Opening statements conclude, first witnesses testify in Hubbard - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Opening statements conclude, first witnesses testify in Hubbard ethics trial

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Mike and Susan Hubbard walk to the Lee County Justice Center Tuesday morning. (Todd Van Emst /Opelika-Auburn News/Pool) Mike and Susan Hubbard walk to the Lee County Justice Center Tuesday morning. (Todd Van Emst /Opelika-Auburn News/Pool)
LEE CO., AL (WSFA) -

The jury in Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard's trial heard opening statements at the Lee County Justice Center Tuesday.

The jury was sworn-in at approximately 10 a.m., and opening statements started shortly afterward.

Prosecutor Matt Hart laid out the state's case, saying Hubbard used the mantle of his office and his position as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party to benefit monetarily.

Hart, with the special prosecution division of the attorney general's office, spoke to the jury for nearly two hours.

He explained the power that lawmakers wield, and used a detailed timeline to explain why Hubbard came to Alabama, his maturation as a businessman and later as a politician.

The prosecution also highlighted a major financial hit Hubbard took when ISP Sports Network was sold to IMG, and he lost his job. The prosecution explained shortly after Hubbard began entering into private contracts for tens of thousands of dollars to allegedly put those businesses in good positions to gain state business.

The state also took the time to explain the Alabama ethics laws and how Hubbard helped pass stronger ethics laws, and that there's no arguing he didn't know his actions were illegal.

The state promised strong evidence to detail all 23 counts against Hubbard.

Following the prosecution's opening statements, the defense started its opening statements.

The defense said the prosecution has the story wrong.

The defense honed in on issues related to Craftmasters - a printing company Hubbard was a part owner in. The defense explained Hubbard used Craftmasters for the mailings for the Republican candidates so he could control the quality and when the mailings went out.

Defense attorney Bill Baxley said Hubbard didn't make a penny on Craftmasters. In fact, he took a major financial loss.

John Ross was the first witness called by the state. He was involved in the Alabama Republican Committee while Hubbard was chairman.

FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Latest on the Alabama House speaker's trial (all times local):

5:05 p.m.

A lobbyist says his company acted as a conduit for what prosecutors called illegal payments from the Alabama Republican Party to indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Tim Howe was the second prosecution witness as testimony began Tuesday in Hubbard's felony ethics trial.

Howe says the Alabama GOP routed money through his firm, which in turn wrote checks to one of Hubbard's company in return for a 5 percent cut. Hubbard was party chair at the time.

Howe says he didn't perform any other service, and he's not sure why the deal was handled that way.

But prosecutors suggested in opening statements that the payments were structured to make it less apparent the party was paying a company owned by its chairman at the time.

4:05 p.m.

A former director of Alabama's Republican Party was the first witness in the ethics trial of GOP House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

John Ross testified that Hubbard directed party business to a company he partly owned, Craftmaster Printers. Ross says Hubbard explained that the company would save the party money and provide good service.

Prosecutors say Hubbard illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the company while party chairman, violating state ethics laws.

But Ross testified under defense cross-examination that much of that money went to postage. And he says the party used Craftmaster even before Hubbard became chair.

3 p.m.

A lawyer for indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard says there's no evidence he took any official actions in exchange for what prosecutors say were illegal payments.

Defense attorney Bill Baxley told jurors Tuesday that the powerful legislator asked friends for business contacts and had consulting contracts with several companies.

But Baxley says Hubbard was careful not to do anything illegal. Baxley says Hubbard even asked Alabama's Ethics Commission for written guidance.

Prosecutors say Hubbard took in more than $2 million in illegal payments while serving both as speaker and chairman of the Alabama GOP.

The judge says witness testimony could begin later Tuesday.

12:40 p.m.

The defense is denying prosecutors' claims that Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard wrongfully made more than $2.3 million off his powerful legislative position.

Hubbard attorney Bill Baxley told jurors in opening statements Tuesday that Hubbard has done nothing wrong.

Baxley says a 23-count felony indictment against Hubbard is "mumbo jumbo." And he says Alabama's ethics law contains exemptions that cover things like normal business dealings and friendships.

The state claims Hubbard used his elected office and former position as state GOP chairman to illegally receive contracts, investments and business totally nearly $2.3 million.

Hubbard's trial comes at a tough time for Alabama Republicans. Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

11:25 am.

Prosecutors are laying out their case against indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

In opening statements Tuesday, prosecutor Matt Hart told jurors that Hubbard took contracts worth tens of thousands of dollars each month from companies that wanted to influence legislation. Hart said Hubbard needed the money because he was losing a job with the company that broadcasts Auburn University sports, and his printing company was failing.

Hubbard denies any wrongdoing. Defense lawyers will talk to jurors later Tuesday.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard's trial comes as Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

9:55 a.m.

A judge says he's ready to begin the felony ethics trial of indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker says opening arguments will begin Tuesday morning after he swears in jurors.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers each say they need about an hour to lay out their cases for the jury.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard denies doing anything wrong.

Hubbard's trial comes as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore also is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

8:35 a.m.

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has arrived at a county courthouse for the start of his trial on felony ethics charges, which could result in his removal from office.

Hubbard walked past cameras as he entered the Lee County courthouse in Opelika on Tuesday morning. A judge told jurors to be in court later in the morning for the start of the trial.

Hubbard engineered the Republican Party's takeover of the Alabama Statehouse in 2010. Now he's charged with 23 felony ethics violations. Conviction on even one would result in his ouster.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used both his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard denies doing anything wrong.

Hubbard's trial comes as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore also is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

4:35 a.m.

The speaker of Alabama's House of Representatives is going on trial on felony charges that could result in his removal from office.

A judge told jurors to be in court Tuesday morning to begin the trial of Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Hubbard engineered the Republican Party's takeover of the Alabama Statehouse in 2010. Now he's charged with 23 felony ethics violations. Conviction on even one would result in his ouster.

Prosecutors say Hubbard used both his office and past position as chairman of the Alabama GOP to solicit business for himself and his companies.

Hubbard denies doing anything wrong.

Hubbard's trial comes as Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley faces possible impeachment over a sexually charged scandal. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore also is suspended and faces possible removal for allegedly violating judicial ethics.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed.

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