Did you not learn anything from Siegelman?

February 10, 2017

By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter

I’ve never hit the backspace key as many times when writing a column as I did while starting this one.

Anybody who knows me can testify that I’m never at a loss for words. Ever. I hardly shut up. Opinions? I have one on every topic ranging from health care policy to bread pudding.

But Luther Strange being appointed to the United States Senate? I’m at a loss for words. They aren’t even bothering to hide the corruption anymore. I’m so over it.
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Obama may be Siegelman’s last hope

January 18, 2017

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

OAKDALE, LA—On Tuesday, January 17, 2017 President Barack H Obama (D) continued his unprecedented whirlwind of pardons and sentence commutations as time runs out on his eight years in office. President Obama upset many when he commuted most of the sentence of Chelsea Manning.

US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said in a statement, “I strongly disagree with President Obama’s decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who was convicted of leaking classified government and military documents. These actions put American lives at risk and empowered our enemies. It is absolutely absurd to reward the behavior of someone whose actions put the safety and security of the American people at risk.” Read More

Sewell supports pardon for Siegelman

December 22, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter

US Representative Terri Sewell is calling on President Barack H. Obama to pardon former Governor Don Siegelman (D).

Congresswoman Sewell said in a statement, “I am proud of President Obama’s historic record on clemency, which exemplifies our belief that our Nation is one of second chances. On Monday, President Obama commuted the sentences of 9 Alabamians, including several from the 7th Congressional District. All of these individuals have demonstrated a willingness to make the most of their second chance, through educational courses, vocational training, and drug treatment.”
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Craig Ford Calls on Joe Reed and Nancy Worley to Resign

October 19, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, October 18, Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) called on powerful Democratic Party boss Joe Reed and Chairwoman Nancy Worley both to step down as the leaders of the Alabama Democratic Party.

State Representative Ford said in a statement on Facebook, “I appreciate the service of our party’s leaders, but it’s time for Joe Reed and Nancy Worley to step down.”

There is a lot of discussion about Ford being the Democratic Party’s candidate for Governor in the 2018 election. Ford is the most powerful Democratic legislator in the Alabama House of Representatives; but given the Republican super majority, being the most powerful Democrat has a lot of limitations.
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The Fall of Mike Hubbard

July 6, 2016

INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
by Steve Flowers

The conviction and downfall of Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is the political story of the year. It has not been the most profound conviction of an Alabama public official in my lifetime. We have had two governors convicted of crimes while in office and removed in fairly recent years, Guy Hunt a Republican and Don Siegelman a Democrat. Siegelman is still in federal prison in Louisiana. However, Hubbard’s trial has been the most anticipated and most dramatic.
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State Recommends 18 Years for Hubbard

July 1, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Policial Reporter

MONTGOMERY—On Thursday, the State filed its Brief In Support Of Sentencing Recommendation for Mike Hubbard, who will be sentenced on July 8, for 12 felony counts of public corruption.

The State recommends Hubbard be sentenced on each of his 12 felony Ethics Law convictions to an 18-year base sentence, split to serve 5 years in prison, followed by a term of supervised probation equal to the time remaining. It also asked the Court to require Hubbard to pay $1,125,000.00 in restitution (Hubbard’s ill-gotten gain); the maximum fine of $360,000.00 ($30,000.00 per count); the maximum amount to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, $120,000.00 ($10,000.00 per count); and court costs and fees as determined by this Court.
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Bentley Wants His Prisons

May 10, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In an Op-Ed at al.com, Gov. Robert Bentley signaled, that he may call a Special Session to try, once again, to pass an $800 million prison construction project. Bentley said, the massive spending project failed because, “We simply ran out of time in this Regular Legislative Session to finally address Alabama’s prison overcrowding problem.” He also wrote, “That legislation failed in the final minutes of this session. But that doesn’t mean we won’t reach that goal.”
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Alabamians Want A Lottery, But Not A Blank Check Lottery

January 15, 2016

By Rep. Craig Ford

As droves of Alabamians flooded into Tennessee, Georgia and Florida for a chance to win the $1.6 billion Powerball, it’s obvious the people of Alabama want to play the lottery.

People in 44 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands are all allowed to purchase lottery tickets. Alabama is one of just six states that don’t have a lottery.

Instead, every year, Alabama sends hundreds-of-millions of dollars to other states to play their lotteries; spending our money to pay for those states’ government services, and to send their kids to college at our expense.
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Siegelman Has His Day In Court

December 16, 2014

By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Former Gov. Don Siegelman was returned to Montgomery on Saturday to attend a bond hearing on Monday before Presiding Judge Clay Land, of Georgia’s Eleventh Circuit Court.

Siegelman asked that the court release him from federal custody pending an appeals hearing on January 15, 2015. He was represented before the court by Greg Craig, a Washington-based lawyer and former White House Counsel under President Barack Obama.
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Does Hubbard Own the Courts?

May 20, 2014

By Bill Britt

Alabama Political Reporter
 
MONTGOMERY—At what appears to be a 2012 lecture promoting his vanity publication Storming the Statehouse, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn said, in reference to the Supreme Court, “We have 9 of 9 Justices.”
 
Hear comment at  20:40 mark
 
In his speech, Hubbard seems to make clear that he believes the Alabama Supreme Court would be inclined to rule in a partisan manner in a particular case.
 
The narrative that Alabama’s courts are a political tool is an old one, with some doubt and yet plenty of merit. The courts are not trusted in part, because the justices are elected along party lines. In the case of the Supreme Court, this would mean the court is aligned with the Republican Party and that is exactly what Hubbard is referring to in his statement.
 
Wayne Flynt, Professor Emeritus of History at Auburn University, recently told AL.COM that his hunch was that Speaker Hubbard would be indicted as a result of the public corruption investigation being conducted in Lee County. But he added, “My hunch is he will not be convicted.”
 
He goes on to say, “The reason is the Supreme Court has made it increasingly difficult to do what happened to (former Gov. Don) Siegelman… I don’t think this (Alabama) Supreme Court is ever going to say that because those two events happened, they are somehow related unless…unless you’ve got a document (such as) from Richard Scrushy that says if I give you $1 million for the lottery, will you appoint me to the hospital board so I can protect HealthSouth.”
 
Flynt, a historian, is either clairvoyant or knows something that has not been reported by this news organization. In over 60 reports on Hubbard and his believed wrong doings, the Alabama Political Reporter has never found that Hubbard committed the same acts as Siegelman.
 
Here Professor Flynt seems to be making a flawed analogy.
 
What our reporting has clearly shown is that Hubbard accepted money from American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc., and in exchange had language added to the 2013 Medicaid portion of the General Fund Budget to give the company a monopoly over the pharmacy benefit plan the State was considering. In this instance, Hubbard could be charged with accepting a bribe to pass legislation and using his office for personal gain.
 
In other reports we have shown how Hubbard used the funds received by the ALGOP and other political action committees to funnel money into his personal business interests. This is more akin to embezzlement and not a Quid Pro Quo like in the Siegelman-Scrushy affair.
 
Again the comparison by the Professor is inaccurate, comparing dissimilar acts perpetrated by very different men.
 
However, in Flynt’s statements, there are echoes of the very hopes of Hubbard and company, while enflaming the fears of those who believe that justice is not always dispensed equally, within the political class. Still the notion of indictment verses conviction has become so rampant among political insiders that it is almost worthy of its own tracking stock.
 
The idea that party affiliation and alliance to political bosses trumps judicial integrity, speaks to the darker side of politics and the State’s justice system.
 
There is no evidence that the Alabama Supreme Court would ever compromise their judicial integrity for a party boss or anyone else.
 
But, there are some occasions where other courts have ruled in what appeared to be a partisan manner.
 
There is no doubt an intersection where Judges and politicians connect. Take the recent appellate court hearing in the case of former Sen. Lowell Barron. In that case, the lives of the individuals sitting on the State’s court of appeals were so intwined with the defendant, that three of the sitting justices had to recuse themselves from hearing a motion made by the prosecution.
 
In the Barron case, it would appear that the justices recused themselves in a manner that would give the public confidence that justice was being served.
 
Since 1995, Alabama has had a law that, “require[d] the recusal of a justice or judge from hearing a case in which there may be an appearance of impropriety because as a candidate the justice or judge received a substantial contribution from a party to the case, including attorneys for the party.”
 
However, the 1995 law was never applied because it never received pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.

In 2014, State Sen. Cam Ward, R- Alabaster, passed a law in which “a motion can be filed if a reasonable person would perceive the contribution made by a party to the case, or his or her attorney, would impair the judge’s impartiality or if there is a serious question whether the judge can be objective.”
 
The approach that Ward offered still leaves ample room for mischief; where there is a confluence of money, friendships, party affiliations and the law.
 
This is what the prosecution says happened in the first trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman:
 
In 2004, Siegelman, along with his former Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick and Dr. Phillip Bobo, were charged with conspiring to rig bids on a State Medicaid contract.
 
The judge in this case was U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon. At the time, Federal prosecutors claimed that Clemon should recuse himself from the case because he was biased against the government’s case. Among the many conflicts cited was, that Clemon had received thousands in pro bono legal work from former Attorney General Bill Baxley, who represented “an important, unindicted co-conspirator” in the trial. According to an AP report in 2004, the prosecution said that Clemon had, “expressed bias against the government stemming from being investigated in a criminal matter involving his sister, Arnese Clemon. She pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering involving the Los Angeles school district and was sentenced to prison.”
 
Clemon was never been charged in the California case, but was represented by Baxley, who did not charge Clemon for his services.
 
Clemon ruling in the case gutted the prosecutions case an enabled Siegelman to walk away from the bid-rigging allegations. Later, the 11th Circuit did remove Clemon from the Bobo case, “in the interest of eliminating any doubt of judicial fairness and impartiality.”

At the time, AP reported that, “The 11th Circuit said Clemon’s involvement in the Siegelman-Hamrick case did not rise to the level of actual bias, but certain aspects of his participation might ‘give rise to the appearance of … a lack of impartiality in the mind of a reasonable member of the public.’”
 
The lead prosecutor in the case before Clemon was Matt Hart.
 
Many in justice and law enforcement have used Clemon’s actions in the Siegelman-Bobo trial as an example of how judicial bias, political connections and judicial misconduct poisons a legitimate case.
 
Later, when Siegelman was convicted in the infamous,  Siegelman-Scrushy trial, Clemon made an appeal to the U.S. Attorneys Office on Siegelman’s behalf, accusing the prosecution of, “ ‘judge-shopping,’ ‘jury-pool’ ‘poisoning’ and ‘unfounded’ criminal charges in an effort to imprison Siegelman.”
 
To many, the Siegelman-Scrushy trial is an example of justice gone awry in our State because of political prosecution.
 
There is almost always a certain amount of suspicion that arises whenever the well-born or political class is placed on trial. But, in both of these politically charged cases, each side had an opportunity to cry foul.
 
Many people share Flynt’s belief that Hubbard will be indicted but will never be convicted. Perhaps even Hubbard draws comfort from, “We have 9 of 9 Justices.”
 
During his vanity book chat, Hubbard was not referring to the public corruption investigation in Lee County. But, his words are an ominous reminder that some think justice is not always blind.

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