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Corruption

Lake View mayor pleads guilty to ethics violation, resigns from office

Eddie Burkhalter

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Former Lake View Mayor Paul Calhoun

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday announced the conviction of former Lake View Mayor Paul Calhoun after he voted on a matter that benefited him personally, a violation of the state’s ethics law.

Calhoun, 45, pleaded guilty in Tuscaloosa County district court to voting on a matter in which he had a financial interest, according to a press release from Marshall’s office. 

The crime is a Class A misdemeanor, and as part of the guilty plea, Calhoun agreed to resign from office and not run again in the upcoming municipal election, according to the release.  

Calhoun was appointed mayor of Lake View in 2016, and was later elected to a four-year term. 

Calhoun, who was a voting member of the town’s council, voted “no” on a motion to order himself to repay the town for travel expenses incurred for unauthorized out-of-state travel expenses, according to the release.

His vote against the measure resulted in a tie that led to the failure of the motion’s passage. 

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“Former Mayor Calhoun crossed the line when he violated state ethics laws for his personal benefit,” said Marshall. “We expect public officials to conduct themselves with integrity and when they do not, they will be held to account.”

Calhoun’s sentencing date has not yet been set, and the conviction is punishable by up to a year in prison, a fine of up to $6,000 or both.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Corruption

Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence

The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.

Eddie Burkhalter

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

Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two. 

Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.

Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”   

Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.” 

“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.

Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months. 

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Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.

“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law.  Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”

Hubbard was booked into the Lee County Jail on Sept. 11, more than four years after his conviction. On Nov. 5 he was taken into custody by the Department of Corrections.

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Corruption

State Rep: Lee County DA’s past cases should be reviewed by AG, DOJ

Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, wants the AG’s office or DOJ to examine all of the DA’s previous cases for similar issues.

Josh Moon

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Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes

A state representative from Lee County is calling on the Alabama attorney general’s office and the Department of Justice to open an investigation into past cases handled by indicted Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes. 

Rep. Jeremy Gray, D-Opelika, said that in light of the details regarding Hughes’ indictment and arrest, he wants the AG’s office or DOJ to examine all of Hughes’s previous cases for similar issues. Gray also wants the public to be allowed to come forward if they were ever extorted or mistreated by Hughes. 

“In light of the very serious and disturbing charges facing Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes, and the brazen nature of his alleged crimes in which he used the power of his office to extort vulnerable citizens — including by threatening them with bogus charges — I call on the Alabama Attorney General’s Office and the US Department of Justice to open an inquiry into possible other instances in which Hughes misused the power of his office against the people of Lee County,” Gray said in a statement. “That investigation should include a thorough review of all convictions and indictments procured by Hughes and should allow the people of Lee County an opportunity to report any additional instances of Hughes misusing his office.”

Hughes was charged on Monday with seven felony ethics counts, including allegedly using a DA’s subpoena to steal a pickup truck and using another subpoena to allegedly coerce a private business into aiding his defense. Hughes was also accused of hiring private attorneys with public money to benefit himself and his wife, and accused of hiring his three children to work in his office. 

He was arrested Monday afternoon on felony perjury charges for lying to a grand jury about his alleged crimes.

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Lee County DA arrested on second perjury charge

The arrest was based on a complaint filed by Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office, charging him with first-degree perjury.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes — who was arrested Sunday on seven counts of ethics violations, theft and perjury — was arrested again on Monday for an additional perjury charge, according to the Alabama attorney general’s office. 

Hughes on Monday was booked in Montgomery County jail based on a complaint filed by Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office, charging him with an additional count of first-degree perjury for allegedly giving false testimony to the Alabama Ethics Commission. 

Hughes was previously indicted on five counts of violating the state ethics act for using his office for personal gain, including paying private attorneys with public funds to settle a matter that benefited himself and his wife, according to Marshall’s office. He was also charged with illegally hiring his three children to work for his office. 

The grand jury also indicted Hughes on a charge of illegally using his office for personal benefit by issuing a district attorney’s subpoena to a private business to gather evidence for his defense to potential criminal charges, according to the statement. 

Hughes was also charged with conspiracy for allegedly agreeing with others to steal a 1985 Ford Ranger pickup truck from a Chambers County business by using a Lee County search warrant to force the business to release possession of the truck, according to the statement. 

The five violations of the state ethics law charged in the indictment are Class B felonies, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000. The charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree theft and first-degree perjury are Class C felonies, each punishable by one year and one day to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

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Lee County DA Brandon Hughes indicted on 7 counts of ethics violations, theft and perjury

The attorney general’s office said Hughes was indicted by a Lee County grand jury on ethics, theft and perjury charges.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Monday announced the indictment of Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughs on multiple charges. 

Marshall’s office in a statement said Hughes was indicted by a Lee County grand jury on ethics, theft and perjury charges. Hughes turned himself in to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on Sunday and was released on bond. 

Hughes indictments include five counts of violating the state ethics act for using his office for personal gain, including paying private attorneys with public funds to settle a matter that benefited himself and his wife, according to Marshall’s office. He is also charged with illegally hiring his three children to work for his office. 

The grand jury also indicted Hughes on a charge of illegally using his office for personal benefit by issuing a district attorney’s subpoena to a private business to gather evidence for his defense to potential criminal charges, according to the statement. 

Hughes was also charged with conspiring to steal a pickup truck for allegedly agreeing with others to steal the truck from a Chambers County business by using a Lee County search warrant to force the business to release possession of the 1985 Ford Ranger, according to the statement. 

Hughes is also charged with first-degree perjury for providing false testimony to the special grand jury, according to Marshall’s office. 

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The five violations of the state ethics act charged in the indictment are Class B felonies, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $30,000. The charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree theft and first-degree perjury are Class C felonies, each punishable by one year and one day to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

In September, Hughes was named prosecutor of the year by the victims’ advocacy organization Victims of Crime and Leniency. He was elected as Lee County district attorney in 2016.

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