MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - On Friday, George Beck, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, spoke about the Alabama Attorney General's prosecution of House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
Some have claimed a state prosecutor leaked secretive grand jury testimony. Now, some state lawmakers are calling for a U.S. Justice Department investigation.
Thursday, more than 30 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter directed to Beck and Attorney General Loretta Lynch outlining concerns of prosecutorial misconduct surrounding the investigation and grand jury proceedings in the criminal case against Hubbard.
Rep. Jack Williams said the letter was prompted after reading an affidavit that reported prosecutor Matt Hart leaked grand jury information to be used against Hubbard during the latest election.
Beck called the concerns "matters of importance" that needed to be addressed publicly. He methodically outlined all the concerns and allegations in the letter, directing which issues fell under state or federal jurisdiction.
"I know the legislators are acting in good faith, and they are reaching out in a frustrating time," Beck said during the news conference on Friday.
The first issue Beck cited was whether misconduct by Hart wrongfully and illegally indicted Hubbard.
"The issue alleged of the state prosecutor involved in misconduct is squarely before the circuit judge in Lee County," Beck explained. "I have known Judge Walker a long time, he's a very competent judge. Those motions have been raised and responded to by the state. They have been briefed by both sides. I know Judge Walker will conduct the type of hearing and listen to all the evidence and oral arguments that he feels are necessary and he will make a decision or ruling on that issue."
Beck said the letter raised issues of either malfeasance or misfeasance by Attorney General Luther Strange.
"Some 10 separate references have been made in that letter about incompetence or willful neglect of the office. Whether it's out of control or something he's not paying attention to – and if the Office of Attorney General is allowing someone to be prosecuted without due process of law," Beck said, reading the numerous allegations made in the letter about the AG.
Beck unexpectedly encouraged members of the House to exercise their constitutional powers to investigate the public official.
"The Alabama Constitution gives the Alabama Legislature not only the right but also the duty to call witnesses, seek documents, and make a determination as to whether a public official as the Attorney General has been guilty of willful neglect of his office and/or incompetence among other things," Beck reminded lawmakers, calling this a state issue that didn't fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
"If this group of legislators feels that evidence has been reached or they feel the legislature needs to make further investigation, then a suggestion of their own members could be made to refer charges or articles of impeachment to the Senate, and let the Senate try it," Beck outlined.
Beck paused a moment to compliment the investigators and prosecutors at the Attorney General's Office, commending the work ethic and number of cases the two offices collaborate on. He went on to explain the legislature has the right to weigh in on contracts drafted by the AG's office by the Legislative Oversight Committee. Beck also reminded the legislature that it appropriates every penny used to fund the AG's Office.
"I am not suggesting. I am only reminding the legislature you hold the purse strings," Beck said quickly.
As for the allegations of Hart leaking grand jury information, reported in an affidavit filed earlier this month, Beck said that issue should be taken up by the Lee County District Attorney. If the investigation proves wrongdoing, the DA should put it before the grand jury and allow that body to determine if the grand jury secrecy laws have been broken.
Finally, Beck revealed two issues mentioned in the letter that did fall under the purview of the federal government: misuse of a grand jury to obtain an indictment and using a grand jury to influence an election.
"Both of those issues raise questions that involve federal civil rights, federal voting rights laws and on those issues I will reach out to the Department of Justice to seek guidance," Beck said. "There is no investigation at this time. But I will seek guidance because frankly I do not know the extent of what federal laws would apply and to what extent federal jurisdiction might attach in connection to any of these allegations."
Beck assured the press if DOJ recommends an investigation, it would not play out in the media.
"Should there be action, at that time you will know about it," Beck said.
Williams expressed his concern of the chamber investigating the Attorney General's Office due to the case's connection to House leadership. Williams maintains he and other House members are seeking an unbiased investigation, which is why they petitioned the federal government for a probe.