8 months ago

Alabama Supreme Court upholds six, reverses five convictions against Hubbard

The Supreme Court of Alabama on Friday morning released a ruling on the remaining convictions against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn).

Hubbard was originally convicted in 2016 on 12 of 23 ethics charges brought against him by the Alabama Attorney General’s Office.

One of those 12 convictions was reversed by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals in August 2018. The Supreme Court last year granted cert on the remaining 11 convictions, meaning they would hear his appeal.

In an opinion written by Chief Justice Tom Parker and released on Friday, the Supreme Court upheld six of those convictions, reversing the remaining five.

Counts 6, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 were upheld, while counts 16, 17, 18, 19 and 23 were reversed.

Although half of the original convictions have since been tossed, Hubbard still faces four years in prison, which was the original length of imprisonment imposed by the trial judge.

Hubbard has been free on an appeals bond since his 2016 conviction. That appeals bond could be revoked by the trial judge and Hubbard ordered to jail as soon as Friday.

However, there will be a major question over whether Hubbard should be sent to prison while the coronavirus pandemic is ongoing, as correctional facilities are especially vulnerable to becoming hotbeds of spreading the virus. Facilities are thus attempting to limit contact with the outside world, including the introduction of new inmates, when possible.

Hubbard also still faces 16 years of probation following his imprisonment, as well as a $170,000 fine and $3,000 owed in a victims compensation assessment.

The Supreme Court’s full ruling can be accessed here.

UPDATE 10:30 a.m.

Here is a brief breakdown of how the Supreme Court evaluated the 11 remaining convictions against Hubbard:

Counts 16-19 and 23

These are the five counts on which Hubbard was convicted for soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a principal of a lobbyist.

Several investors in Hubbard’s business (Craftmaster) were associated with businesses or organizations which hired lobbyists. The State contended that prevented Hubbard from taking an investment from them.

On counts 16-19, the Supreme Court reversed conviction, saying the State failed to prove Hubbard did not pay full value for the Craftmaster investments and that, therefore, the State failed to prove the offense of receiving a thing of value from a principal.

Count 23, as well as the Supreme Court’s opinion on this count, has perhaps the most precedential value in this case. The crux of the matter was determining whether Will Brooke, a member of a leading trade association’s board and executive committee at the time, was a principal under the ethics law because the association (BCA) employed a lobbyist.

The Supreme Court determined in this count that “the BCA and the individual members of the BCA board are not the same legal person; they exist distinct from one another.” Further, the court decided that the term principal is not broad enough to encompass a member of a board in the absence of evidence that the board member was involved with the employ of the entity’s lobbyist.

Moreover, the Supreme Court ruled that being a principal or not is determined by the person’s activity rather than position. This should be judged on a case-by-case basis moving forward.

Count 23 was reversed.

Counts 6 and 10

These counts were based on Hubbard’s contracts with two companies, APCI and Edgenuity. Because he received payments under consulting contracts with the companies, Hubbard was convicted of receiving a thing of value from both.

There is a compensation exclusion to this provision for circumstances when it is clear the thing of value is provided for reasons unrelated to public service.

However, the Supreme Court upheld the counts and said the State provided evidence that Hubbard’s contracts were indeed related to his position as speaker. It was referenced repeatedly by representatives of those companies that being speaker in Alabama would open doors for them, etc., even if they meant out of state. There is no distinction in the statute in that regard. Furthermore, Hubbard’s vote on a budget which had a provision helping APCI also violated the ethics act, per the court.

Count 11

This count related to Hubbard’s consulting for Capitol Cups and using his official position for personal gain.

Capitol Cups was in his district, but Hubbard also had a $10,000 per month contract with them. He emailed Publix asking to set up a meeting related to Capitol Cups, and at the bottom of the email he had Speaker of the House and such in his signature.

This count was upheld.

Count 14

Hubbard was convicted on this county of using public property for private benefit. He allegedly used his chief of staff’s time to help get a patent for a company controlled by Robert Abrams of CSP Technologies. Abrams also owned Capitol Cups, which was paying Hubbard.

The Supreme Court upheld this conviction.

Counts 12 and 13

Hubbard was convicted on both of these counts of representing for compensation a business entity before an executive department or agency.

He allegedly obtained meetings on behalf of SiO2 Medical Products, another Abrams-owned company, while receiving payment from Capitol Cups.

Hubbard further had his legislative assistant set up meetings for Abrams with then-Governor Robert Bentley and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

The court upheld both convictions.

Justices Mendheim and Stewart concurred with the opinion of the court. Parker, the author, concurred specially. Justices Bolin, Wise and Bryan concurred in part and concurred in the result in part. Justice Sellers concurred in part and dissented in part. Justices Shaw and Mitchell recused themselves.

UPDATE 10:35 a.m.

Governor Kay Ivey released a statement on the ruling.

“Today’s ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court is the culmination of four years of deliberation, and I support and accept their findings. As an elected official, our first priority is to be above reproach and avoid even the appearance of misconduct and abuse of office,” she stated.

“I support seeking clarity on our state’s ethics laws to ensure those who want to abide by them may not be unfairly targeted. However, let me be abundantly clear, I do not support weakening a system that is meant to hold our elected officials accountable. The rule of law must be upheld,” Ivey continued.

The governor concluded, “Even more so on this Good Friday, my thoughts and prayers are on Mike Hubbard’s family and upon our state as we move on from this unfortunate part of Alabama’s history.”

UPDATE 1:45 p.m.

Attorney General Steve Marshall released a statement and commended the members of the attorney general’s office who have worked on the case for years.

“Today, the Alabama Supreme Court delivered its opinion in the case of former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard,” Marshall said. “The Court’s decision reflects what we have argued from the beginning: Mike Hubbard’s actions were corrupt and betrayed the public trust. It is well past time for Mike Hubbard to serve the time he has so richly earned.”

This is breaking news and will be updated.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Guest: Physicians are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic — You are

State Health Officer is a difficult role to fill, especially this year. While partisanship and conspiracies continue to divide us, it is the job of the State Health Officer to make decisions for the good of all people throughout Alabama. This is exactly what Dr. Scott Harris has done for Alabamians during (and before) the COVID-19 pandemic.

After reading a recent article about Dr. Harris, I was appalled but not surprised by the fact that he has received death threats over mask mandates and other preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Governor Kay Ivey enacted the first mask mandate on July 16, 2020, at the recommendation of Dr. Harris and others. After the initial mandate, Alabama’s case average and death rates quickly fell. Neighboring states without mask mandates – including Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee – all continued to rise above Alabama’s average.

As President of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama, I would like to proudly declare my support of Dr. Harris and Governor Ivey in regard to the mask ordinance, social distancing guidelines, and other measures to protect the citizens of Alabama. Science and data have shown us time and time again that these guidelines work. That being said, why are there still Alabamians who push against these life-saving initiatives?

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While appealing to a sense of personal responsibility should be effective enough, it has proved not to be. What happens when personal responsibility is not enough, and people are endangering others? Mask mandates. Social distancing guidelines. Occupancy limitations.

Physicians and other health care providers have worked tirelessly to serve our patients, even at the cost of our own health and safety. What if I told you that we are no longer on the front lines of this pandemic, but you are? You have the power and capability to stop the spread of the Coronavirus that has taken over 3,450 lives in Alabama and 1.39 million lives worldwide. All you have to do to potentially save a life is to wear a mask in public, socially distance and wash your hands. These simple actions not only save lives, but can also help our physicians and hospital systems not get overwhelmed with patients. You can help keep your family and our families safe at the same time.

As we head into this holiday season, we can’t require people to keep themselves safe, but we are asking them to keep other people safe. Many people could be infected and transmit the disease to others without even knowing they are sick. I just hope that we can recontextualize the mask mandate and see it as a simple act of kindness to protect those around you. It seems like the least we can do for our families, friends, loved-ones, physicians, nurses, and communities as a whole.

John S. Meigs, Jr., MD is the president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama

4 hours ago

Alabama Department of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear retiring; Kim Boswell appointed as successor

Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that Lynn Beshear will retire as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) effective December 16.

Beshear was appointed by Ivey to this position in July 2017, shortly after the governor took office.

Yellowhammer News earlier this year named Beshear a 2020 Woman of Impact.

“When Lynn was appointed, I knew that she would approach her role always thinking of what is best for the people of Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement.

“She has created a collaborative team approach within the Alabama Department of Mental Health to solve intricate problems regarding delivery of services for mental illness, substance abuse disorder and intellectual disability. I am truly grateful for her service to our state and wish her best in her next chapter,” she continued.

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While leading ADMH, Beshear has spearheaded several initiatives to increase access of services for Alabamians with mental illness, while navigating complexities of delivery by the department and community providers.

“It is been an honor to serve as the Commissioner of the department,” Beshear commented. “I am stepping into the next chapter of my life proud of the accomplishments of the department and am incredibly honored to have worked with such dedicated individuals who are committed to improving the lives of others. I profoundly thank Governor Ivey for her trust in me these last three years and have no doubt the department will continue to change the lives of the people of Alabama for the better.”

Ivey’s office in a release outlined that under Beshear’s leadership, ADMH launched Stepping Up Alabama, which uses the national model to reduce the numbers of jailed individuals with mental illness. Alabama is the only state to expand the goal to include ER’s and substance use disorder. It is anticipated that a case management component of Stepping Up will be in place in all 67 counties by the end of the Fiscal Year 2022.

Additionally, three mental health crisis centers were recently announced as crisis diversion centers, with the goal of individuals receiving “the right care, at the right time, in the right place.”

Expansion of school-based mental health, hiring a housing coordinator for individuals’ stabilization plan, and expansion of early childhood services and autism services are examples of ADMH’s expansion of services during Beshear’s tenure.

The governor on Monday also announced she is appointing Kim Boswell to be the new ADMH commissioner effective December 16.

Boswell reportedly has more than 36 years of experience working with individuals with mental illness, substance abuse disorders and developmental disabilities.

She currently serves as chief of staff for Beshear and has been both associate commissioner for Administration as well as director of Human Resources for the department. During her career, Boswell has worked as a planner to improve human service delivery systems, a Program Evaluator, a School to Work Transition Coordinator, and has also served as the State Office Administrator for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services.

“I’m pleased to announce Kim Boswell as Commissioner for the Alabama Department of Mental Health,” Ivey stated. “She has spent the entirety of her professional career devoted to helping struggling individuals and I appreciate her willingness to serve in this new capacity. Her background as a mental health provider as well as administrator makes her uniquely qualified.”

The governor’s office noted that Kim Boswell is of no relation to ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Report: Democratic-aligned group tried to register dead Alabama woman to vote in Georgia

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Monday said his office is investigating four different voter registration groups for potential wrongdoing ahead of the state’s crucial January 5 U.S. Senate runoffs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Raffensperger, a Republican, held a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta to outline these investigations.

The theme of the alleged actions by all four groups under investigation pertains to attempting to register people who do not currently reside in Georgia to vote in the Peach State’s runoffs.

One of the groups was founded by Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who lost the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018; she has still not conceded that election. Her group allegedly solicited individuals residing in New York City to register to vote in Georgia.

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Another group, Vote Forward, is alleged to have attempted to register a dead Alabama woman to vote in the upcoming runoff.

Vote Forward is a 501(c)(4) aligned with Democratic groups and left-leaning causes.

The group’s other prominent Alabama tie?

On Vote Forward’s website, the organization cites its voter registration and turnout efforts in the Yellowhammer State as being effective in helping U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) win his 2017 special election bid.

In fact, the website says, “The project began as an experiment conducted by Scott Forman in Alabama in 2017. Encouraged by the success of that test, Scott and a small group of friends and fellow Opower alumni built this platform…”

On Monday, Raffensperger stressed that Vote Forward and the three other named groups “have a responsibility to not encourage illegal voting.”

“If they do so, they will be held responsible,” he added.

The outcome of Georgia’s runoffs is of paramount importance for Alabama, as U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) will lose the chairmanship of the powerful Committee on Appropriations if Republicans do not win these two races.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has launched a nationwide Georgia Battleground Fund leadership team to aid fundraising in their effort to hold the Senate majority. Led by Karl Rove as national finance chairman, this also includes state chairs and a distinguished team of national and honorary co-chairs.

Katie Boyd Britt — current president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama and former chief of staff to Shelby — is the Alabama state chair for this effort.

“America’s fate rests on the outcome of these Georgia races,” stated Rove. “Democrats have not been shy about what they’ll do if Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi run Congress, so it’s imperative every freedom loving American go all in for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler so they’re victorious. I’m honored to work with so many great Republican leaders from all 50 states and D.C. to ensure these two Senators have the resources to protect the last line of defense against the Democrats’ left-wing agenda.”

RELATED: Republican organizer leading team of volunteers to aid Senate races in Georgia

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

5 hours ago

Alabama sets state record for COVID-19 hospitalizations

Alabama recorded its largest yet number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital on Monday as the state’s coronavirus statistics continue to reach alarming levels.

There were 1,717 individuals in the hospital with COVID in Alabama on Monday, eclipsing the previous record of 1,613 set on August 6.

UAB Hospital, the state’s biggest and most prominent medical facility, is currently treating 125 coronavirus patients, a new high for the facility.

“125 patients means 125 patients receiving in-hospital, bed-specific care. These are patients who are either very sick, unable to get better, or potentially unable to survive without medical attention and care,” UAB explained about their hospitalized patients in a press release.

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Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)
(UAB/Contributed)

UAB’s numbers include any patient admitted to the hospital with a diagnosed case of COVID-19.

The hospital’s numbers appear to indicate a worrying spike in the Birmingham metropolitan area. UAB was treating just 79 coronavirus patients on Thursday.

Overall, Alabama’s count of new coronavirus cases remains about as high as it has ever been. On average, 1,733 new cases have been added each day over the last week.

Clicking image opens interactive chart in new tab (BamaTracker)

Yellowhammer News is using statewide coronavirus numbers from BamaTracker in this piece. BamaTracker is a website that collects and displays coronavirus data published by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Additionally, Yellowhammer is counting new cases as those confirmed by a chemical test performed in a laboratory. When adding results from rapid tests and other methods classified by ADPH as “probable” positives, Alabama’s seven-day average rises to 2,206.

Past trends in coronavirus data show that a spike in hospitalizations follows a spike in new cases by 2-3 weeks. A corresponding increase in deaths follows the increase in hospitalizations by around one month.

All but three of Alabama’s 67 counties reported a new COVID-19 case on Monday, indicating continued widespread transmission across the state.

Of all COVID-19 tests administered in Alabama over the last 14 days, 26.1% came back positive, the highest rate the state has suffered during the pandemic.

In recent days, for every eight tests administered, one was positive, per BamaTracker’s calculations.

Approximately 13 coronavirus deaths were reported in Alabama each day over the last week. The state’s death toll now stands at 3,246, with another 332 listed as “probable” but not yet confirmed by ADPH.

Doctors continue to recommend wearing face masks, staying at least six feet apart from others, and washing hands frequently as the best ways to slow the spread of the virus.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

5 hours ago

Alabama’s state Christmas tree to be delivered on Tuesday

Alabama’s official Christmas tree will be delivered to the State Capitol on Tuesday, the governor’s office said.

This year’s tree, donated by Robbins Taylor, Sr., is an Eastern Red Cedar arriving from Letohatchee in Lowndes County.

The tree stands about 35 feet tall and will be displayed on the front steps of the State Capitol building in Montgomery.

Following its delivery, the tree will be decorated throughout the week with lights and other adornments before the traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which is scheduled for Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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