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Hubbard’s Attorneys Ask State To Identify Witnesses Mental Health, Drug Abuse and More

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard’s defense team is on a fishing expedition to find addicts, mental patients, criminals and anyone receiving payola.

Hubbard, who is charged by the State with 23 counts of public corruption, is preparing his defense by asking the State to supply his legal team with a laundry list of materials.

In the discovery filing, J. Mark White, Augusta S. Dowd , William M. Bowen, Jr., Katherine R. Brown, W. Chambers Waller and R. Lance Bell are all listed as members of Hubbard’s legal defense team. In the background lurks Hubbard’s master attorney, Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley, who is listed in the Hubbard indictments.

In the motion for discovery, Hubbard’s team wants to know all of the “dirt” on all of the witnesses the State plans on use during their prosecution.

(See motion here.)

They have requested:

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The criminal records of all prosecution witnesses including prior convictions and cases pending at the present time or at the time of Hubbard’s arrest.

Any information of criminal conduct by any witness for the prosecution, although such person has not been arrested, indicted, or otherwise charged for such conduct.

Any evidence of law enforcement officers, investigators, or prosecutors making monetary payments to, or promises of monetary payments to, any material witness or informant in this case.

Any alias or other names used by any prosecution witness.

Any evidence of mental or emotional illness, drug or alcohol use by any of the prosecution’s witnesses.

Any information pertaining to whether any prosecution witness has been hospitalized for psychiatric or emotional disorders, including alcoholism or drug abuse, and, if so, the names of the institutions involved and the dates of any hospitalization(s).

It would be difficult to imagine who exactly the defense is fishing for, but the why of the expedition is simple: to discredit anyone who intends to give information about the crimes Hubbard is accused of committing.

Some of the potential witnesses against Hubbard are known. There is speculation about others. Then, their will be individuals who are only known to those who cover the State House.

Potential witnesses who are known are those listed in Hubbard’s indictments and, of course, former legislator Rep. Greg Wren, who turned State’s evidence back in April.

It is also know that Gov. Robert Bentley gave testimony about Hubbard lobbying him on behalf of Robert Abrams, d/b/a CV Holdings, LLC.

Potential witness number one is Gov. Robert Bentley, the man who Alabamians reelected in a landslide. Bentley is arguably the most trusted individual in the State.

It is doubtful that Hubbard’s defense team is digging for dirt on the Governor, no matter how aggressive J. Mark White enjoys appearing in the press.

Other possible witnesses are former Gov. Riley, who while publicly supporting Hubbard, said that he was fully cooperating with law enforcement. Is this political rhetoric or is this a case of, “I support Mike, but, hey Mr. Prosecutor, I’m with you?”

Business leaders Robert Abrams, James Holbrook, Will Brooke, Robert Barton and Jimmy Rane are listed in the Hubbard felony indictments, and are, by most opinions, either targets, witnesses, or both.

Billy Canary, Dax Swatek, Tim Howe and Minda Riley Campbell are also among those who are possible targets, witnesses, or both.

Swatek and Howe are partners with John Ross and David Azbell at the firm, SAHR. Each man has very close ties with Hubbard. Azbell co-authored Hubbard’s vanity publication, Storming the State House, and was paid $96,000 a year by the taxpayers to offer PR for the House Caucus.

As for Ross, he was the Republican Party Executive Director during the period that Hubbard stands accused of violating State ethics laws (for funneling money from the party back into his business interests Craftmaster Printers, LLC). Azbell and Ross certainly sit high on the list of potential witnesses for the prosecution.

There is also Bill Ely and Ferrell Patrick who were both involved in lobbying for American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc, (APCI)  during that period as well.

Under the prosecution of that indictment there are a host of former and current lawmakers who are potential witnesses.

Former lawmakers, Rep. Jay Love and Rep. Jim Barton might fit into that category, as well as currently serving lawmakers Rep. Steve Clouse, Sen. Arthur Orr, and Sen. Del Marsh, who were all in some way linked to the APCI, legislation.

The APCI indictments may also see the State’s Health and Medicaid director Dr. Donald Williamson take the stand. Williamson is believed to have been a least one of the first members of the Governor’s cabinet to realize that legislation backed by Hubbard would give APCI a monopoly over the State’s Medicaid Pharmacy Benefits Plan.

Regarding the indictments involving SEAGD, we may see taking the stand, Ozark Mayor Billy Blackwell, who served as chairman of the SEAGD board, Wiley Lott, Director of Economic Development and Governmental Affairs for SEAGD, and of course, John Gregory (Greg) Henderson the CEO, who is Hubbard’s wife’s first cousin.

There are certainly more, but it begs the question: which individuals do Hubbard’s attorneys think are drunks, druggies, mental cases, or criminals?

 

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Health

Over the last week, COVID-19 cases in Alabama increased faster than 40 other states

Chip Brownlee

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Over the last week, the number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Alabama grew faster than 43 other states and the District of Columbia.

Only seven states saw their total confirmed cases increase more rapidly than Alabama, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. The number of positive cases confirmed by lab tests in the state increased 383 percent between March 23 and March 29.

Alabama’s rate of increase over the last week outpaces New Jersey, New York, California, Washington and Louisiana, the states generally considered to be the epicenters of the outbreak in the United States.

Of course, Alabama has far fewer cases than these hardest-hit states, which saw their outbreaks begin earlier. But all of the hardest-hit states have much larger populations than Alabama, except Louisiana.

As of Monday morning at 10 a.m., Alabama had 831 cases of the virus. At least six people have died in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, but hospitals are reporting more deaths that the ADPH has not yet confirmed. East Alabama Medical Center has reported six deaths since Friday. Only one of those is reflected in the Department of Health’s data.

Alabama’s case count has ballooned despite sparser testing than other states. It’s hard to know how many people have been tested in the state because commercial labs are not required to report their negative tests.

According to the Department of Public Health, 6,531 people have been tested. But that data is primarily from tests performed by the state’s Bureau of Clinical Laboratories and the few commercial labs that are reporting their negative test results.

It will be difficult to know how widely the virus has spread until random testing or mass testing can be conducted. Shortages of testing materials have forced hospitals and testing sites to limit testing to those who are showing more severe symptoms of the virus and who may need hospitalization.

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Regardless, public health officials and experts at the state’s hospitals believe there has been widespread community transmission of the virus for weeks. People have tested positive for the virus in at least 55 of the state’s 67 counties.

On Friday, Gov. Kay Ivey ordered additional business closures but again refused to issue a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order. Business ordered temporarily closed include athletic events, entertainment venues, non-essential retail shops and service establishments with close contact.

Alabama’s confirmed case count is growing more rapidly per capita than many states. This graph, which uses a log scale, shows that Alabama has more confirmed cases per million people than Florida, Colorado, South Carolina, Georgia or California did at the same points in their outbreaks.

At a press conference on Friday, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said he was concerned that Alabama’s case count appears to be growing faster than larger states. He placed some of the cause on the state’s increasing roll-out of testing.

“As we test more and more places, we do find larger numbers that show up quickly,” Harris said. “At the same time, we do think that disease transmission is going on and more people are becoming infected.”

Note: You may notice that the data used in this story does not exactly match the data on our Mapping the COVID-19 Outbreak page. That is because COVID Tracking Project collected their data at a different time than us. We update our charts for each day until midnight, COVID Tracking Project stops collecting data earlier in the day. We used COVID Tracking Project’s data in this story so that it would match the data of other states.

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Health

UAB to begin preclinical testing of potential COVID-19 vaccine

Eddie Burkhalter

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham is putting six labs to work testing a potential vaccine for COVID-19, the university announced Monday. 

Scientists at UAB will be conducting preclinical testing on mice of Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Altimmune’s vaccine called AdCOVID. Once that testing is complete the company could begin testing on humans later this year, according to a press release from UAB. 

“This project will be our highest priority for the group in the next few months as the goal is to get the data to Altimmune as rapidly as possible, so that they will use the information gained from the preclinical study to design their clinical trial in people,” said Frances Lund, the Charles H. McCauley Professor and Chair for the UAB Department of Microbiology, in a statement. “The expertise and infrastructure at UAB will be invaluable to the rapid progression of this vaccine into clinical studies.” 

According to the statement the Maryland company believes that if the AdCOVID vaccine candidate is as stable as the company’s influenza and anthrax vaccines candidates, it may allow “inexpensive and efficient distribution of the millions of doses needed for widespread vaccination of populations.” 

Attempts to reach a spokesman at Altimmune weren’t immediately successful Monday morning. 

“It is critical that the biotechnology industry and academic institutions work together to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, and UAB is an ideal partner to support us in this effort,” said Vipin K. Garg, president and chief executive officer of Altimmune in a statement. “UAB has an impressive track record of cutting-edge research in virology and immunology, as well as in the clinical development of vaccines. In fact, Altimmune was founded through a technology license from UAB in 1997. We are excited to collaborate with UAB in our efforts, and we look forward to addressing this crisis together.”

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Bill Britt

Opinion | Take action, lead

Bill Britt

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My wife and I lived in New York City on 9/11 and heard the first plane roar overhead before crashing into tower one of the World Trade Center. That act of terror was swift, startling and violent.

COVID-19 is a slow-burning fire consuming resources, businesses and most terribly, lives.

Any reasonable person knows that now is a time to take decisive actions, big and small.

In the days following the attacks of 9/11, our leaders followed a steady drumbeat to war, a war that still lingers.

Today, there is no one to battle except the virus itself, and anyone with eyes to see and a mind to reason understands that our nation and state were ill-prepared to lead the charge.

This doesn’t mean that government leaders aren’t trying; it simply means at varying levels they were not ready.

In the aftermath of 9/11, some excused the government’s ineptitude to detect the plot against the United States as a failure of imagination.

But a few weeks after the terrorist attack, I met with a top insurance executive who said that their company had gamed out a scenario where two fully fuel 747s would be highjacked and crashed into each other over the island of Manhattan setting the entire city ablaze.

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It was not a failure of imagination, just as the coronavirus outbreak isn’t either. In both cases, it was inaction.

Winston Churchill said, “I never worry about action, but only inaction.” Our leaders have been slow to act. He also said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

So it is again, there is nothing new under the sun.

It’s easy to sit back and critique, second guess and rattle off to anyone who will listen to how you would have done it differently. Armchair pundits and Monday morning quarterbacks are always in abundance.

Leadership is rare and only in times of real human crisis do we see who is up for the challenge.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the famous line from John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961. “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

Alabamians may not know how to shelter-in-place, but we do know how to hunker down for a spell.

What we don’t do very well is nothing.

At APR, we are busier than ever trying to inform the public on the ever-expanding calamity accurately. We neither seek to sensationalize or trivialize the news.

Daily, my concern is for the people of our state, the human toll this crisis will reap.

Yes, the economy is essential, but jobs and businesses can be replaced. Who can replace a human life?

No one knows when this pandemic will subside or what cost we will pay for early missteps, but every life saved is a victory and every life lost should weigh heavily on our souls.

The Biblical account of Job is rich in its instruction about loss and suffering. Job’s family, home, and business were all destroyed, but afterward, they were restored by a devine second chance.

And what did Job do to break the chain of misfortune?

“And the LORD restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” KJV Job 42:10.

If you don’t pray, think about your friends and wish for their well-being.

All across our state, prayers and well wishes I’m sure are raining down.

We are all in the midst of a potential catastrophe of unknown proportions.

Yes, the government can do more and they must, but each of us should do what we can to help others as well. We must all lead in our own way.

The people of our nation and state are rising to the occasion, but still, many are in denial and they are adding to the problem.

Leadership is not an elected or appointed position; it is a choice; leaders stand up and lead.

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Economy

UAH researchers and the world’s fastest supercomputer join the fight against the COVID-19 virus

Brandon Moseley

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More and more of Alabama’s brainpower is being redirected into fighting the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Jerome Baudry is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Dr. Baudry and his lab are involved in a project that is using the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer to examine compounds to fight the virus that has already killed 34,807 people as of early Monday morning.

The compounds under review include drugs already available with safe profiles, as well as natural products. Compounds identified as possible future drugs will also be studied.

“We are at this point focusing on repurposing existing drugs,” Dr. Baudry said. “That is, to take existing drugs from the shelf and find which ones are active against either the virus itself or can help in treating or mitigating the effects of infection in the severe cases.”

Dr. Baudry said that about 30 researchers are involved in the project, and are working around the clock. The group is studying how the virus ticks, including how it expresses proteins, for clues on how to defeat it.

“We can use high performance computers and supercomputers to look at the entire genome of the virus, see everything the virus’ genome is making and build computational models of all these proteins, and repeat the repurposing process for each of these proteins,” Dr. Baudry said.

Scientists in the group are starting with some proteins on the surface of the virus in an attempt to prevent it from infecting human cells.

“We are also looking at some of the proteins that allow the virus to replicate itself when it is inside the human cell in order to block this process, a bit like for many anti-AIDS drugs,” Dr. Baudry explained. “But we will expand to pretty much everything in the virus’ genome that can be targeted by a drug.”

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Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s 200 petaflop supercomputer allows researchers unprecedented access to solving this and some of the world’s other most pressing challenges.

Researchers have a databases about virtually all existing drugs, natural products or molecules that may not have been tested yet as drugs. There are thousands of them. Then they build virtual models of these compounds using the laws of physics and chemistry to calculate their composition and arrive at a very detailed computational description.

“Then we look at the virus’ genome,” Dr. Baudry said. “We have to build models for all the virus’ proteins, again describing all the atoms, their properties, how they move together, etc.”

The supercomputers then compute how the atoms of a possible drug will interact with the atoms of the virus’ proteins.

“It’s like doing a test tube experiment to see if a possible drug will bind to the protein, except that we perform this in a virtual test tube using our computers,” Baudry explained.

Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones explained to the Alabama Political Reporter, “Researchers across Alabama are working around the clock to assess potential treatment for the novel COVID-19. The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) and Dr. Baudry are using technology, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Summit supercomputer, to examine compounds from safe, existing drugs as well as natural products. Repurposing existing drugs is a strategy that can expedite the process if a potential cure or treatment is found. The drugs are already on the shelf, why not test them to see if they can be useful? The high performance computers and supercomputers allow researchers to examine the entire genome of the virus and how it reacts. UAH’s latest announcement is another example of the brainpower we have in Alabama and our state’s commitment to combating this pandemic.”

UAB, Southern Research Institute, Hudson Alpha, and Alabama biotech firms are also working on finding drugs that will treat COVID-19 as well as hoping to develop a vaccine to prevent it.

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