Update: House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s Trial Starts

Prosecutors are laying out their case against indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutor Matt Hart told jurors that Hubbard took contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars each month from companies that wanted to influence legislation. Hart said Hubbard needed the money because he was losing a job with the company that broadcasts Auburn University sports, and his printing company was failing.

Hubbard denies any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

The defense is denying prosecutors’ claims that Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard wrongfully made more than $2.3 million off his powerful legislative position.

Hubbard attorney Bill Baxley told jurors in opening statements Tuesday that Hubbard has done nothing wrong.

Baxley says a 23-count felony indictment against Hubbard is “mumbo jumbo” and he says Alabama’s ethics law contains exemptions that cover things like normal business dealings and friendships.

It boils down to the defense saying Hubbard got these contracts for his businesses by his skill alone, not as speaker. Defense also alleges he’s being charged with being friends with Bob Riley and others.

The state claims Hubbard used his elected office and former position as state GOP chairman to illegally receive contracts, investments and business totally nearly $2.3 million.

The defense took about an hour for opening statements and prosecution took about two hours for opening statements.

A lawyer for indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard says there’s no evidence he took any official actions in exchange for what prosecutors say were illegal payments.

Defense attorney Bill Baxley told jurors Tuesday that the powerful legislator asked friends for business contacts and had consulting contracts with several companies.

Baxley says Hubbard was careful not to do anything illegal. Baxley says Hubbard even asked Alabama’s Ethics Commission for written guidance.

Prosecutors say Hubbard took in more than $2 million in illegal payments while serving both as speaker and chairman of the Alabama GOP.

A former director of Alabama’s Republican Party was the first witness in the ethics trial of GOP House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

John Ross testified that Hubbard directed party business to a company he partly owned, Craftmaster Printers. Ross says Hubbard explained that the company would save the party money and provide good service.

Prosecutors say Hubbard illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company while party chairman, violating state ethics laws.

Ross testified under defense cross-examination that much of that money went to postage. And he says the party used Craftmaster even before Hubbard became chair.

A lobbyist says his company acted as a conduit for what prosecutors called illegal payments from the Alabama Republican Party to indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Tim Howe was the second prosecution witness as testimony began Tuesday in Hubbard’s felony ethics trial.

Howe says the Alabama GOP routed money through his firm, which in turn wrote checks to one of Hubbard’s company in return for a 5 percent cut. Hubbard was party chair at the time.

Howe says he didn’t perform any other service, and he’s not sure why the deal was handled that way.

But prosecutors suggested in opening statements that the payments were structured to make it less apparent the party was paying a company owned by its chairman at the time.

Hubbard’s trial comes as Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Josh Ninke contributed information.)




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