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Alabama House Speaker indicted on corruption charges

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn)

AUBURN, Ala. — Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has been indicted on corruption charges stemming from a Lee County Grand Jury investigation that has been ongoing since at least January of 2013.

Hubbard was indicted on 23 counts total, according to a release from the Alabama Attorney General’s office:

• Four counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain
• One count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest
• Eleven counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal
• Two counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain
• Four Counts of lobbying an executive department or agency for a fee
• One count of using state equipment, materials, etc. for private gain

If convicted, Hubbard faces a maximum penalty of two to twenty years imprisonment and fines of up to $30,000.00 for each count, all of which are Class B Felonies.

“If there was any doubt by any body that this is a political witch hunt it became crystal clear today when these allegations were brought two weeks before an election,” Hubbard said in a statement through his attorney. “The fact is that we have made big changes in cleaning up the way things are done in Montgomery. The fact is we have been very successful at getting big things done in Lee County including 3000 new jobs over he past four years. I’m sleeping well at night because I know the people of Lee County can see this for what it is and that’s politics at its worst.”

Hubbard’s indictment ends months of intense speculation and begins what will undoubtedly be the most high profile trial the state has seen since the gambling corruption trial ended in 2012.

In April of this year, the Lee County Grand Jury investigation led to Rep. Greg Wren (R-Montgomery) resigning from the House of Representatives and pleading guilty to a Class A Misdemeanor charge of using his official office for personal gain.

Court documents revealed that Wren had directed, or at least attempted to direct, funds from Medicaid to a company with which he had financial ties.

According to multiple reports, Wren had language inserted into the General Fund budget that would have made American Pharmaceutical Cooperative, Inc. (APCI) Alabama’s primary, if not only, drug supplier for Medicaid patients. APCI was a part owner of an advocacy organization called RxAlly, which was paying Wren’s consulting firm $8,000 per month. The budget language was ultimately stripped out before it was passed, but only after state Medicaid officials voiced their concerns.

APCI was also at one time a client of a company owned by Speaker Hubbard.

“They are a client of Auburn Network Incorporated which means it’s not solely me doing work for them but I do get involved in it,” Hubbard told AL.com last year. “We help to build and market their brand and business development. In that one, we don’t do any work in the state of Alabama. It’s only in states other than Alabama.”

An attorney for Hubbard released a statement after Wren’s resignation saying, “The matters related to Representative Wren’s actions… do not involve or affect Speaker Hubbard.”

Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) was also indicted by the Lee County Grand Jury in April on charges that he gave false testimony.

While testifying, Moore was asked to recall the details of a conversation he had with Josh Pipkin, who was running against Moore in the GOP primary, approximately seven months before. Unbeknownst to Moore, Pipkin had recorded the conversation, and prosecutors felt he was not sufficiently accurate in his recollection of the call during his testimony.

Moore has maintained that the indictment was politically motivated and the trial is set to begin in a little over a week. Moore handily defeated Pipkin in the Republican primary in June in spite of the indictment, ensuring his re-election since he does not have a General Election opponent.

“Confidential details (of the AG’s investigation) have been freely used in his campaign,” Moore’s attorney said of Pipkin at the time of the indictment. “The timing of today’s charges, and the facts and circumstances surrounding this case are a clear indication of the political undertones of this prosecution.”

Alleged leaks have become a major point of tension throughout the grand jury proceedings, which fall under strict secrecy laws.

With election day just over two weeks away, the timing of Hubbard’s indictment will likely continue to fuel claims that the Grand Jury proceedings have been irreparably tainted by politics.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange recused himself from the Grand Jury proceedings in January of 2013, but has refused to public state his reasoning, although he seemed to indicate in an interview with talk radio personality Dale Jackson that he did not want to get involved in an intra-Republican Party squabble. Since then, the investigation has been led by Pell City attorney Van Davis, who is supervising the AG’s Special Prosecution Division and its lead prosecutor Matt Hart.

The most recent dustup in the investigation took place when Acting AG Davis and chief prosecutor Hart accused Deputy Attorney General Henry “Sonny” Reagan of trying to interfere with the Grand Jury’s proceedings, prompting Attorney General Strange to place Mr. Reagan on leave, but not before Mr. Hart called Mr. Reagan to testify before the Lee County Grand Jury himself.

Reagan responded with a detailed letter alleging that forcing him to testify at the Grand Jury was retribution for an internal office dispute between the two men and that Mr. Hart had engaged in “harassment, threats of physical violence, and prosecutorial misconduct.”

Yellowhammer will dig into the details of Hubbard’s indictment in the coming hours and update this story with pertinent information.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims