Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Alabama appellate court affirms most of the convictions against former Speaker Mike Hubbard, but the question remains: What took them so long?

Mike Hubbard
When an appellate court issues a ruling in a high-profile criminal matter, the finding itself usually is the big news. But that is not the case in Michael Gregory Hubbard v. State of Alabama.

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday upheld convictions on 11 of 12 ethics-law violations against Hubbard, former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. That should not have been a surprise to anyone -- although Hubbard lawyer Bill Baxley claimed to be "shocked" -- given the mountain of evidence pointing toward Hubbard's guilt. But the primary question in this case was: What in the world took the court so long?

A jury of Hubbard's peers in Lee County convicted him on 12 of 23 counts in June 2016. Yes, that is more than two years ago. Hubbard filed his first appellate brief in May 2017, which is roughly 15 months ago. Yes, courts can be slow, but they aren't that slow.

A number of observers have speculated that the all-Republican appellate courts -- perhaps with the assistance of the right-leaning Alabama State Bar -- were stalling on the Hubbard ruling until after the 2018 midterm elections in November. The thinking apparently was that not even an Alabama court could be so shameless as to overturn all of the convictions in the Hubbard case -- so, with an affirmance virtually a given, Republican leaders feared that releasing the appellate ruling before November could damage GOP hopes at the ballot box.

(What's that you're saying? American courts are supposed to be above such unseemly political considerations? Hah, your mind must be stuck in another place and time. Alabama courts are the place where integrity went to die, and courts in many other states aren't much better.)

So, we are left with this question: If the Hubbard ruling was delayed by political considerations, why did the Alabama legal hierarchy change directions and release the 160-page opinion now, as the calendar has not even hit Labor Day?

That suggests something happened to change certain privileged white, conservative minds. What could that have been? Well, others have been engaging in speculation about the Hubbard delay for months, so I feel entitled now to join the fray.

Hubbard is a card-carrying member of the Riley Inc. political machine, so former Gov. Bob Riley and his cronies (including oily lawyer/son, Rob Riley) probably want to see the former speaker get off. Is that because of a deep and abiding affection for Hubbard. Probably not. A number of political insiders have stated that Hubbard, if he actually is headed to prison, is likely to dish enough dirt to make sure a number of politicos go down with him. Thoughts of a bitter and talkative Hubbard in an orange jumpsuit could be causing indigestion in some quarters.

Alabama appellate courts (and the Alabama State Bar) are infested with Jeff Sessions/Bob Riley butt-sniffers who would have no problem helping a crook like Hubbard go free. But we get the impression that the right-wing legal gangsters who have turned Alabama into a justice cesspool are reluctant to draw attention to themselves right now. And that probably explains release of the Hubbard ruling this week, as opposed to, say, early 2019.

I have a guess or two about what might have raised enough concern -- even fear -- to cause Alabama legal elites to stop sitting on the Hubbard ruling -- and here they are:

(1)  The Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen Connection -- Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chair, was found guilty last week of financial crimes. Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, reached a plea agreement on the same day involving campaign-finance violations. Could those events be causing consternation in Alabama legal circles?

Well, both men have connections to Alabama -- Manafort via his work with Sessions and other pro-business types in a failed attempt to land an Air Force refueling tanker contract, an effort that had ties to Russian oligarch and reputed mafioso Oleg Deripaska; Cohen via his efforts to help Tennessee businessman Franklin Haney get a stalled nuclear plant in northeast Alabama off the ground.

It's likely Manafort and Cohen will reach an agreement to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Trump-Russia investigation, and federal agents already have raided Cohen's home and office to seize documents. Could all of that direct Mueller's attention to Alabama and the possible corrupting influences of Russian interests on the state's corporate, political, and legal climate? Did such concerns cause the Hubbard ruling to be issued sooner rather than later?

(2) Joseph Siegelman and the Fear of God -- We have posited that some of the state's conservative elites (including a Democrat or two) are not too keen on Joseph Siegelman's run for Alabama attorney general. That's because certain elites played roles in the political prosecution of Joseph's father, former Gov. Don Siegelman. Joseph Siegelman is not even 30 years old, but he won the Democratic primary and will face the GOP incumbent Steve Marshall in November. Marshall appears to be the clear favorite, but if Joseph Siegelman were to pull an upset and take office with a mindset to extract retribution from those who caused his father to unlawfully spend more than six years in federal prison . . . well, that could cause sleepless nights for a few prominent Alabamians.

On top of that, Marshall was appointed by Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley, the state's hideously corrupt former governor -- and that was a deal that caused even some Republicans to wretch; it could be a major turnoff for large blocks of voters.

Also, the peculiar death of Marshall's wife, Bridgette Gentry Marshall, in late June still has not been fully put to bed. One gets the sense that a scandal -- involving his wife's death or some other issue -- could bite Marshall between now and November 6. If that were to happen, it could throw the election in Siegelman's direction and lead to a clean-up effort the state desperately needs, but certain elites are determined to avoid.

Are my theories far-fetched? Maybe. Are they completely out to lunch? I don't think so.

Jill Simpson -- whistle blower, opposition researcher, and retired attorney -- probably knows more than any other human about the corrupting influences that plague Alabama's public infrastructure, and she shared her thoughts about the Hubbard decision in a Facebook post.  Simpson seems to be on a wavelength not all that far from my own:

I figure Hubbard will appeal this case to the Alabama Supreme Court, but hats off to the Alabama Appeals Court for going ahead and deciding -- and maybe the Supreme Court will decide quickly, affirming the convictions against Hubbard, and we can all see him locked up. 
It is time for lying Mike Hubbard to go to jail. Mike sent out over a million emails lying about me as the Siegelman witness, plus mail circulars that even made it to my family home, to my sick, elderly mother before she died. It was full of lies about me ,told by Rob Riley and Mike Hubbard. 
I spent many years after that event seeing that all of the stories of Hubbard's wrongdoing came out in the press. I worked behind the scenes to see the stories told on his corruption within the Republican Party. Moral of the story: Lie about me. and I am going to out your misdeeds. 
The Alabama Resistance and I were viciously attacked by the same gang of thugs that went after [Hubbard prosecutor] Matt Hart and Roger Shuler, who saw the stories told on their bad behavior. These Alabama Gang thugs were run by Jeff Sessions, Billy Canary, Rob Riley, Baron Coleman, Ali Akbar, Stacy McCain, and [Hubbard lawyer] Lance Bell, with help from Tripp Vickers and Mark Moody at the Alabama Bar.


Anonymous said...

Nice to see that Hubby is one step closer to being in prison, where he belongs.

Anonymous said...

There's no valid reason for an appeal to take this long. Something had to be going on behind the curtain.

Anonymous said...

Good news, Hubby! Orange is the new black.

Anonymous said...

You've got some interesting theories there, LS. Not sure if they are on target, but something certainly was going on.

Anonymous said...

Another example of Alabama courts being a quagmire, and the judges involved don't even seem to care how it looks. It does seem something happened in recent days to cause them to care.

Anonymous said...

Hubbard named one of his kids after Bob Riley. Hey Mikey, how is that working out for ya?

Anonymous said...

Bill Baxley was shocked, but someone handed him a flask of Johnny Walker Red, and Bill was perfectly fine again.

Calmed his nerves real fast.

Anonymous said...

Since when is it the court's duty to tell the legislature what to do about the ethics law?

That part of the ruling really pisses me off. That's not the court's business.

Anonymous said...

Good piece on the Hubbard ruling from Josh Moon, of Alabama Political Reporter:

legalschnauzer said...

@11:13 --

Thanks for sharing. Excellent analysis, as usual, from Josh Moon. He blasts the Court of Criminal Appeals for the one conviction they overturned. Moon says the court created a loophole in the ethics law where one doesn't exist:

"In its ruling in which it upheld 11 of the 12 convictions against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard, the Court of Criminal Appeals was critical of the state’s ethics laws, and Judge Samuel Welch encouraged the Legislature to clear up some of the confusion over definitions. Welch was particularly concerned over the definition of a “principal,” or the person or entity that hires a lobbyist.

"Ever since Hubbard’s conviction, lawmakers who were used to getting free suits, swanky dinners and monthly stipends from big businesses around the state realized that they had — in a moment of overzealous morality — put a stop to it all. Even worse, they had created broad definitions that could be used to actually punish them for doing shady things.

"And by shady, I mean this: Hubbard got a consulting contract with Alabama Pharmaceutical Cooperative Inc. (APCI) that paid him $5,000 per month, and then he went along with a plan to insert language into the state’s general fund budget that would have given APCI a monopoly.

"Welch and his pals on the Appeals Court overturned Hubbard’s conviction on that count, because — you’ll love this — he wasn’t an employee of APCI."

legalschnauzer said...

More strong stuff from Josh Moon:

"People know what’s happening here. They know that it’s possible to be an honest politician. They know that dozens of elected officials do it every single day. And they see through this absurd hand-wringing over specific definitions and phony confusion over legal specifics.

"To the Alabama political class, Mike Hubbard’s conviction was a sign of unintended consequences and bad laws.

"To regular Alabamians, it was a good start."

Anonymous said...

I think your theories are far-fetched, Schnauzer.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, Hubbard cackled and crowed when Don Siegelman was headed for prison. Hubbard doesn't seem to find the idea so amusing now.

Newser said...

Kyle Whitmire of wants to know why Mike Hubbard still isn't in prison. I want to know the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Every time I think about Mike Hubbard possibly spilling his guts on Bob and Rob Riley, a huge smile comes across my face -- and I can't wipe it off.

legalschnauzer said...

More strong stuff on the Hubbard ruling from APR, this time from Bill Britt, who rips the court for trying to create ambiguity in the ethics law. A Lee County jury didn't find it ambiguous, Britt says:

"Astonishingly, the Court of Criminal Appeals was able to uphold 11 counts of former Speaker Mike Hubbard’s 12 count conviction while opening a door for the state’s ethics act to be gutted by the Legislature to make sure Hubbard is the last public official held criminally liable under existing laws.

"That is the hard truth of what is found in the opinion handed down by the Court of Criminal Appeals nearly two years after Hubbard’s conviction and four years after his indictment.

"Justice Samuel Welch wrote the opinion and confirmed by Judges J. Elizabeth Kellum, Liles C. Burke and J. Michael Joiner is a politically-motivated legal slight-of-hand that at once upholds 11 counts of Hubbard’s conviction while creating doubt on who is a principal, what constitutes a conflict of interest while making it legal for a lawmaker to vote on legislation while getting paid to do so by an outside interest.

"Now it is clear why it took Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner nearly two years to render a verdict in Hubbard’s appeal; they needed time to get past the primary election season to make sure there would be no political blow-back on Republican elites and officeholders.

"Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner show just how far they were willing to go to do the devil’s bidding in their torturous augment to reverse count 5."

legalschnauzer said...

Bill Britt provides solid analysis on the one Hubbard count the appellate court overturned:

"During the 2013 legislative session, Hubbard had language inserted in the Medicaid portion of the General Fund Budget that would have effectively given APCI a monopoly over the State’s Medicaid prescription contracts. APCI paid Hubbard $5,000.00 a month for “consulting,” while serving as Speaker of the House.

"Hubbard voted for the General Fund Budget that contained the monopoly for APCI with full knowledge he was doing something wrong.

"In their reversal, Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner mysteriously found that the ethics statute failed to define an employee clearly.

"The judges found that since Hubbard derived less than 50 percent of his income from APCI, he must not be an employee.

"Of course, Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner also failed to realize most of Hubbard’s income was from contracting work the jury found illegal."

Anonymous said...


Yov've been providing evidence for years that Alabama courts are corrupt, and it looks like some of your media colleagues are finally starting to get the point.

legalschnauzer said...

@1:17 --

It's ironic that Mike Joiner is one of the four judges on the Hubbard panel. Joiner used to be a crooked circuit judge in Shelby County and was one of the first judges to cheat us -- on behalf of corrupt lawyer Bill Swatek -- in the case involving our criminally inclined neighbor. One of Robert Bentley's first acts as governor was to appoint Joiner to the Court of Criminal Appeals, mainly because they grew up together in the Columbiana area.

I've been exposing Joiner for 11 years, so his actions on the Hubbard panel should not surprise anyone.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is URL to one of the most in-depth pieces I've written on Mike Joiner. It was about four years after this -- thanks to our reporting -- that the public began to realize that Gov. Robert Bentley was corrupt, too:

How bad a judge is Joiner? I've written more than a dozen posts about our experiences with him, but here is a section from one that best describes how he butchered a bogus lawsuit that was filed against me by Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor--with the help of his ethically challenged attorney, William E. Swatek:

Joiner, by my conservative estimate, made 20 to 30 unlawful rulings in my case, all favoring Bill Swatek and his client, Mike McGarity. But I tend to focus on summary judgment because that's the most important issue, the one that would have brought the case to a lawful conclusion. And the indisputable record shows this:

The case had to be dismissed on so many grounds--eight to 10, at least--that I filed three motions for summary judgment (MSJ), each raising distinct issues of fact and law. On the first MSJ, McGarity filed a response, but he filed no timely evidence as required by law. He did file an affidavit--which did not dispute the fundamental facts and law at hand--but it was 10 days late and had to be stricken as a matter of law. Joiner denied summary judgment anyway.

On the second and third MSJs, McGarity filed no response at all--no affidavit, no evidence, nothing. That meant the evidence I filed, which was different from the evidence in the first MSJ, was uncontroverted. In such circumstances, Alabama law is clear: Summary judgment must be granted and the case dismissed. In fact, the law in all jurisdictions is clear: Such an MSJ simply cannot be denied, and it's a "nondiscretionary" ruling. It's about as clear and universal as law can get, like "three strikes and you're out" in baseball.

But Joiner could not get it right, and he denied all three MSJs.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is more inconvenient truth about Mike Joiner:

Lawyers often refer to folks like Mrs. Schnauzer and me as "disgruntled litigants." We are "losers" in court and gripe only because we didn't like the outcome--not because of any improper actions by a judge or lawyer. Well, the misconduct in our case could not be more blatant, and a single piece of Alabama case law spells that out. From our earlier post:

I could teach a seminar on all of the procedural, statutory, and case law that says this cannot be done. But here is the simplest way to understand it, straight from Alabama case law:

"When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing." Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993).

It can't get much more clear than that. For those who think I'm a misguided, loony conspiracy theorist, I invite you to check the public record in Mike McGarity v. Roger Shuler, CV 00-124, and then read Voyager Guar. Ins. Co. v. Brown. That will show you that J. Michael Joiner is, in fact, corrupt--and it's not a matter of anyone's opinion.

legalschnauzer said...

Great point here from Bill Britt. Even Mike Hubbard's crooked colleagues knew he was violating the law:

"Hubbard’s cronies understand he was breaking the law just minutes before he cast the vote in 2013, and warned him not to do it.

"Hubbard’s chief of staff, Josh Blades, lobbyists John Ross and Dax Swatek all testified they cautioned Hubbard not to vote for the bill. Blades swore under oath that Hubbard was aware at the time of the problems he faced but voted on the bill anyway, later saying he never thought it would pass.

"As a result of the Court of Criminal Appeals’ actions, a lawmaker may now be paid by an outside interest to vote on legislation that benefits that group and not be in violation of the ethics act.

"Welch, Kellum, Burke and Joiner should be ashamed."

e.a.f. said...

Why did it take so long? My guess, they were making a deal somewhere so that Trump might pardon him. Lets just wait and see what happens. If he is pardoned it will be after the mid terms.

there may have been something Trump wanted in return which may have something to do with his wanting to dump Sessions. Perhaps a deal was made and now all will be happy. except for Hubbard.

ineedthat12 said...

I may be wrong but I don't think Trump can pardon anyone convicted of a state crime.
He can only pardon federal crimes.
LS, correct me if I am wrong.

legalschnauzer said...


Yes, I'm pretty sure you are right. Hubbard was convicted in state court, so I don't think Trump would have the authority to pardon him. Seems pretty clear that politics has been affecting the court's actions on the Hubbard case, but I don't think we can blame Trump on this one. I think it's more of a Riley Machine action, along maybe with Bill Canary, etc.

The closest thing to Trump might be possible involvement from Jeff Sessions, and it looks like Sessions is almost out the door in Trump World.

Hubbard probably has an enormous amount of dirt on political, legal, and corporate types in Alabama. I think concern about that is causing his court case to be handled in a peculiar manner.

Anonymous said...

@LS 12:06 PM -- Trump has no authority in state courts. That's one of the reasons the Special Council has returned a number of cases to the SDNY (Southern District of NY) so that Trump can't engage in further obstruction of justice (by dangling pardons in front of folks willing to obscure the bigger offense of criminal conspiracy). Captain Marshall has pretty much confirmed that Hubbard has all the dirt you mention, and that the in-crowd will go to great lengths to see that it stays private.

legalschnauzer said...

@12:43 --

Thanks for your insights. To what lengths do you think the in-crowd can go to keep Hubbard's dirt private?

e.a.f. said...

I STAND corrected, The president may not pardon for State crimes. Ought to have remembered. Thank you for pointing it out. so it must be something else, but some where some one is doing a deal regarding this, hence the time involved.

Anonymous said...

@12:43 here: Perhaps that's a question you should pose to Captain Marshall of the Eliza Battle.

legalschnauzer said...

@9:24 --

Ah, good idea. We're due for a communique from the good ship EB.