By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has asked the court that documents in his felony corruption case be sealed from the public. Two prominent defense attorneys who spoke on background surmised that this unusual request is a example of Hubbard wanting to have his cake and eat it too. In other words, Hubbard wants the court to muzzle prosecutors while he plays his case out in front of media and potential jury pool.
In the motion, Hubbard asks the court that “any pleading or document which contains or includes any allegation of any extrinsic evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts relating to Hubbard and not contained in the indictment itself, unless such pleading/document is filed under seal.”
Hubbard says that he is concerned that such evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts not contained in the indictment might prejudice a jury pool.
In response, the Attorney General’s Office points out a number of occasions where Hubbard and his team have waged an elaborate PR campaign since September 2013. This includes television, YouTube, Facebook, newspaper advertising and even a pep rally with elected officials on hand to sing Hubbard’s praises.
None of the lawyers we contacted could cite any legal president for sealing evidence in a case where a public official is charged with using their public office for personal gain. In fact, the prosecution shows that Hubbard’s request runs contrary to established Alabama law requiring that “[a]ll proceedings shall be open to the public, unless otherwise provided by law,” according to Rule 9.3 (b), Ala. R. Crim. P.
The State’s position under Ex parte The Birmingham News Company, Inc., is that the public has a “First Amendment right of access to the trial of a criminal case.”
Hubbard argues that if more information about his indictments were made public that it will make it difficult to find an impartial jury.
However, the State shows that it is Hubbard who has engaged in an extensive media campaign attacking the prosecution and claiming that the charges against him were politically motivated. The State contends that Hubbard’s media campaign appears to be an attempt to, “influence the public, including potential jurors, and the media against the prosecution and in favor of the defense.”
As examples of his media blitz, Hubbard posted a video on his Facebook page the day he was arrested, asserting that the indictment was politically motivated; held a highly publicized press conference the day after he was arrested; published a a full-page ad in the Opelika-Auburn News that included attacks on the prosecution, and many more interviews and radio/TV appearances proclaiming his innocence and claiming that the charges against him were part of a political witch hunt.
The State says that Hubbard’s assertion that the prosecution’s public court filings will be “improperly” “one-sided,” “partial,” and “incorrect,” is just wrong.
Hubbard’s request would seem to ask for two things which are mutually incompatible with conservative values. That being, he wants his First Amendment rights preserved, while denying the same to the people of Alabama.