Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jefferson County Officials May Walk Free - Donald V. Watkins - The two men almost came to blows recently over Marshall's determination to "fix" the criminal cases involving a group of state and local government officials in Jefferson County, Alabama. 

Jefferson County Officials May Walk Free
By Donald V. Watkins
©Copyrighted and Published (via Facebook) on April 30, 2017
Former Alabama Governor Robert Bentley made two major gubernatorial appointments before resigning in disgrace earlier this month. First, Bentley appointed Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. This appointment was designed to quash an ongoing criminal investigation by the Special Prosecutions Division of the Attorney General's office into ethics violations and public corruption activities committed by Bentley and his lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Strange, who traded his power to indict Bentley and Mason on felony charges in exchange for a senate seat, is now sinking in the pre-election polls as he heads into an August special primary election.
Next, Bentley appointed Marshall County District Attorney Steve Marshall to replace Luther Strange as Attorney General. Marshall is a 52-year old "good old boy" who was thrilled with the appointment. Bentley picked Marshall because he was generally regarded as the weakest district attorney in Alabama. Plus, Marshall had zero experience in public corruption cases. Bentley wanted to make sure that the new attorney general did not have the experience, courage, or motivation to come after him for his felony crimes.
Marshall's first act of business was to sack Alice Martin, the well-credentialed Chief Deputy Attorney General under Luther Strange. Martin was the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009. As s federal prosecutor, she amassed a record number of public corruption convictions for public officials and the vendors who bribed them. Her record in this regard is unmatched in Alabama history.
Marshall's second act of business was to gut the authority and power vested in Matt Hart, the chief of the Special Prosecutions Division. Matt Hart and Alice Martin investigated former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard. Their investigation resulted in criminal charges against Hubbard. Last July, Hubbard was convicted of 12 counts of ethics violations and was ousted from office. Alabamians who champion ethical government celebrated Hubbard's conviction. Bentley was enraged by it.
Bentley's selection of Marshall has paid off for him. It netted the former governor a "sweetheart" plea deal that allowed him to escape jail time. Marshall personally approved Bentley's demand to reduce his four felony ethics violations to two no-jail time misdemeanors. The deal allowed Bentley to end his public corruption crime spree by simply resigning from office, accepting probation and community service, and paying a small fine. The deal was so sweet that Bentley broke into a smile as he was taking his mugshot photo. Bentley also made Marshall's "pass" on prosecuting criminal charges against Rebekah Mason.
No top state official in Alabama who committed blatant and widespread felony crimes like the ones Robert Bentley perpetrated has ever received this kind of "sweetheart" plea deal from prosecutors. In effect, the plea deal was a total surrender by Steve Marshall.
Currently, Marshall is trying to force Matt Hart to leave the AG's office. The two men almost came to blows recently over Marshall's determination to "fix" the criminal cases involving a group of state and local government officials in Jefferson County, Alabama. These cases have been in the works since October and the indictments were prepared for grand jury approval this month. The putative defendants in this matter include: (a) local Birmingham city council members, (b) past and present members of city boards and agencies, (c) at least one vendor associated with these boards, and (d) a group of Democratic and Republican Jefferson County-area lawmakers.
Marshall's disassociation from Matt Hart and Alice Martin was part of his political deal with Robert Bentley and the money crowd that backed Mike Hubbard. Last week, word was quietly spreading within the state's corporate community that Marshall would be dialing back on public corruption prosecutions.
At this juncture, the Jefferson County officials in question will likely walk free because Steve Marshall is operating out of his league as a prosecutor. Additionally, Marshall has sold out the Special Prosecutions Division to the group of wealthy businessmen who opposed Matt Hart's prosecution of Mike Hubbard. In doing so, Marshall has benched the toughest prosecutors in his office and gutted the only team of prosecutors that was cleaning up state and local government.
What do Alabamians get in return for gutting the leadership of the Special Prosecutions Division? Absolutely nothing.
What does Steve Marshall get in return for gutting the leadership of the Special Prosecutions Division? Well, Mike Hubbard, who was the poster boy for public corruption in Alabama, got a $1.5 million "investment" from a group of 10 high-powered "friends" for a printing business that was essentially dead. Marshall is expected to get at least that much money, or more, in campaign donations from Hubbard's base of political allies and the corporate bigwigs who prop up the Jefferson County officials. In the span of two months, Marshall has demonstrated to these powerbrokers that he can be trusted to dismantle the strong, effective, public corruption law enforcement team assembled by Alice Martin and Matt Hart.
The Jefferson County officials who were under a grand jury investigation are now breathing freely. All of them will likely walk free under Marshall's tenure as Attorney General. Like Robert Bentley, they are smiling and privately referring to Steve Marshall as the "Deliverer". Now, we understand why.

Donald V Watkins

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