published Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Ala. judge dismisses charges against ex-senator

  • photo
    In this June 7, 2007 file photo, Sen. Lowell Barron, talks with the media at the Statehouse in Montgomery, Ala. Former state Senate leader Barron is calling for Attorney General Luther Strange to dismiss the criminal case against him now that Strange has lost his appeal of pre-trial rulings that he said were fatal to the prosecution's case. The Alabama Supreme Court declined unanimously Friday, Aug. 22, 2014, to review pre-trial rulings by DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall Cole. (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A judge on Tuesday dismissed charges against former Senate leader Lowell Barron at the request of the state prosecutors, ending a case the defense said never should have been filed.

DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall Cole threw out campaign finance and ethics charges against Barron and former campaign aide Jill Johnson after the attorney general's office sought dismissal based on a string of adverse court rulings.

Barron, 72, said he was thankful for the decision.

"I'm grateful to the court system of Alabama and for the judicial process, which has restored my good name and put an end to this case," Barron said in a statement. "Now I'm going to get back to doing what I do best these days — spending time with my grandchildren."

Prosecutors accused Barron of misusing $52,000 in campaign funds from his unsuccessful 2010 re-election bid to help Johnson pay off a home loan from Barron and also her credit card bills.

Cole had ruled that the attorney general's office couldn't present evidence about whether the defendants had a romantic relationship. Cole also ruled that Barron's defense could present evidence about how other candidates used their campaign funds.

The attorney general's office, in earlier court filings, said the decision prevented them from showing motive in the case and would be fatal to the prosecution.

Barron has said the bonuses paid to Johnson were similar to those given by other candidates, including Attorney General Luther Strange, to key campaign staff.

The state Supreme Court earlier this month declined to review Cole's decisions, leading to the move by prosecutors to seek a dismissal.

"We believe it's something that should have never been brought to start with," Barron's attorney Joe Espy said of the charges against the former senator.

Barron, a Democrat, served 28 years in the Senate. He lost re-election in 2010 when Republicans took control of both houses of the Alabama Legislature.

The pharmacist from Fyffe was for years among the most influential members of the Alabama Legislature. He served as Senate president pro tem and chairman of the Rules Committee.

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