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Ethics Commission will hear Marshall/RAGA case on Wednesday

Josh Moon

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The case of Steve Marshall and the $735,000 in illegal campaign contributions will finally be heard by the Alabama Ethics Commission on Wednesday.

Former Alabama Attorney General Troy King told APR on Tuesday that he had received a notice from the Ethics Commission that afternoon notifying him that the complaint he filed against Marshall, the state’s current AG, would be heard at 9:30 a.m.

King said he found it more than a bit concerning that he received the notice less than 24 hours before the hearing, which is being held six days before Christmas when many people are preoccupied and out of town.

“I have great respect for some members of the Commission, and I think they want to do the right thing, but I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t disconcerting to receive this notice at 2 p.m. today,” King said. He told APR that a Commission employee informed him a mistake had been made and the notice had been mailed to the wrong address previously.

King filed the original complaint against Marshall when the two were vying for the Republican nomination for state AG. Specifically, King took issue with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions that Marshall accepted from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA).

Under a 2010 law passed by Republicans in the Alabama Legislature, it is illegal for candidates to accept donations from political action committees (PACs) that mask the original source of donations by donating between PACs. Such a setup would allow, for example, a casino owner to contribute to a PAC, along with dozens of other donors, and those funds be donated to another PAC, which would then donate to the candidate.

By the time the funds made it to the candidate, they were so co-mingled and mixed up that it would be impossible to tell the original source of the funds.

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Democrats in Alabama challenged the law, and the AG’s office, headed by Marshall, defended it. In a case that landed in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, Marshall submitted a brief that called the PAC-to-PAC transfer ban one of the last lines of defense for Alabama citizens against a “quid pro quo government.”

The fund from RAGA — nearly three-quarters of a million dollars worth — were at least partially mixed together with funds that were transferred from one PAC to RAGA’s PAC.

In early July, King filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission over the donations. Later, he attempted to get a circuit court judge in Montgomery to block Marshall from using the funds.

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The Ethics Commission slow-walked the complaint, and King said that at one point an employee of the Commission told him that it didn’t want to affect the outcome of the elections. King’s restraining order also failed, as the judge determined he didn’t have sufficient standing to rule on the matter.

“Everyone knows what the outcome of this should be,” King said. “The language is plain. It’s right there in black and white for anyone to read.”

Marshall’s defense has generally centered on some version of: RAGA is a federal PAC and is not subject to Alabama laws.

Of course, King and others argue that the law applies to the candidate, who has a responsibility to adhere to Alabama campaign finance laws. Under the PAC-to-PAC ban, there is a specific requirement of candidates who receive donations that violate the ban — they have 10 days to return the donations or face criminal penalties for each offense.

Marshall should face at least five penalties, including for donations he accepted from RAGA after King filed his original complaint.

Of course, the ultimate decision will be left to the Ethics Commission, and most insiders around Montgomery are skeptical — given the events that have transpired so far — that the Commission will find Marshall violated the law.

“I would just ask the Ethics Commission to be very careful with this ruling, because it has the potential to completely annihilate the PAC-to-PAC ban,” King said. “And they would be doing so by completely disregarding the plain language of the law. It is clear what the right thing is.”

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Corruption

Mike Hubbard booked into jail more than four years after conviction

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has been booked into jail to begin serving his four-year sentence for ethics violations. (VIA LEE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER)

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard was booked into the Lee County Detention Center at 5:05 p.m. Friday, beginning a four-year prison sentence that took years to start after his original conviction in 2016. He is now 57.

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has been booked into jail to begin serving his four-year sentence for ethics violations. (VIA LEE COUNTY DETENTION CENTER)

The Alabama Supreme Court in April upheld six of Hubbard’s 11 convictions of using his office for personal gain. A Lee County Circuit Judge had sentenced Hubbard to prison for four years. He was to turn himself into the Lee County Detention Center to be processed into the Alabama Department of Corrections system.

Prior to turning himself in on Friday, Hubbard had been out on bond for four years. The Alabama Supreme Court on Aug. 28 announced that the court had denied Hubbard’s appeal for a new hearing.

“The long road to justice is finally nearing its end for former Speaker Mike Hubbard,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall in a statement. “The court denied Mr. Hubbard’s application for rehearing and issued a certificate of judgment requiring the former speaker to report to begin serving his prison sentence.”

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Corruption

Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upholds Mike Hubbard convictions

Eddie Burkhalter

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Alabama speaker Mike Hubbard stands in Judge Jacob Walkers courtroom before the start of Hubbards ethics trial on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo Todd Van Emst)

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Friday affirmed the convictions of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard on six felony charges for misusing his office for personal gain. 

Hubbard is to report to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office by Sept. 12 to be processed into the Alabama Department of Corrections system. 

The Alabama Supreme Court on April 10 ruled on Hubbard’s appeal, upholding six of his convictions by a Lee County jury in 2016, but overturned five other convictions. The state Supreme Court then remanded the case back to the Alabama Criminal Court of Appeals, which on Friday affirmed the six felony convictions and dismissed the other five convictions against Hubbard. 

The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday announced the court had denied Hubbard’s request for a rehearing.

“The long road to justice is finally nearing its end for former Speaker Mike Hubbard,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall in a statement after the state Supreme Court’s ruling. “The court denied Mr. Hubbard’s application for rehearing and issued a certificate of judgment requiring the former speaker to report to begin serving his prison sentence.”

Hubbard was sentenced in July 2016 by Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker to four years in prison and 16 years of probation.

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Corruption

Is Mike Hubbard ever actually going to prison?

Josh Moon

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Alabama speaker Mike Hubbard stands in Judge Jacob Walkers courtroom before the start of Hubbards ethics trial on Tuesday, May 24, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo Todd Van Emst)

The wheels of justice turn slowly, or barely at all if your name is Mike Hubbard. Now more than 50 months since he was convicted of a dozen felonies, and nearly two years since the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld all but one of those charges, and four months since the Alabama Supreme Court upheld six of those charges, the former House speaker is still free on bond. 

No one can explain why.

But it is clear that Hubbard’s extraordinarily long appeals process, which has stretched on for 1,500-plus days now, is not normal.  

Hubbard was sentenced to four years in prison, and despite the reduction of charges by the state’s highest court, Hubbard’s prison sentence remains the same. That is because the original sentence, imposed by Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker, was a fraction of the maximum allowable sentence and structured in such a way that the entire guilty verdict would have to be tossed out to achieve a reduction. 

However, unlike almost every other convicted felon, after the conviction, Hubbard was granted an appeals bond, allowing him to remain out of prison while the courts considered his appeals. That process has been milked to the fullest extent, with Hubbard’s attorneys filing for every possible extension and both the Appeals Court and the ALSC taking an unusually long time to review those appeals. 

Still, Hubbard’s bond should have been revoked just weeks after the ALSC upheld six of the charges. According to Appeals Court clerk Scott Mitchell, the ALSC must wait 14 days to issue a certificate of judgment, allowing for either side to request a re-hearing. The certificate of judgment is the document passed to the court in Lee County, indicating that the bond should be revoked.

Hubbard’s legal team, of course, asked for a rehearing — which essentially asks the ALSC justices to overturn themselves — and that filing occurred in late April. From that point, it should have taken the justices no more than four-to-six weeks to issue a decision. After all, they just issued a ruling in the case and know the specifics going in. 

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Instead, it has now been nearly four months, and there is no movement. 

“I can only tell you that nothing is out of the ordinary on the case and everything has been filed and they’re just waiting on a ruling from the court,” said Leale McCall, a staff attorney for the ALSC. “When that will be, I can’t tell you that.”

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Montgomery educator pleads guilty, implicates two others in $300K fraud scheme

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

A federal plea agreement entered by a former Montgomery County assistant principal on Tuesday provided details of a fraud scheme that allegedly bilked the school system out of more than $300,000.

Walter James, who served as assistant principal at Jeff Davis High in Montgomery, pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges for his part in a scheme that, according to the plea agreement, involved former JD principal Bobby Abrams and chief school financial officer Brenda Palmer.

James admits in the document to creating a fictitious consultant business called ED-ONE Professional Development Services. Using that phony company, James then entered into a contract with JD, allegedly signed by Abrams and Palmer, to provide consulting and professional development services — none of which ever occurred.

The school and the MPS central office would pay James for the services. He would deposit those checks and then allegedly provide cash to Abrams and Palmer.

An audit conducted in February, following concerns raised by MPS’ chief financial officer Arthur Watts, uncovered the fraud and found more than $700,000 in misspent money — including on charges at a strip club and liquor stores, and thousands paid out to fictitious businesses.

James was accused of receiving $40,000 from JD and $300,000 from MPS. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. Abrams, a former NFL player, and Palmer have not been charged.

 

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