As we showed yesterday, the state's Web press--especially Bill Britt at Alabama Political Reporter (APR)--did most of the heavy lifting on the journalism that helped lead to Hubbard's downfall. But members of the MSM also made significant contributions, especially Josh Moon of the Montgomery Advertiser. John Archibald, of al.com, raised substantive points about the dangers and fears Hubbard is likely to face in prison--assuming his convictions are not overturned on appeal. But Archibald did not go far enough, failing to show how false arrests, false imprisonment, dubious lawsuits, and threats against advertisers have been used in efforts to shut down reporting from the Web press.
Moon provided some of the most insightful post-conviction analysis, with a piece titled "Hubbard conviction not a dark day." Writes Moon:
Friday was an average day in Alabama.
Oh, I know you’ve heard that it was a “dark day,” that former House Speaker, former state Representative and former non-felon Mike Hubbard’s conviction on 12 felony charges in the county where he resides was somehow an additional black mark on a state that’s running out of space for additional black marks.
But the truth is, it wasn’t dark.
Friday was just another day in a state where our politicians continue to give us all the middle finger, as they pilfer taxpayer dollars to pay their friends, their businesses and themselves.
Most don’t do it as blatantly as Hubbard. But most do it. Republican, Democrat, Independent -- the label is unimportant.
Moon showed how compromised legislators "give us the middle finger." And he showed that corrupt state judges helped create the toxic political environment that produced a "leader" like Mike Hubbard. Writes Moon:
[Legislators] accept consulting contracts from businesses they later pass legislation to help. They draw up and push through legislation to help their own businesses and friends. They take dark money from sources so their conflicts and hypocrisy stay hidden from public view.
And it’s not just our legislators.
Our judges are sometimes just as bad, if not worse.
Multiple justices on the Alabama Supreme Court have taken campaign money from corporations and then presided over cases involving those companies. There are campaign functions for judges held at or hosted by law firms, some of which have numerous cases go before that judge.
Every Alabamian should read and remember those words. Much of the state's political corruption flows from back-room deals that are cut in county courthouses. Some of it flows from federal courthouses, populated by judges who are more loyal to their political benefactors than they are to the U.S. Constitution.
As for Archibald, his column titled "Why Hubbard conviction is a really big deal for Alabama," hit close to home for this reporter. Archibald touched on a number of issues, including the unpleasantness that likely awaits Hubbard in an Alabama prison:
So Mike Hubbard, the self-proclaimed architect of the GOP takeover of the Statehouse, the consensus most powerful man in Alabama politics, the standout with his hand out, was convicted on 12 of 23 counts of using his office to fatten his own substantial wallet.
He's to be sentenced in July, and could face two to 20 years in state prison for each count. A state prison, one that get-tough-on-crime legislators have crammed to twice capacity, a state prison where fights are routine and rage simmers. It ain't Club Fed. It's real. Real prison. Real consequence. Real reason to be afraid.
Why do Archibald's words have special resonance with me? I know what it's like to be falsely arrested and incarcerated in Alabama, thanks to Rob Riley and other Mike Hubbard comrades in Riley Inc. I know what it's like to spend five months in an environment "where fights are routine and rage simmers." Archibald leaves out a couple of elements of prison life--despair also simmers there; and theft by inmates (against other inmates) is common. While in the Shelby County Jail, I witnessed a fellow inmate commit suicide by climbing atop two levels of cells and jumping some 27 feet to a concrete floor below, landing head-first about 10 feet away from where I was resting on my bunk.
|Steven Ray Dismuke|
Only after his jump, did I learn he had told other inmates that he suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and was not receiving treatment for either while in jail. Also, he had been placed in the general inmate population, even though his serious mental-health conditions probably should have placed him in a medical unit that required observation and treatment.
Yes, Mr. Archibald, Mike Hubbard probably will encounter "real reasons to be afraid" in prison. But at least Hubbard was convicted of crimes, by a jury of his peers. While I think you could make a strong argument that Attorney General Luther Strange politically prosecuted Hubbard, the trial itself appears to have been conducted fairly and by the book.
I, on the other hand, wound up being arrested without ever being charged with a crime, much less convicted of one. I never went before a jury, and I still have never seen a warrant that provided any justification for my arrest. Officers on the scene never told me why they were inside my house until after I had been beaten and doused with pepper spray. My arrest has all the appearances of a state-sanctioned kidnapping, featuring police brutality and gross Fourth Amendment violations.
It all was done, at least on the surface, because I dared to write about a relationship between lobbyist Liberty Duke and Rob Riley, a charter member of Riley Inc.--and apparently one of Mike Hubbard's strongest supporters. But Archibald and al.com never have seen fit to take a serious look at a blatant assault on a free press and the First Amendment. An al.com reporter sought comment from me at various stages in the "proceedings," but no one from the staff interviewed me or took a serious look at the flagrantly unlawful rulings of Judge Claud Neilson. Also, I'm not aware of any news outlet examining multiple requests from Riley, Duke, and their lawyers for remedies against me that are not allowed by law.
By the way, I'm not the only journalist to face such threats. Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter (APR), saw his advertising base threatened, and he was hit with a dubious defamation lawsuit by Bryan Taylor, a Riley Inc. member.
Here is a little something I learned while incarcerated, and it might apply to Mike Hubbard. I came to know several inmates who had spent time in both county or municipal jails and in state prisons. Without fail, they all said they preferred to be in state prison. In fact, several inmates checked with jail personnel almost daily in hopes that papers had come for their transfer to state prison.
Why is this? The inmates said that most jails aren't designed to house inmates for a long time. Thus, the food, recreational, and educational opportunities are limited or nonexistent. Prison, however, generally is for those who have been sentenced to at least a year or more, so there tends to be real recreational and educational facilities and higher quality (and quantity) of food.
Several inmates told me the Shelby County Jail was the worst of all worlds. It was built to the specifications of a maximum-security federal prison (because the county wanted to house federal prisoners--and did so for several years). but it still was a jail with almost nothing positive to relieve inmate boredom, frustration, or despair.
So whatever awaits Mike Hubbard, it's likely to be more pleasant than what I've already faced.
Isn't it odd that this assault on a free press has received national and international coverage, but no Alabama mainstream news outlet has taken a serious look? As for Mr. Archibald, he seems concerned that Mike Hubbard might experience fear in prison as a consequence of being found guilty of crimes. Meanwhile, Mr. Archibald and al.com have shown no interest in shining light on the kidnapping of a journalist who had committed no crime--and whose reporting, as a matter of law, has never been shown to be false or defamatory.