- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Prosecutors want a judge to give a former Alabama education official and her husband 50-year sentences in an ethics case involving the misappropriation of millions of dollars from the federal stimulus program.

The state attorney general is seeking the sentences for Deann Stone, 51, and Dave Stone, 55, of Wetumpka. Deann Stone is the former director of federal programs for the state Department of Education. A jury convicted her in October of five ethics counts involving using her position to direct more than $10 million in grants to the company that employed her husband. He was convicted of aiding and abetting her on each count.

“The State is not aware of a criminal ethics case or theft case in the State of Alabama involving this much money,” Assistant Attorneys General Bill Lisenby and Pete Smyczek said in court papers filed late Monday.

Deann Stone’s attorney, Tommy Goggans, responded Tuesday by asking Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick to issue “an appropriate and just sentence” that reflects her having no prior legal problems, having a good reputation and not posing a danger to society.

He also submitted letters from many family and friends seeking leniency and compassion. Among them were letters from current Secretary of State Jim Bennett and former Secretary of State Billy Joe Camp.

The Stones are scheduled for sentencing Monday. They have already announced plans to appeal their conviction. If the convictions stand, Deann Stone will lose her state pension benefits built up through more than 22 years in public education positions, Goggans said.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Deann Stone manipulated the process for awarding grants to make sure three school systems using her husband’s employer, Information Transport Solutions, got $24 million funded by federal stimulus money. The company received more than $10 million from the grants that went to the Lowndes, Coosa and Marengo county school systems, and Dave Stone got a $25,000 bonus, prosecutors said.

Deann Stone testified during the 10-day trial that she left much of the work on the grant process to other employees in her office, and she had only a small role. She said her staff made mistakes for which she got the blame.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to give each of the Stones a 10-year sentence on each ethics conviction and to run the sentences consecutively. They are also asking for $30,000 in fines for each.

Prosecutors said lengthy sentences are needed as a deterrent, and they pointed out that closest case in terms of money was the 1996 prosecution of Mobile County conservator Thomas Bryant Jr. He received 120 years for stealing $3.5 million from people whose financial affairs he was supposed to administer.

Thomas served less than a tenth of his sentence. He was paroled after eight years as part of effort by former Gov. Bob Riley’s administration to reduce Alabama prison overcrowding by accelerating the parole of non-violent offenders.

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