It felt great to write “former” in that headline. Alabama’s ruthless and corrupt bully of a house speaker was automatically removed from office last night when a Lee County jury found him guilty of 12 of the 23 felony ethics against him. In the few minutes it took the jury foreman to read the verdict, Michael G. Hubbard went from being the single most powerful man in Alabama politics to a convicted felon no longer qualified to hold any elected office and facing decades in prison.
It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Mike Hubbard is a bad person who used his offices to gain personal wealth. The trial testimony showed him to be an unrepentant liar and a whiner who constantly bemoaned his merely six figure income as not enough to be a wealthy hotshot. Hubbard’s attitude during his testimony revealed a man so confident of his privilege as a member of the white good ole boys’ club that he believed no mere jury of ordinary citizens could possibly bring him down. It turned out that a jury of ordinary citizens was the only way to bring him down. Hubbard’s cowardly colleagues in the Alabama Legislature stood behind Hubbard for the two-and-a-half years between his indictment and his conviction last night. The racially diverse jury, however, took only seven hours in a complex case to convict Hubbard on the charges supported by strong evidence, and acquit him on 11 charges that were weakly supported. The GOP legislative caucus should look at what that jury did and hang its collective head in shame.
The criminal justice system for once worked as it was designed to, and the jury mostly got it right, as juries usually do when presented with all of the facts.
The prosecution lead by Matt Hart did an exemplary job. Trial judge Jacob Walker ran a tight ship and let the lawyers do their jobs, but did not let the defense turn the trial into a circus. The jury paid attention and did their job well in a case with complicated facts and numerous witnesses. Congratulations and high praise are due the prosecutors, the judge, and the jurors. That is how the American justice system is supposed to work.
Congratulations are also due to Bill Britt of Alabama Political Reporter for over three years of courageous, meticulous, dogged, and professional coverage of the investigation, indictment, and trial of Mike Hubbard. Given the death of the Birmingham News as a real news outlet and its replacement by the mostly scared young bloggers at Alabama Media Group’s AL.com, the public would have remained largely in the dark about the extent and egregiousness of Hubbard’s corruption without Britt’s tireless focus on the story. Bill lost advertising revenue because Hubbard used his influence to drive sponsors away from his site, but he did not back down and continued reporting the facts about Hubbard despite Hubbard’s threats. Now that Hubbard has been politically destroyed I hope Britt can focus his journalistic talents on other important Alabama issues. I also hope he makes a boatload of money doing it.
Alabama’s political turmoil is far from over, though. Our idiot governor is being investigated by an alphabet soup of state and federal agencies and faces impeachment by the legislature. Our homophobic religious zealot Chief Justice is suspended and may be removed by the Court of the Judiciary because he thinks he’s the boss of the U.S. Supreme Court. The trifecta of trouble at the heads of our three branches of government continues. One of the three is now officially removed.
One down, two to go. Let’s go for all three.