Mike Hubbard trial Day 1: Opening statements & first witnesses

Mike Hubbard stands trial day one
Alabama speaker Mike Hubbard stands in Judge Jacob Walkers courtroom before the start of his ethics trial. [Photo Credit: AP, Pool | Todd Van Emst]

Nineteen months in the making, after a grand jury charged him with 23 felony ethics violations, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard finally had his day in court on Tuesday. Whether he wanted it or not.

The day began at 9 a.m. as the courtroom began to fill with reporters and interested observers. At 10 a.m. the jury was seated.

Shortly after the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Division Chief, Matt Hart, gave opening statements for the prosecution, where he gave a detailed lesson on how the Alabama state government works, what are ethics laws and why they exist, followed by a charge-by-charge explanation of charges against Hubbard. His opening took approximately one hour and 40 minutes.

Matt Hart opens Mike Hubbard trial

Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart opens the case against Speaker Mike Hubbard in court on Tuesday, May 24, 2016, in Opelika, Ala. Hart is facing Mike Hubbard, right, and attorney Lance Bell, left. [Photo Credit: Todd Van Emst]

“Mr. Hubbard asked things he was not allowed to ask and took things he was not allowed to take,” Hart said in his opening arguments.
Hubbard faces a 23-count indictment on felony ethics charges alleging he used his office for personal gain and used his position as Speaker of the House, and formerly as chair of the Alabama Republican Party, to solicit jobs and investments in businesses with which he was involved.
Hart went on to explain that before the 2010 election, as the Party chairman, Hubbard directed Party business to a printing company he owned, Craftmaster, as well as a media company Hubbard founded, the Auburn Network.
According to Hart’s opening statement, Hubbard directed Party officials to send $101,925 in business directly to Craftmaster and $41,835 to Auburn Network.
“If you just saw a check going to Majority Strategies, you wouldn’t know,” Hart explained.

Following Hart, former Attorney General Bill Baxley presented the opening statements for the Defense for roughly an hour and 15 minutes, where he called the charges against Hubbard “gobbledy-goop” and “mumbo jumbo.”


Bill Baxley opens Mike Hubbard trial
Bill Baxley begins opening defense for Alabama speaker Mike Hubbard onTuesday, May 24, 2016, in Opelika, Ala. [Photo Credit: Todd Van Emst]

Baxley claimed Hubbard went out of his way to make sure he followed ethics laws by actively seeking guidance from the Ethics Commission.

“He tried to follow every part. He tried to get them to tell him to make sure he knew where the line was,” Baxley told the courtroom.

After the opening remarks, jurors heard testimony from the first two witnesses in the case, John Ross and Tim Howe, both former state GOP officials who are now partners in the Montgomery-based lobbying firm of Swatek, Howe and Ross.

Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Witnesses expected on Wednesday:
  • Barry Whatley: president of Craftmaster
  • Josh Blades: Hubbard’s former Chief of Staff
  • Jason Isbell:  Hubbard’s former legal adviser
  • Jeff Woodard: clerk of the House
  • Steve Clouse: Alabama representative, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee


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