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Bill Britt

Guilty: The System Worked

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

Michael G. Hubbard, on Friday, June 10, the thirteenth day of his trial, was found guilty on twelve counts of public corruption. The system worked. In an era where government, law enforcement and the media are accused daily of ineptitude, negligence and bias, that is not a phrase often heard. But, in the State v. Hubbard it worked, just as the framers of our Republic intended.

Some in government tried to protect him, others in law enforcement worked to shield him, and most of the media ignored his crimes. But, a small band of committed individuals could not be persuaded by gain or pressured by lost, in the relentless pursuit of justice. Alexander Hamilton wrote, “Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of man will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice without constraint.”

Hubbard’s consuming quest for power, control and riches were his undoing. His wrong doing was on display for all to see, but he, with the aid of the Rileys, Billy Canary and others, wielded such power few dared stand against the machine they had constructed.

From the witness stand in the Lee County Justice Center, the constant refrain was that Hubbard was talented and intelligent. But, intelligence without conscience, and talent without morals, is a toxic elixir that induces the worst forms of arrogance and hubris. Of the hundreds of email exchanges between Hubbard and his enablers, there was never a mention of what would benefit the people of our State. In every instance, it was about how they could use their positions and privilege to reward themselves.

Hubbard said he was a disciple of Bob Riley, the former governor’s daughter, Minda Riley Campbell, said, “Aren’t we all.”

Lamentation 2:14 (NIV) perhaps describes this band of true believers and their prophet: ”The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.”

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The “Gospel of Greed” was the scripture most revered by Hubbard and his clan. Riley loved him like a son, but he never helped him, he only used him. Others claimed to love Hubbard like a brother, but it was an affection born out of politics, and politics is most simply explained as who gets what. For Hubbard’s adopted family, it was all about how they could use government for their own personal gain.

The villains in this most sordid of dramas were clearly identified one by one as they took the stand in Hubbard’s defense. The lies, half-truths and failed or altered memories, revealed each witness’s true complicity in Hubbard’s crimes. Will Brooke, and Rob Burton were his friends. That is why they gave him $150,000 for his failing printing business. Yet, Brooke confessed their real motive when he said he didn’t want Hubbard to have to work for a company that might compromise his position as Speaker. But that is exactly what they did. What Brooke should have admitted, at least to himself, was he and his follows at the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) were purchasing the Speaker, so no one else could. Jimmy Rane appeared to be Hubbard’s only true friend, but even his $150,000 was a crime.

And what are we to make of former State Health Officer, Dr. Don Williamson, who lied to protect Hubbard? Why would a man with his sterling reputation surrender it so shamelessly to help Hubbard? Whatever Williamson hoped to gain from his altered testimony, the damage to his reputation and credibility was far greater.

There were those who did their duty. Such was the case with testimony given by Josh Blades, Dax Swatek and former Ethics Director Jim Sumner.

W. Van Davis, Miles Matthew Hart, and their team of untouchables, performed their sworn duty. I have grown tired of the word hero, but, I believe it can be applied in this situation. The men and women of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecution Divison went above the call of duty, laying everything on the line in pursuit of justice.

When we first launched the Alabama Political Reporter, we wrote a mission statement to inform, educate, alert, and call to action, the people of our State on matters of politics. This is, or should be, the mission of every journalist who covers the State House. I pray we have kept true to that mission.

As Acting Attorney General Davis said at the press conference following Hubbard being found guilty on twelve counts of public corruption, “We hope that this verdict tonight will restore some of confidence in the people of the State of Alabama that public officials at all levels in the State of Alabama will be held accountable for their actions.”

The rapid rise of Michael G. Hubbard, and his spectacular fall, should serve as warning, that unfettered avarice, and unbridled corruption, have no place in government.

When they made Hubbard take off his belt and tie, in the courtroom and then handcuffed him in the hallway outside Judge Walker’s courtroom, it was made clear, that while the law may offer advantages to the rich and powerful, justice sees everyone equally.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

This was fully evident in the case of the State of Alabama v. Michael G. Hubbard.

We may never be completely rid of public corruption, but in this case, the system worked.

 

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