Jury selection has started in the trial of Alabama House Speaker, Republican Rep. Mike Hubbard, who is facing 23 felony ethics charges. The influential lawmaker is accused of using his position to embark on numerous lucrative business contracts.
Hubbard was indicted on the charges in October 2014 by a Lee County grand jury. Since the indictment, he has won reelection and also retained his post as House Speaker, a position of considerable power.
“Under Alabama’s Constitution, the speaker’s position is by far the most powerful in the state,” local talk radio host Bill Britt told the New Republic. “No legislation can move in the House without his approval.”
Hubbard previously served as the Alabama GOP chairman, and was instrumental in flipping the state’s historically Democrat Legislature in 2010. The party platform introduced during the election cycle included a package of ethics laws that, ironically, now threaten to put him in prison.
The House Speaker is accused of using his political pull for monetary gain. Hubbard allegedly purchased more than $1 million worth of printing materials from his own business, Craftmaster Printers, using the Alabama GOP’s campaign funds.
Another accusation is that Hubbard had struck a deal with the state’s casino monopoly, the Porch Creek Indians, to provide money for his fellow Republican lawmakers’ campaigns in exchange for passing legislation that would help them maintain control over Alabama’s gambling industry.
Hubbard is also accused of amassing several business contracts, blurring the line between House Speaker and lobbyist. He was making roughly $420,000 a year from his consulting contracts.
Allegedly, he even inserted language into a bill that would have given a pharmaceutical monopoly to a company he consults.
Hubbard’s lawyers have attempted to have the case against him dismissed, accusing prosecutors of having a political axe to grind. However, Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker has deemed their evidence insufficient, allowing the trial to proceed.
On May 16, the first round of jury selection commenced. If Hubbard is convicted of even one of the 23 felony charges against him, he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $30,000 fine, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
The House Speaker has refused to discuss the case but maintains his innocence.
“I can’t talk about that,” Hubbard told UPI. “They have been strict on what I can and can’t do. I look forward to the day I can make comments about that. I look forward to that in a big way.”
Hubbard’s trial is set to begin on May 24.