Cullman native and former Alabama Senate majority leader Zeb Little has pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree theft of property, one day after turning himself in to police on new charges related to his arrest and indictment earlier this year.
Little pleaded guilty to the charges Friday in the court of Judge Terry L. Dempsey in Franklin County. Little was granted a judicial venue change following his previous arrest, although jurisdiction over his case remains in Cullman County Circuit Court.
The Alabama Attorney General’s office is prosecuting the case; the local District Attorney’s office, as well as Cullman County’s Circuit Court judges, recused themselves from the case citing Little’s longstanding relationship, as both an attorney and Alabama senator, with current judicial and political leaders in the Cullman area.
First degree theft of property is a Class B felony in Alabama, and carries a potential prison punishment that ranges from 2 to 20 years. A suspect can be charged with first degree theft of property in instances involving the alleged theft of property or funds valued at more than $2,500.
Little, 51, was arrested in February following his indictment by a Cullman County Grand Jury on three counts of first degree theft of property. Detective Adam Clark, who investigates financial crimes for the Cullman Police Department and has worked the Little case for more than a year, said Little took a combined $43,293 from at least four named victims in relation to his new charges this week. His February indictment accused Little of stealing more than $25,000 of additional client trust funds, according to the Alabama Attorney General’s office.
A Democrat who served the Cullman area for 12 years as Alabama’s District 4 senator, Little was elected to the state Senate in 1998, and served until 2010, when he was defeated by Republican challenger Paul Bussman. Little served as the Senate majority leader from 2002 until 2010. He was arrested while serving as majority leader in 2009 on a charge of DUI, to which he pleaded guilty.
Judge Dempsey will come to Cullman County to conduct Little’s sentencing. A sentencing date has not yet been set. Following his guilty plea Friday, Little, who now resides in Tuscaloosa, was released on bond.
Benjamin Bullard can be reached by phone at 256-734-2131 ext. 145.