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.

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