BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The two alleged ethics violations are charged as Class-B felonies which could carry up to twenty years each, according to Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls. Those charges hinge on the word intentional. It will be up to a jury to decide whether there was any wrongdoing, intentional or otherwise- in the case.
District Attorney Falls also wants to remind people that Ms. Scales is presumed innocent until proven guilty. That being said, though, these are serious charges. He says his office does not take the charges lightly.
“We are greatly concerned about the public’s perception of government in Jefferson County — in all of the municipalities as well as the state level. We want to make sure that no one is abusing that trust,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls.
“There were 2 indictments that were returned by the Grand Jury of Jefferson County against Lashunda Scales. The first indictment was two counts of ethics violations,” said Falls.
Falls said the indictment was returned by the 6th Grand Jury of Jefferson County for 2013.
“The first is use of office for personal gain. The second is intentional use by a public official of equipment, facilities, time, materials, human labor or any public property for private or business benefit. So that’s count 1 of the ethics violations. The second count are the elections violations. Those contain, that indictment contains 4 counts for elections violations. Just to go over them generally, they are the attempted use of official position for the purpose of influencing the vote of another person. Second count is the obstruction, intimidation or coercion of another voter for the purpose of interfering with their right to vote,” said Falls. “The third count is that on election day, the indictment reads that she did disturb, prevent, or attempt to prevent a voter from freely voting. And the fourth count is the interference or undue influence of a voter inside the polling place. Now that indictment is related to the 2012 municipal bond election in the City of Birmingham.”
Falls also said that an indictment is just an accusations and that Scales is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
“The charges itself, there is good reason for the people of Jefferson County to be concerned about their elected leaders. That’s no, that’s no secret. This has been going on for several years and we’ve been embarrassed across the country by our own elected officials who have done things that they shouldn’t have done. Who’ve abused their positions, and those are positions of trust. They’re put there by the people. They’ve done it for personal gain and it’s uh, it’s illegal. You’re not supposed to do that so we look at the cases as they’re presented to us. I won’t say that we are out looking for these charges. I don’t think, I don’t think we necessarily have to. The charges come up, the charges are made, and they are presented to either the Ethics Commission or the Attorney General’s office or our office for investigation and when we have them we go forward,” said Falls.
“Don’t misunderstand me when I say that we’re not looking for these charges. If it’s happening we want to know about it. We are greatly concerned about the public’s perception of government in Jefferson County in all of the municipalities as well as the state level. We want to make sure that no one is abusing that trust.”
“The voting violations came to us from the Alabama Secretary of State. It was forwarded to us by that office. The other complaint was made to the Ethics Commission and went to the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and then was forwarded to my office by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office,” said Falls.
“I don’t know why it took so long. I believe there was an investigation that was ongoing. I wouldn’t say it was dropped, I would just say that they were reviewing us and then they forwarded it to us,” said Falls.
“I believe the Ethics violations are for incidents that occurred in 2010,” said Falls.
“The maximum sentences on the charges would be Class-B felony so a 2 year to 20 year sentence. There are different charges that have different ranges. There are also misdemeanors and violations so the misdemeanors would carry a maximum of 12 months and then the violations would have really no jail time whatsoever,” said Falls. “The two charges in the indictment for the ethics violations are Class-B felonies as charged. The jury will make the determination as to whether these will be returned as felony or misdemeanor counts. And I know that’s a little confusing, but basically the way that the ethics law reads is that intentional violation is a Class-B felony. And something other than an intentional violation is a misdemeanor.”
According to Falls, Scales turned herself in on Tuesday where she was arrested and booked and then bonded out.
“She was released on her own recognizance by the court. The next step in this phase will be that there will be a pretrial hearing scheduled in circuit court. We are awaiting the assignment of the case by the Alabama office of courts so we don’t know yet who the judge will be,” said Falls