By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—On day six of the Mike Hubbard felony trial, former Republican State Senator, Steve French, took the stand to testify about a meeting between he and Hubbard.
Under oath he recounted that he was sent by then Sterne Agee’s CEO, Jim Holbrook, to discuss with Hubbard the pending Jefferson County bankruptcy. During the meeting, French expressed Holbrook’s desire to avoid a bankruptcy, how it would be embarrassing to his business, every other corporation in Birmingham, and in the county. French explained that should the Jefferson County Legislative Delegation came to Hubbard with a bill that would avoid the bankruptcy, would he support it? Hubbard agreed that he would give his full support as Speaker. Hubbard then pivoted to his financial woes, explaining to French that he had a plan to raise $1.5 million from 10 investors, and if his boss (Holbrook) would be interested in being one of the 10. French took the offer to Holbrook and he agreed to an investment.
During his testimony it was revealed, that French had an immunity agreement with the State’s prosecution. It also appeared that he had broken that arrangement by not testifying truthfully.
Under direct examination by Lead Prosecutor Matt Hart, French recounted a meeting with Hubbard at which Hubbard agreed to lend his support to a bill favored by Holbrook, should it come before the House, and that Hubbard sought in return, a $150,000 investment from Holbrook. Hubbard was found guilty of receiving the $150,000 illegally under the State’s Ethics Law.
Before cross examination, Hart disclosed that French was testifying under an immunity agreement. That agreement between French and the Attorney General’s Office stated, that he would not be prosecuted for any criminal activities in which he was involved, as long as he gave a truthful, complete and honest testimony at the Hubbard trial, and any subsequent related investigations. After Hart’s reminder, French was cross examined by Hubbard’s attorney, Bill Baxley. The reason for Hart revealing the immunity agreement soon became apparent under cross examination, during which French appeared to walked back many of the statements he made to Hart, even appearing to contradict much of his earlier testimony.
Later under redirect, Hart’s questioning disclosed that French had what seemed to be lobbying contracts with both American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc., (APCI) and Edgenuity, two firms that state proved had lobbying contracts with Hubbard. The State asserted as a former State Senator, may have violated the “revolving door” prohibition of the Ethics Laws as in his immunity agreement. Hart concluded by asking French if he understood that the immunity agreement covered these activities, as well as his quid pro quo arrangement with Hubbard, and Hart’s statement seemed to imply that French had broken his agreement with the State.
The Alabama Political Reporter recently learned that French lost his job at the Birmingham office of Rice Advisory, LLC., where he had worked as the Managing Director since 2014.
Hubbard was found guilty on all charges related to APCI and Edgenuity.