By Bill Britt
Alabama Politcal Reporter
MONTGOMERY—While Mike Hubbard’s attorney, Bill Baxley, was cross-examining Jack Campbell, a prosecution witness at the hearing in Lee County on Thursday, the State raised an objection. Judge Jacob Walker, III, asked Baxley, “What does this have to do with the affidavit he gave?” Baxley paused, look at the judge and said, “Nothing.” The court erupted in laughter. Baxley’s “nothing” is a good summary of the entire proceedings.
Judge Walker gave every impression the case would go forward.
Thursday’s proceedings were a result of an affidavit filed by lawyer and radio host, Baron Coleman. In his sworn statement, Coleman concluded that Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart had shared secret Grand Jury information from the Hubbard investigation.
However, on the witness stand, Coleman told Hubbard’s other criminal attorney, Lance Bell, he could not “state beyond a reasonable doubt . . . something was or was not from the Grand Jury.”
Campbell, who has been a close friend of Coleman’s, and his business partner, refuted Coleman’s affidavit during the proceeding, as did former State Senator John Rice. Both men testified that Coleman said he was “pressured” to give his affidavit to Hubbard on February 2, because he had been threatened with a Bar complaint that could damage his law practice. When Coleman was asked how he was “pressured,” he said that it was his conscience. Coleman said after his statement to the court on October 20, saying “Simply put, I know nothing about the Grand Jury,” went home and began to think about the situation. He told Judge Walker that he didn’t spend much time thinking about the Hubbard case, and had to refresh his memory reading emails and news articles. Coleman said this enabled him to put “two and two together” and he discovered that he needed to “remediate” his earlier statement to Judge Walker.
No evidence was provided to corroborate his assertion, no tapes were produced, and there were no supporting witnesses.
Coleman has claimed that he has a number of recordings of conversations he had with Hart. He said he would turn the tapes over to the court if ordered. Judge Walker did not call for the tapes during the hearing.
Coleman also challenged the State’s motion, in which it said that Coleman was a confidential informant. After some wrangling between the State and the defense, Judge Walker said he would decide if Coleman was, in fact, a confidential informant.
The bombshells, fireworks and other predictions about the hearing never materialized. Several attorneys said the entire day was a waste. It appeared there were more attorneys present than spectators or reporters.
When questioned by Hubbard’s attorneys, Coleman seemed relaxed and in control, but under cross by former Deputy Attorney General John Gibbs, he became confrontational and belligerent. Gibbs entered the case presumedly to handle this portion. Gibbs is a well-respected prosecutor, with a long career with the Attorney General’s Office and is widely respected within the justice system.
Under cross examination, Campbell and Baxley had another exchange that brought some levity to the otherwise dull proceedings. Baxley asked Campbell where he had acquired Coleman’s affidavit. Campbell answered, “From Susan Britt.” He paused and said, “It was attached to the motion y’all filed, it was Exhibit A.”
Hubbard’s criminal attorneys informed Judge Walker that they had filed a Writ of Mandamus with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Judge Walker said he would entertain a short continuance in the case, but that would only be until late spring. This is the same tactic Baxley used in the Rep. Barry Moore case, and the Supreme Court denied the defense petition with comment.
This was done in plenty of time for the trial to go forward as scheduled. However, given that Coleman’s affidavit has led to more time being spent on peripheral issues, a short continuance may be granted.