AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – The stage is set as suspended Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes prepares to defend himself against multiple felony ethics charges.
Jury selection began Monday morning inside the Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center at Auburn University. The decision was made to hold the selection process at the venue because the pool of potential jurors is so large. After a jury is seated, the trial will shift to Lee County Justice Center. The selection process could last a few days.
Monday, several potential jurors had already disclosed either knowing or having a friendship with Hughes and/or his family members as both prosecutors with the Attorney General’s Office, Hughes’ defense team, and appointed Circuit Judge Pamela Baschab asked them if they could be fair and impartial after hearing the evidence in the case.
Hughes has pleaded not guilty to five ethics violations, conspiracy to commit theft, and perjury. Hughes was indicted in November and is accused of using public funds to pay attorneys to settle a private legal matter; testimony given during a pre-trial hearing suggested Hughes allegedly used public funds to litigate a settlement in a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee.
Additionally, court documents accuse Hughes of illegally hiring his children and issuing a subpoena to a private business to gather evidence for his potential criminal defense. Hughes is also charged with conspiring to steal a pickup from a business in Chambers County by using a Lee County search warrant.
Hughes maintains his innocence on all counts. Hughes was elected as the Lee County District Attorney’s Officein 2016. He was suspended after his arrest. A judge appointed Jessica Ventiere as district attorney pro-tem to oversee the office.
It is not known if Hughes will take the stand in his defense. The trial could last at least two weeks.