- Associated Press - Friday, October 10, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A jury found a former Alabama Department of Education official guilty Friday of using her position to provide millions to the company that employed her husband.

The jury deliberated about two and a half hours before convicting Deann Stone and her husband, Dave Stone, on five ethics charges. They are free on bond until sentencing in December.

Deann Stone was director of federal programs at the state Department of Education until being forced to resign in late 2010, and her husband is an executive with Information Transport Solutions in Wetumpka.

Prosecutors told the jury of eight women and four men that Deann Stone manipulated the process for awarding grants to schools to make sure three school systems using her husband’s employer got $24 million in school improvement grants funded by federal stimulus money. The company received $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 Bill Lisenby and Pete Smyczek 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.

As she waited for the verdict, she said, “I did not commit a crime. I trusted the people under me, and I did not realize it was such a mess until it was too late.”

She was also convicted of violating the ethics law by misusing state equipment and by having hotel, meal and other expenses for a Boston trip paid by an education company she recommended to school officials. She testified she was invited to Boston by a friend at the company and did not realize the friend was charging the expenses to the company. Dave Stone accompanied his wife on the trip. Dave Stone, who did not testify during trial, was convicted of aiding and abetting his wife on all five counts.

Defense attorney Tommy Goggans said the couple will appeal.

“These defendants not only betrayed taxpayers, but also the citizens and students of Alabama who were counting on scarce resources to help schools that were in dire need,” said State Attorney General Luther Strange, whose staff prosecuted the case.

Information Transport Solutions CEO Steve Meany said Friday the company cooperated with the investigation and was not accused of any wrongdoing. Meany said that in light of the verdict, the company would address Dave Stone’s employment status next week.

Deann Stone, 51, and Dave Stone, 55, both of Wetumpka, face up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine on each count. Montgomery County Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick set sentencing for Dec. 15.

The case against the Stones developed from a complaint by a competitor to Dave Stone’s employer and from an audit by the U.S. Department of Education.


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