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Hubbard, Bentley hoped to evade justice with Steve Marshall’s appointment as attorney general

Bill Britt

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When President Donald J. Trump chose Alabama’s U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General, that opened a door for then-Gov. Robert Bentley to solve two problems.

As Bentley and his alleged girlfriend, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, saw it, Attorney General Luther Strange was a problem, so were Special Prosecutions Division Chief Matt Hart and Acting Attorney General Van Davis, who had successfully prosecuted Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

Strange had backed Hart and Davis’ prosecution of Hubbard, and now Bentley and Mason believed Hart and Davis were coming for them.

Bentley and Mason devised a plan; appoint Strange to replace Sessions and find an attorney general candidate who would launch an investigation into Hart and Davis.

By removing Strange from the picture and then by discrediting Hart and Davis through a bogus investigation, Bentley and Mason concluded they could end any probe that might ensnare them and allow Hubbard to argue prosecutorial misconduct on appeal successfully.

More than a year before Hubbard was indicted on 23 felony counts involving public corruption in Oct. 2014, he and his cronies engaged in an elaborate public relations campaign to discredit what he perceived as his enemies in the press and the prosecution led by Hart.

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As APR reported in Oct. 2013, Hubbard and his white collar criminal defense attorney, J. Mark White, began a PR ruse with a fawning letter to many in the state press corps in an effort to solicit their help in painting Hubbard as an innocent man who has been libeled by “others” with malicious intent. According to White, his client is a victim, and in a three-page press release, in the guise of a report, he is turning to those whom he refers to as “the legitimate press” to set the record straight.

Hubbard’s Attorney Seeks to Woo Media while Threatening Critics —Opinion

Of course, White was playing the press as was later revealed in court documents showing when Hubbard became aware of Hart’s investigation.

White Lies: 2013 Letter Acknowledges Criminal Investigation

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Not only did Hubbard masterfully manipulate the press corps, his emissaries privately lobbied Bentley to remove Hart or at least appoint an independent counsel to investigate he and Davis.

Hubbard team even asked trial Judge Jacob Walker III to grant a special counsel to investigate Hart and Davis but he rejected the idea.

Hubbard’s Legal Team Asks for Independent Counsel to Investigate Prosecution

But these were just a few of the tactics Hubbard employed. In 2015, Hubbard’s machine began a whisper campaign to convince powerful Montgomery insiders that Hart and Davis had a “hit list” of individuals who would come under fire by the Special Prosecutions Division after Hubbard’s conviction. According to the rumors, Hubbard had spread Bentley and Mason were at the top of Hart’s list.

Mason became terrified and persuaded Bentley that Hart was corrupt, even more evil than Hubbard. Even after receiving assurances that she and Bentley were not “targets,” Mason remained paranoid believing Hart was out to get her. Bentley, for his part, wasn’t going to let anyone harm “precious Becca,” according to those within Bentley’s inner circle.

Hubbard’s attorneys Lance Bell and Augusta Dowd met with Bentley, as did others who plead for an independent counsel to investigate Hart and Davis.

Deposition: Bentley was pressured by lawmakers, attorneys, major donors to upend Hubbard trial

Mason and Bentley’s insecurities escalated in April 2016, as APR reported at the time, “Not only is former senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason continuing to advise Bentley via phone and texts, the pair is blaming Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart for all their troubles, say insiders close to the Governor.”

Mason Still Advising as Paranoia Runs Deep

With Sessions’ appointment by President Trump, the path forward looked clearer for Bentley and Mason, the only missing piece was an attorney general candidate who would investigate Hart and Davis.

Enter backwoods District Attorney Steve Marshall, who had a history of compromised investigations and virtually no record of prosecuting public corruption cases.

After woman’s “horrific” sexual assault, what did Steve Marshall do?

Of all the candidates which Bentley interviewed, only Marshall agreed to execute a wide-ranging probe into Hart and Davis.

However, circumstances overtook Marshall’s agreement with Bentley when it became known that Bentley and Mason were under investigation in matters related to the firing and smear campaign against former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier.

Bentley and Mason’s plot to replace Sessions with Strange even backfired because Strange had lied about his office’s investigation into Bentley.

Marshall became attorney general because he agreed to do what Bentley and Hubbard had wanted.

In fact, it is Marshall’s willingness to compromise the standards of his office to accommodate powerful interests that has made him a darling of the Montgomery establishment. From protecting molesters to aiding Hubbard or Bentley, it appears Marshall is easily persuaded to do the bidding of those who can offer him a place in the government hierarchy.

Marshall’s desire to oversee the Ethics Reform and Clarification Commission is seen as another example of eagerness to please those who would weaken the ethics laws championed by his predecessor. Bentley recently told many individuals that Marshall was perhaps his most successful appointee, saying he was more pleased with Marshall than any other pick.

Marshall will face Joseph Seigelman in the fall general election.

 

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Governor

Governor meets with VIP

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey and fourth grade student Cate McGriff. Photo Credit: Governor's office.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey invited a special guest to meet with her in the Governor’s office on Friday.

Fourth grade student Cate McGriff met with Governor Ivey Friday afternoon. The discussion was described as wide-ranging and productive. The governor and McGriff covered everything from school to their love of dogs.

Gov. Ivey asked Miss. McGriff what her favorite subject in school is.

McGriff replied that it was math. She also told the governor that she wanted to attend Auburn University just like Gov. Ivey did.

Ivey asked Cate what she wanted to be when she grows up, after she attends Auburn.

McGriff said that she wanted to be an engineer.

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Ivey advised her to keep working hard on her math.

Ivey shared that when she was a young intern for Governor Lurleen Wallace, the only other woman to serve as Governor in Alabama history, she had the opportunity to sit behind the governor’s desk. Ivey then asked Cate if she wanted to sit behind the desk, and they recreated the governor’s own photo behind Governor Wallace’s desk.

Cate and Governor Ivey both were wearing their red power suits and Auburn masks.

McGriff was joined by her parents and two siblings, Claire and Sam.

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The McGriff family frequently tune in to the governor’s regular COVID press conferences. Cate also was given the chance to stand behind the lectern in the Old House Chamber.

Governors frequently meet with very important people including: Presidents, CEOs, congressmen, Senators, scientists, University presidents, state legislators, county commissioners, economic developers, and fourth graders.

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Health

CDC issues Halloween guidance

Brandon Moseley

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Today is Halloween. Many people are celebrating this year’s holiday at home as a nuclear family due to the coronavirus global pandemic. If you are going to still trick or treat this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued guidance on trick or treating.

“Traditional Halloween activities are fun, but some can increase the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or influenza,” the CDC warned. “Plan alternate ways to participate in Halloween.”

To make trick-or-treating safer: avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters, give out treats outdoors, if possible, set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take, wash your hands before handling treats, wear a mask or cloth face covering.

The CDC has also issued guidance on proper mask wearing. Make your cloth mask part of your costume. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult. Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of two or anyone who has trouble breathing.

Remember to always stay at least six feet away from others who do not live with you. Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

Don’t let excitement about the holiday distract you from proper COVID-19 procedures. Wash your hands. Bring hand sanitizer with you and use it after touching objects or other people. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Parents should supervise young children using hand sanitizer. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home and before you eat any treats.

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Other suggestions for enjoying Halloween activities during the global COVID-19 pandemic include: decorating and carving pumpkins, decorate your home for Halloween, and you can walk from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance. You could also visit an orchard, forest, or corn maze. You can also go on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt. Visit a pumpkin patch or orchard. Whatever you do or wherever you go be sure to remember to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently, especially after touching frequently touched surfaces, pumpkins, or apples.

The CDC also suggested that you can hide Halloween treats in and around your house and hold a Halloween treat hunt with household members. The CDC suggested that you can hold an outdoor costume parade or contest so everyone can show off their costumes. Another suggestion is that you host an outdoor Halloween movie night with friends or neighbors or an indoor movie night with just your household members.

 

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Elections

Etowah County Republicans rally for Trump

Brandon Moseley

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The Etowah County Republican Party and the Trump campaign will be holding a Celebrate America rally and prayer meeting on Sunday in anticipation of Tuesday’s general election.

“We the People plan to peacefully assemble at our town square Tomorrow, November 1st at 2:00 PM to rally around President Trump and pray for our nation, our first responders, and for our President,” organizers said.

Remarks will be made by special guest Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville.

Singer songwriters Camille and Haley will perform.

Pastors Mark Gidley, Joey Jones and Bruce Word will be speaking.

“Bring your friends and family as we pray, celebrate and rally for America!” organizers said. “Our outdoor program and rally will be an amazing hour that you will not want to miss! Please mark your calendars and please share.”

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Patriotic attire, American flags, and Trump flags are welcome. The event will be in the Rainbow City Town hall parking lot.

Robert Aderholt is in his twelfth term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District is where Trump had his greatest margin of victory in the entire country in 2016.

President Trump and Congressman Aderholt both face Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s general election.

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News

Jones says Senate race a choice between “substance and leadership, and nothing”

“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones speaks at a rally in Anniston. (EDDIE BURKHALTER/APR)

Speaking outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters in Anniston on Friday, Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, told a group of supporters that Alabamians haven’t gotten a look at what his Republican opponent might do if he wins the Nov. 3 election. 

“One of the great disappointments in this campaign is that Alabama is not really getting choices between substance and substance,” Jones said. “They’re getting a choice between substance and leadership, and nothing — nothing. We have not heard anything from Tommy Tuberville about what he really wants to do.” 

While Jones has held numerous interviews with the media, and regular web briefings over the summer and in recent weeks, Tuberville’s campaign seems to prefer the safety of keeping Tuberville from making possible gaffs or damaging statements in interviews. 

Tuberville hasn’t agreed to interviews with traditional media outlets, or to debate Jones, and instead has focused on conservative talk radio spots, speaking to smaller Republican groups and at private parties.

Tuberville’s campaign has ignored or denied our numerous attempts to interview Tuberville, including another request on Friday. He also declined to attend a student forum held at Auburn University on Wednesday, which Jones attended. The forum was sponsored by the Auburn College Republicans and College Democrats.

“If you ever hear something Tommy Tuberville says, it is just simply this: ‘Build a wall. No amnesty. Drain the swamp.’ That ain’t him. That’s Donald Trump,” Jones said. “He cannot think for himself. He doesn’t think for himself.” 

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Jones spoke of his record of working to help veterans through legislation. And he referred to Tuberville’s nonprofit for veterans and reporting that indicates, through tax records, that less than a third of the money raised for Tuberville’s charity went to help veterans. 

“I don’t just create charities and send only pennies on the dollar. I do things for the veterans of this state and this country,” Jones said. 

Jones also made a case for Alabamians to remember the contributions past Democrats made in the state. Jones said it was Democratic Sen. John Sparkman who helped build Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal. 

“It was a Democrat, Lester Hill, who built the rural hospitals around here that Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Tommy Tuberville are trying to destroy,” Jones said. “It was Howell Heflin who built up agriculture in this state. Those are the Democrats. It was Franklin Rosevelt that put electricity in this state. We’re going to do the same thing for broadband. People forget those things. They forget those things because we’ve let other people define us with lies.”

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Jones plans to visit Jefferson County on Saturday, then on to the Black Belt and Mobile on Sunday with another stop in Birmingham on Monday afternoon. 

“The goal is to get everybody out. That’s the thing if we want to continue to ensure Alabama moves forward — moves forward and not backwards, to continue to have somebody, if I do say so myself, somebody that’s just not going to damn embarrass us,” Jones said.

Supporters of Democratic Sen. Doug Jones rally in Anniston on Oct. 30, 2020. (EDDIE BURKHALTER/APR)

“We’ve had too much of that in Alabama,” Jones said, “and I bet you it won’t be a year that Tommy Tuberville would be an embarrassment to this state because he doesn’t know the issues. He doesn’t know what to do, and he’s dang sure not going to know what to do when Donald Trump is not president of the United States.” 

Jones encouraged supporters to be skeptical of recent polling. One such recent poll, by Auburn University at Montgomery, puts Tuberville ahead of Jones by 12 percentage points, 54 to 42.1. An internal poll by Tuberville’s campaign puts Tuberville ahead by 15 percentage points, while an internal poll from the Jones camp put Jones ahead by one percentage point. 

“Don’t listen to these polling folks that come in, and they don’t know Alabama, and they don’t know what they’re doing. We’re tracking this race, and I can tell you, everything has been moving in our direction the last two months,” Jones said. 

People standing along roadsides holding his signs and showing support, Jones said, is “the energy we’ve got out there. That’s what you can’t poll.”

Ellen Bass of Anniston, standing outside the Calhoun County Democratic Party headquarters just after Jones spoke, told APR that she has numerous Republican friends who are voting for Jones.

“My hat’s off to them because they’re coming out,” Bass said. “They recognize that he is a better candidate.”

Ciara Smith, 21, newly elected to the Anniston City Council, told APR outside the headquarters building that Jones is the better candidate.

“I think that he’s educated. I think that he speaks with passion and heart,” Smith said. “And he knows what he’s talking about, which is important, and which is more than we can say about the other candidate.”

Speaking to APR after his speech to supporters, Jones said that he feels very good about the state of his campaign.

“Everything we’re seeing is moving in our direction,” Jones said. “And the more he stays hidden, the better it is for us.”

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