The former Alabama Speaker of the House was convicted on corruption charges in part due to ethics expert witness testimony from a past director of Alabama’s Ethics Commission. Prosecutors called the ethics expert in order to explain to jurors the rules that politicians in Alabama must follow when they have personal business interests which could benefit from state funding.
Alabama Speaker of the House Convicted Corruption Charges
Mike Hubbard, the Republican former Speaker of the House for Alabama’s legislature, was convicted last week on 12 of 23 ethics violations for using his political position to earn contracts for companies which he either owned or had financial interest in. Hubbard was found guilty of using his position as a speaker and as a leader of the Alabama Republican Party to funnel money to two of his companies: Craftmaster Printers and the Auburn Network, a broadcast company in the state. Prosecutors argued that Hubbard attempted to obtain up to $2.3 million in government contracts or financial favors by exerting his influence over Alabama politics.
After a 12-day trial, jurors convicted Hubbard on 12 counts of ethics violations, including “voting on legislation with a conflict of interest and using his office for personal gain through a consulting contract.” Hubbard was taken into custody and faces up to 20 years in prison for each of his convicted counts with a sentencing trial set for July 8th. Hubbard’s ethics trial could be the tip of the iceberg as current and former governors of Alabama may also be charged with abusing their office for personal gain.
A key component of the prosecution’s case against Rep. Hubbard was testimony from an ethics expert witness who not only explained the ethical rules Alabama politicians must follow, but pointedly identified instances where the former speaker had directly violated his lawful obligations.
Alabama Ethics Expert Witness Aids in Corruption Conviction
Former director of the Alabama Ethics Commission Jim Sumner took the stand during Mike Hubbard’s corruption trial as an ethics expert witness and explained to jurors that the former Speaker of the House did not consult the commission when he engaged in questionable business dealings between the state and companies that he held a financial interest in. According to Sumner, the ethics commission was not consulted before Hubbard supported laws which provided thousands of dollars to companies which he was linked to, with ethics officers only finding out about potential conflicts of interest after it was too late to advise on the matter.
Sumner also testified as an ethics expert witness by explaining to jurors that public officials in Alabama cannot act in their official capacity on issues which could benefit themselves or businesses in which they hold an interest. Sumner told the court that the Alabama Ethics Commission is available to public officials should they have questions, but no public official, including the Speaker of the House, is allowed to vote on or support legislation which would benefit his or her business interests. According to the Alabama ethics expert, the law prohibiting conflict of business and political interests is purposefully broad in order to discourage even the hint of corruption in state politics.
Sumner concluded his testimony by telling jurors that he had a working relationship with Hubbard which suggested the defendant was keenly aware of the applicable ethics laws.
Prosecutors Connect Former Alabama House Speaker to Illegal Corruption
After calling the ethics expert witness, Alabama prosecutors offered substantial evidence that former Speaker Mike Hubbard tied his business and political interests together in violation of ethics law. Former business associates and executives for companies which Hubbard held a personal stake in testified that the Speaker’s position made him an attractive consultant and that companies he worked with received hundreds of thousands of dollars in the form of state government contracts.
Hubbard has maintained that he was conducting lawful business with friends and associates, and that he did not consult with the ethics committee because he was not engaged in corrupt or illegal behavior. Hubbard’s defense team pointed out that he frequently consulted with ethics expert Jim Sumner on other matters, and did not demonstrate a pattern of corruption which warranted conviction. Jurors disagreed, and in one month one of the most powerful Republicans in Alabama will receive a potentially lengthy jail sentence for ethics violations.