By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
BIRMINGHAM—The Speaker of the Alabama House or Representatives Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn) is under indictment for 23 counts of ethics violations. While everyone is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty, can Hubbard still effectively conduct the people of Alabama’s business while under criminal indictment?
Former Mobile County Commissioner Stephen Nodine (R) has been where Hubbard is and has seen his life turned upside down by a criminal indictment while in office. Former Commissioner Nodine told the Alabama Political Reporter that “Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do what is best for the party.” Nodine said that Speaker Hubbard, “Should do what I did and resign.”
Nodine was also critical of Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead. He asked, “I wonder where was the Republican Party?,” when Mike Hubbard was indicted. Nodine said that the Party should call for Hubbard to resign his seat after he was indicted on ethics violations.
Nodine had announced intentions to run for Congress after former Representative Jo Bonnor (R from Mobile) resigned last year; but was blocked in that effort by Chairman Armistead who said then, “I can tell you that as chair, I see no circumstances where I would support a convicted felon being a candidate for the Republican Party.”
The U.S. Constitution sets the requirements to run for the U.S. House the U.S. Senate, and for President and there is no restriction preventing felons from running for federal office; but the Alabama Republican Party has its own rules for qualifying candidates. To run as a Republican, a person must affirm, “I have not been convicted of a felony under the laws of the United States or of another state.”
Nodine said that he can run for President, for Congress, or for the U.S. Senate; but can’t run for any office in Alabama…..and can’t run as a Republican because the party won’t allow it.
Commissioner Nodine said that with, “The Alabama Republican Party make one mistake and you are out forever.”
Commissioner Nodine was a rising star in Alabama politics until tragedy struck and his girlfriend, Angel Downs, was killed by a gunshot.
The initial investigator and the coroner’s initial thought was that Ms. Downs had killed herself. Baldwin County District Attorney Judy Newcomb however rejected that view in favor of the theory that Nodine murdered her. Newcomb rushed that theory directly to a grand jury who indicted Nodine for murder just 15 days after Downs death.
The coroner’s initial report, Down’s well documented 2006 suicide attempt, and statements by investigators supporting the suicide theory were never shown to the Grand Jury.
Nodine said, “It was surreal to go through that. You can indict a ham sandwich.”
The trial ended in a hung jury. Nodine was however convicted on a federal charge of being in possession of (legally permitted) firearms while using illegal drugs because he tested positive for marijuana. Nodine said he might have been the second person to be convicted of that rarely prosecuted charge.
Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) appointed David Whetstone to take over the case after the first trial ended in a hung jury on the most serious charges.
Before his second murder trial, Nodine pled guilty to harassment and perjury for making an incorrect statement on a financial filing requesting legal aid. In exchange for Nodine pleading guilty to anything the state dropped the murder charge with prejudice.
Nodine said of his plea deal, “Sometimes you have to take what you can get.”
Nodine later told the Alabama media group, “If not for the brave investigators and law enforcement personnel that have come forward, (since my October 24, 2012 sentencing), to shine the light of my wrongful prosecutions. I would still be rotting in prison.”
Stephen Nodine remains fiercely critical of the justice system which he says is broken, “I don’t wish it on anybody….The system has become so political. There are no checks and balances on them (prosecutors).” Commissioner Nodine said that the two investigators who believed in his innocence weren’t allowed to testify.
Former Com. Nodine believes that if Downs had not died that he would have eventually run for Congressman Bonner’s First Congressional District seat once Bonner retired.
Nodine said that there has been a huge division in the Republican Party since 2003 and it all stems from Amendment One….a series of tax increases advocated for by then Governor Bob Riley. “I supported Riley.” Nodine said that Bill Armistead and his faction opposed Amendment One.
Nodine said, “The gambling issue has corrupted both political parties.” Democrats were taking money from gambling interests in the state and Republicans were taking money from casinos in Mississippi and from the Indians.
Nodine said, “Never once did I use office for personal gain.” “The Party that was so quick to kick me to the curb now wants to protect him (Hubbard).”
Nodine said that if the Republican party wants to win Black and Hispanic voters they need to back a stronger criminal expungment bill and offer redemption after you make mistakes to people convicted of crimes.
Nodine said that he can’t run for a state office, he can’t vote, and has lost his Second Amendment rights even though his prosecution has been, “Exposed as a wrongful prosecution.”
“Did I have moral problems? Yes Did I have a girl friend? Yes.”
Nodine said that personal failings and mistakes should matter less than, “Are you working your ass off for the people.”