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Rep. Jack Williams, former ALGOP Chairman arrested on federal public corruption charges

On Monday, state Rep. Jack Williams, R-Vestavia Hills, and former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors were arrested along with a California healthcare industry executive on charges of public corruption.

United States Attorney Louis Franklin announced that Williams, 60, and Riley-era ALGOP Chairman Connors turned lobbyist Martin “Marty” Connors, 61, from Alabaster, Alabama, had been indicted along with G. Ford Gilbert, 70, of Carmichael, California.

According to the indictment, Gregory Gilbert is the owner of a California company that operates diabetes treatment centers throughout the world—Trina Health, LLC (Trina Health).

In 2014 and 2015, Trina Health opened three clinics in Alabama. Soon thereafter, the state’s largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, informed Trina Health that it would not cover the treatments provided by them. Gilbert then schemed to force Blue Cross to change its position.

Federal authorities allege that Gilbert came up with a plan to push a bill through the Alabama Legislature’s 2016 session that would require Blue Cross to cover the treatments. Gilbert then made payments to House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, in exchange for his efforts on behalf of the bill.

Gilbert also hired Connors to act as a lobbyist on behalf of the bill. The indictment claims that Connors knew of Gilbert’s payments to Majority Leader Hammon.

Hammon and Connors then allegedly recruited Williams, then the chairman of the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. Williams then held a public hearing on the bill. The government alleges that Williams also knew of the payments to Hammon and acted in part to help Hammon, who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems.

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Based on these events, the indictment charges all three defendants with conspiracy to commit bribery related to federal programs, conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and honest services wire fraud. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Gilbert and Connors committed the substantive offense of bribery related to federal programs.

Gilbert alone is charged with wire fraud, health care fraud, and interstate travel in aid of racketeering. The indictment does not include charges against Hammon because Hammon has already been convicted in federal court of other offenses.

Sources tell the Alabama Political Reporter that Hammon is cooperating with federal authorities and likely is a key witness against his former friends and alleged co-conspirators.

If convicted of the most serious offenses, each defendant in this case faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, significant monetary penalties, asset forfeiture, and restitution.

An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed. Each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The United States Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan S. Ross and Joshua Wendell are prosecuting the case.

Williams is best known in the legislature for his work against human trafficking with the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force which he heads. He is also UAB’s best-known athletics booster. He was instrumental in the effort to restore the football program to UAB and to get legislative approval for a bill to modernize the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center including a new football stadium adjacent to the BJCC complex. Williams manages a UAB athletics website. Williams is also a Republican candidate for the Jefferson County Commission replacing the retiring David Carrington.

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Connors was the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party when Congressman Bob Riley, R-Ashland, was elected governor in 2002. Connors split with Riley over Amendment One which would have cost Alabama taxpayers an estimated $1.2 billion a year. Connors has been a delegate to the national GOP convention multiple times.

If convicted, Connors would be the fourth former major party chairman in the state arrested in recent memory.  Mike Hubbard was Alabama Republican Party Chairman.  He was convicted on 12 counts of felony ethics violations.  Bill Blount and Al Lapierre were both Alabama Democratic Party Chairmen.  They pleaded guilty to corruption and bribery charges involving Jefferson County’s massive sewer debts.  Former Birmingham Mayor and Jefferson County Commission Chairman Larry Langford was found guilty of taking payments from Blount, then a noted bond writer.

Williams was a vociferous defender of Hubbard, then Speaker of the House, after Hubbard was indicted.  If found guilty, Williams would be the fourth member of the House convicted of major crimes in just the last three years, joining Hammon, Hubbard, and former state Rep. Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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