the recusal of Judge Hardwick on the matter.
While the AGO insists the Judge’s removal from the case is necessary, Hardwick has thus far seemed hesitant to buy the argument, especially considering the vast number of other cases with AG involvement on his docket that might then be questioned. Additionally, Judge Hardwick says he does not want to burden the other circuit judges with cases he believes he can handle fairly.
“I don’t want these other judges around here thinking I’m dumping cases on them,” Judge Hardwick said.
At a hearing considering the hold up of the Stones’ trial, the AG’s office also advanced the argument that Hardwick should step aside because of remarks he has made about gambling.
While Judge Hardwick rejected the gambling claim offhand, it seems he was more receptive to a recusal based on the charges against his son.
Hardwick has said he will ask the Judicial Inquiry Commission whether or not is necessary to step down from the bench in all cases related to the Attorney General, and will follow their advice.
“Whatever they say I should do, I’m going to do,” he said.