Years of political pressure from shady defense attorneys and crooked lawmakers culminated last week in the firing of Special Prosecution Division Chief Matt Hart.
Gov. Robert Bentley’s appointed attorney general, Steve Marshall, delivered the blow just 13 days after being elected attorney general, but the move against Hart was orchestrated by some of the state’s most powerful political figures.
Make no mistake, Hart’s firing was no less than a political coup de grâce by those who operate most efficaciously in the dark corners of politics.
Hart’s removal serves as punishment not only for prosecuting some of the state’s most influential men, it is also part of a broad scheme to allow those who are currently under investigation to walk free.
There should be an immediate and thorough federal investigation into Hart’s termination as well as a joint legislative committee created to conduct an inquiry with public hearings. A former senator, such as Dick Brewbaker or Gerald Dial, should be appointed to oversee the joint committee to eliminate political chicanery. Perhaps, more importantly, Gov. Kay Ivey should name a special prosecutor working under Montgomery District Attorney Darryl Bailey to investigate the matter.
For nearly two decades, Hart served as a widely respected career prosecutor who was once a hero of state Republicans when he successfully convicted dozens of high-profile Democrats, but that changed when he turned his sights onto corrupt Republicans after their victory in 2010.
When Hart began investigating Republican Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard in 2011, he immediately went from a conservative champion to a political pariah who must be stopped by any means.
Under oath during a July deposition, Bentley testified that lawmakers, attorneys and a major Republican donor, on several occasions, asked him to intervene in the Hubbard case by appointing a special prosecutor to replace Hart.
The goal was to appoint a special prosecutor who would remove Hart and launch an investigation to discredit him personally and the underlying case against Hubbard.
After Hubbard’s conviction, Bentley and his alleged girlfriend, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, increasingly paranoid, believed Hart was coming after them which led to Bentley appointing Marshall to attorney general with the expressed agreement that he would investigate Hart.
Marshall has publicly denied this allegation, but those with direct knowledge of the quid pro quo may soon go on the record.
While under questioning in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, Bentley testified that Great Southern Wood owner and Republican super-donor, Jimmy Rane, approached him on three different occasions about appointing a special prosecutor.
Additionally, Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley and a Hubbard attorney, also contacted Bentley about opening an investigation into Hart and acting Attorney General Van Davis. Hubbard’s other attorneys, Augusta Dowd and Lance Bell, also met with Bentley about replacing Hart as Bentley swore under oath. Bentley conveniently could not recall the sitting legislators who pushed him to upend the Hubbard prosecution but did admit that all these individuals shared a common goal to get Hart.
Up until his firing last Monday, Hart was overseeing dozens of investigations believed to be targeting business elites, lawmakers and other public officials, but a swift ax ended those probes.
If there is a shred of justice left in the state of Alabama, a full hearing into Hart’s firing will be conducted immediately.
Those who care about the rule of law must now demand that Gov. Kay Ivey, the Legislature and law enforcement act decisively to ensure that those who perpetrated this coup are held accountable. If Gov. Ivey, the Legislature and law enforcement fail to act, then all hope for law and order is lost here in Alabama because those who got Hart can now get anyone.