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Alabama's 'trial of the century' starts; House speaker faces 23 felony ethics charges

"I look forward to the day I can make comments about [my case]. I look forward to that in a big way," Alabama House speaker Mike Hubbard said.

By Doug G. Ware
Alabama's 'trial of the century' starts; House speaker faces 23 felony ethics charges
Alabama House speaker Mike Hubbard officially went on trial Monday in the town of Opelika and includes 23 felony counts of corruption. If convicted, he could face prison time and be removed from his legislative post. File Photo by Rob Hainer/Shutterstock

OPELIKA, Ala., May 16 (UPI) -- What's been called "Alabama's trial of the century" got underway Monday against state House speaker Mike Hubbard, who's up against nearly two dozen felony corruption charges.

The Republican lawmaker was indicted 18 months ago on 23 criminal counts for a list of alleged violations. Among them, using his position of power and influence for personal gain and to benefit his businesses.

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Monday, attorneys began the jury selection process.

The top lawmaker in Alabama's legislature, Hubbard has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has refused to resign.

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"I think this is going to be the trial of the century in Alabama," political writer Bill Britt of The Alabama Reporter said.

Perhaps intensifying the spotlight on Hubbard are the investigations of two other major players in the state's government -- Gov. Robert J. Bentley and Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. Bentley is involved in a controversy involving racy phone calls with an adviser and Moore has been accused of violating judicial ethics.

Bentley is facing criminal investigations and calls for his impeachment, while Moore is similarly facing an ouster from his seat on the high court.

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"We've made public corruption, going after public corruption a top priority of my office from day one," Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange said.

"It's a who's who of Republicans in Alabama who are going to be witness for the state," Britt said.

If he's convicted, Hubbard will face prison time and removal from office. The legislature ended its session last week, which means the House speaker might not return there.

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"I can't talk about that," Hubbard said. "They have been strict on what I can and can't do.

"I look forward to the day I can make comments about that. I look forward to that in a big way."

The trial is expected to last between four and six weeks. Opening statements are expected to begin May 24.

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