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Imprisoned Former Alabama House Speaker Caught Admitting to Phony “Apology” Can Keep His Radio Stations Running

by Harold Hempstead

In a decision released on May 9, 2022, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowed imprisoned former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Lee County) to keep broadcast licenses for a half-dozen radio stations he owns in the Auburn-Opelika market. Meanwhile his request for early release has languished in Lee County Circuit Court for six months, after he was caught on tape disavowing an apology he had penned to the Court several months earlier.

A Lee County jury convicted Hubbard on 12 felony ethical violation charges on June 10, 2016, stemming from misuse of his office as speaker to get consulting work and loans for his private business. Each count carried a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and $30,000 in fines, but he was fined only $210,000 and sentenced to just four years in prison, a term and later reduced to 28 months by Lee County Judge Jacob Walker in November 2020.

The FCC’s action began with a complaint from the agency’s Enforcement Bureau that Hubbard had used his Auburn Network of radio stations to hide his ill-gotten consulting work from the Alabama Ethics Commission. But Administrative Law Judge Jane Hinckley Halprin decided the Enforcement Bureau had not shown that Hubbard’s criminal convictions meant he would act “dishonestly” with the FCC, or that the stations themselves had been involved in the unethical activity, so he was allowed to keep the stations running.

Hubbard has doggedly maintained his innocence, accusing prosecutors of pursuing a political agenda. He reported to prison in September 2016 and is currently incarcerated at Limestone Correctional Center. Following a series of appeals, the Alabama Supreme Court in 2020 upheld six of Hubbard's original 12 convictions. His earliest release date is January 8, 2023, according to the state Department of Corrections. 

In September 2021 Hubbard requested an early release from prison in a letter apologizing for his 2016 ethics violations and claiming that he took “responsibility for my mistakes.” The Alabama Attorney General’s Office challenged the motion, offering as proof 438 transcribed pages of prison emails and phone calls in which Hubbard called his conviction a “political hit job” and admitted that he “held his nose” when signing the apology letter.

In December 2021, Hubbard requested an evidentiary hearing to discuss the letter. Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker, who presided over Hubbard's resentencing, was still sitting on the motion as of June 2022. Another avenue of release would be through community corrections legislation that could benefit him if it were approved.  

Sources: Birmingham News, Montgomery Advertiser, New York Times, WTVY

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