Major Alabama ethics case in limbo over attempted murder charge against judge's son


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MONTGOMERY, Alabama — A major Alabama ethics prosecution is in limbo while a judge considers whether he should step away from the case because of his son's arrest on an attempted murder charge.

At a hearing Thursday, the attorney general's staff asked Montgomery County Circuit Judge Johnny Hardwick to step aside from the case of former state education official Deaann Stone and her husband. They asked because Attorney General Luther Strange's office is also prosecuting the judge's son. Assistant Attorney General Michael Duffy said the judge's continued involvement might create the appearance of bias.

Hardwick said he had always been fair to the attorney general's office and would continue to be that way, but he would seek the advice of the state Judicial Inquiry Commission. The commission considers issues of judicial conduct.

The attorney general's office is also seeking the judge's recusal in some other civil cases. Hardwick said he would ask the commission whether he should step aside from any case involving the attorney general's office and whether it should be until his son's case is resolved or should be permanently.

"Whatever they say I should do, I'm going to do," the judge said.

Montgomery judges get many civil and criminal cases involving the attorney general's office because Montgomery is the capital city. Hardwick, a judge for 13 years, said he's concerned about dropping all cases involving the attorney general's office.

"I don't want these other judges around here thinking I'm dumping my cases on them," he said.

While Hardwick awaits the commission's advice, the case of Deann and Dave Stone of Wetumpka is on hold. Deann Stone, 51, was director of federal programs for the state Department of Education before resigning in October 2010. She is charged with using her official position to obtain personal gain for the couple and for her husband's company through the state's allocation of $24 million in federal stimulus money to three county school systems that used her 55-year-old husband's company as a consultant.

The Stones have pleaded not guilty. Their attorneys did not take a position on whether the judge should step aside or remain.

The judge's 26-year-old son, Khalfani Ahmed Hardwick of Montgomery, has pleaded not guilty in a shooting on March 27. The state attorney general is handling the case because the local prosecutor stepped aside. Court records say the victim was shot in the back of the head during an altercation at a Montgomery apartment complex.

During the hearing Thursday, the attorney general's staff also asked the judge to step aside from the Stones' case because of comments he made about gambling at a February hearing, but the judge rejected that request.

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