Day 7: Businessmen testify about $150K investments to their 'fri - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Day 7: Businessmen testify about $150K investments to their 'friend' Hubbard

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Defense attorney Bill Baxley looks over an email with Tina Belfance during the Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo) Defense attorney Bill Baxley looks over an email with Tina Belfance during the Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo)
Jimmy Rane testifies answering questions for Bill Baxley during the Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016  in Opelika, Ala. (Source: (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo) Jimmy Rane testifies answering questions for Bill Baxley during the Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Opelika, Ala. (Source: (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo)
Rob Burton answers questions from Bill Baxley during Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016  in Opelika, Ala.(Source: (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo) Rob Burton answers questions from Bill Baxley during Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Opelika, Ala.(Source: (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo)
Robert Abrams talks on the witness stand during the Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Opelika, Ala  (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo) Robert Abrams talks on the witness stand during the Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard trial on Thursday, June 2, 2016 in Opelika, Ala (Todd J. Van Emst/Opelika-Auburn News/Pool Photo)
OPELIKA, AL (WSFA) -

Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ethics trial continued Thursday with four people taking the stand.

Two Alabama businessmen who made $150,000 investments in Hubbard’s company, Craftmaster Printers, took the stand.

The prosecution argues Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood, and Robert Burton, president of Hoar Construction, are principals and therefore it was illegal for Hubbard to accept things of value from them.

The defense is trying to show these investments were given out of friendship and would fall under an exception to the ethics laws.

Burton testified he knew Hubbard through events at Auburn University and decided to invest in Craftmaster after talking to Hubbard about the struggling company.

Robert Burton

Burton said he talked to his friend Will Brooke, a member of the Business Council of Alabama who testified yesterday about developing the investment plan, and decided it was a good investment.

Burton said he considered Hubbard a friend, and he trusted him. He also said he still would’ve invested if Hubbard wasn’t the speaker of the House. During further questioning by the prosecution, Burton said he mostly saw Hubbard at Auburn events and the two had never been to each other’s homes or on vacation together.

Burton stressed his company hires lobbyists to consult for commercial purposes and not to lobby at the Statehouse, adding that he doesn’t consider himself a principal.

Jimmy Rane

Rane’s testimony seems to support’s the state’s argument that he made the investment because of their long friendship. Rane said he has known Hubbard since he first came to Auburn in 1984

“I said I would trust [Hubbard] with my children and my checkbook, and I would,” Rane testified.

Rane said his investment had “absolutely nothing” to do with Hubbard being the speaker.

The prosecution questioned Rane on why he didn’t disclose the $150,000 on a lobbyist registration form for his company. Rane responded saying it might’ve been an “oversight,” but he also made it as a personal investment and not through his company.

The questioning of the two other witnesses of the day involved four of the 23 counts in Hubbard’s indictment.

Robert Abrams

Robert Abrams is the CEO of SIO2 Medical Products and was the majority owner of CV Holdings.

Hubbard is accused of violating ethics laws by using his position to get a consulting contract with CV Holdings and also using state resources to benefit the company. Hubbard is also accused of representing CV Holdings in front of Gov. Robert Bentley and the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Abrams testified Hubbard set up meetings for him with Bentley and Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield to talk about funding for a specialized workforce training facility in Lee County.

One of Hubbard’s employees also emailed Abrams about one of the meetings.

Abrams also testified about Hubbard helping his company with a delay in receiving a patent. Abrams said the delay was costing his company more than $100,000 a day because of some ongoing litigation.

Last week, Hubbard’s former Chief of Staff Josh Blades testified he used some of his contacts to find someone at the U.S. Patent Office. Blades said the process was taking a long time, and Hubbard told Blades it was very important the patent get through.

“Mr. Hubbard told me he had 100,000 reasons to get this done,” Blades testified. “It made me uncomfortable when I heard it. I immediately thought the speaker meant money in some form.”

Some of the allegations also involve another one of Abrams’ products - the first insulated sippy cup on the market. The cups were successful and led to the development of coffee cups.

Capital Cups had agreements with several professional sports and were looking to expand to selling licensed college cups.

Abrams said that led to hiring Hubbard as a consultant for $10,000 a month because of his sports connections.

“The legislature had nothing to do with it. We were calling him basically on his connection to the sports network,” Abrams said.

Abrams said he asked Hubbard if being in the legislature would be a problem to which Hubbard said no.

“At one of our meetings he showed me a letter from the state ethics committee that he was permitted to work with third parties,” Abrams said.

The former head of the Alabama Ethics Commission James Sumner testified Tuesday he wasn’t aware of the Capital Cups contract.

The next witness was the general manager of Capital Cups and was involved with hiring Hubbard as a consultant.

Tina Belfance

Tina Belfance also said her company hired Hubbard because of his contacts in college sports and other target markets.

“My understanding is that he had connections in those organizations that would beneficial for us selling cups,” Belfance said.

The state tried to show Hubbard wasn’t successful at bringing Capital Cups business during the year and a half working for them and also that he was mixing state and personal business by using his official state email for work for Capital Cups.

Belfance admitted that, to date, Capital Cups hadn’t sold any cups as a result of Hubbard’s consulting work.

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