County DA recuses self from prosecuting cases against BOE members, personnel; members of media

Published 3:10 pm Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Escambia County (Ala.) District Attorney Steve Billy has recused himself from prosecuting cases against Escambia County Board of Education board members, personnel and two members of the media, citing personal reasons, according to court records.

Billy filed the notices of recusal on Feb. 21, 2024. The recusal notices were filed as the State of Alabama v. District 6 Board Member Sherry A. Digmon; v. District 4 Board Member Cindy Jackson; v. Bookkeeper Veronica Ashley Fore; and Atmore News Reporter Don E. Fletcher. Digmon is also the co-owner and publisher of the Atmore News.

According to the notices of recusal, Billy listed that he has both a legal and personal conflict, and justice would best be served if he recused himself from each of the cases.

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Billy said Thursday that one of his assistant district attorney’s firms represents school board and its members.

“I felt like that was a legal conflict,” he said. “The better thing to do is let the attorney general reach a decision.”

A status hearing ‑ where motions of dismissal were to be heard – is slated to be held next Mon., Feb. 26, at 9 a.m.

Billy said the recusal and other motions have affected the status of the hearing.

Additionally, two motions of continuance were also filed in cases against Digmon and Fore. A motion to dismiss was filed in a case against Digmon.

Over the past four months, Digmon and Fletcher have been arrested, charged and indicted for allegedly publishing grand jury secrets. In an article published in the Oct. 25, 2023 Atmore News, subpoena and COVID checks were mentioned and names were noted, according to Advance archives.

Jackson and Fore were also indicted for allegedly revealing grand jury evidence.

Digmon was also arrested and indicted on alleged ethics violations for using her office for personal gain, and was served an impeachment indictment from her capacity as a member of the BOE.

“If you also look at the impeachment case, it’s a long and drawn out case, and a felony case would have the same results as an impeachment,” Billy said.

According to the motion to dismiss for Digmon, the “defendant has been indicted for other felony offenses, which upon conviction, would disqualify her from holding public office; that a successful prosecution of her pending felony cases would have the same result as impeachment; that the ends of judicial economy would best be served, as time and resources would be more wisely and efficiently used if this matter was dismissed; and that justice would best be served.”

“It would make no sense to try the case twice,” Billy added.

Billy confirmed the files on dismissal were on the impeachment proceedings.

The motion for continuance states that the “case is set for Feb. 26, 2024, for a status conference; that the district attorney (Billy), who is handling the case will be out of town; that this is the first setting of any hearings in this matter and the defendant will not be prejudiced by a continuance; and that justice would best be served if this case was continued.” The same was stated in the continuance for Fore.

Retired Judge Ben Fuller of Prattville has not signed an order on anything at this time, according to Escambia County Circuit Clerk John Fountain.