By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Forces inside the State’s Attorney General’s Office are once again conspiring to derail the public corruption investigation of Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard and others.
Sources from both within and outside of the Attorney General’s Office have confirmed that Luther Strange’s Chief Deputy, Kevin Turner, is orchestrating a plot to remove chief prosecutor Matt Hart from the Lee Country Grand Jury investigation. In this latest effort, it is said that Turner has devised a plan whereby a “personnel compliant” has been lodged against Hart.
“He is trying to poison Hart’s relationship with Luther,” said one individual with knowledge of the inter-working of the Attorney General’s Office.
According to two individuals closely aligned with the AG’s office—who wish to remain nameless—the complaint against Hart has been filed with Charla G. Doucet, Chief of the Attorney General’s administrative division. This bogus complaint is the first step in an administrative process to have Hart reassigned or fired from his position as Chief of the white collar crimes division.
The latest internal coup against Hart is believed to be the result of political pressure from Hubbard, along with former Gov. Bob Riley.
It is believed that Riley is in full damage control mode over potentially damning information that has led investigators to his children, most notably his daughter Minda Riley Campbell.
According to Hubbard’s vanity tome, Storming the State House, in 2010, Gov. Riley’s daughter Minda Riley Campbell served as Governor’s Circle Coordinator and Campaign Advertisement Producer for the ALGOP.
The publication of the leaked internal investigation by the Republican State Leadership Committee, (RSLC), and the subsequent investigation, shows that $200,000 of Poarch Creek Indian, (PCI) gaming money—laundered by Hubbard and the RSLC—was funneled into Republican State Senate campaigns. It also shows that $50,000 was divided between a Hubbard business interest and SRM Media. The laundered funds received by SRM Media are believed to be payments made to Minda Riley Campbell.
“Bob Riley has brought his full power, which is considerable, to bare on the Attorney General’s Office to ruin Matt Hart, and stop this investigation,” said an individual with close ties to the AG’s office.
Minda Riley Campbell was also instrumental in the growth and development of the Alabama 2014 PAC, which raised millions for Riley and Hubbard’s incumbent protection plan. The Alabama 2014 PAC established by Riley, Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, has received close scrutiny due to some questionable donations and expenditures.
Minda Riley Campbell’s husband, James Campbell, is a partner at Bradley Arant, which also employed Turner before he took his position with the AG’s Office.
Inside the Attorney General’s Office, the effort to sabotage the Grand Jury, by eliminating Hart, is thought to be the work of Strange’s closest ally, Turner.
The seemly unbreakable bond between Strange and Turner is rumored to be based on more scandalous motives, and not mere loyalty. As Strange’s driver and body man during the 2010 campaign for AG, there is speculation that Turner holds a dirty secret over his boss’ head. Whatever the reason may be for Strange’s particular loyalty to Turner, there are more than a few questions raised by Turner’s recent actions against Hart.
Turner’s personal cell phone records from mid-March 2014 to mid-April 2014 —observed by the Alabama Political Reporter —show Turner made numerous private calls to Hubbard, Rep. Barry Moore and possibly former Gov. Riley. Turner’s personal cell records show that several calls coincide with the arrest of disgraced lawmaker Rep. Greg Wren and Rep. Barry Moore. Not only does this raise serious ethical questions, it also begs the question, if there are any criminal complications for Turner and others.
Why would Luther Strange’s second-in-command be in such close personal contact with principles in a criminal investigation?
Do these phone conversations point to a coordinated scheme to thwart justice from within the Attorney General’s Office?
Is Turner leaking secret information, planning a strategy, or is there another answer as to why the second highest officer in the State’s Attorney General’s Office is communicating with those under criminal investigation?
Is Turner working in cooperation with Hubbard, Riley and others to stymie the Lee County Grand Jury investigation by removing Hart from the investigation?
One former high-ranking officer within the Attorney General’s Office says that an effort to remove Hart by Strange or his Chief Deputy, would be wholly improper.
“Strange has recused himself from the Lee Country investigation to reinsert himself…by being involved in any process to remove Hart, would be beyond just improper; it could be considered criminal obstruction of justice.”
AG Strange turned over all authority for the investigation into possible criminal wrong doing by Hubbard and others to W. Van Davis, according the court reports. According to the former high-ranking officer, it is Davis, not Strange who has authority over the employment or discipline of Hart.
However, this is not the first time Turner has tried to hamper Hart’s efforts in the Lee County public corruption investigation.
A few months ago, on a Friday, Turner informed Hart’s staff that he was reassigning Hart to Birmingham and that he would no longer have an office within the AG’s office in Montgomery. Turner ordered the case files for the Lee County Grand Jury kept in Montgomery away from Hart’s new office location, according to sources within the AG’s office.
According to those present, Hart, upon arriving at his office, found a letter informing him of his reassignment. According to sources with immediate knowledge of the situation, Hart, along with W. Van Davis, confronted Strange and the ensuing heated discussion resulted in a reversal of Turner’s orders.
Such a toxic atmosphere surrounded Turner actions that veteran AG Official John Gibbs, resigned his office, according to those close to Gibbs.
As a result of Turner’s actions, the day-to-day workings of the white collar criminal division was transferred temporarily from Hart. He still remains head of the criminal investigation in Lee County and also the Montgomery investigation into Alabama State University, which is being overseen by Fayette County, District Attorney Chris McCool, who was appointed Special Attorney General, after AG Strange recused himself from the ASU investigations.
The latest revelations of a scheme to dismantle the Lee County investigation by Turner not only calls into question his actions, but also the leadership of Attorney General Luther Strange.
Is Strange ready to throw away his political career to protect Hubbard or Riley?
Will Turner, who has been described by co-workers as a paranoid drinker with a mean streak, derail justice in the State and summarily destroy Strange?
Is it not Strange’s responsibility as AG to remove Turner or at least put him on administrative leave before this whole house of cards burns in ruin?
Surely Gov. Robert Bentley has a responsibility to see justice served by demanding that Strange sideline Turner.
Even if the Governor fails to act, what about Chief Justice Roy Moore? Is it time for Moore to make his powerful presence known, in an effort to maintain the rule of law at the Attorney General’s Office?
While political forces are at work to distort justice in our State, it seems time that men like Bentley and Moore bring the would-be conspirators to heel.
As for now, the investigation into Hubbard and others is ongoing. What is not clear is if Hart and Davis can navigate around the lawyers from without and the political conspiracies from within, without help from men like Bentley and Moore.