FORT PAYNE – Former State Senator Lowell Ray Barron (D) surrendered to authorities earlier today in response to an indictment resulting from charges presented by the Alabama Attorney General’s office to a DeKalb County grand jury.
Barron, 71, as well as former campaign staffer Rhonda Jill Johnson, 47, were both charged with six violations against the Ethics Law and Fair Campaign Practices Act, including an alleged transaction involving at least $58,000 of campaign money and a 2007 Toyota Camry provided to Johnson for personal use.
Barron was released after posting a $10,000 bond. Meanwhile, Jill Johnson remains in the DeKalb County Detention Center under a $10,000 bond.
During a press conference at the DeKalb County Courthouse earlier today, Joe Espy, Barron’s attorney, stated that the process of bringing these charges has been ongoing for two years, with two grand juries failing to indict in Jackson County.
The disputed funds were all strictly campaign monies and publicly disclosed as late as March 2011, according to Espy. “Tell me how you can publicly disclose something two years ago, and now we’re facing indictment today,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I would say I think that very few people in this state have dealt with campaign finance issues and ethics issues more than I have. I have never seen a case brought like this.”
Barron has been recovering since November 2012 from a tractor accident in which he injured his neck. Espy said that after consulting doctors on April 2, Barron will not be able to talk to anyone or sit in a courtroom for a significant amount of time for 12 weeks, due to his health.
“I’m optimistic about my recovery, but saddened to stand before you today, the victim of a vicious witch hunt by Luther Strange, from Montgomery,” Barron said. “If it had taken my life during my injury, it would not have been worse than Luther Strange trying to take my good name.”
Barron said that he is confident in the people of DeKalb County to judge his innocence.
After representing the 8th District in the Alabama Senate for seven terms, Barron lost his seat to Republican Shadrick McGill in November 2010.
A press release issued by the state attorney general’s office stated that no additional information concerning the investigation will be released at this time. According to the release, “If convicted, both face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and fines of up to $30,000 for each of the six counts in the indictment.”