The procedure for preferring an indictment is governed by the provisions of Ala. R. Crim. P. 13.2. Under that rule, the indictment or information shall be a plain, concise statement of the facts in ordinary language sufficiently definite to inform defendant of common understanding of the offense charged and with that degree of certainty which will enable the trial court, upon conviction, to pronounce proper judgment. The crucial question, of course, is whether the indictment sufficiently apprises the accused with reasonable certainty of the nature of the accusation made against him so that he may prepare his defense, that he may be protected against a subsequent prosecution for the same offense.
A governor set up a non-profit transition and inauguration corporation after being elected, had solicited and collected moneys for the entity after the election, and then withdrew money to cover a personal check that was written to pay the mortgage on his farm. The circuit court convicted him of using his office of governor for direct personal financial gain in violation of Ala. Code § 36-25-5 (1975) of the Alabama Ethics Law. He was sentenced to five years' imprisonment that was suspended upon the condition that he performs 1,000 hours of community service. On appeal, the governor asserted that his conviction was discriminatory or arbitrary and violated the Fourteenth Amendment.
Was the conviction of using excess campaign funds for personal use proper?
The court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court. The court found that defendant presented no evidence that anyone else subject to the Alabama Ethics Law had done the same acts. The court concluded that his prosecution was not discriminatory or arbitrary and did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. The court found that defendant could not rely on written opinions of the attorney general, because they were not directed to him and were issued after defendant's actions. The court found that after reading the Fair Campaign Practices Act, Ala. Code § 17-22A-7 and Ala. Code § 36-25-5 (1975), in pari materia, the jury charge was correct that using excess campaign funds for direct personal financial gain was not a lawful purpose. The court concluded that the failure to allege in the indictment that defendant knowingly or willfully violated § 36-25-5 did not prejudice his substantial rights, where he was given a more definite statement of the charges.