- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A former state Department of Education official used her position to manipulate the awarding of federal stimulus funds and provide millions to the company that employed her husband, a prosecutor told a jury during the first day of her trial Tuesday.

Attorneys expect the circuit court trial of Deann and Dave Stone to last about two weeks. The jury consists of 12 members plus two alternates.

Defense attorneys said the Stones are the victims of other education employees who are trying to protect themselves. “The evidence is going to show she did not use her office for personal gain,” attorney Tommy Goggans told the jury.

Deann Stone was director of federal programs at the state Department of Education until she resigned under pressure in late 2010.

Prosecutor Bill Lisenby told jurors that Deann Stone added an extra step to a grant-application grading system to make sure $24 million in school improvement grants went to three school systems using her husband’s employer, Information Transport Solutions in Wetumpka. The prosecutor said the company got $10 million from those grants to the Lowndes, Coosa and Marengo county school systems.

“They worked together in order to make sure that company received millions of dollars,” Lisenby said.

Defense attorneys said the case originated from a complaint filed by a competitor of Information Transport Solutions, and an internal investigation by the state Department of Education found no conflict involving the Stones. They also said grading sheets used by many people who evaluated the grant applications show the grants would have gone to the three school systems with or without Deann Stone’s involvement.

Defense attorneys said the only information Deann Stone gave her husband was public information available to anyone. “There was no inside information passed,” attorney Mike Jackson aid.

Deann Stone, 51, and Dave Stone, 55, both of Wetumpka, are charged with five ethics violations. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine on each count.

After leaving the Department of Education, Deann Stone went to work for the Lowndes County school system as coordinator of special education, according to defense attorneys.

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