By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, December 11, Attorney General Luther Strange (R) announced that former Deputy Attorney General Henry “Sonny” Reagan had resigned from the Alabama Attorney General’s office on December 2. Reagan did not leave the office on very good terms. AG Strange denounced his former deputy in a department wide memo and made it clear that Reagan’s resignation happened only after Strange told Reagan that he would be terminated if he did not leave voluntarily.
Luther Strange said, “The purpose of this memorandum is to clarify the circumstances regarding my removal of Henry T. (“Sonny”) Reagan from his appointed position, my decision to seek the termination of his employment with the Office of Attorney General, and Mr. Reagan’s ultimate resignation.”
Strange continued, “Shortly after this Office opened an investigation into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, I recused myself and appointed Supernumerary District Attorney W. Van Davis to handle the case. A special Grand Jury was ultimately impaneled in Lee County to conduct an investigation. To date, that investigation has resulted in the conviction of former State Representative Greg Wren and the indictment of two other legislators, Rep. Barry Moore and Speaker Hubbard.”
Strange said that. “During his employment with this Office, Mr. Reagan forged relationships with persons, outside the Office of Attorney General, who had an interest in undermining the Lee County Special Grand Jury’s investigation. In October, it was alleged that Mr. Reagan had engaged in misconduct related to the Special Grand Jury, and I removed him from his appointed position as a Deputy Attorney General.”
Strange said, “While working as a prosecutor in this Office, Mr. Reagan shared legal counsel with the indicted criminal defendant, Rep. Moore. Moreover, the representations of Mr. Reagan and Rep. Moore were both related to the Lee County Special Grand Jury. By sharing legal counsel with Moore on the subject of the Grand Jury’s investigation, Mr. Reagan created an irreconcilable conflict of interests. Mr. Reagan’s duties of loyalty and confidentiality to the State of Alabama and to the Office were compromised by his own personal interest in undermining the grand jury’s investigation – an interest he shared with the defendant Moore and his defense team.” Reagan’s attorneys were former Democratic Lieutenant Governor Bill Baxley (who also represented Rep. Moore) and Rob Riley. The son of former Governor Bob Riley (R) has also represented Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard (R from Auburn). Attorney – client privilege is protected by law. Allegedly Reagan potentially compromised the AG’s office and the Lee County investigation.
AG Strange wrote, “While he was sharing legal counsel with the indicted defendant Moore and Speaker Hubbard, Mr. Reagan was privy to confidential inter-office communications involving fellow prosecutors, investigators and staff members relating to the Lee County Special Grand Jury. For months, Mr. Reagan took part in inter-office conversations related to the Special Grand Jury, all the while concealing his simultaneous representation by the criminal defense team. By doing so, Mr. Reagan not only breached his duty of loyalty to the State of Alabama, but he also violated the trust of you, his colleagues.”
Luther asserted that Reagan also, ”Took action in his official capacity as a prosecutor that related to the Moore case, writing memos to staff and conducting business that related to the Moore prosecution. Mr. Reagan’s failure to recognize his own conflict of interests in that situation and to police his own actions was a betrayal of the duty of loyalty that he owed the State of Alabama and this Office. Mr. Reagan’s lack of candor with his colleagues and his attempt to undermine their prosecutorial efforts was, likewise, a betrayal of their trust, and yours.”
On September 17, the Alabama Political Reporter reported on court documents which were unsealed revealing that Deputy Attorney General Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan, had unsuccessfully tried to quash his subpoena to testify before the Lee County Grand Jury. After being served a subpoena to appear before the Lee County Grand Jury, on August 27, 2014, Reagan filed a sealed writ of mandamus to quash the Lee County subpoena.
This case was originally filed in the Supreme Court. According to court records, the Supreme Court assigned this case to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on September 4. Judge Mary Windom (R) of the Court of Criminal Appeals promptly recused by a filing on September 5.
Reagan was represented before the Lee County Circuit Court and later before an Alabama higher court by Bill Baxley and Rob Riley. The Alabama Political Reporter at that time reported that Baxley also represented indicted Republican lawmaker State Rep. Barry Moore. Baxley is on record as the attorney getting paid by Hubbard to represent Moore.
Reagan served as Governor Riley’s Chief Legal Advisor during the crusaded against electronic bingo in the State. Riley recruited Reagan to be point man on litigation against Milton McGregor and VictoryLand Casino. After Riley left office, Reagan returned to the Attorney General’s Office where he has served as the chief prosecutor in gaming cases.
In his petition, Reagan challenged the validity of a subpoena he was served as well as the Grand Jury itself. He also argued the Grand Jury was illegally convened and is being illegally operated. Reagan sided against his boss Attorney General Luther Strange and with Baxley and Moore in saying that Strange did not have the right to appoint W. Van Davis to act on the AG’s behalf in the Lee County Grand Jury (This was also the argument put forward by Baxley in the Moore case which was rejected by Lee Country Circuit Court Judge Jacob A.Walker III and an Alabama upper court).
The court also, once again found that AG Strange (R) did have the authority to appoint Davis and that that Grand Jury is legal.
Also in the petition, Reagan argued that Matt Hart was retaliating against him because he had filed a “personnel complaint” with Charla G. Doucet, Chief of the Attorney General’s administrative division.
In August, the Alabama Political Reporter revealed that sources from both within and outside of the Attorney General’s Office had confirmed that Luther Strange’s Chief Deputy, Kevin Turner, was orchestrating a plot to remove chief prosecutor Matt Hart from the Lee Country Grand Jury investigation. A plan was devised to have a “personnel complaint” lodged against Hart. Reagan it appears was the instrument used to deliver the coup de grâce, against Hart.
Lee County Circuit Court, Judge Christopher Hughes, presided over the hearing for Reagan’s first petition and denied Reagan’s motions as well as an oral motion to stay pending appeal, and Reagan was forced to testify before the Grand Jury.
Reagan through his attorneys Riley and Baxley, then asked the Court that Reagan’s testimony before the Grand Jury be stricken from consideration or, compel the trial court to disband the Lee County Grand Jury therefore nullifying Reagan’s testimony. These requests were rejected by the court.
According to the court documents presented by Riley and Baxley over the past several months, Reagan and Hart were engaged in an interoffice dispute not related to the Lee County Grand Jury.
Reagan has sent several memorandums to Attorney General Luther Strange, Chief Deputy Attorney General Kevin Turner, and/or Chief of the Attorney General’s Administrative Division Charla Doucet, listing alleged instances of misconduct by Hart.
On July 22, 2014, Reagan sent a formal complaint against Hart for misconduct and requested that Hart be transferred to another office.
The basis for the complaint was the fact that Hart had threatened to subpoena Reagan to testify in front of the Lee County Grand Jury if he failed to acquiesce to Hart in the interoffice dispute involving office space and location. However, evidence present in camera before Judge Hughes and the Court showed that the so-called “interoffice dispute” had nothing to do with Reagan’s being subpoenaed.
When Reagan finally testified before the Lee County Grand Jury, he invoked his 5th Amendment right. While recognizing that Strange had recused himself from the Lee County proceedings the court ruled that Strange was to be informed about Reagan’s actions. The court made clear that the Attorney General had a mole inside his organization.
Following these revelations Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) placed Reagan on administrative leave for the allegations that he had been leaking information to suspects under investigation.
Acting Attorney General Van Davis said in a written statement, “In January 2013, Attorney General Luther Strange directed me to act as the Attorney General in a matter involving potential public corruption in Alabama. During the investigation, we determined that a member of Attorney General Strange’s staff, Deputy Attorney General Henry T. (“Sonny”) Reagan, for a period of months, had undisclosed communications with individuals affiliated with people indicted or under investigation by the Lee County Special Grand Jury. Reagan also took other action to impede or obstruct the investigation.”
On September 26, the Alabama Political Reporter wrote that Reagan had sent a letter dated September, 22, 2014, and addressed to Attorney General Luther Strange and copied to others including, Gov. Robert Bentley, unleashing a torrent of unsubstantiated accusations against Matt Hart, the Chief Prosecutor in the Lee County Grand Jury investigation.
Reagan’s letter was leaked to certain members of the media, with a prominent female reporter for the Associated Press reportedly calling the Governor’s Office within a half-hour of the Governor’s office’s receiving the letter.
The contents of the letter were reported by the Opelika-Auburn News, at 7:41 pm Tuesday, September 23. Other news outlets received the leaked letter, including al.com, which allowed Hubbard’s criminal defense attorney J. Mark White to call Reagan’s letter “courageous.”
Reagan testified before the Lee County Grand Jury on August 27, 2014. He testified for almost an hour before asking to speak with his attorney, Bill Baxley (defense attorneys are not allowed in grand jury hearings). After meeting with Baxley, an emergency appeal was made to Lee County Circuit Court Judge Hughes to have Reagan’s Grand Jury testimony quashed. However, Judge Hughes, after being made aware of the prosecution’s evidence against Reagan, (in camera) ordered that he resume his testimony. It was at this point that Reagan took the fifth on advice of counsel.
On September 18, Reagan was placed on administrative leave by General Strange, “in the best interests of the agency,” pending a full administrative hearing.
The letter, rather than being about an internal dispute as Reagan has claimed, is actually filled with many self-serving prose, whereby Reagan portrays himself as “a lifelong public servant,” and one who has, “spent my entire adult life serving either as a soldier in the United States military or as an attorney for the State of Alabama.” Reagan says he has been, “tested in combat and… tested in the courtroom, but I have always done what I believed was right.” Yet during his testimony before the Lee County Grand Jury, Reagan evoked his Fifth Amendment Right, to avoid self-incrimination.
Reagan wrote in his letter to Strange that, “I have always done what I believed was right” yet none inside the AG’s Office or anyone that was contacted for this report could remember a time when a Deputy Attorney General had ever taken the Fifth in a criminal court proceeding.
In his letter Reagan states, “My complaint into Mr. Hart’s office misconduct has no bearing on the work of the Lee County Grand Jury. Even if my complaint culminated in Mr. Hart’s internal discipline, the Grand Jury’s work would continue.”
In his letter, Reagan repeatedly accuses Hart of [Working] “in concert with reporters to reveal information regarding the grand jury to the press to help his cases.” Some legal sources who have reviewed this case closely speculate that Reagan could possibly face indictment for his role in undermining the AG investigation.
Opinion | Inside the Statehouse: Buck’s pocket
You voted Tuesday on a crowded ballot.
Historically, in Alabama we have voted more heavily in our Governor’s race year than in a presidential year. That is probably because we were more interested in the local sheriff and probate judge’s races, which run in a gubernatorial year, than who is president. The old adage, “all politics is local,” definitely applies here in Alabama.
We not only have a governor’s race this year, we have all secondary statewide offices with a good many of them open including Lt. Governor, Attorney General, State Treasurer, Auditor, and two seats on the Public Service Commission. We have five seats on the State Supreme Court, one being Chief Justice. All 140 seats in the Legislature are up for a four-year term. These 35 state Senate seats and 105 House contests are where most of the special interest PAC money will go. And, yes, we have 67 sheriffs and 68 probate judges as well as a lot of circuit judgeships on the ballot.
You may think the campaigning is over. However, some of the above races have resulted in a runoff which will be held on July 17. So get ready, we have six more weeks of campaigning before all the horses are settled on for the sprint in November.
We have a lot of folks headed to Buck’s Pocket. Last year after the open Senate seat contest, a young TV reporter for one of the stations I do commentary for asked me about Roy Moore and his loss. I told her ole Moore had gotten on his horse, Sassy, and ridden off into the sunset to Buck’s Pocket, which by the way wasn’t a long ride from his home in Gallant in Etowah County. She looked at me with a puzzled look. Probably a lot of you are also wondering what I’m talking about when I refer to Buck’s Pocket.
For decades, losing political candidates in Alabama have been exiled to Buck’s Pocket. It is uncertain when or how the colloquialism began, but political insiders have used this terminology for at least 60 years. Alabama author, Winston Groom, wrote a colorful allegorical novel about Alabama politics and he referred to a defeated gubernatorial candidate having to go to Buck’s Pocket. Most observers credit Big Jim Folsom with creating the term. He would refer to the pilgrimage and ultimate arrival of his opponents to the political purgatory reserved for losing gubernatorial candidates.
This brings me to another contention surrounding Buck’s Pocket. Many argue that Buck’s Pocket is reserved for losing candidates in the governor’s race. Others say Buck’s Pocket is the proverbial graveyard for all losing candidates in Alabama.
One thing that all insiders agree on is that once you are sent to Buck’s pocket you eat poke salad for every meal. Groom also suggested that you were relegated to this mythical rural resting place forever. However, history has proven that a good many defeated Alabama politicians have risen from the grave and left Buck’s Pocket to live another day. Roy Moore may be a good example. He has risen from the grave before. He is only 70, and he may grow weary of eating poke sallet.
Most folks don’t know that there really is a Buck’s Pocket. Big Jim would campaign extensively in rural North Alabama often one on one on county roads. One day while stumping in the remote Sand Mountain area of DeKalb County he wound up in an area referred to as Buck’s Pocket. It was a beautiful and pristine area, but it was sure enough back in the woods. Big Jim who loved the country and loved country folks was said to say that, “I love the country but I sure wouldn’t want to be sent to Buck’s Pocket to live.”
Buck’s pocket is now not a mythical place. If you are traveling up the interstate past Gadsden, on the way to Chattanooga, you will see it. There is a Buck’s Pocket State Park in DeKalb County, thanks to Big Jim.
So the next time you hear an old timer refer to a defeated candidate as going to Buck’s Pocket, you will know what they are talking about.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.
Hubbard’s Lee County Trial Finally Ends in Silence
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—The post-trial appeal of convicted felon and former Speaker of the House, Mike Hubbard, finally expired on September 8, in silence, according to the Attorney General’s office calculations.
For almost four years, Hubbard, aided by his criminal lawyers, used the State House, the Governor’s Office and some within the Attorney General’s office to deny, deflect and delay justice. Hubbard stormed the State House presiding over an orgy of greed and corruption. Those days are over for Hubbard and so is any appeal before the circuit court of Lee County.
Under Rule 24.4 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure, Hubbard’s motion for a new trial, dismissal and/or an investigation by the Lee County Sheriff were denied by operation of law because Judge Jacob Walker, III, did nothing.
Under the Rules of Criminal Procedure, “no motion for a new trial or motion… shall remain pending in the trial court for more than sixty days after the pronouncement of sentence.” Hubbard’s sentencing July 8, on 12 felony counts of public corruption, means as of September 8, the calendar has run out for him, with Judge Walker deciding not to rule at all.
Under Rule 24.4: Denial by operation of law. “A failure by the trial court to rule on such a motion within the sixty (60) days allowed by this section shall constitute a denial of the motion as of the sixtieth day.”
At his post-trial hearing, Hubbard’s attorneys made their last stand in Lee County, with Bill Baxley arguing that his client was blindsided, bushwhacked and bamboozled, to no avail.
The Lee County case of the State of Alabama versus Michael G. Hubbard is over. He has a right to appeal his conviction to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals within 42 days, which expires on October 20.
Hubbard’s past efforts show he will seek every avenue available to delay his incarceration.
Every previous motion that Hubbard has set before the Court of Criminal Appeals, was denied without opinion. Many believe this same fate awaits Hubbard’s next appeal before the high court.
Hubbard’s days of freedom are rapidly coming to an end. His appeal was silently denied and most didn’t even notice. He is rapidly becoming yesterday’s news.
Hubbard’s Post-Trial Snoozer
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
OPELIKA—While searching for any thread of an argument that might lead to a new trial for convicted felon Mike Hubbard—once the most powerful politico in the state—attorney Bill Baxley whined, fretted and accused state prosecutors of blindsiding, bushwhacking and bamboozling his client.
Having written about Hubbard’s misdeeds since late 2012, the courtroom drama ending with his conviction makes Baxley’s latest attempt at the September 2 hearing feel like Hubbard trial 2.0 ad nauseam. Only Baxley’s fantastical leaps of legal logic and strained linguistic gymnastics kept the proceedings remotely interesting. Baxley argued several points, only winning on one issue with Judge Walker’s ruling that Hubbard would not be required to pay $1.125 million in restitution, as the prosecution asked.
Before the hearing began, Hubbard’s criminal defense team filed a motion to unseal all court documents related to the case, except one document. Baxley indicated that Judge Jacob Walker knew “the one” he referred too. After some legal wrangling by the prosecution and with Judge Walker, the defense was directed to construct a list of documents to be unsealed. Judge Walker’s decision was followed by Baxley huffing and puffing. Finally, he made reference to testimony given by Professor Bennett L. Gershman a “so-called” expert in prosecutorial misconduct. Hubbard filed to have Gershman’s testimony unsealed in 2015, to no avail.
Testimony given by former State Ethics Directors James “Jim” Sumner is central to Hubbard’s motion to dismiss or grant a new trial, neither of which is likely to occur. But, Baxley and company need to earn the additional $50,000 plus Hubbard recently raised from “friends.” Baxley argued it was improper for the State to present “expert” testimony about what various portions of the ethics statute mean, and whether certain phrases or clauses within those statutes would or would not encompass certain situations or events. The court seemed unmoved by Baxley’s logic since Judge Walker certified Sumner as an expert.
During the two-hour hearing, Baxley’s delaying tactics appeared to try Judge Walker’s patience, especially when the defense claimed they were unprepared to hear testimony concerning jury misconduct. Judge Walker said he set aside other cases to hear Hubbard’s claims of jury misconduct, a surprising claim that surfaced quickly after Hubbard’s conviction.
Hubbard’s criminal defense team citing an affidavit from a panel member filed a motion just days after Hubbard’s conviction calling for an investigation into jury misconduct by an impartial third party. In searching for a neutral investigator, Baxley determined Hubbard’s friend Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones was the best choice.
From the bench, Judge Walker informed Baxley that there is no legal basis for an outside investigation, and that testimony would be taken before his court to settle the matter. Baxley claimed the defense was once again unprepared for such at the hearing, and the juror who reported the alleged misconduct was unavailable.
Judge Walker questioned the two bailiffs and the court administrators who oversaw Hubbard’s trial. Bailiff Bobby Bond testified that he was instructed by court administrator Patricia Campbell, to caution a juror who reportedly was talking under her breath at the beginning of Hubbard’s trial. Bond said he issued the warning, but the juror denied the allegations and no further complaints were noted. Both Bailiffs who rotated sitting next to the jury box during the proceedings testified they never heard chatter from any jurors.
Under oath, Campbell confirmed she had received the complaint and reported it to Judge Walker, who ordered her to address the situation through the bailiffs. Baxley asked Campbell what was said. She remembered the accusing juror of claiming a fellow juror said, “Yes, now the truth comes out.”
Defense co-council Lance Bell rose to claim that Hubbard had not received a fair trial an assertion soon rebutted by the prosecution.
He, along with Baxley said the jury was not impartial, and Hubbard should receive, at least, a new trial. Arguing for the prosecution, Assistant Attorney General Katie Langer cited case law and explained the split verdict showed they were, in fact, impartial because otherwise, the trial would have ended with a hung jury.
As Judge Walker pointed out several times, the clock is ticking with very few days remaining before the 60 day deadline brings all proceeding before his court to a close. The trial judge may rule on these motion or simply wait out the clock.
Photo Credit: Albert Cesare/Montgomery Advertiser/Pool
Attorney General Reacts to Hubbard Loyalist’s Plans for Ethics Reform
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Alabama House Ethics Committee Chairman, Mike Ball (R-Madison), announced his plans (yesterday) to form a commission to review the state’s ethics laws. Ball, a staunch defender of convicted felon and former House Speaker, Mike Hubbard, told WHNT-TV in Huntsville that his committee would “review the State’s Ethics laws and recommend improvements in time for the opening of the Alabama Legislature next year.”
However, just hours after APR published its story on Ball’s plan, Attorney General Luther Strange, sent his comments. “I am strongly opposed to Rep. Mike Ball’s idea of a commission to review Alabama’s ethics law. The whole point of such a commission would be to undermine the law,” said Strange. “Alabamians want our ethics laws enforced, not gutted.”
Ball also said he wanted an “open and honest” process, stating, “Our best chance for success is for it to be carefully looked at, out in the open.” Ball claims he is determined to stop three ethics bills from coming to the House because he didn’t want them “lost in the mix, however, there is a reason to believe other forces are at work, especially given Speaker McCutcheon’s promise of principled leadership.”
It would be difficult to fathom a Hubbard loyalist overseeing a commission to amend laws that landed his former boss in prison.
The day after Hubbard’s indictment, Ball stood by his side at a pep rally proclaiming his boss’s innocence while sporting an “I Like Mike” sticker on his lapel.
Ball regularly appeared on talk radio accusing State prosecutors of conducting a political witch hunt to ensnare Hubbard.
In April 2015, Ball testified in a pre-trial hearing that Hubbard’s arrest was politically motivated. Under oath, Ball said the ethics laws needed amending to avoid prosecutions like Hubbard’s in the future.
Presiding Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker, III allowed Ball to testify, even though he said Ball’s testimony was not relevant to Hubbard’s indictments. Judge Walker ruled that accusations against Special Division’s Chief Matt Hart were not only irrelevant, but unfounded.
Ball is one of the remaining Hubbard loyalists at the State House.