By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Yesterday’s indictment and arrest of Representative Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, has brought the public corruption investigation in Lee County one step closer to the Speaker of the Alabama House Mike Hubbard.
Indictment documents in Moore’s case, available here, include transcripts of the Representative being questioned about the Speaker in reference to a recorded phone call in which Moore relayed to his GOP primary opponent, Joshua Pipkin, that around a hundred jobs in the Enterprise area were in danger unless Pipkin dropped his candidacy.
The interview, conducted by special prosecutor Matt Hart, reads as follows:
Matt Hart: Okay. Now, Mr. Pipkin – you’ve never said to Mr.Pipkin, hey, if you’ll promise to tay out of this race, or words to that effect – if you’ll promise to stay out of this race, I’ll go back to Speaker Hubbard and tell him that you’re out and be sure that he does this economic incentive thing for us?
Barry Moore: No, sir. I told him – I said, if you – it was up to him if you want to run. But in my opinion, we were – I was going to do everything I could to make the deal happen, just to keep the jobs.
Matt Hart: Okay. And – and you didn’t assert to him that if he promised to stay out, that you would encourage the Speaker not to do this threat the Speaker had–
Barry Moore: No, sir. I –
Matt Hart: –allegedly made?
Barry Moore: I told him I couldn’t – you know, I can’t control the Speaker. I don’t have any control in that area. But I was going to do everything I could to make the deal happen.
Matt Hart: Okay. And you didn’t assert to him that the Speaker had, in fact, made that threat?
Barry Moore: No, sir.
Matt Hart: Okay. But to your knowledge, the Speaker hasn’t made any assertions to anyone that he was going to impede incentives to keep them here in order to keep people out of a primary race?
Barry Moore: No, sir. He’s trying to actually get the deal done. And from what I heard, it’s now in the – the actual company’s ball park. In other words –
Matt Hart: Okay. In that –
Barry Moore: To try to get them to stay. But they’ve got – they’ve got to figure out their finance. I don’t know. It’s something – they’re trying to work out something with the banks to – to get them to stay in Alabama.
Matt Hart: Okay.
Barry Moore: But I haven’t heard anything else.
The audio recording, which the Alabama Political Reporter released here, of the actual phone conversation between Moore and Pipkin tells a completely different story, with Moore clearly relaying to Pipkin that with his dropping from the race, Moore would talk to Hubbard about securing the Enterprise jobs in question:
“I’m waiting to meet with the Speaker… I don’t want to put the Australians [EEC] off too long so either way I’ve got to meet with Mike (Hubbard) this week. This deal is too important to our city. I know some think I have nothing to do with it but they are very wrong. Mike controls this deal and my relationship with him has everything to do with it. Relationships in politics are everything. And Mike is very loyal to his friends. He just is,” Moore says on the recording.
“I got a meeting with the Speaker and he is furious… At the end of the day, yeah, because we were fixin’ to land a pretty good deal, and there’s a lot at stake, I can assure you, for our City and our community… If you’ll give me your word that you’ll get out, when I meet with him [Hubbard] next week, I’ll tell him… he’s going to get out, so we need this deal for him to stay out, but I need your word on that. And I’ll talk with the Speaker.”
Hubbard released a statement on Moore’s arrest yesterday, seemingly in an attempt to frame it as a possibly politically motivated move on the part of the Attorney General’s Office:
“We totally support Representative Moore being given the opportunity, guaranteed by the laws of the State of Alabama, to demonstrate his innocence and that he is the unfortunate victim of the abuse of power. We are confident that the citizens of Alabama will recognize and reject any misuse of the grand jury system to advance a political agenda or goal, the statement said.
“Speaker Hubbard wants nothing more than to ensure that the law is followed fairly and is free of political and personal influence. Speaker Hubbard has at all times cooperated with law enforcement authorities.”
“The primary purpose of a Grand Jury is to investigate and determine whether, after a fair and impartial investigation, anyone should be charged with a crime. The Grand Jury process is sacred and is supposed to be accomplished in total secrecy in order to protect the good name and reputation of those falsely accused. The Grand Jury is supposed to be an independent body devoid of outside influence and should not be dictated by politics, political or personal feuds, or individual personalities. ”
This is not the first time that the Speaker of the House has been implicated in court documents related to the Lee County public corruption investigation. Early this month, Hubbard was directly implicated in the plea deal documents in the case of now convicted former Representative Greg Wren, R-Montgomery. Wren agreed to a plea deal, receiving only a misdemeanor charge in exchange for total cooperation in the Lee County investigation.
Wren had obtained confidential medicaid documents from LFO and illegally provided them to RxAlly, a pharmaceutical company for which he consulted; he also added language to the 2013 General Fund budget that granted an monopoly for some medicaid prescription plans to APCI, an RxAlly affiliate, a move that garnered the company hundreds of thousands of potential new customers.
Wren originally lied to investigators, claiming that he had obtained the confidential medicaid documents online. This alone could have landed the former Representative a felony charge. Clearly, Wren’s cooperation means a great deal to the prosecutors in the case.
The plea deal documents, which are sworn to by Wren under penalty of perjury and a revocation of his year sentence’s suspension, shed light on just how much his cooperation has given the prosecution.
According to the “statement of facts,” Hubbard not only knew about the monopolizing language that was being added to the budget, he both “reviewed and endorsed” it, without ever disclosing publicly – or to Wren and other legislators – that he himself had a financial relationship with APCI, the pharmaceutical company gaining a windfall through the 23 added words in the 2013 budget.
In fact, Hubbard went on to vote for that version of the budget not once, but a dozen times.
After Wren’s arrest, which occurred as the 2014 legislative session ended, Hubbard released a short statement through his attorney saying that it had absolutely nothing to do with him.
After Sine Die, though, the Speaker went “on offense,” doing a two hour interview with the Opelika-Auburn News.
In it, as in his statement on Moore’s arrest yesterday, the Speaker played the blame game, taking aim at not only “liberal special interests,” but seemingly at other Republicans, particularly Attorney General Luther Strange.
“When you’re in my position and you’re viewed as the leader of the reforms,” Hubbard said, “you take a lot of bullets from a lot of folks. They want me out of play because they fear I may run for governor in 2018. That comes into play. There have even been some that are jealous in the Republican Party that they aren’t the ones who led the takeover. You make a lot of enemies when you take this job, unfortunately. It’s political. I’m under political attack … by people who are desperate and will try to do anything to get me defeated, or hurt me and my family. Overall, it’s to try to get us in position where we don’t have the power in Montgomery to continue to do reforms.”
Notably, Democratic Senator Lowell Barron, who is facing campaign finance violation charges, has also accused Strange of selectively, politically prosecuting cases.
Also in the interview, which was clearly aimed at helping his public relations, Hubbard ironically admitted to having known about the budget language and its effect as he walked to the floor to vote.
“When the language is put in, I find out when I’m walking in the chamber to vote on the budget that the way it was written that the only entity in the state able to do it is APCI,” Hubbard said.
Any person convicted of a felony cannot serve in the state legislature. Representative Moore, though charged with four felonies, has not resigned, and will keep his public office throughout his trial, but if convicted, he will be barred from office. Representative Wren, while only convicted of a misdemeanor, agreed to step down from office as part of his plea deal.
More on Wren’s arrest and his actions leading up to it, what the Alabama Political Reporter calls “Wren’s Prescription for Alabama,” can be found here.
Finally, further details on Hubbard’s role in Wren’s plea deal documents is available here.
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Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on five of those counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another count.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his entrance should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.
Civil rights leader Bruce Boynton dies at 83
The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
Selma attorney and Civil Rights Movement leader Bruce Carver Boynton died from cancer in a Montgomery hospital on Monday. He was 83. The Dallas County Courthouse Annex will be renamed in honor of Boynton and fellow Civil Rights Movement leader J.L. Chestnut.
“We’ve lost a giant of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama. “Son of Amelia Boynton Robinson, Bruce Boynton was a Selma native whose refusal to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant led to the landmark SCOTUS decision in Boynton v. Virginia overturning racial segregation in public transportation, sparking the Freedom Rides and end of Jim Crow. Let us be inspired by his commitment to keep striving and working toward a more perfect union.”
Boynton attended Howard University Law School in Washington D.C. He was arrested in Richmond, Virginia, in his senior year of law school for refusing to leave a “whites-only” section of a bus station restaurant. That arrest and conviction would be appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where Boynton and civil rights advocates prevailed in the landmark case 1060 Boynton vs. Virginia.
Boynton’s case was handled by famed civil rights era attorney Thurgood Marshal, who would go on to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. The 1960 7-to-2 decision ruled that federal prohibitions barring segregation on interstate buses also applied to bus stations and other interstate travel facilities.
The decision inspired the “Freedom Rides” movement. Some Freedom Riders were attacked when they came to Alabama.
While Boynton received a high score on the Alabama Bar exam, the Alabama Bar prevented him from working in the state for years due to that 1958 trespassing conviction. Undeterred, Boynton worked in Tennessee during the years, bringing school desegregation lawsuits.
Sherrilyn Ifill with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund said on social media: “NAACP LDF represented Bruce Boynton, who was an unplanned Freedom Rider (he simply wanted to buy a sandwich in a Va bus station stop & when denied was willing to sue & his case went to the SCOTUS) and later Bruce’s mother Amelia Boynton (in Selma after Bloody Sunday).”
His mother, Amelia Boynton, was an early organizer of the voting rights movement. During the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March in 1965, she was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. She later co-founded the National Voting Rights Museum and annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma. His father S.W. Boynton was also active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Bruce Boynton worked for several years at a Washington D.C. law firm but spent most of his long, illustrious legal career in Selma, Alabama, with a focus on civil rights cases. He was the first Black special prosecutor in Alabama history and at one point he represented Stokely Carmichael.
This year has seen the passing of a number of prominent Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Troy native Georgia Congressman John Lewis.