The former Alabama House Speaker was convicted on more than half of the 23 felony ethics charges against him on Friday in a Lee County courtroom. He has no job, no title, and will be sentenced next month. APR’s MacKenzie Bates was there during the tense hours between final arguments and the verdict…
13 days. That’s how much time was need in the trial of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard. A grand jury panel of 12 Lee County citizens was tasked to determine if Hubbard used his position as House Speaker and former State GOP Chairman of the Alabama Legislature to obtain business and investment for his companies.
After seven hours of deliberation… the jury had a verdict. Guilty on 12 counts, Not Guilty on 11 counts.
And just like that, Mike Hubbard’s 18-year political career is over.
“This is probably the first time in recent history that someone at this level in state government has been prosecuted. For that reason, I think it makes a statement,” Acting Attorney General W. Van Davis says.
Hubbard used the term "political witch hunt" when he was indicted back in October of 2014. His defense team accused the prosecution, mainly Special Prosecutions Division Chief Matt Hart of prosecutorial misconduct and leaking grand jury information.
“This verdict vindicates us as far as all of the allegations were made in this case by the defense,” Davis says.
Some of the charges Hubbard was convicted of included voting on legislation that would have benefited one of his clients. In this case, it was American Pharmacy Cooperative Incorporated. The jury’s ruling also says he received money from APC through a consulting contract.
Four guilty counts were related to a consulting contract with Capitol Cups. That’s a business owned by Robert Abrams. He’s a New York businessman who has two businesses in Auburn. Hubbard allegedly lobbied the Commerce Department and the Governor’s office on his behalf.
“We’re very disappointed in the outcome,” defense attorney David McKnight says. “I feel like I let my client down.
David McKnight is a member of Hubbard’s defense team. He waits outside the Lee County Detention Center after Hubbard was taken to jail.
“We think we’ll ultimately prevail on appeal,” McKnight says.
Hubbard dodged reporters, leaving out a back door in a black corvette with a bail bondsman.
McKnight says they’ll have 42 days to file for an appeal of the convictions when he is sentenced on July 8th. He remains confident that Hubbard will walk free.
“We’ll raise the same issues that we raised before that we think have a lot of merit and we feel confident that we’ll ultimately get these convictions reversed,” McKnight says.
The jury convicted Hubbard on another set of counts tied together with Craftmaster Printers in Auburn. He was found guilty of soliciting and receiving $150,000 for Craftmaster from four individuals. The list includes Will Brooke, Jim Holbrook, Jimmy Rane and Rob Burton. Hubbard was also a Co-Owner in the company. Prosecutor W. Van Davis…
“There (were) counts that we understood fully the jury’s verdict. But the significant thing is that he was found guilty on 12 counts of state ethics violations.”
The jury did acquit Hubbard on roughly half of the felony counts against him. The panel disagreed with prosecutor’s claim that Hubbard sent GOP money to Craftmaster and the Auburn Network broadcasting company.
He was also found not guilty on soliciting a consulting contract with the Southeast Alabama Gas District. That utility was also tied to Hubbard lobbying the Alabama Department of Commerce on their behalf and to get Governor Robert Bentley to support the gas company’s projects.
Despite Friday’s conviction, political observers credit Hubbard with spearheading a political revolution in Montgomery in 2010. The result of that is the current Republican supermajority and the job as House Speaker.
“He’s corralled power by virtue of having helped a lot of the Republicans get elected to the legislature.”
That’s Steve Flowers. He’s a political columnist and former state lawmaker from Troy. He compares the power Hubbard commanded of that to infamous former Alabama Governor George Wallace.
“During the Wallace era, the Governor had power but the legislature has taken that power back and Hubbard has even taking to a further step,” Flowers says. “He has almost control of the house almost like it’s his autocracy.”
Now Hubbard is out of a job, and will likely spend some time in jail. Each count carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Davis thanked the jury for returning a guilty conviction on some of the charges, while sending a clear message.
“We hope that this verdict will restore some of the confidence in the people of the State of Alabama, that public officials at all levels in the State of Alabama will be held accountable for his actions,” Davis says.
Two other top republicans in the state are facing judgment in the legislative, executive and judicial branch. Governor Robert Bentley is faced with calls of impeachment after a sex-scandal involving a former top aide. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore faces removal from the bench over judicial ethics violations in the fight over same-sex marriage.