- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A jury will begin deliberations Friday in the trial of a former Alabama Department of Education official accused of using her position to provide millions to the company that employed her husband.

Attorneys presented closing arguments Thursday in the ethics trial of Deann Stone and her husband, Dave Stone. Montgomery Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick told jurors they will get the case on the 10th day of the trial.

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 from the attorney general’s office said Mrs. Stone manipulated the awarding of federal stimulus grants to get $24 million to three school systems using her husband’s employer. The company got more than $10 million of the grant money for services and equipment, and Dave Stone got a $25,000 bonus, they said.

Defense attorneys said Lowndes, Coosa and Marengo county school systems would have won the grants with or without Deann Stone being involved, and her husband’s bonus was for nearly a decade of hard work.

“The evidence in this case is she did not use her office for personal gain,” defense attorney Tommy Goggans told the jury.

Prosecutors presented emails between the Stones about the grant process and said she helped grade the grant applications from school systems.

“Deann Stone thought she could outsmart the Department of Education, and she did for a little while,” prosecutor Pete Smyczek said.

Defense attorneys said she gave her husband publicly available information, and her grading sheets were never meant to be counted. They said she did them to test the application process, and the counting of her grading sheets didn’t affect the outcome.

Prosecutors said the three school systems wouldn’t have qualified for any grants if Stone’s office had followed the federally approved rules for the grant process.

Defense attorneys said Deann Stone didn’t need to manipulate the grants because Dave Stone’s employer had a superb reputation and had been used in the past by about 100 of Alabama’s 133 school systems. “ITS didn’t need any help,” attorney Mike Jackson said.

Deann Stone, 51, and Dave Stone, 55, both of Wetumpka face up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine on each of the five ethics counts if convicted.

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