Both Vestavia Hills-Republican, longtime State Rep. Jack Williams and former Alabama GOP chairman Marty Connors pleaded not guilty in federal court on Wednesday in Montgomery, Ala.
The two, along with a California-based health care executive G. Ford Gilbert were arrested on federal bribery and conspiracy charges earlier this month.
According to the Department of Justice, Gilbert is the owner of a California company that operates diabetes treatment centers throughout the world—Trina Health, LLC (Trina Health). In 2014 and 2015, Trina Health opened three clinics in Alabama. Soon thereafter, the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (a.k.a. Blue Cross), informed Trina Health that it would not cover the treatments provided by them. Gilbert then schemed to force Blue Cross to change its position.
He came up with a plan to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature’s 2016 session that would require Blue Cross to cover the treatments. Gilbert then made payments to State of Alabama House Majority Leader Micky Hammonin exchange for his efforts on behalf of the bill. Gilbert also hired Defendant Connors to act as a lobbyist on behalf of the bill. Connors knew of Gilbert’s payments to Majority Leader Hammon.
Hammon and Connors then recruited Defendant Williams, the chairman of the Commerce and Small Business Committee of the Alabama House of Representatives, to hold a public hearing on the bill. Williams also knew of the payments to Hammon and acted in part to help Hammon, who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems.
The indictment does not include charges against Hammon since he has already been convicted in federal court of other offenses related to mail fraud and misusing campaign funds.
Following the arraignment, Connors released a statement claiming his innocence.
“I am innocent of the charges that have been made against me. I have worked hard to conduct myself in the most honorable way possible, in a way that my family, friends and colleagues can be proud of,” Connors said in the statement. “I built not only a life here, but a reputation. The charges against me are totally unfounded, and will be vigorously defended.”
A trial has been set for Sept. 4.