By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Court documents in the criminal case of Speaker Mike Hubbard show, for some 859 days and counting, he has used his defense team to deny, deflect, and delay his criminal indictments and his day in court.
The State filed a motion on Wednesday, challenging Hubbard’s fourth attempt to have his criminal trial continued.
Hubbard’s new lead attorney, Lance Bell, is arguing the defense cannot be ready for trial on March 28, because of the withdrawal of White, Arnold, and Dowd, (WAD), the dozen or so motions still unsettled by trial Judge Jacob Walker III, the matter of discovery material, pre-trial publicity, and allegations of prosecutorial misconduct.
The prosecution calls this nonsense stating, “Hubbard’s ‘new’ lead defense counsel, Lance Bell, has represented Hubbard in this matter since at least September 13, 2013 – some 859 days ago.” They also point out that Bell has been at Hubbard’s side, “through the build-up to the indictment, through the entire discovery process,…”[He] “now claims he will not be ready to try this case some 528 days after Hubbard was indicted. This makes no sense.”
According to sources at the St. Clair County Court House in Pell City, where Bell has his practice, he is representing Hubbard for, “future favors from the Speaker and to garner publicity for his law practice.
Following in the footsteps of Hubbard’s former attorney, J. Mark White, Bell seems determined to delay Hubbard’s trial as long as possible. The State contends “Hubbard’s intentional delay tactics should not be rewarded with another continuance.”
Bell stated the withdrawal of White’s law firm from the case, is grounds for another delay. But, the State argues that Hubbard, in a signed affidavit, consented to WAD’s withdrawal, demonstrating he believed his interests would remain protected, despite their departure.
Hubbard was clearly aware of the March trial date when he consented to WAD’s withdrawal on December 27. The prosecution states. “He cannot now claim that his interests will be harmed by proceeding with the trial date without WAD. Second, there is no disruption in the continuity of legal representation, since Mr. Bell has represented Hubbard from the beginning for almost two and a half years and the remaining two attorneys of record have been involved in this case since, at the latest, Hubbard’s indictment.” The prosecution further states, “perhaps most significantly, WAD’s purported “conflict of interest” will not – according to the WAD attorneys – affect their ability to cooperate with Hubbard’s remaining lawyers.”
Defense lawyers for Hubbard have argued for over a year, that discovery material provided by the prosecution was inadequate, under the law. However, a Special Master, which they approved, has found that the material supplied to Hubbard by the prosecution on April 30, 2015, complied with Alabama’s Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the federal standard under Brady.
Bell has asked for a continuance challenging the discovery material, once again. To this, the prosecution states, “Hubbard and all of the attorneys representing him, including WAD and Mr. Bell, made the calculated decision not to review the State’s discovery production in a review platform, even though there were no technical barriers to prevent them from doing so.”
In her report, made public by the court on Dec. 7, Special Master Allison O. Skinner also found that Hubbard’s criminal lawyers have not yet loaded the material into the necessary program to search the documents, despite being readily available for nine months.
In her response to the court Skinner stated, “By Hubbard’s counsel’s own admission, they (counsel) have handled multiple voluminous e-discovery cases using an outside vendor for their review platform. However, in this case, Hubbard has elected not to load the April 30th production into a review platform.” Skinner further notes, “As of the November hearing, Hubbard had not loaded the production into an e-discovery review platform, nor has Hubbard advised the Special Master whether it has subsequently elected to use a review tool.”
The prosecution argues, “To obtain a continuance to gather evidence, a defendant must make the good-cause showing that he has exercised due diligence in attempting to obtain the evidence.” The finding of the Special Master would indicate they have not.
Perhaps the most erroneous or insane argument made by Bell, is that pre-trial publicity generated by this publication is a sound reason to grant Hubbard a continuance.
The State responded to Bell’s assertion by saying, “Hubbard and his lawyers have intentionally sought pretrial publicity in this case since he was indicted. Specifically, Hubbard launched a full-court-press, mass-media blitz campaign to proclaim his innocence, decry the grand jury’s charges as political, and viciously attack the integrity and the motives of the prosecution.
Hubbard even employed one of the State’s top PR firms to ensure that he would receive favorable press coverage. The State notes Hubbard’s pep-rally press conference, his full page advertisement in the Opelika-Auburn News, and defense counsel’s public statements to the press, along with Hubbard’s appearances on various radio and television stations.
Bell, who now seems to be receiving defense strategy from Hubbard, has blamed this publication for all his woes. The prosecution answers saying, “Hubbard’s campaign for press coverage of this case was relentless and continued until just moments before this Court entered an order prohibiting further contact with the media.”
Hubbard, despite Judge Walker’s gag on attorneys, is still making outlandish public statements. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at a House Republican Caucus meeting read a prepared statement in which he assured the members trial Judge Jacob Walker III would postpone his trial until after Session, that he was not guilty and his case would be dismissed before going to trial. He also railed against the Attorney General’s Office and “rogue” prosecutors.
Hubbard’s former criminal lawyer White, has reportedly said that Hubbard thinks “Speaker” is a verb.
The State argues, “…because this Court has entered a “gag” order, publicity cannot be a reason to delay the trial. The two months between the gag order and the trial date will serve as a sufficient cooling off period even assuming one is necessary.” They also say that the Court is fully capable of handling any publicity concerns through
routine voir dire procedures.
In Hubbard’s final effort to secure a continuance, he claims that the number and importance of his various motions to dismiss, require another delay of this case. The prosecution counters saying, “…these issues have been fully briefed and are under submission. This Court has never indicated that it cannot or will not resolve these issues in time for the trial to proceed in March.”
The State finally points out that Hubbard’s strategy, “has included manufacturing discovery issues as a pretext for a continuance, issuing well over 75 subpoenas on irrelevant and collateral matters, filing serial motions to dismiss over the course of 13 months, and inexplicably stalling the filing of his long-promised motion challenging the constitutionality of the Alabama Ethics Law.”
The State concludes stating, “The citizens of this State deserve a timely resolution of whether or not the Speaker of the House violated the Alabama Ethics Act on twenty-three separate occasions. Until this case is tried, a cloud will continue to hang over the Alabama House of Representatives. The people’s confidence in their government will be further eroded by yet another delay of the lifting of that cloud.”
Hubbard has spent the better part of three years fabricating various reasons why he is innocent, and he has repeatedly said he wants his day in court. Judge Jacob Walker, III is the only one who can ensure the people of Alabama that justice not ploys, or ruses rule in the State.
It appears Bell is filing all Hubbard’s motions under seal as they do not appear on Alacourt.