Charles Todd Henderson, the man elected Jefferson County's district attorney in 2016 but never served, was sentenced today to serve six months in jail for his conviction on a perjury charge.
Henderson, who was found guilty by a jury of first degree perjury in October 2017, was sentenced by Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds, who was specially appointed to preside over the case. The judge ordered Henderson to serve two-year split sentence, but suspended it with six months to serve in the county jail, followed by 12 months supervised probation. The judge also ordered Henderson to pay a $10,000 fine and another $1,000 to the state crime victims fund.
Henderson's attorneys say he will appeal his conviction. But the judge ordered him to jail pending an order to allow him to post an appeal bond. The appeald bond should be issued later today.
Henderson was indicted on the perjury charge and suspended the week before he was to take office in early January 2017. The charge relates to his testimony in a divorce case in 2016 when he was questioned about his role as guardian ad litem and whether he had a romantic relationship with the mother in the case.
Joe Espy, one of Henderson's attorneys, told the judge that the event that led to the charge is inconsistent with Henderson's life. He worked his way through college and law school, was an Eagle Scout, he said.A number of people submitted letters in support of Henderson, including local attorney Martin Weinberg. "Charles is a good man. The whole chain of events that lead to today's outcome is extremely unfortunate. Our prayers are with him and his family at this time," said Weinberg, who attended today's sentencing.
A few of those at the hearing in support of Henderson said the conviction was political because Henderson had defeated the long-time Republican who had held the office, Brandon Falls. Henderson never held the office and Deputy District Attorney Danny Carr was named district attorney pro-tem while the case was pending.
Deputy District Attorney Mike Anderton was then appointed to serve as district attorney by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey after Henderson was convicted.
Henderson also has already been punished, Espy told the judge. He has lost his job as D.A. and his law license and is now working at a school for $27,000 a year, Espy said. He also has to live the notoriety the conviction has brought on him, he said.
The events Henderson was charged with happened before he was elected in November 2016 so there was no crime as a public servant and Espy questioned whether Henderson would have ever been charged had he not won the election.In the nearly 200-year history of Jefferson County there has never been a perjury charge our of a domestic case, Espy told the judge.
After the sentencing Espy said while he respected the judge's ruling, he was disappointed with it.
Assistant Attorney General Sara Margaret Rossmanith told the judge that Henderson has shown a lack of remorse nor has taken any responsibility for his actions. She showed the judge some social media posts and statements he made on an account to raise money for his post-conviction defense.
Prior to the sentencing both prosecutors and Henderson's attorneys filed briefs on their positions.
The prosecutors with the Alabama Attorney General's Office said in its brief that Henderson should serve at least six months in prison for his conviction on a first-degree perjury charge.
Henderson, according to his brief, "submits that incarceration serves no end that our system of justice has identified as primary to support its function. It is worth mentioning that the defendant has no prior criminal history and has honorably held several positions of public trust."
"As a result of this conviction, Defendant was removed from a very hard-earned, prestigious position; removed entirely from his chosen profession, his future employability has been severely impacted because he is now and will forever be a felon; and Defendant's reputation has been irreparably damaged," Henderson's brief states. "Put simply, he has been severely punished already. The only remaining question is whether the taxpayers must suffer along with the Defendant when they are forced to subsidize a period of incarceration. Therefore, the Defendant requests this court to suspend any sentence of incarceration and place the Defendant on probation.
In its memorandum the Attorney General's Office states that Henderson was found guilty of perjury beyond a reasonable doubt. "The evidence showed that Henderson testified in an official proceeding -- a divorce trial before Circuit Court Judge Patricia Stephens of the Jefferson County Domestic Relations Court. The evidence showed that Henderson testified falsely when he denied staying the night at Yareima Akl's apartment since she began campaigning for him. And the evidence showed that Henderson's false statement was material to the proceeding in which it was made. For these three reasons, Henderson was properly found guilty by a jury of his peers," according to the Attorney General's memorandum.
The Attorney General's Office spelled out what it believes the evidence showed:
"More broadly, the evidence at trial showed that Henderson's perjury was the culmination of a nearly year-long scheme that benefited himself and his girlfriend, concealed a conflict of interest from the court in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct, and disregarded the harm that his conduct posed to a child and a judicial system that parents and children depend on in particularly difficult times. Henderson acted as the proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing by offering himself as a neutral guardian to a child who very much needed one, when in fact, .... Henderson intended to do whatever it took to help the child's mother--his girlfriend--regardless of the child's best interestsHenderson countered in his brief that "There is nothing in the evidence presented in the instant case, nor in the domestic case, that supports this statement. The relationship between the Defendant and Ms. Akl was one that changed over time."
"Indeed, Facebook postings of the parties at campaign events were offered to prove the relationship existed before the time Defendant was appointed as GAL. To purposely post pictures on social media for all the world to see would be perhaps the most ill-conceived way to conceal a relationship that one could devise," Henderson's brief states. "In truth, what began as nothing more than assistance in a political campaign evolved into a much more personal relationship between the parties. No evidence has ever been presented that the relationship either began, or continued, as a "scheme" to benefit anyone at the expense of a minor child. Such an assertion is preposterous, offensive, and not supportable by the evidence.