Fate of Alabama House Speaker Put to Jury

     (CN) – Prosecutors and defense attorneys made their final attempts to sway jurors in the ethics trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard Friday morning, a case that could end with one of the state’s most powerful men facing decades in prison.
     Jurors were expected to begin their deliberations Friday afternoon.
     Hubbard was indicted in 2014 on 23 counts, including multiple charges that he used his position to solicit investors for his printing business, Craftmaster Printing, and that he funneled money to his businesses while serving as chairman of the Alabama GOP.
     If convicted, Hubbard will automatically be removed from office. Each ethics charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
     Not surprisingly, the defense and prosecution painted very different pictures of Hubbard’s activities on Friday morning, with prosecutor Van Davis claiming Hubbard, a Republican from Auburn, was motivated by greed.
     “It’s all about power and all about greed,” Davis said, repeating a theme he returned to often during the three-week trial in a Lee County courtroom.
     “Mike Hubbard was serving Mike Hubbard,” he said.
     As recently as Thursday, Davis’s colleague, Mike Duffy, had told the jury that Hubbard could have recused himself from the decision-making process to select the party’s printer during a key election cycle in 2010.
     “He didn’t do that,” Duffy said.
     Defense attorney Bill Baxley countered on Friday by pointing out the state GOP had used Craftmaster for its printing services before Hubbard even became chairman in 2007.
     “The evidence is so clear,” Baxley told the jury. “It was done before he was there.”
     Hubbard is also charged with voting on legislation that would have uniquely benefited one of his consulting clients, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. The language was later removed from the bill.
     “This defendant knew or should have known he had a conflict of interest,” Duffy told the jury. “Anything that happened after the vote simply doesn’t matter.”
     Baxley argued on Friday that Hubbard knew the language would be taken out, even as he cast his vote.
     “If the speaker of the house doesn’t vote for the budget, it’s just a bad sign,” Baxley said.
     In a folksy close, Baxley thanked the jurors and mocked the charges.
     “Some of these charges are so ridiculous,” Baxley said. “Don’t leave your common sense behind.”
     As he spoke, Baxley marked through each count of the indictment on a big poster board using a red magic marker.
     Hubbard testified in his own defense for three days this week. Other witnesses testifying in the trial have included former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, who is now a lobbyist, and current Gov. Robert Bentley.
     
     Photo caption:
     Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard answers questions from Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart during his trial, Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Opelika, Ala. (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News via AP, Pool)

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