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Sources: Marshall appointed AG after agreeing to investigate “rogue” prosecutors

Bill Britt and Josh Moon

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Gov. Robert Bentley appointed Steve Marshall to be Alabama attorney general after Marshall agreed to launch an investigation into Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart and Acting Attorney General Van Davis, who successfully prosecuted former Speaker Mike Hubbard.

According to well-placed sources, Marshall was the only district attorney that Bentley approached who promised he would take on Hart and Davis in exchange for the appointment as attorney general.

More individuals have come forward after the Bentley grand jury investigation concluded, confirming what APR had found after months of interviews.

The final agreement to give Marshall the attorney general’s job was reached the day before Bentley appointed former Attorney General Luther Strange to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat in the U.S. Senate.

According to Bentley’s official calendar — a copy of which is now kept at the Alabama Archives — he met with Marshall on Feb. 9 at 8 a.m. That was the day before Bentley’s press conference in which he appointed Strange to the Senate.


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Official copies of Bentley schedule.


Hours after Marshall met with Bentley on Feb. 9, a high-ranking Bentley staffer commented to several people at the capitol, saying in effect, “We now have an attorney general who will get these rogue prosecutors at the AG’s office.”

On Feb. 9, just after the Strange press conference, Bentley began interviewing candidates for the AG’s position. Former deputy AG Alice Martin was his first interviewee. Marshall was his second, meeting with the governor for the second time in two days. Marshall was the only attorney general candidate to meet twice with Bentley, and he was the only candidate to meet with Bentley in the week leading up to the appointment.

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The following day, on Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, after interviewing the remaining seven candidates, Bentley appointed Marshall to the position. A tweet from the governor’s Twitter account went out at 6:08 p.m., just four hours after the final interview for the job had ended.

“I was in the car driving home from my interview with Bentley when the tweet went out,” said a lawmaker who was considered a favorite for the AG slot. “I was shocked by his insincerity, he had already made his choice. We were just window dressing,” he said on background.

“We now have an attorney general who will get these rogue prosecutors at the AG’s office.”

The Attorney General’s Office denies agreeing to such a plan.

“The only assurance given to Robert Bentley by Attorney General Marshall at the time of his appointment was to enforce the law and uphold the Constitution,” a spokesman for Marshall said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is absurd and patently false.”

Marshall never launched an official investigation into Hart’s team or Davis as he promised Bentley, but what he has done is systematically undermine criminal cases and dismantle the special prosecutions unit by withholding assets and reassigning its staff to other cases unrelated to public corruption.

Marshall’s appointment is rooted in the state’s case against Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, who Davis and Hart would successfully prosecute on 12 counts of felony ethics violations.

Before and during his trial, Hubbard’s cronies and legal team repeatedly accused Hart and Davis of prosecutorial misconduct, an accusation that was rejected by Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker III who served as the trial judge in Hubbard’s case.

During the lead-up to Hubbard’s conviction on felony ethics violations, Bentley and his special advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, became obsessed with Hart, believing him to be more nefarious than Hubbard.

Mason and Bentley both shared their suspicions about Hart with a growing circle including staffers, state law-enforcement officers, federal investigators and even a journalist or two. Bentley was convinced that Hart was “out to get Becca,” his pet name for his married lover, Mason.

Mason confirmed Rane’s attempts to influence Bentley to remove Hart and Davis…

The couple’s fears were egged on by Hubbard’s friends and associates who wanted Bentley to launch an investigation into Hart and Davis during the Hubbard’s pre-trial hearings.

According to a source with direct knowledge of these and other incidents, powerful businessman Jimmy Rane, CEO of Great Southern Wood, approached Bentley on more than one occasion to encourage him to stop Hart’s investigation into Hubbard. Rane would be caught up in Hubbard’s illegal activities along with other powerful business interests who are now funding Marshall’s campaign for attorney general. Mason confirmed Rane’s attempts to influence Bentley to remove Hart and Davis from Hubbard’s case and appoint a special prosecutor, according to one of Mason’s confidants at the time.

Mason’s fear and hatred of Hart took many manifestations, according to two former staffers speaking on background, the most public of which was the firing of ALEA Secretary Spencer Collier in retaliation for cooperating with the Attorney General’s investigation into Hubbard.

Over time Mason’s torment increased, and she believed she and Bentley needed to destroy Hart before he could destroy them…

During the Hubbard investigation, Mason became convinced that Hart’s team had a “hit list” of individuals they would target after Hubbard’s trial. The so-called hit list, APR confirmed, never existed except in the minds of those who were being manipulated by Hubbard’s supporters.

The alleged hit list was not something Hart had drawn-up; instead, it was a scheme executed by Hubbard’s allies to alienate Hart and turn influential individuals against him. Even after Mason was assured that no such list existed, she grudgingly demurred choosing to believe the lie perpetrated by Hubbard’s backers.

Over time, Mason’s torment increased, and she believed she and Bentley needed to destroy Hart before he could destroy them, according to those who witnessed some of the couple’s discussions. According to members of the Bentley team, the governor would angrily fume about Hart constantly as his fears grew that Hart would come after “precious Becca.”

A former law-enforcement official confirmed to APR that not only did Bentley seek an investigation by local prosecutors to go after Hart and Davis, he also asked for help from the FBI, who found no reason to pursue Bentley and Mason’s fantasy accusations against Hart and Davis.

Mason was warned before Collier’s firing that she was being played by Hubbard’s allies, who wanted her to believe she was a target. She was also advised that her actions might very well lead to her being a suspect, according to an individual who cited several conversations he had with Mason.

At an introductory press conference, the following Monday after Bentley appointed him attorney general, Marshall said he had spent the previous two days in Montgomery meeting with the AG’s office staff, but said he was unaware if Bentley was under investigation by the office. If the governor were under investigation, Marshall said, he would be forced to recuse from that investigation.

Martin, who was still serving as chief deputy AG at the time, called Marshall’s comment untrue. She said she personally informed Marshall of the Bentley investigation and provided the new AG with a “briefing packet” outlining what had been done so far.

At the time, Bentley had already testified before a grand jury in Montgomery, and Strange, Martin and Hart were all present. That investigation was honing in on Bentley’s potential misuse of state funds to facilitate and cover up his inappropriate relationship with staffer Rebekah Mason.

That investigation would, of course, lead to Bentley pleading guilty to breaking campaign finance laws and resigning as governor.

More serious charges before the grand jury investigating Bentley were dropped after it found that state statute doesn’t cover a governor using law-enforcement to threaten and intimidate for political reasons. It also found that helping your girlfriend while being governor is not illegal under current law.

 

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Economy

Likely Republican primary voters reject Poarch Creeks “winning” plan

Bill Britt

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A survey of likely Republican primary voters obtained by APR shows that a majority do not support giving the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly over gaming in the state despite the tribe’s promise of a billion dollars.

Over the last several months, PCI has orchestrated a massive media blitz to convince Alabamians that they have a winning plan for the state’s future in exchange for a Tribal-State compact and exclusive rights to Vegas-style casino gaming.

The survey commissioned by the Republican House and Senate caucuses and conducted by CYGNAL, a highly respected Republican polling firm, found that only 34.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters are buying what the tribe is selling. On the contrary, nearly 50 percent of Republicans oppose the plan, with almost 40 percent voicing strong opposition.

Of those surveyed, females are against the plan by nearly 50 percent, with men weighing-in at almost 60 percent unfavorable to PCI’s proposal.

Perhaps most significant is that PCI’s monopoly plan was widely rejected in areas where the tribe already operates casinos. In the Mobile area, nearest Windcreek Atmore, over half of Republicans see a monopoly unfavorably. The same is true in the Montgomery area, where PCI has two gaming facilities.

Not a single big city surveyed in the state held a favorable view of PCI’s plan with Birmingham and Huntsville rejecting the tribal monopoly by almost 50 percent.

Very conservative, somewhat conservative and moderate voters didn’t view the plan as positive.

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Ninety-one percent of respondents said they defiantly would be voting in the upcoming Republican primary on March 3.

PCI has lavished money on media outlets throughout the state, garnering favorable coverage, especially on talk radio and internet outlets. The tribe has also spent freely on Republican lawmakers.

Perhaps some good news for PCI is that Republican primary voters believe that state legislators are more likely to represent special interests above the interests of their constituents.

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PCI lobbyists continue to push the tribe’s agenda at the State House in defiance of Gov. Kay Ivey’s call for no action on gaming until her study group returns its findings.

The survey found that Ivey enjoys a 76.3 percent favorability rating among likely Republican primary voters.

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Elections

Opinion | It’s time for Alabama Democrats to learn from Alabama Republicans

Josh Moon

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Democrats never seem to learn from Republicans. 

All around the country, and all around the state of Alabama, Democrats are still playing by the rules. Still listening to the cries and outrage from the other side. Still entertaining the idea that compromise and diplomacy are important to Republicans on some level. 

Still watching Lucy jerk that football away at the last moment. 

It’s time that stopped. 

It is time — actually, well past time — for Democrats to adopt the attitudes of their GOP colleagues, and just do whatever the hell you want to do. 

Whatever goal you set, go achieve it. Whatever policy is important, implement it. Whatever action you believe is right, take it. 

This is how Republicans have governed now for years. It is how they have wrestled control of the U.S. Supreme Court — just don’t hold a hearing for a duly appointed candidate — and how they have stolen elections — keep blocking attempts to secure elections. It is how they control half of Congress — thanks, gerrymandering! — despite representing nearly 20 million fewer people and how they have managed to offset a growing minority vote — put up every roadblock short of a poll tax. 

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In Alabama, it has how they adopted the AAA act to funnel tax money to private schools — just completely rewrite the bill in the dead of night — and how they passed the most restrictive abortion ban — just ignore promises and public opinion. It is how they have stopped attempts to pass gambling legislation — by straight up lying about the law — and how they have steadily cut into ethics laws — pretend that no one can understand the laws they wrote themselves — and how a House Speaker convicted on 12 felonies still isn’t in prison three years later — just don’t send him. 

They don’t care. 

About rules. About the law. About public perception. About basic decency. 

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And it’s time for Democrats, especially in Alabama, to adopt the same attitudes. 

Because if Republicans can behave this way to implement racist bills and roll back ethics laws and protect the income of the elites, then Democrats shouldn’t think twice about doing it to protect rural hospitals or new mothers’ health or workers’ rights or decent public schools. 

Now, this will be a big change for Democrats, so let me explain how this would look in practice, using the ongoing saga of Confederate monuments. 

Republicans shoved through an absurd bill last year that protects the state’s monuments to those who fought to enslave other human beings, and they’re shocked — shocked and outraged — that African Americans in Alabama might find it offensive to honor the men who enslaved their ancestors. 

The bill they passed last year was a dumb bill, right down to the portion which levied a fine on cities if those cities removed or damaged a monument. The bill completely screwed up the fines portion, failing to penalize cities for moving or damaging monuments over 40 years old and failing to place a per-day fine on those cities. Instead, the Alabama Supreme Court said the cities would be subject to one $25,000 fine. 

Birmingham has a monument that it desperately wants to move. It has already boarded up the monument in Linn Park, and the ALSC, in the same ruling, ordered the boards to come down. 

And this is the first opportunity for Mayor Randall Woodfin to approach this with a new attitude. 

Tear it down. 

Write out one of those big “Price is Right” checks for $25,000, hold a press conference and award that money to Steve Marshall like he just won at Plinko. 

At the same time, workers should be taking that monument apart piece by piece and moving it to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, where it can be viewed for its historical significance instead of serving to honor traitors and racists. 

No apologies. No shame. Don’t even entertain their complaints. 

A similar approach should be taken by the city of Montgomery in regards to its occupational tax, which Republicans are attempting to stop through legislative action. 

Montgomery is going broke, and it can’t put enough cops on the streets. Part of that is because every day about 70,000 people flood into the city to go to work, and then they leave each afternoon and spend their money in — and give their tax dollars to — surrounding cities and counties. 

Montgomery has to do something to offset the costs, so an occupational tax has been proposed. But just as quickly as it was, the ALGOP — the kings of handouts to people who don’t need them — passed a bill to block it. 

So, some creativity is required.

Instead of an occupational tax, pass a public safety tax. 

If you work within the city limits of Montgomery, but live outside of those city limits, your paycheck will now be taxed an extra 1% to offset the cost of the police and fire services that you might use while in the city every day. 

No apologies. No shame. Don’t listen to GOP complaints. 

It’s a shame that things have to be like this, but they do. Democrats have tried for decades to force rational debate and to promote the value of compromise. Those pleas have fallen on deaf ears, which have been attached to toddler-like brains that have justified atrociously selfish behaviors and awful governance. 

At this point, it has gone on so long and been so successful for Republicans, the only thing that might break through is a taste of their own medicine. 

Give it to them.

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House

McCutcheon not optimistic about passage of “constitutional carry” legislation

Brandon Moseley

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Alabama House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, discussed gun legislation that could appear before the House of Representatives this year.

In past sessions, constitutional carry legislation has made it out of the Alabama Senate, but stalls in the House. This year, Rep. Andrew Sorrell, R-Muscle Shoals, is carrying the bill in the House. APR asked McCutcheon whether he anticipates it passing this time.

“The mood would tend to be the same that it was in the past,” McCutcheon said. “There is a bill out there now for a lifetime carry permit and a procedural check for a permit.”

McCutcheon said that under that bill a state database would be used for granting concealed carry permits instead of a local database. Each sheriff of each county would be doing things the same way by ALEA (the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency) being involved in this.

McCutcheon said that the House is “taking a very serious look at that bill.”

State Sen. Randy Price, R-Opelika, and State Representative Proncey Robertson, R-Mt. Hope, pre-filed the lifetime permit bill that would establish a cohesive and statewide management level process for administering and managing concealed weapons permits in the state of Alabama. The National Rifle Association has endorsed this legislation.

Robertson’s House version is HB39. It has been assigned to the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee where it is awaiting action. Price’s Senate version is SB47. It has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it is also awaiting action in committee.

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Currently, the application process and managing of applicants is different county by county. Some rural county sheriffs have issued concealed carry permits, sometimes called pistol permits, without doing background checks. This resulted last year in federal authorities revoking Alabama concealed carry permit holders from being able to buy firearms without having to go through the background check system.

The sponsors promise that this legislation would create a streamlined process of standards for Sheriff Departments to implement and will be monitored by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). This bill creates a cohesive standard for background checks and will bring 21st century technology to Sheriff’s departments and all other law enforcement agencies across the state. Sheriff departments will now have access to electronic information of which all levels of law enforcement will have access to. It will also require municipalities to start reporting those that are convicted of domestic violence as well as Probate Judges to begin reporting individuals that have been involuntarily committed. Applicants will also now have the option to apply for a concealed weapons permit for one year, five years or a lifetime permit.

Sorrell told APR on Saturday that he opposes HB39/SB47 because it creates a statewide database with all of Alabama’s concealed carry holders.

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In the State of Alabama, it is a Class A Misdemeanor to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Sorrell’s legislation, Constitutional Carry, would eliminate that crime altogether and give every Alabamian the constitutional right to carry a firearm concealed if they so choose.

State Senator Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) has introduced Constitutional Carry legislation in the State Senate; SB1. That bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee where it awaits committee action.

SB1 would allow all Alabama citizens who have not had their gun rights revoked to carry firearms concealed without having to have a concealed carry permit. That legislation could not get out of committee in the Senate last year.

Sorrell told APR that there is momentum in the Alabama House of Representatives for Constitutional Carry and that he hoped to have as many as twenty cosponsors when he introduces his bill.

It is currently legal in Alabama to openly carry firearms without a permit, if your gun rights have not been taken away. A citizen can lose their gun rights due to a felony conviction, being declared mentally unfit by a probate judge, or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. While every citizen, who still has gun rights, may openly carry without a concealed carry permit; it is against the law to have a loaded handgun in a vehicle without a concealed carry permit.

Handguns must be unloaded and locked in a box or trunk out of reach. Similarly, if a person is openly carrying a handgun on their side, were to put a jacket on so that the gun was no longer visible that would also be a misdemeanor as they are now carrying concealed, unless they have a valid concealed carry permit allowing them to conceal their handgun. Persons with a concealed carry permit are allowed to have their gun on their person while riding in a motor vehicle or within reach like in the glove box, loaded or not. This does not apply to long guns (rifles and shotguns). All Alabama citizens, who still have their gun rights, may carry their shotgun or rifle with them in their vehicle, without having to obtain a concealed carry permit to exercise that right.

To get your concealed carry permit you must go to the sheriff’s department in your home county. The fee varies from county to county.

Twenty percent of adult Alabamians have a concealed carry permit, the highest rate in the country. The Alabama Sheriff’s Association have steadfastly opposed Constitutional Carry legislation. According to the National Association for Gun Rights, fifteen states, including Mississippi, have Constitutional Carry already.

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Elections

Maggie’s List endorses Jessica Taylor in 2nd Congressional District

Brandon Moseley

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Maggie’s List, a national political action committee dedicated to electing conservative women to federal office, endorsed Jessica Taylor in Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.

Sandra B. Mortham is the Chairman of Maggie’s List and the former Florida secretary of state.

“Jessica Taylor is a proven leader who brings dedication and heart to Alabama,” Mortham said. “We know Jessica is the right person to represent Alabama’s Second congressional district in Washington because she respects the need for increased personal responsibility, fiscal conservatism, and will help move Alabama forward.”

“As the Alabama Chairwoman of Maggie List, I am proud that the organization has officially endorsed Jessica Taylor for Congressional District 2 here in Alabama,” said Alabama Chairwoman Claire H. Austin. “Jessica holds the conservative policy values as a fiscal conservative, less government spending, and more personal responsibility, and a strong national defense. Jessica will stand strong in Washington for our conservative Alabama values.”

Jessica Taylor thanked Maggie’s List for the endorsement.

“I am humbled to be chosen as one of the 12 conservatives women endorsed by Maggie’s List,” Taylor said. “I entered this race because I am sick and tired of far-left radicals like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and the rest of “The Squad”, thinking that Democrats can have a monopoly of the women’s vote. I put together the Conservative Squad to challenge that narrative and fight back. It’s an honor to have the support of Maggie’s List. I look forward to working with them and conservative women around the country to take back the house in 2020!”

The criteria for an endorsement from Maggie’s List includes electoral viability as well as a commitment to promoting fiscal conservatism, less government, more personal responsibility, and strong national security.

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To date, Jessica Taylor has been endorsed by Maggie’s List, Empower America Project, Susan B. Anthony List, former Arkansas Governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Winning for Women, VIEW PAC, Empower America Project, and former Second Congressional candidate Rep. Will Dismukes (R-Prattville).

Jessica Taylor is married to former State Senator Bryan Taylor. The Taylors live in Prattville with their four children. She has her own business which helps small businesses and nonprofits apply for government grants.

Incumbent Congresswoman Martha Roby is not seeking another term representing the Second Congressional District.

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