By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—House Speaker Mike Hubbard has filed a motion to dismiss the criminal case against him, claiming the Lee County Special Grand Jury expired before he was indicted. Court observers, and even defense attorneys speaking on background called the move desperate, amateurish, and bizarre.
Hubbard’s new lead counsel Lance Bell is basing this latest attempt for a dismissal on the State’s request to empanel the Special Grand Jury (SGJ) in July, 2013. He claims the State’s estimation of the time needed for the SGJ is evidence the jury should have been dismissed July 2014, before Hubbard was arrested on 23 felony counts of public corruption. Bell’s thin argument revolves around the State’s request which says the SGJ will “meet periodically over the next twelve months.”
In its filing, the State says, “In giving this estimate, the State was not setting an end date on the SGJ’s investigation before it even began. Further, the Court correctly did not adopt the State’s approximation as an express time limit of the SGJ’s term when it ordered the empanelment of the SGJ. As a result, the SGJ was and is duly empaneled with no expiration date for its term, and it can only be dissolved by further order of this Court.”
In the motion to deny Hubbard’s request for a dismissal, the State reminds the court that Alabama law does not preemptively limit a SGJ’s term. “Contrary to Hubbard’s argument, it is legally insignificant that the State’s motion requesting the empanelment of the SGJ included the estimated duration of service language. The Court’s Order granting the State’s motion and empaneling the SGJ makes no mention of any limits,terms, or expiration date of the SGJ.”
They further state, “Moreover, this Court accepted the SGJ’s indictment of Hubbard on October 17, 2014, during the proceeding in which the Grand Jury reported to both the Presiding Judge and Judge Christopher Hughes. That is, this Court surely would not have accepted the indictment if the Court had intended the Lee County SGJ’s term to expire after twelve months.”
Curiously, Hubbard’s motion to dismiss came on January 12, 2016 – a full 431 days after his arraignment, and 172 days after Judge Walker’s deadline for motions.
Judge Walker on July 10, 2015 ordered that all motions asserting a new claim or issue be filed before July 24, 2015.
Court observers and defense attorneys see this eleventh hour motion as proof, that Hubbard is now directing his defense, and not a skilled attorney.
Bell continues to file motions under seal, to keep Hubbard’s arguments from the public, placing further burden of Judge Walker to review and unseal documents that should be public record. A defense attorney explained that Bell is most likely including some small portion of Grand Jury information, to make is difficult for the motions to be unsealed. However, this ploy does not prohibit the prosecution from replying to the motions.