Last week the state’s highest court has denied former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s request to reconsider its decision upholding six of his criminal convictions — effectively ending an appeals process that has kept one of the architects of Alabama’s Republican supermajority out of prison for years.
Without writing an opinion on the matter, the Alabama Supreme Court issued an order denying Hubbard’s request for a rehearing on an April ruling upholding six of the 12 criminal counts he was convicted on during a public corruption trial in Lee County more than four years ago. Rehearings, which are rarely granted, ask a court to reconsider a recent decision and are typically a last-ditch effort for a losing party.
Hubbard was indicted in 2014 on 23 criminal charges related to the use of his elected position in the Legislature and as the chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for his own personal gain — most of which were violations of the 2010 state ethics law he helped write himself.
The indictment was the result of a lengthy special grand jury investigation in Lee County. After nearly two years, a jury convicted Hubbard of 12 of those 23 counts and he was sentenced to four years in state prison. However, his immediate appeal bounced around until the Supreme Court ruled in April that six of his 12 convictions would stand. On Friday, the court reaffirmed its decision.
In their opinion in April, the justices agreed with the lower courts’ finding that, in at least in six of the 11 counts, Hubbard had clearly “used his official position or office to obtain personal gain” at a time when he was “experiencing personal financial difficulties” in his private career.
“Our role as justices is not to praise or question the wisdom of the Ethics Code or to reprove or excuse Hubbard’s behavior. We must interpret and apply the law. And every person accused of breaking the law — even one who had a hand in creating that law — is entitled to (and bound by) the same rules of legal interpretation,” the opinion reads. “When charged with a crime, public officials must be treated no better — and no worse — than other citizens in this State where all are guaranteed equal justice under law.”
Among other things, the state alleged Hubbard sought financial advice from Brooke as well as potential clients for his consulting work. While Brooke never found any consulting clients, Hubbard was ultimately convicted on six counts related to loans Brooke helped secure for a business partially owned by Hubbard, one Brooke ultimately invested in himself while still with the BCA.
The other investors included Sterne Agee Group, Inc., Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood and Rob Burton, president of Hoar Construction. One of the five charges dismissed by the high court was related to Hubbard soliciting those investments and four others were the result of receiving them.
Overturning the decisions of a Lee County jury and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, the high court found that, in seeking and receiving the investments, Hubbard did not “solicit or receive a thing of value” from a lobbyist’s principal because — in its interpretation — Brooke wasn’t technically a principal for BCA’s lobbyists because he did not personally hire them.
Attorney General Steve Marshall, whose office represented the state throughout the appeal, said “the long road to justice is finally nearing its end” for Hubbard. Marshall said the denial means Hubbard will be required to report to the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and begin serving his sentence.
“Mr. Hubbard can no longer avoid being held accountable for his flagrant violations of Alabama’s ethics law,” Marshall wrote in a statement. “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.”
As a procedural matter, the case will be remanded back to the court of criminal appeals to formally strike the convictions that were not upheld by the state supreme court, but a spokesperson for Marshall’s office said that would not affect Hubbard’s conviction or his previously imposed prison sentence.
According to Marshall’s office, Hubbard’s initial conviction and sentencing in Lee County was structured in such a way that the supreme court’s decision to toss out several of the charges he was convicted of did not impact the length of his sentence. He is still expected to serve four years in state prison.
One of Hubbard’s defense attorneys, Joe Dillard, told reporters last Friday the former speaker plans to continue his appeal in federal court — meaning the United States Supreme Court would be asked to review the six convictions that were not thrown out during the appellate process in state court.
It would be extraordinarily rare if any petition Hubbard made to the high court proved successful considering the small number of cases SCOTUS actually reviews. Marshall’s office indicated that, regardless of how his legal team proceeds in federal court, Hubbard has roughly two weeks to turn himself in to state authorities.
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