By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Since his indictment on 23 felony counts of public corruption, Speaker Mike Hubbard has been given preferential treatment. From the State House, to the media, and even the Sheriff of Lee County, Hubbard has been handled with kid gloves. Over the last several months, he has been given unwarranted privilege by the court. This was especially evident during this week’s hearing. He has been allowed to depose the State’s Attorney General, subpoena the prosecution, and granted an evidentiary hearing that veered outside of the confines of Judge Jacob Walker III’s orders.
Hubbard’s lawyers have made a mockery of Judge Walker’s court, and sadly he has passively allowed them to do so. They have broken the rules, demanded special considerations, and in some cases, ignored his rulings altogether. No one, not even the grandiose Hubbard, should be shown such deference.
It is now time for Judge Walker to bring down the curtain on this theater of the absurd, written and directed by Hubbard, and his criminal lawyer J. Mark White. Even as the proceedings concluded on the three day hearing, Judge Walker left the door open for prosecuting attorneys W. Van Davis, and Matt Hart to be called as witnesses. This is outrageous. But, this is the latest strategy to keep Hubbard from ever facing a jury of his peers. White acknowledged so, in front of Judge Walker on the last day of the evidentiary hearing.
Judge Walker expressed concern about White’s request to demand testimony from Davis and Hart, because it could lead to their eventual disqualification as prosecutors on this case. However, he did not quash their subpoena. This is a dangerous game that is being permitted to play out in Judge Walker’s court room. But, granting Hubbard special privileges has been a given. For over a year, Hubbard has been afforded advantages far beyond those given an average citizen of Lee County.
When Hubbard was indicted, he wasn’t handcuffed, and frog-marched into the Lee County jail. No. He was secretly escorted in through the sally port and shown special treatment by County Sheriff Jay Jones. It was as if a celebrity had forgotten to pay a parking ticket, and so reluctantly the Sheriff did his duty, but oh, so courteously.
Most in the media have handled Hubbard gently. And in Lee County, his hometown paper has seemed to serve as a personal stenographer for his attorney White. Media reports seem to always couch the charges against Hubbard as “ethics violation,” as if somehow they are not as serious as, say, grand theft auto, or robbing a liquor store. Some report as if Hubbard is only accused of pilfering a couple of cookies from his neighbor’s house.
What citizen of Lee County, having been indicted on 23 felony counts of ethics violations, would be shown such deference?
Hubbard’s alleged crimes are some of the most heinous perpetuated against civil society. He is accused of breaking the laws enacted to insure the citizen of our State that government is honest, trustworthy, and beyond reproach. When lawmakers break ethics laws it rips the fabric of society because it shatters trust, while working to nullify the social contract that binds us together in peace and safety. State ethics laws are an attempt to force government to rule themselves honestly. Simply put a code of ethics in government is established to keep it honest.
It is not unusual that a county sheriff or certain media might show favorable treatment toward a powerful politico like Hubbard, but when the court allows one defendant such special treatment, that is unacceptable.
There are only two occasions when every individual should expect equal treatment: that is when they stand before a court of law and when they stand before their maker. Yes, it is true that a wealthy defendant like Hubbard can afford better legal representation, but it doesn’t mean he can purchase special justice with fame or fortune.
This three-day evidentiary hearing was not troubling because of what happened, but because of what didn’t happen
Justice should be dispensed equally, but, it seems Hubbard is being considered more equal than others. No one doubts Judge Walker will do what is right under the law, but there is a growing concern that he is allowing Hubbard and his attorney to game the system.
For the good of the State, Judge Walker should order the trial to go forward without further delay. No further consideration should be given for who is on trial, but for what is at stake.