Mike Hubbard is going to prison. The Alabama Supreme Court on Friday announced it had officially denied the former House speaker’s request for a rehearing — a decision that surprised only in the fact that it took five months to be issued — and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office said Hubbard now has 15 days to report to jail.
“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.”
Hubbard, who was ultimately convicted on six felony charges, is required to report to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office for processing into the Alabama Department of Corrections system. He will be required to spend at least some time in a state prison, although there is rampant speculation that he could possibly serve the bulk of his sentence in a county facility.
Hubbard has been free on an appeals bond since his conviction by a Lee County jury of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals overturned one of those convictions and the Alabama Supreme Court struck down five more.
“Mr. Hubbard can no longer avoid being held accountable for his flagrant violations of Alabama’s ethics law,” Marshall said. “As we’ve previously stated, this case was not just a trial of former Speaker Hubbard’s misconduct, but also a test of our ethics law. Hubbard campaigned in 2010 on the message that Alabama ‘sorely needed’ a stronger ethics law. Our ethics laws must be strengthened and protected in order to prevent a repeat of such cavalier violations in the future.”
Hubbard’s trial and conviction were, indeed, a test of not just Alabama’s ethics laws but also of the men and women bound to uphold them. Ultimately, those laws and strong public sentiment won out, but not without a fight and not without several lawmakers — Marshall included — making dramatic moves to both weaken the laws and aid Hubbard’s defense team.
At least five bills have been introduced over the last six years that sought to in some way weaken the ethics laws. One of those, which dramatically relaxed restrictions on “economic developers” — a term so broadly defined in the law that it opened a massive loophole for lobbyists and pay-to-play politics — was actually signed into law.
Marshall backed the bill and another one that would have done further damage.
Marshall, who was not the attorney general when Hubbard was investigated and convicted, also forced out the head of the team within the attorney general’s office that went after Hubbard, Bentley and countless other public officials. Matt Hart, who was the subject of constant accusations of misconduct — all of them dismissed by the courts — during the Hubbard trial, was pushed out by Marshall.
The crimes for which Hubbard was convicted were the epitome of public corruption — inserting language in a bill that eliminated competition for his consulting client, using his office to set up meetings with powerful lawmakers for his clients and pushing state business to his clients, among other wrongdoings.
Emails between Hubbard and former Gov. Bob Riley and others, made public during the trial, painted a damning picture of Hubbard. Hubbard, who was hauling in nearly half a million dollars annually at the time, all but begged the men to figure out ways he could earn more money, claiming he was going broke. He talked openly of ways to skirt the ethics laws he had helped write. And he portrayed himself as a man more consumed with personal enrichment than the public good.
In total, the AG’s office determined at the time that Hubbard bilked the state out of more than $2 million.
After 50-plus months, Hubbard will soon pay for those crimes.