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Trial underway for Lee County District Attorney

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 9:20 PM EDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) -He was elected to fight crime in Lee County, now the tables have turned.

Trial began today for former District Attorney Brandon Hughes.

Former DA Brandon Hughes is facing 5 counts of ethics violations, one count of perjury, and one count of conspiracy to commit theft.

Today in court, the state of Alabama called its first witness, District Attorney Pro-Tem Jessica Ventiere. She testified, the former DA would regularly drink in the office, and created a party atmosphere when he assumed the office back in 2017, and she said he was having an affair with a young and attractive Assistant District Attorney, Taylor Lee Stokes, not long after he hired her.

“It felt a little like Mad Men; I guess if you have seen that show. There was a lot of drinking in the office. It was probably more relaxed than it should be for a professional office. There were electronic gaming systems brought in to play Guitar Hero. It was frat-house-ish at times,” said Ventiere during testimony. “The custodian staff walked in on some sort of intimate or inappropriate event between Ms. Hughes and Ms. Stokes; they had been in Mr. Hughes’s office. The lights were out, and that Ms. Stokes came out of the office and slammed the door with lipstick smeared on her face, and her hair was messed up. She approached the custodian employee and said, don’t tell anybody; that is what was reported to me,”.

Ventiere went on to say, the cleaning lady reported the incident. Not long after, Ventierre brought it to Hughes attention and then, Taylor Lee Stokes, the Assistant DA, was given the option of either resign or be terminated. She chose to resign. Soon after, stokes filed for a sexual discrimination charge, where Hughes and his wife eventually settled for $45,000 out of his own pocket. However, according to prosecutors, Hughes paid for his attorney fees using taxpayer dollars.

According to Ventierre, she looked into the incident, and later met with Hughes after a few days. He asked her what he should do and she informed him Stokes should leave the office, because the custodian feared retaliation for what she saw. During opening statements, the defense also told jurors, shortly after Stokes departure from the Lee County DA’s office, she secured a job in the same position with the Chamber’s County District Attorney’s office, from a recommendation letter from Hughes. According to Ventierre’s testimony, Hughes did not want to terminate Stokes at the time, because it would confirm they were having an affair.

Trial is slated to pick back up at the TK Davis Justice Center in Opelika, Alabama, 8 a.m. Thursday.