Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard's ethics trial could begin in a little over three weeks.
Judge Jacob A. Walker denied the defense's request to delay the trial until August at a hearing on Friday, April 29. Jury selection is currently set to begin May 16, with opening arguments slated to begin May 24-25, barring appeals.
Hubbard's defense team argued for the continuance because they said they did not have enough time to prepare for trial. Bill Baxley, one of Hubbard's attorneys, joined the case in February after the original defense team of Mark White and Augusta Dowd left the case in December 2015.
"We've assigned 60 percent of our firm to it," Baxley said.
Baxley said he needed more time to review the work the previous lawyers produced.
Lance Bell, another one of Hubbard's attorneys, said he had a large number of documents to review as well, and he has made it through approximately 60-70 percent of what the prosecution turned over as possible evidence.
"If we lined up pickup trucks and printed off documents, there's no telling how many it would fill up," Bell said.
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The prosecution said Hubbard's team has had plenty of time to prepare for the trial, and delaying it further would be expensive and inconvenient to the witnesses they plan to call.
"They have got the trial date they wanted, and now it's not good enough," said lead prosecutor Matt Hart.
After Walker issued his ruling, the defense continued to argue for a continuance. Bell said he never told the court he could be ready by May.
"We're being put in a spot where we can't adequately defend our client," Bell said.
Walker also heard arguments concerning several motions filed by the prosecution about what can be used in trial arguments.
Prosecutors said the prosecutorial misconduct should not be brought up because it has no bearing on whether Hubbard is guilty.
"Mr. Hart has been attacked, the government has been attacked here," said John Gibbs, another prosecutor.
The prosecution also wanted to exclude other candidates spending campaign funds at Craftmaster, a printing company Hubbard is a partial owner of. They argued the ethics law is clear, and it was illegal for Hubbard to spend the Republican Party's money at his own company. Hubbard is chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.
Their last motion was to exclude mention that Hubbard was elected back to the Alabama House of Representatives and selected as speaker after his indictment in 2014. Hart said his re-election was irrelevant to his guilt or innocence.
"I could name some facts about humpback whales, but that's not relevant to the case," Hart said.
However, Walker said Hubbard's re-election was common knowledge and could be used at trial.
Walker said he wanted to take a "wait-and-see" approach at trial and called the prosecution's motions broad.
"I don't want to make some sort of blanket ruling here that hamstrings the defense," Walker said.
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