By Bill Britt
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, on Jan. 15, asked the court to continue his felony public corruption case until the fall, which would add as much as six months to a case that has already dragged on for over a year.
In the motion filed by Hubbard’s attorneys, Lance Bell, Blake Oliver and Phillip Adams of Adams White Oliver Short & Forbus, the defense argues they cannot be ready for the current trial date, despite the fact that as of September 2016, these lawyers will have served as Hubbard’s attorneys of record for the last three years.
In the motion, Bell states the defense cannot be prepared for March 28 because of the withdrawal of White, Arnold and Dowd, the dozen or so motions still unsettled by trial judge, Jacob Walker III, the matter of discovery material, pre-trial publicity, and allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
In a moment of stunning insincerity, or better yet, hypocrisy, Bell accuses the prosecution of damaging the case with leaks to favorable media, especially citing this publication’s coverage of Hubbard. “The pretrial publicity from the Alabama Political Reporter (APR) has been especially tenacious and persistent, as well as consistently antagonistic and hostile toward Hubbard. Even though a considerable amount of the information published by that source has been erroneous and skewed, it has been unfailingly adverse to Hubbard,” stated Bell.
The only exception we take with Bell’s assertion is when he calls our reporting “erroneous and skewed.”
Bell’s statement should draw laughter from Judge Walker, or perhaps ire, as Hubbard’s cadre of attorneys have been a veritable fountain of leaks and misinformation, beginning even before his indictment of 23 felonies.
I spoke with J. Mark White in September 2013, just days after Hubbard retained his services. He said, “I can only speak to the fact that we are representing Mr. Hubbard, generally, [pause] investigating—and we’re still in the initial stages of investigating—various false or misleading statements that have been made about Mike or his family or his company. That is all I can say.”
White then continued by stating, “I’m capable of saying [more] but that’s all I will say at this point.”
To find and list the number to times White has misled the press concerning Hubbard’s troubles would take a small army of research assistants. In Hubbard’s hometown paper, the Opelika-Auburn News, a quick search turns up eighteen occasions where White has made statements favorable to the defense, with hundreds more across the state by means of radio, internet, television and print.
Bell must have forgotten the video Hubbard released the day of his arrest which was aired on television. He must have also forgotten the pep rally conducted by White, days after Hubbard’s arrest.
As reported by the Montgomery Advertiser, “A day after surrendering to authorities after being charged with 23 counts of using public office for private gain, House Speaker Mike Hubbard and his supporters accused Alabama attorney general Luther Strange of prosecuting the Speaker for political gain.”
At the pep rally, Republican US Congressman Mike Rogers accused the Attorney General of engaging in Chicago-style gutter politics. There are hundreds of pages on Google where Hubbard and his attorneys peppered the media with favorable reporting.
The examples of Hubbard’s legal team manipulating the press is almost incalculable. However, Bell wants Judge Walker to believe the prosecution has leaked information, because prosecutor Matt Hart inadvertently emailed this publication White’s motion to withdraw ahead of Judge Walker unsealing the document. While this was a serious matter, Hart notified the court by email mere moments after the incident. Bell’s claim that Hart was “forced to admit” the error, is a false statement.
Bell makes no mention of the fact that he or another one of Hubbard’s attorneys leaked Hart’s confidential email to the media in an attempt to damage the prosecution. While Hart made a mistake, it is not very different from Hubbard’s attorney Augusta Dowd publishing transcripts of Grand Jury testimony, using a faulty redaction method.
Bell has asked to depose Hart over the emailed motion and Judge Walker has agreed to hear his argument of January 26. The defense has repeatedly sought to depose Hart as a strategy to have him removed from the case, something Judge Walker has refused to do.
The withdrawal of J. Mark White is Hubbard’s best reason for having his trial postponed. White, Arnold and Dowd were allowed to withdraw from the case without publicly explaining why, which is against the rules of criminal procedure according to prosecution statements made at the January 9 hearing. However, several individuals with knowledge of the situation say White withdrew because Hubbard has failed to pay his firm over a million dollars in attorney fees.
Judge Walker should release this information because the public has a right to know if Hubbard’s trial is delayed.
Bell also cites some two dozen pending motions as another reason the case should be continued. Many court observers are baffled as to why Judge Walker has allowed the motions to linger unanswered.
As for the production of discovery materials, Hubbard’s lawyers have not bothered to load the material into a searchable database, even though the Special Master, who they agreed to use, said the documents were in compliance with both State and Federal laws. Bell has challenged this assertion.
Several attorneys we contacted said the cost of loading and parsing the material would cost $100,000 or more.
Some have speculated that Hubbard’s money troubles are the most pressing reason for the delay.
Hubbard remains Speaker of the House and wields tremendous power over legislation that will come before the House beginning on February 2. The legislative session would give Hubbard an opportunity to pressure lobbyists and others to contribute to his defense, or see their pet legislation go down the drain. Hubbard is accused of using his office for personal gain.
If Judge Walker grants the fall continuance, two years will have passed since Hubbard’s indictment, and four years since he came under suspicion.
The question before the court and the people of the state is how long is too long before justice delayed is justice denied? The people have a right to know if the Speaker of the House is a crook. Only a jury can determine that, but Judge Walker must first set the date.