LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – Former Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes and his attorneys are trying to keep him from serving his ten-month prison sentence behind bars. Instead, Hughes is requesting an assignment to a community corrections program. Prosecutors with the Alabama Attorney General’s Office are opposing the request saying a community corrections program is no more than probation and does not fit the crimes committed by Lee County’s former top prosecutor.
In June, Hughes’ trial came to an abrupt halt when he pleaded guilty to a violation of the Ethics Act and first-degree perjury. The Alabama Attorney General’s Office had indicted Hughes on five ethics violations and perjury, including spending $14,000 in taxpayer dollars from the District Attorney’s fund to an attorney helping Hughes settle an alleged sex discrimination claim involving a former employee. Hughes was accused of illegally hiring his three grown children to work in the DA’s Office, issuing a subpoena to a private business to gather evidence for his potential criminal defense. Hughes was also charged with conspiring to steal a pickup from a Chambers County business using a Lee County search warrant.
With Hughes’s guilty plea, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and Huge’s legal team agreed to concurrent sentences of three years in prison, split to serve ten months in the county jail, followed by two years of unsupervised probation. Now, court documents dated September 9th indicate Hughes is seeking an order from the Court allowing him to serve his ten months of incarceration in a community corrections program, which would keep him out of jail, and at home.
Hughes’s motion states the community corrections program community provides intensive supervision and services so the offender “can get the help they need while ensuring the safety of the community is not compromised.” Hughes’ legal team says their client has been approved for the program in Elmore/Autauga County by Jennifer Smith, the community corrections coordinator. Hughes has no prior convictions or criminal history, and his defense maintains he is not a threat.
“Mr. Hughes has been a prosecutor for the entirety of his legal career. Mr. Hughes has worked in a position where he has been afforded the opportunity to serve his community. Mr. Hughes is passionate about giving back to his peers and others around him. Because of this, the community corrections program would allow him to continue to help those around him while helping him to better himself and learn from his mistakes,” stated Hughes’s motion.
Hughes’ attorney’s explained as far as counts 1, 2, and 3 of the indictment, involving the Ethics violation of employing his children and paying them ten (10) dollars an hour, Hughes has paid all money owed with interest to the State of Alabama, prior to these charges being brought.
“Mr. Hughes has been punished and damaged in many ways which he understands is deserved. He has lost his Alabama Bar license and the ability to practice law possibly for the rest of his life. He has lost a six-figure job as the Lee County District Attorney and suffered the shame and embarrassment of letting down his family and his community. If incarcerated, his family will lose any financial support he could provide them. Mr. Hughes has one son enrolled in college, where he plays baseball and plays his first season this fall and spring. Additionally, Mr. Hughes has two daughters, one of which is to be married this summer. If Mr. Hughes was admitted into community corrections, he can find employment and continue to support his family. Moreover, if Mr. Hughes is working, he will be able to pay back the State for any attorney’s fees incurred on the Ethics Act violation he plead guilty to,” wrote his attorneys.
The State of Alabama filed a motion in opposition to Hughes serving the incarceration portion of his split sentence in a community corrections program.
“As this Court is no doubt aware, “Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.” If public officers will infringe men’s rights, they ought to pay greater damages than other men, to deter and hinder other officers from the like offenses. Accordingly, this Court cannot, consistent with any notion of justice, allow the top prosecutor of a county to serve no actual jail time when that top lawman lied,” wrote prosecutors in their response.
Prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office further stated a community corrections program is nothing more than probation.
“An offender sentenced to CCP remains at home, sleeps in his own bed, and only need to report to the CCP once a month. The offender will be subject to home visits, random drug tests, and a $30-per-month supervision fee. The Director of the Elmore and Autauga County CCP programs similarly states that Hughes would merely have to report periodically. In other words, CCP does not resemble incarceration in any manner –it is nothing more than probation. As discussed below, CCP or probation is not an appropriate punishment for Hughes’ pattern of corruption and perjury and certainly will not deter other criminally inclined public officials from similar conduct,” wrote prosecutors.
According to court documents, Hughes’ pre-sentence investigation specifically recommended Hughes complete his split sentence in the Department of Corrections or in the Lee County Jail and not with Community Corrections.
Specially appointed Lee County Circuit Judge Pamela Baschab continues to oversee the case. News 3 will continue to monitor the sentencing process and keep you updated.