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A spirit that is not afraid

Hubbard seeks a new trial --- or acquittal

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard and his attorneys filed a motion Friday requesting Judge Jacob Walker acquit him, dismiss the charges or give him a new trial. On the same day, the prosecution also filed a new motion.

According to Hubbard's attorneys, he did not receive a fair trial earlier this summer. 

In the motion, the attorneys attest Hubbard was not provided a fair trial due to the expert testimony of former Ethics Commission Executive Director Jim Sumner. Sumner served as executive director when Hubbard approached the commission for informal ethics decisions.

The informal advice pertained to several consulting contracts between Hubbard's Auburn Network Inc. and several trade organizations and companies. At one point, Hubbard was being paid as much as $30,000 a month from his consulting contracts.

In June, the former House speaker was found guilty of 12 felony violations of the state's ethics laws. The laws govern the behavior of Legislators, other public officials, lobbyists and principals (people or businesses who employ lobbyists). They're also the same laws he championed during his first special session as speaker in December 2010.

But the defense said Sumner's testimony on the stand only partly related to Hubbard's consulting contracts and the commissions' blessings. Sumner, helping to guide the jury at the bequest of the prosecution, also testified as an expert on the state's ethics laws, according to the defense.

Now, Hubbard's attorneys are continuing a storyline that recurred throughout the trial. Defense Attorney Bill Baxley, in the motion filed Friday, told the court Sumner was allowed to improperly influence the jury by testifying to an overly broad interpretation of the ethics laws.

"It was improper for the State to present 'expert' testimony about the 'purpose' or 'intent' of the statutes under which Hubbard was charged," the motion reads. "And it was improper for the State to present 'expert' testimony about what various portions of those statutes mean, and whether certain phrases or clauses within those statutes would or would not encompass certain situations or events."

Baxley's motion also states that the prosecution relied on an incorrect interpretation of the law covering relationships between principals and legislators — and whether or not principals can give things of value to legislators whom they consider a friend.

The ethics law does allow for the giving of things of value if there was preexisting friendship.

Throughout the trial, Hubbard's defense relied on that so-called "friendship exemption."

In July, Hubbard was sentenced to spend 4 years in a state penitentiary and 8 years on supervised parole. Four of the counts on which Hubbard was found guilty related to investments Hubbard accepted from several wealthy Alabama businessmen, including Auburn Trustee Jimmy Rane.

Rane, like the other men who gave Hubbard the investments, where prohibited from doing so by the ethics law because of their status as principals, or an employer of a lobbyist. Rane is the owner and CEO of Great Southern Wood, and he's also the wealthiest man in Alabama.

Hubbard's Craftmasters Printers received more than $400,000 in illegal investments from principals, according to the prosecution and the jury's verdict. But all of the principals said they were friends with Hubbard.

Now, Baxley and the defense want a new trial based on that interpretation — an interpretation they still believe is incorrect.

The defense's motion was not the only one filed Friday, though. Another motion, presented by the state, requests Judge Jacob Walker reconsider restitution payments. During sentencing, Walker denied the state's requests for restitution.

The prosecution asked Walker to make Hubbard pay $1.1 million.

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He was allowed to remain free on bond after he was sentenced in July pending the appeals process, which could take years. 

Hubbard — who led a historic takeover of the Alabama Legislature in the 2010 elections that resulted in the first Republican majorities in both houses since the Civil War Reconstruction Era — was immediately removed from both the speaker's bench and his seat as Auburn's state representative upon conviction in June.

Four Republicans and one Liberation candidate are now vying for the House District 79 seat he left vacant. The primary election is scheduled for Sept. 13, 2016. The general election is set for Nov. 29, barring the need for a run-off.

In the case of a needed run-off, the general election would be moved to Feb. 7, 2017.

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