By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The investigation and conviction of former Director of Federal Programs for the State Department of Education, Dr. Deann K. Stone and her husband David Stone, bears a striking similarity to the Lee County Special Grand Jury investigation into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.
Stone and her husband were both charged and convicted of five felonies. Most of the charges stem from a violation of State ethics law; the intentional use of her office for their personal gain.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, “Dr. Deann Stone took actions to manipulate the grant process to ensure that school districts that have agreements with Dave Stone’s business employer received millions in federal grant money.” A Montgomery County jury took only two hours to convicted the Stones, after the two week trial.
The investigation that led to the Stone convictions began under the authority of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division. This is the same unit that is investigating Hubbard.
The Division was established by Attorney General Luther Strange almost immediately upon taking office nearly four years ago. The investigation unit is led by Special Prosecutions Chief Miles M. Hart, the same lawman investigating Speaker Hubbard. Also involved in the investigation and conviction of the Stones were Deputy Attorney General Mike Duffy, and Pete Smyczek who are also on the team investigating the Speaker.
An Attorney General’s Special Grand Jury was impaneled to investigate the actions of Mrs. and Mr. Stone in the same manner as the Lee County investigation. Because of the complexity of the case and the thousands of pages of documents and many witnesses that were needed, the resources of a Special Grand Jury was necessary; just as it has been in Lee County.
Top education leaders, like State Superintendent Tommy Bice, were called before the Grand Jury, just as leading lawmakers, like Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, have been called before the Special Grand Jury in Lee County.
Law enforcement agents say that without the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division, the case against the Stones could never have been made. As a matter of fact, the case against the couple was brought to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and they refused to take jurisdiction over the investigation. This should give pause to those who continue to call for federal intervention in the Lee County investigations, even though the funds that Deann Stone was convicted of using were federal grant monies.
Special Agents and Auditors of the United States Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, did assist in the case, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office passed altogether.
Circuit Court Judge Johnny Hardwick presided over the case, even after Luther Strange had asked for a recusal, because the Attorney General believes the judge was, “biased against the Attorney General’s office.”
However, even with a Judge believed to be hostile toward the prosecution, the grand jury proceedings, the conduct of the investigators and allegations of political prosecution were never mentioned in the case. This is quite contrary to what the defense has attempted in the Lee County cases.
The Stones were charged with five felony counts stemming from Mrs. Stone using her office for personal gain, the couple were convicted on all counts.
This publication has written over 100 investigative pieces into the actions of Speaker Hubbard and others, that might lead a reasonable person to conclude that Hubbard has used his office in like manner.
There is a great impenitence for definitive action out of the Lee County Special Grand jury.
If there is one parallel between the two investigations that should give concerned citizens hope, it is that the same unit and men are on the case in Lee County.