Prosecutors say Alabama speaker Hubbard illegally made $2.3M; defense says charges 'mumbo jumbo'

"I promise you...You're going to convict on all counts of this indictment," prosecutor Matt Hart told jurors Tuesday.
By Doug G. Ware  |  May 24, 2016 at 7:06 PM
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OPELIKA, Ala., May 24 (UPI) -- Arguments in the ethics case against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard began Tuesday with prosecutors alleging that the public official unlawfully made more than $2 million due to his influential post.

Hubbard faces nearly two dozen felony ethics charges in a case that is but one-third of the government scandals currently enveloping the state of Alabama -- the other two involving a Supreme Court justice and Gov. Robert Bentley.

Jury selection lasted for several days last week for what some have referred to as Alabama's "trial of the century."

Hubbard was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2014 on 23 felony counts. Tuesday, prosecutors argued that the Republican illegally made $2.3 million from his position as the state's legislative leader.

Special Prosecutor Matt Hart promised a conviction in his opening remarks.

"Whether he's a salesman or not, the law simply says you can't use that power to direct money to your businesses. If you can do that, get out and do something else," he said. "I promise you...You're going to convict on all counts of this indictment."

Also Tuesday, prosecutors informed Circuit Judge Jacob Walker of witnesses they will be calling in the trial -- two of whom are former directors of the state Republican Party. Bentley may also be called to testify.

Some of the charges accuse him of steering GOP money to his own business and a business owned by a colleague while he was his party's chairman.

Defense attorneys have denied that Hubbard did anything unethical and called the 23-count indictment "a bunch of mumbo jumbo."

"It will be interesting to see what [prosecutors] say when... Mike never took a penny in commission or salary," defense attorney Bill Baxley said.

Hubbard's is the first of the three major legal actions against government officials to reach trial.

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

Bentley is involved in a controversy involving racy phone calls with an adviser and Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy 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.

If convicted, Hubbard would be removed from office. The trial is expected to last between four and six weeks.

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