OPELIKA, Ala. (WIAT) — During closing arguments in the trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, defense attorney Bill Baxley and Acting Alabama Attorney General Van Davis went toe to toe verbally in their final chance to sway the jury.
Baxley to the jury said that no prosecutor or any other legal representative could decide that Mike Hubbard was guilty. Only the jury can make that decision. He also argued that the critical term “mantle of your office” from state ethics law, is a vague and subjective standard.
“You’ve got to narrowly construe it so that you don’t put in there something that the legislature has not put in the law itself,” said Baxley.
The veteran defense attorney and former state attorney general also said that Mike Hubbard sought advice from former Alabama Ethics Commission Director Jim Sumner.
According to Baxley, Sumner testified that Hubbard contacted him more times about the consulting work than anyone else in his more than two decades of service.
“And if he thought there was something wrong with it, he thought it was illegal or prevented, her certainly, he’s a bright man he certainly wouldn’t be putting down on paper, what he was doing, writing down on paper that he was committing a crime and sending it in to all the world,” said Baxley. “In fact he turned down some lucrative options because he thought it might be a violation,” Baxley continued.
“By any, any witness he didn’t use his office in any way, shape, form or fashion to try to get hired,” said Baxley.
He also took up the allegations that Mike Hubbard voted on legislation that represented a conflict of interest because it would have had a unique impact on a company that he had a consulting agreement with, Alabama Pharmacy Cooperative Inc.
During testimony, Speaker Hubbard’s former Chief of Staff Josh Blades testified that when he heard the Speaker had a contract with APCI he and a legal staff member went to the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives to tell him they needed to speak with him right away. In that meeting, Blades said he asked Hubbard if he had a contract with APCI at which point Blades testified that Hubbard told him yes, but for out of state work. Josh Blades said that he told Hubbard he didn’t think he should vote on the General Fund Budget because language had been added which would impact APCI.
Blades testified that Hubbard told him he had to vote for the budget because otherwise it would raise red flags.
Former State Health Officer, Dr. Don Williamson testified that he and acting Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar were also concerned about the language which would potentially put APCI in a position to be the pharmacy benefit manager for the state Medicaid program.
Baxley weighed in on that charge as well. He said once it was brought to Hubbard’s attention, he agreed to have the language removed and according to Baxley the critical timing of the decision to remove it came before Hubbard voted on the budget anyway.
On Thursday Hubbard testified that not to vote on the budget would be an affront to the legislative leaders who put it together.
“If the Speaker of the House doesn’t vote for the budget it’s just a bad sign,” said Baxley.
“So Mike explained to you how that unfolded. He made the call at the time that he cast that vote he knew that he’d already decided and he knew he was going to go to conference committee and take action to be sure that whatever they were worried about came out,” said Baxley.
“They have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that at the time of that vote he knew materially that it would benefit APCI. He knew at the time of that vote that that language would come out,” he continued.
“Mike Hubbard is not, when Mr. Duffy said he hung out a sign on his door for sale- Mike Hubbard, his vote is not for sale even for people as dear to him as a second father Governor Riley,” said Baxley.
Acting Alabama Attorney General Van Davis spoke last.
“We didn’t bring these charges. A Lee County Grand Jury brought these charges,” said Davis.
Prosecutors maintain that Hubbard broke the law the second he voted for the budget with the APCI language and that the fact that it was removed before the budget got final approval does not matter from a legal standpoint.
“You can’t unrob a bank,” said Davis.
Davis said Hubbard didn’t get a formal opinion from the Alabama Ethics Commission which is the only way to shield state officials from prosecution on state ethics violations, and even then only if they stay within the parameters of the opinions.
“You can’t hide behind an informal opinion in this courtroom,” said Davis.
Davis said Hubbard didn’t tell the Alabama Ethics Commission about all of his consulting contracts. He argued that Hubbard took steps to avoid suspicion, but the acting attorney general says Hubbard knowingly broke the law.
“Elected officials have to tell the ethics commission everything they’re doing,” said Davis.
“First thing he did with all these consulting contracts he had them all- write them up as Auburn Network,” said Davis. “All of the checks, they didn’t come to Mike Hubbard because that would draw attention to him.”
“Lastly it’s about the only thing the state agrees with what he said. He stood up here and he told you Mike Hubbard gets what he wanted. Whatever he wants he gets. On that we agree,” said Davis.
“He used his power to salvage his failing business. He used that power to get consulting contracts and he used that power to intimidate people in high places,” said Davis.
“Mike Hubbard sat up here and they bragged to you about the platform Republicans had in the 2010 election cycle, a handshake with Alabama. He had a handshake with them, but you ask yourself–what was he doing with his other hand when he was shaking the hand of Alabama,” said Davis.
“Mike Hubbard wasn’t serving the people of Alabama. Mike Hubbard was serving Mike Hubbard. That’s what the evidence has shown throughout this trial,” said Davis.