By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—In a brief, but thorough press conference, US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, George L. Beck Jr., said, the request by a handful of House members, who called for a federal investigation of Attorney General Luther Strange, Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, and the actions of attorney and radio host Baron Coleman, was a state issue, not a federal one.
However, he also explained, if actions taken by Coleman, based on information he claims he received from Hart, have violated any civil rights or voting rights during the elections, that might be of federal interest at a later date.
Beck stated that the letter did not constitute a formal request, but he wanted to address the issues being bandied about in the media.
“There’s no formal request, there is no resolution, but there seems to be a letter by maybe less than a third (35 or 36) representatives that have signed,” said Beck. As of the press conference, the US Attorney’s office had not received the letter, but had read its content through media reports. The letter finally arrived at US Attorney’s office late Friday.
The irony of predominantly white, majority Republican lawmakers, pleading with the Obama Administration, to intervene in the Hubbard case was not lost on the US Attorney:
“First issue is whether or not the misconduct of the State prosecutor has caused the illegal the indictment of Speaker Hubbard. It is somewhat ironic that a largely white, largely Republican, largely conservative group of legislators, have reached out to the Obama Administration to bail out the leader of legal entanglements he finds himself in,” said Beck.
In response to the lawmakers calling for the Obama Administration to investigate the State’s Republican Attorney General, in a case involving public corruption charges against Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, Beck was unsparing in his firm, but polite, push back.
In his statements to the press, Beck praised the Attorney General’s Office, as well as trial Judge Jacob Walker III, who is presiding over the Hubbard case. He also instructed the lawmakers as to the workings of the State Constitution, which places the power to investigate Strange in their hands. Saying if they thought Strange was unfit, they had the power after an investigation to recommend impeachment to the State Senate.
He also noted the some-odd ten accusations against Attorney General Strange of “misconduct…incompetence or willful neglect of office,” were a matter that the House could address if the body agreed it was necessary. Beck stated, “We, at my office, deal with them [Attorney General’s office] on a daily basis on civil rights matters, Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud issues…I find that most everyone over there is highly competent, I feel like they are very professional, they have great investigators, they have attorney investigators that I would like to have in federal service. The lawyers are top notch, we have interviewed a dozen of them for jobs over here. We would hire them all, we just don’t have the room.”
As to allegations that Hart may have violated the State’s Grand Jury Secrecy Act, Beck said that was a matter for the Lee County District Attorney. But he cautioned that law enforcement was provided exceptions under the State law governing grand juries.
Rep. Jack William solicited signatures for the letter. Hubbard’s spokesperson Rachel Adams said Hubbard had no knowledge of the lawmaker’s actions. Most of the signees are committee chairs and vice chairs, who owe their positions to Hubbard.
Noticeably missing are signatures belonging to former judges and many attorneys. The absence of Rules Chair Rep. McCutcheon, who was front and center at Hubbard’s pep rally in Auburn, immediately following his arrest of 23 counts of felony public corruption, was noticeable.
The letter, based almost entirely on an affidavit provided to Hubbard’s defense by Coleman, once Hubbard’s arch enemy, cited selective prosecution, prosecutorial misconduct and using Grand Jury information to influence the Republican primary challenge to Hubbard. Without attribution, the letter cites a “respected political commentator,” saying, “the AG’s office has turned into a quasi-Secret Police force.” This was the opinion of Cliff Sims, whose political blog has been closely associated with Hubbard and his compatriots Dax Swatek, and Tim Howe, who are named in the Hubbard indictments.
Without mentioning Judge Walker’s name, the lawmakers surreptitiously accuse the trial judge of failing to do his duty, to which Beck responded adamantly saying, Judge Walker was properly addressing the issues before the court.
The letter is seen widely as another attempt by Hubbard and his cronies to delay his March 28 trial.
Judge Walker recently indicated that the trial date was solid, but he did want to have Coleman placed under oath to determine if he lied to the court, and why he changed from being a Hubbard critic to a supporter. Coleman has said on his radio show that he will prove everything he said to the court was true.
US Attorney Beck has seen his share of political maneuvering and moved quickly to quash the media attention surrounding the letter.
The signers were:
Jack Williams (signed twice)
Paul W. Lee