By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The trial judge in the Speaker Mike Hubbard felony case made one thing perfectly clear during Thursday’s hearing: Hubbard will have his day in court very soon.
Judge Jacob Walker, III, has granted a small continuance to allow for housekeeping and any writs of mandamus, but set certain the date of April 11, for the the jury trial to began. Judge Walker set March 28 for a pre-trial conference with voir dire to follow.
Several times, Judge Walker queried the defense and prosecution, regarding any substantive issues they might have before March 28. Judge Walker said he would deal with every issue raised by either side before that date. He said he would issue an order on prosecutorial misconduct very shortly. Most reporters and attorneys gathered in the courtroom after the hearing felt certain that any chance of Hubbard’s case being dismissed on prosecutorial misconduct was a dead matter.
When Judge Walker ordered the trial to go forward, Hubbard grabbed attorney David McKnight by the shoulder and frantically whispered in his ear.
The once powerful Speaker of the House sat by himself in the court room, no admirers, no hangers-on, not even his wife was with him. Bill Baxley and McKnight were the only defense attorneys present. Neither Lance Bell, nor Blake Oliver appeared in court.
The trial judge questioned both the defense and the State, about how to proceed with the protective order barring attorney and radio host, Baron Coleman, from disseminating tapes on which he claims, Deputy Attorney, Matt Hart, gave him secret Grand Jury information.
The State speculated that Hubbard would try to use Coleman’s testimony during the trial to bolster the defense’s claim that the indictment was politically motivated. Coleman has alleged he used information from Hart to create a “whisper campaign” in an attempt to defeat Hubbard in the 2014 Republican primary. Coleman’s partner, political consultant, Jack Campbell, has refuted that claim, in an affidavit and in court testimony. Coleman’s accusations were also discredit by Sandy Toomer, the candidate who ran against Hubbard in the GOP contest.
Baxley, in his usual flamboyant style said, the Prosecution’s motion to grant a comprehensive protective order over conversations between Hart and Coleman, was a “super mega dose of hypocrisy.” Judge Walker appeared amused by unmoved.
In a recent motion, and at Thursday’s hearing, the State argued the court should, at a minimum, prevent the tapes, or their content from disclosure, so long as the Lee County Special Grand Jury remains empaneled, in order to protect the Grand Jury’s ability to perform its investigatory work. The State also revealed that Coleman has served as an informant on other cases pending before the Grand Jury, and that he might disclose information which could harm those cases and ruin reputations. The State said informer’s and law enforcement privileges should be applied to Coleman, keeping the information he gathered as an informant secret until the other cases are adjudicated.
Someone has already leaked a portion of a conversation Coleman tape recorded, without Hart’s knowledge, to al.com. The snippet held nothing of value, because the context remains unknown. Those who know Coleman doubt he could resist holding on to recordings that could actually do damage to the case.
Coleman, a once fierce critic of Hubbard, is expected to be a witness for Hubbard at trial. Hubbard’s cronies at the State House were recently proclaiming Coleman a hero for his attempt to help Hubbard beat the 23 felony charges against him.
The conclusion from the majority present was that, the long awaited trial Michael Gregory Hubbard V. The State of Alabama will begin very soon.