Several ethics charges against former Alabama Environmental Management Commissioner Scott Phillips and former U.S. EPA Administrator Trey Glenn have been dropped in a new superseding indictment filed Monday.
With the new superseding indictment, which was signed by a grand jury Friday, Phillips and Glenn are both facing fewer ethics charges in total than they faced in the original indictment filed in November.
And some of the charges have been changed.
The original indictment charged Glenn with 20 counts and Phillips with 16 charges. Six of Glenn’s original charges were for using a position for personal gain. Three of Phillips’ charges were for using his position for personal gain.
The remainder of the original charges were misdemeanor ethics violations.
Each defendant now faces 15 charges. Those include using their offices for personal gain and soliciting a thing of value from a principal. New charges include accepting a thing of value from a business that Phillips regulated.
Eleven of the charges against both defendants are violations charging that the men solicited or received money from Drummond Company for advice on matters concerning the Legislature and lobbying a legislative body or executive body including the Alabama Environmental Management Commission.
Glenn is charged with aiding and abetting Phillips in violation of the law. He wasn’t a public official at the time, but prosecutors said he aided Phillips in breaking the law. Prosecutors dropped conspiracy charges in the superseding indictment.
The charges relate to their alleged involvement with the corruption scandal surrounding the Drummond Coal Company Superfund site in Birmingham and Birmingham law firm Balch & Bingham.
Both Trey and Glenn pleaded not guilty to the new indictments.
The new indictment, which overrides the November indictment, comes as a series of defense motions filed in Jefferson County court earlier Monday morning asked that charges against Phillips and Glenn be dismissed.
At Monday’s arraignment, defense attorneys for both Glenn and Phillips cited a violation of due process and selective and vindictive prosecution as reasons to dismiss the charges against their clients.
As first reported by APR, shortly after Glenn and Phillips’ indictments, actions taken by Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Albritton, and his team raised serious questions about the process that led to charges against the two men, according to APR sources.
Chief among the concerns of selective and vindictive prosecution is whether then-Jefferson County District Attorney Mike Anderton had, in fact, requested the ethics commission’s help in indicting Glenn and Phillips, as reported by al.com.
Glenn’s attorneys also said the procedural process was circumvented when Albritton and Ethics Commission lawyer Cynthia Propst Raulston took the complaint directly to a grand jury rather than the Ethics Commission or a three-judge panel as prescribed by state law.
The defense attorneys say that the process violated the defendants’ due process rights to a probable cause finding, hearings and response. The rules for cases handled by the Ethics Commission are different from rules handled by normal prosecutors.
“By failing to follow the Legislature’s clear directives in the Ethics Act, the Staff acted without legal authority, and no source of legal authority inside or outside of the Act can cure that deficiency,” defense attorneys wrote. “Clear and binding legal precedent requires the dismissal of the indictment under these circumstances.”
Those rules don’t apply when a district attorney or the attorney general start the case on their own. In that case, they are allowed to start the process with a grand jury.
The charges are filed in Jefferson County Criminal Court, but the Ethics Commission is handling the case.
Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Wallace, who is presiding over the case, asked for additional information from prosecutors about the filings and said he would schedule hearings to hear motions about the dismissal. Prosecutors will need to file a more definite statement in two weeks about the charges in their next court filing.