Former Franklin DA Pilati indicted
Melissa Cason, Franklin County Times
A former Franklin County District was indicted earlier this week on civil rights violations.
John Pilati, 41, of Russellville, was indicted Wednesday afternoon by the United States District Court on four counts of deprivation of civil rights in connection with the alleged illicit sexual contact between himself and four young males, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to investigators, the ages of the males involved ranged from 17 to 20 years old. The incidents allegedly occurred between Spring 2001 through Winter 2002, at which time Pilati was serving as the county's district attorney.
According to U.S. Attorney Alice H. Martin, the incidents involve Pilati allegedly conducting body searches of these young males during which he subjected them to unclothed fondling of a sexual nature.
"Citizens who are brought before law enforcement authorities are entitled to have their basic civil rights respected," Martin said. "When a District Attorney, or anyone else in law enforcement, uses his position to satisfy his own base desires, great damage is done to the justice system."
Special Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigators with the Alabama Attorney General's Office investigated the allegations and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Christine Dunn, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Miles M. Hart, will prosecute the case on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Birmingham attorney George Andrews will head Pilati's defense team and told the Times Wednesday that he and his client are prepared to fight the charges.
"These charges are total fabrications and we expect that upon a full and fair hearing and trial Mr. Pilati will be exonerated," he said.
Phone calls to Andrews office Thursday for further comment were not returned.
The maximum sentence for deprivation of civil rights is not more that one-year imprisonment and a $100,000 fine for each count. Imprisonment for each count must be served consecutively, U.S. Attorney's office said.
No trial date has been set but Jill Ellis, a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney's office, said Thursday that one could take place as early as May.
Pilati was first elected as Franklin County's District Attorney in 1998. He resigned his position in April 2004 after being indicted for lying to federal agents.
Pilati pleaded guilty to the charge in May 2004 and was given a six-month prison sentence and fined $5,000.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove Pilati's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.