By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— Firings at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) are being seen as an attempt, by Gov. Robert Bentley, to cover-up the events surrounding his ordering Law Enforcement Chief Spencer Collier not to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office in a criminal investigation.
On Monday, sources with intimate knowledge of the firing confirmed that JT Jenkins, ALEA’s second-in-command; John “Hal” Taylor; Jay Howell; Camilla Gibson; and Collier’s personnel assistant, Merritt Hayes, were fired from ALEA. Also, Special Agent Jack Wilson was transferred from his post.
In an article by Chuck Dean (al.com), the Governor confirmed that Collier had disobeyed his order not to provide an affidavit to the prosecution, in the Speaker Mike Hubbard felony public corruption case.
Affidavits were requested by the State after Baron Coleman, an attorney and radio host, met with SBI alleging Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who is the chief prosecutor in the Hubbard case, may have violated the Grand Jury Secrecy Act. Collier assigned SBI Special Agent Jack Wilson to investigate Coleman’s claims. Wilson reported that he found no wrong doing by Hart.
Jenkins, Taylor and Wilson all had intimate knowledge of the events surrounding Bentley’s order not to cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office. After the firing, at least one individual has come forward suggesting Bentley may have taken other steps even more egregious, than the order not to cooperate.
So, swift and punitive was the firing that at least one employe said their insurance was terminated effetely at 5:00PM, Monday.
Those close to the Governor have floated the idea that Hart had pressured Collier, Wilson and Taylor, to provide their sworn statements. This has been proven false.
Those close to Bentley have tried to further discredit Hart, as well, by supplying Chuck Dean with the original drafts of the affidavits around which he built an elaborate story. The story is widely seen as little more than propaganda coming from the Capitol.
As part of his affidavit Wilson said, “…following the interview with Coleman, he ‘recommended that no formal investigation be opened into the matter.’”
Collier’s affidavit confirmed that ALEA was not investigating “Mr. Hart or any other related matter concerning the Lee County Special Grand Jury.”
Taylor said, “Based on the interview [with Coleman], it was determined that no investigation of Deputy Attorney General Hart would be opened by ALEA.”
Lawyers, who asked not to be identified in this report, said that Bentley has very likely crossed the line, opening the possibility of a criminal investigation into, at least, witness tampering.
Alabama Section 13A-10-124 states:
Tampering with a witness.
(a) A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness if he attempts to induce a witness or a person he believes will be called as a witness in any official proceeding to:
(1) Testify falsely or unlawfully withhold testimony; or
(2) Absent himself from any official proceeding to which he has been legally summoned.
(b) Tampering with a witness is a Class B misdemeanor.
Federal witness tampering is even more clear.
(B) cause or induce any person to—
(i) withhold testimony, or withhold a record, document, or other object, from an official proceeding;
(ii) alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the integrity or availability of the object for use in an official proceeding;
(iii) evade legal process summoning that person to appear as a witness, or to produce a record, document, or other object, in an official proceeding; or
(iv) be absent from an official proceeding to which that person has been summoned by legal process; or
(C) hinder, delay, or prevent the communication to a law enforcement officer or judge of the United States of information relating to the commission or possible commission of a Federal offense or a violation of conditions of probation, supervised release, parole, or release pending judicial proceedings;