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Hubbard appeal filing deadline extended again

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ethics conviction appeal has been delayed again.

On Monday, the Lee County Circuit Court asked for another time extension of 28 days to allow the Court Circuit Clerk to file the Court Record of Appeal. The Court of Criminal Appeals granted the extension Tuesday, giving the Lee County Circuit Court until March 1 to submit the record.

Hubbard’s case involves twelve felony ethics guilty charges, and, according to the Court documents, consists of “well over 550 filings” including motions, orders and other documents.  Circuit Clerk Mary Roberson said the filing will be “voluminous.”

“While this number of filings alone are rare in a criminal case and would warrant an extension of time, many of these filings are Under Seal, which will make the preparation of the Clerk’s Record even more complex,” she wrote in her motion to the Court.

In addition to the case’s complex filings, Roberson also said the Circuit Clerk’s Office in Lee County is currently understaffed and has been for years. Only one Court Specialist is assigned to handle all appeals in Lee County, she said.

The appeal record filing deadline was extended at least once before on Nov. 10. At the time, the Court of Criminal Appeals gave the Lee County Circuit Court until Dec. 28 to complete and certify the court reporter’s transcript.

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Hubbard first filed his notice of appeal on Nov. 5. The former House Speaker’s lead defense attorney Bill Baxley said at the time that juror and prosecutorial misconduct would be at the forefront of Hubbard’s arguments in appeal.

“I think juror misconduct was the heart of it,” Baxley said. “[But], that’s just part of it. There’s so much there, that’s only part of it.”

Hubbard was removed from office in June 2016 after being found guilty of 12 felony ethics violations — violations of the same ethics law he himself helped push through the Legislature during his first special sessions as Speaker.

Following his conviction, his attorneys filed several post-trial motions alleging juror misconduct and subsequently sought a new trial or automatic acquittal. Though the motions were never ruled on by Circuit Judge Jacob Walker, they were automatically denied by process of law in September when time expired.

Hubbard and his team of attorneys maintain that he committed no crime and that the attorney general’s office allowed former Ethics Commission Executive Director Jim Sumer to improperly influence the jury.

The Lee County Jury that heard the trial found Hubbard guilty of illegally voting on the 2013 General Fund despite having a conflict of interest. At the time, the former speaker was on the payroll of the American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. and the budget would have given the group a monopoly on Medicaid pharmaceuticals.

In combination, Hubbard was receiving as much as $30,000 a month in reimbursements for consulting and lobbying contracts with APCI and other trade organizations with business before the Legislature.

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The jury also found Hubbard guilty of accepting illegal things of value in the form of $150,000 in investments into his failing Auburn printing company Craftmasters printing.

Hubbard’s attorneys argued during the trial that the investments were legal because they were from his “friends,” which is legal under the ethics law.

They failed in Lee County to prove the investors were “friends.” But they’re ready to try again.

“Jimmy Rane said Hubbard has been his friend,” Baxley said last year. “Jimmy Rane knew Hubbard and was friends with him before Hubbard ever met his wife.

“Robert Burton, CEO of Hoar Construction, said the same thing. With both sides saying that, they still allowed Jim Sumner to tell the jury, ‘No, they’re not friends. Friends are so and so, and so and so.”

But the prosecutors said Hubbard “put a for sale sign in front of the speaker’s office.”

“The defendant was on the brink of collapse,” Duffy said during his closing arguments. “He was about to be on the hook for $822,000 [if the printing company bankrupted]. That’s why he went out and found people who had interests before the Legislature to ask them for $150,000.”

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Duffy said Hubbard violated the State’s trust and destroyed the public’s confidence in State government.

“The integrity of government — it matters,” Duffy said. “The defendant ran all over the [the ethics laws] with his conduct. He didn’t care about any of it.”

The defense has yet to submit any briefs in the appeals case, according to available documents. They’re waiting on the court to update the records. Hubbard will remain out on bond until the conclusion of his appeal.

Email Chip at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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