By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
The long list of witnesses subpoenaed for Speaker Mike Hubbard’s evidentiary hearing may only represent a small token of the people who will be called in his criminal trial.
The trial, set to begin on March 28, 2015, almost two-years after his indictment and arrest on 23 felony counts of public corruption, is guaranteed to bring a who’s who in the political world to the Lee County T.K. Davis Justice Center.
The trial is expected to last three weeks, and the prosecution will bring a host of politicos to the stand to show how Hubbard used his office for personal gain.
Hubbard, and his legal team, led by J. Mark White, are preparing a scorched-earth defense, one that will embarrass, expose, and perhaps even implicate others in crimes. Hubbard has shown he not only wants to put the prosecution on trial, but also the State government. He has made it clear that he will sacrifice everyone around him to save himself, nothing is sacrosanct to the rapacious Hubbard, who for years has has presided over a Bacchanal buffet of greed and corruption, that has infected every corner of State politics.
He knows where the bodies are buried, and will not hesitate to dig them up, and display these stinking corpses at the Lee County Justice Center.
Hubbard has already tried unsuccessfully to shame some lawmakers at his evidentiary hearing; he has tried to cajole and intimidate others.
The star witnesses for the State will surely include Gov. Robert Bentley, who will take the witness stand to recount how Hubbard lobbied him as Speaker on behalf of his clients without disclosing the that he was being paid. Former Rep. Greg Wren of Montgomery will likely explain the intricacies of how Hubbard had 23 words placed in the State General Fund Budget, which would have given his client, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc.(APCI), a monopoly over a statewide Pharmacy Benefits Management plan.
APCI lobbyists Bill Ely, and Ferrel Patrick will most likely expand on Wren’s testimony.
Hubbard’s former Chief of Staff, Josh Blades, will certainly be on hand to describe the interworking of that deal and perhaps others. As will Hubbard’s protege at ALGOP, John Ross. Ross was Hubbard’s second-in-command when he funneled money from the Republican Party through Majority Strategies back into his own pockets. No doubt Ross, a partner at the high-powered lobbying group Swatek, Azbell, Howe & Ross, will put more nails in Hubbard’s coffin. As will Dax Swatek, who will likely tell how Hubbard asked him to invest $150,000 into Craftmaster Printers Inc., and he had to tell Hubbard no because he believed it would have been be illegal.
What is almost without doubt, is that Hubbard will come to realize, perhaps too late, that he has never had true friends, and at his darkest hour he will be alone.
It is reasonable to expect Norris Green, former Director of the Legislative Fiscal Office, (LFO), former legislative counsel for the House, Jason Isbell, Rep. Steve Clouse, Director of Commerce Greg Canfield and former Stater Health Officer Dr. Don Williamson to give testimony for the prosecution.
Other potential witnesses are those named in the Hubbard indictments, which include: former Gov. Bob Riley, his daughter, Minda Riley Champbell, BCA Chairman Billy Canary, Tim Howe, Will Brooke, Dax Swatek, Jimmy Rane, Rob Barton, Robert Abrams, James Holbrook, as well as American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), the Southeast Alabama Gas District (SEAGD), and Edgenuity, Inc. and/or E2020.
In 2010, then Gov. Bob Riley stood in front of the State to proclaim, “We have an historic opportunity to not only reform a corrupt political culture, but to end it once and for all. However, I believe…very sincerely, that we have a short window of opportunity to make this happen. There is an unmistakable momentum there today that we need to use to make sure that we pass these bills, because this opportunity may not come again.”
Hubbard has shown contempt for the ethics reforms he and Riley championed. The moment that Riley spoke about did not come in 2010, or anytime since. Hubbard’s conviction in 2016 would briefly open a window of opportunity for lawmakers to enact real reform.
Hubbard public corruption trial will place the corrupt culture of Montgomery under the glare of a public spotlight. It will be ugly, but from that hideous creature good may arise, if men and women will act righteously in its aftermath.