Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Alabama AG Steve Marshall fires prosecutor Matt Hart, suggesting white elites who bankrolled Mike Hubbard's crime spree as House Speaker are in a panic

Matt Hart
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall yesterday fired special-prosecutions chief Matt Hart, a move that might signal the white elites who funded Marshall's campaign are in a panic because of recent events that threaten to unmask them. Those events include the indictment of Trump EPA regional director Trey Glenn, the firing of Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions, the evolving North Birmingham Superfund scandal, and perhaps more.

Hart, who has served as a prosecutor at both the state and federal levels, perhaps is best known for leading the case against former House Speaker Mike Hubbard -- who was convicted in June 2016 on 12 counts of ethics violations, but has not spent one second in prison because of a curiously prolonged appeals process.

Knowledgeable observers say Hart's firing probably was in the works for several months -- likely delayed only by the need for Marshall to win election in the Nov. 6 midterms -- driven by corporate and political interests who want to make sure Hubbard stays out of prison and isn't tempted to open up to prosecutors about his moneyed and power-hungry cohorts. Writes Josh Moon, of Alabama Political Reporter (APR):

The most feared man in Alabama politics has been fired.

Alabama prosecutor Matt Hart, who until Monday headed up the special prosecutions unit at the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, was unceremoniously fired by AG Steve Marshall. A brief statement from Marshall’s office said Hart resigned and refused to comment otherwise.

However, a source told APR on Monday that Hart was informed of the decision on Monday morning and given the option of resigning instead of being fired. He was then escorted out of the building by security.

The firing of Hart was not necessarily surprising to anyone who paid attention to the recent election and Marshall’s run for AG. As APR reported in numerous stories, Marshall accepted campaign donations from several sources with interests in weakening ethics laws and seeing Hart removed.

Moon noted some of the high-profile cases where Hart has been involved:

Hart’s career spans decades in the state and includes high-profile prosecutions of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

He was a particular thorn in the side of politicians who skirted the ethics laws. He prosecuted and earned a 12-count conviction of former GOP Speaker Mike Hubbard. He negotiated a guilty plea and resignation from former Gov. Robert Bentley. And his special grand jury in Jefferson County was digging through the scheme to undermine an EPA superfund site.

That last item (highlighted in yellow) caught the eye of Alabama political insider Jill Simpson. From a post at her Facebook page:

Notice a couple of things from Josh Moon article on Matt Hart. Matt was digging into the Superfund matter, which leads directly to the folks who helped Marshall get those $735,000 in illegal funds from RAGA [Republican Attorneys General Association] to win the attorney general race. Also notice Mike Hubbard's appeal is still up, and with Hart removed, Marshall and Rob [Riley] can let Hubbard go.

Al.com's John Archibald, who long has had a man crush on Hart, called the firing "the end of an era":

Anyone who watched Alabama government in recent years saw this coming.

They saw it when Marshall took tens of thousands in contributions from the company owned by Alabama’s richest man Jimmy Rane – who invested in a Hubbard business. They saw it when Rane, who made no bones about his contempt for Hart, gave hundreds of thousands to Gov. Kay Ivey and was appointed to lead her inaugural committee. He even lent his Great Southern Wood airplane for her campaign use.

They saw it when Marshall took campaign contributions from Hubbard investors, witnesses and supporters, and they saw it when Marshall looked down as Alabama politicians tried to chip away at the very ethics law that put people like Hubbard in court.

I don’t know exactly what happened this week to force Matt Hart out of his job as head of the special prosecutions unit. Hart declined to comment, and Marshall did not respond personally to the question. . . .

But it was no shock.

I predicted in April Marshall would show Hart the door as soon as he was re-elected. He was re-elected less than two weeks ago.

It doesn’t take an investigation to figure it out. The time was right. Marshall has four years to live it down before he comes back up for election.

He’s banking that Alabama will forget.

Unlike Archibald and Moon, I have reservations about Hart, particularly from his days as a federal prosecutor under the abominably corrupt U.S. attorney Alice Martin. I applaud Hart's work on the Hubbard case, but I'm not sure he deserves the "above-reproach, good-guy" label some have placed on him.

Like a lot of folks, Hart has a history of going along to get along in the workplace. Under the right leadership -- or given a free rein -- he can be effective. Under poor leadership, not so much.

Some already are speculating that Hart might return to his previous role as a federal prosecutor. If that happens -- and with Jeff Sessions ousted from the Department of Justice -- Hart might have a chance to help clean up a state that desperately needs it.

We saw signs during the Hubbard case that Hart might be interested in dismantling the Riley Political Machine, which forms the nexus for much of Alabama's corruption. In fact, that might be the No. 1 reason Marshall fired him. If Hart is, in fact, determined to take down the Rileys -- and lands in a position to do something about it -- the days of Alabama being a justice backwater might be over.


Anonymous said...

Amazing that Alabama voters were stupid enough to elect Steve Marshall as AG, when it's obvious he violated campaign-finance and ethics laws.

Anonymous said...

The Rileys and Steve Marshall are in cahoots on this. Been in the works for a while.

Anonymous said...

@9:06 --

Agreed. It has Rob Riley's fingerprints all over it.

Anonymous said...

Hart may or may not be the "King of Corruption Fighters," but that beard needs to go.


legalschnauzer said...

Interesting opinion piece from Bill Britt of APR. He says, in a sense, this all goes back to "Luv Guv":


While Marshall may have silenced Hart’s voice in the grand jury and at criminal trials, it is doubtful that Hart as a private citizen will remain quiet.

Hart knows what Marshall is up to, as well as the intrigue of the elites who paid for his office.

When disgraced Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Marshall, he intended for the men to clash. It was part of the plan. Bentley did not select Marshall because he was the best candidate to take on the attorney general’s position, but because he had a history of compromised investigations and virtually no record of prosecuting public corruption as a district attorney. But, it was Marshall’s willingness to investigate Hart and Van Davis, who successfully prosecuted former Speaker and convicted felon Mike Hubbard, that caused Bentley and his paramour, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, to green-light his appointment.

When Hart confronted Marshall over his compromise with Bentley, there was little hope that a working relationship would be in the making between the two men.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Hart can wind up in a position to investigate what really happened to Steve Marshall's wife.

legalschnauzer said...

Here is more from Bill Britt re: Steve Marshall and the Alabama Ethics Commission:

According to sources within the Ethics Commission, there is a general feeling that Marshall will not challenge the commission because he is facing campaign finance charges for excepting $735,000 in alleged illegal contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA). Marshall has voices worrying that the commission has him over a barrel, leading him to tiptoe around any confrontation with the commission. As one insider said, “They got Marshall where they want him and he’s a pu**y who wouldn’t confront a granny in a wheelchair without his Chief Deputy.”

legalschnauzer said...

Strong stuff from Josh Moon, of APR:


For more than a year now, APR has written story after story, column after column detailing the many, many ways in which Marshall has proven to be completely devoid of basic ethics and willing to do anything to get and keep the job of AG.

Consider this: In a state filled with crooked, spit-on-their-own-mothers-to-get-ahead politicians, Marshall was the only person willing to accept a quid pro quo deal to get the AG gig. Bentley, as APR reported, shopped the deal around, offering the AG’s job to anyone who would agree to investigate Hart and his team.

Marshall was the only one to take it.