October 29, 2014

A campaign-finance tidbit from the 3rd day of Barry Moore's perjury trial

AL.com reports: Prosecutors sought to introduce evidence that Hubbard was helping to pay for Moore's legal defense through campaign contributions.

They said campaign finance reports would show that.

The defense lawyers objected to introducing information about Hubbard's campaign funds paying Moore's legal fees. They said it would be prejudicial to the jury, which was not in the courtroom during the discussion.

Prosecutors dropped their request to introduce the information about legal fees. -- Rep. Barry Moore takes the stand in perjury trial, says Speaker Mike Hubbard never threatened to withhold project funds | AL.com


Commercial use of the Alabama Great Seal is illegal

Just in case you were thinking of sending out letters with the Great Seal of Alabama on them, it's illegal (Ala. Code 13A-10-13 makes it a Class C felony). And state officials seem not to like that bit of impersonation:

California state officials are now looking into whether any state laws were violated when researchers from Stanford University and Dartmouth College sent to some of the state's voters a mailer similar to the one that has stirred significant controversy in Montana and in political science circles nationwide, TPM has learned. -- California Is Now Looking Into That Controversial Poli Sci Election Mailer

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October 26, 2014

"3 local campaigns received funds from Speaker Hubbard, paid thousands to companies he owns"

The Decatur Daily reports: The campaigns of several area legislative candidates received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from entities controlled by recently indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard and paid thousands to companies he owned.

State Reps. Dan Williams, R-Athens; Terri Collins, R-Decatur; and Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, all entered office in 2010, and all received support from Hubbard. During the same election cycle, each of their campaigns paid money to Hubbard's printing and media companies. Hubbard, R-Auburn, was then chairman of the state Republican Party and House Minority Leader. After the November 2010 election, he became House Speaker.

The lawmakers said they did not know at the time that Hubbard had an ownership in the companies.

"At a minimum, it creates an appearance that this is all just money being laundered through a candidate and back to enrich the originator of the funds," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign-finance organization based in Washington, D.C. "These transactions sound so incestuous. The candidates should have been aware of the appearance this would create, even if there was not an understanding that, I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' " -- Financial ties that bind - Decatur Daily: News

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"Hubbard indictment hinges on one particular ethical question"

Cameron Smith's op-ed says: During a recent press conference responding to his corruption indictment, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard asked a critical question "Why does the Attorney General's Office....think it's a crime to do business with anyone you didn't know before you were elected to office?" ...

Outside employment for citizen legislators is not inherently problematic and may actually provide a benefit. For instance, legislators that actively participate in the business community will likely have a better perspective on economic challenges facing the state and the issues impacting their respective industries.

The ethical problem arises when legislators secure business and financial opportunities because of their public office or in exchange for specific favors. Most people are familiar with the "quid pro quo" type of corruption, but the more general use of a public office for personal gain is equally problematic. In that situation, politicians can ask for favors, compensation, or other benefits without agreeing to do anything in return. The implied agreement is that those providing the value to the politician can expect his or her help on their priorities in the future. -- Hubbard indictment hinges on one particular ethical question: opinion | AL.com

Contrast that with Kyle Whitmire's column: For instance, Hubbard faces 11 counts of soliciting a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal. (A principal is defined in the law as anyone who employs a lobbyist.) The elements the prosecution must prove are fairly straight forward. Is Hubbard a member of the Alabama Legislature? (Yes.) Did he ask for or receive anything of value from a lobbyist or principal? (If yes, then he's guilty.) -- Is Mike Hubbard going to jail in a gift basket? The consequences of legislate now, litigate later: opinion | AL.com

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October 25, 2014

Hubbard may have been hoist on his own petard

Kyle Whitmire writes on AL.com: When the Alabama Legislature passed the state ethics law in 2010, the newly elected Republican majority boasted that the state now had the toughest ethics laws in the nation. ...

Sometimes the consequences can land folks behind bars. Lawmakers rarely have to deal with those consequences themselves, and if some poor sap gets thrown in the pokey? Well, then they can brag they're tough on crime.

But this week it was one of the Legislature's own who fell in the gap.

Fifteen of the 23 counts against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard are built on new ethics laws passed since 2010. -- Is Mike Hubbard going to jail in a gift basket? The consequences of legislate now, litigate later: opinion | AL.com

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October 21, 2014

Speaker Hubbard indicted on 23 felony charges

AL.com reports: Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and a powerful leader in the state Republican Party, has been indicted by a grand jury and charged with 23 counts, including using his office for personal gain and soliciting things of value.

Late Monday afternoon, Hubbard reported to the Lee County Jail where he was booked.

If convicted, Hubbard faces a maximum penalty of two to 20 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines for each count. ...

The charges against Hubbard include 23 class B felonies. Those charges include:

Four counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain;
One count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest;
Eleven counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal;
Two counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain;
Four Counts of lobbying an executive department or agency for a fee;
One count of using state equipment, materials, etc. for private gain.
-- Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard indicted on 23 felony corruption charges by Lee County Grand Jury | AL.com

The indictment is available on Scribd.

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October 19, 2014

"Lawmakers: Campaign money laws need tuning"

The Decatur Daily reports: Some north Alabama lawmakers are considering ways to better enforce state campaign finance reporting laws, with one option being to create a group similar to the ethics commission.

Rules are in place on how politicians, and those who hope to be politicians, gather and spend political contributions. And there are repercussions, including fines, for not following the rules. But no state agency is charged with ensuring compliance. ...

Late in this year's legislative session, Sen. Bryan Taylor, R-Prattville, introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Orr, that would have let the secretary of state issue fines.

It passed the Senate but didn't have the needed unanimous support, required late in the session, to be sent to the House for a vote.

Now, Orr and others are looking at legislation for 2015. -- Lawmakers: Campaign money laws need tuning - Decatur Daily: News

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October 15, 2014

"Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, is not only spending his campaign donations on his legal defense, he is also hiring "private-eyes" with other people's money.

Moores latest FCPA filing show that he raised $16,000, for the week ending October 10. All totaled, Moore had a beginning balance of $35,351.64. Of that amount he spent $27,157.31 on his legal defense. Moore is charged with two felony counts of making false statements and two felony counts of perjury, in relation to the Special Grand Jury probe into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. If convicted, Moore could face a maximum of 60 years in State prison.

But, not only did donors pony-up for lawyers at Baxley, Dillard, Mcknight & James and Motley, Motley & Yarbrough, they paid for the services of Dothan-based M & M Investigation. -- Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense


A-Vote and Progress PAC contribute to legislative candidates

AL.com reports: The Alabama Education Association's political action committee has spent more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates in legislative races so far this month.

Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education, AVOTE, also gave $300,000 this month to Democrat Parker Griffith, who is running against Republican incumbent Robert Bentley for governor. That was the second $300,000 contribution from AVOTE to Griffith. ...

Meanwhile, the Business Council of Alabama's PAC, Progress PAC, has spent roughly the same amount, about $200,000, on Republican legislative candidates this month. -- AEA PAC spends more than $200,000 on Democratic candidates for Legislature | AL.com

Disclosure: I provide legal assistance to A-Vote.

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Trouble inside ALGOP

AL.com reports: With only three weeks until the General Election, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead is charging some high ranking members of his own party with efforts to "sabotage" the GOP's efforts at the polls.

In an email sent out just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, Armistead says this to members of the GOP Executive Committee, a key leadership group of the party. ... "Several members of the ALGOP Steering Committee seem determined to sabotage ALGOP's 2014 political plan to suit their own personal preferences. They want to disregard the work that has been done, and is being done, by our political team who has worked for nearly two years developing our plan based on demographics, voting history, polling data and viability of candidate."

Armistead explains in the email that the goal of the party has been to win all seven U.S. House of Representative seats (the GOP holds six of seven) and win certain targeted legislative seats now held by Democrats and certain seats at the local level. Armistead said the underlying goal is to strengthen the GOP at the local level to establish it as the majority party at every level. -- State GOP leader charges some in party with sabotage of efforts to win in November | AL.com

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Parker Griffih raised more than Gov. Bentley so far this month

AL.com reports: Gov. Robert Bentley continues to easily outpace his Democratic challenger, Parker Griffith, in campaign fundraising.

Both candidates filed reports today that covered money raised and spent from Oct. 1-10.

Bentley raised $225,070 from a long list of donors, bringing his total amount raised to $6.4 million since the fundraising period began in June 2013.

Griffith raised only $1,370 during the first two weeks during the period, not counting a $300,000 contribution from the Alabama Education Association. -- Gov. Robert Bentley adds to huge lead over Parker Griffith in campaign cash | AL.com

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Dr. Paul Hubbert, may he rest in peace

It was my honor and pleasure to work with Dr. Hubbert over the last 3 decades.

AL.com reports:
Paul Hubbert, who built a small, struggling and apolitical Alabama Education Association into a juggernaut of political power and influence during four-plus decades at its helm, is dead.

Hubbert, 78, was born on Christmas Day, 1935.

Hubbert's death came not quite three years after he stepped down as AEA's executive secretary, a decision he said he made after concluding his health would no longer allow him to do the job.

At the time of his death, Hubbert was battling ailments on several fronts -- and battling is the term to describe Hubbert's long fight to live.

In 1989, the then-54-year-old Hubbert underwent liver transplant surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The transplant saved and extended Hubbert's life. At the time of his death, he was one of the longest-surviving liver transplant patients in the world. -- Paul Hubbert, teacher lobbyist whose AEA shaped Alabama politics for decades, dead at 78 | AL.com

Some additional details from the Montgomery Advertiser: "The teachers of Alabama lost a true friend and a true champion," Reed said Tuesday night.

A cause of death was not immediately available. Hubbert had been fighting heart and kidney ailments.

The group also formed one of the first political action committees in the state, and influenced policy that went beyond classrooms and made the group a beacon to some and an enemy to others.

Survivors include Hubbert's wife, Ann; two daughters and several grandchildren. -- Paul Hubbert, longtime AEA head, dies at 78

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October 11, 2014

ALGOP sez drop in voter turnout means Voter ID is working

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Thursday, October 9, the Alabama Republican Party responded to the release of a report on Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicating the voter ID laws in Tennessee and Kansas may have suppressed voter turnout and affected minorities and young people disproportionately.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said in a written statement in support of Alabama's voter ID law: "Alabama's voter ID law is designed to ensure that only legal votes are cast and counted. We believe one person should receive one vote. The state has promoted the law on television, radio, on billboards and in print ads to make sure every Alabama citizen is ready for implementation. The state even offers free IDs to those who do not have a valid photo ID." ...

The report claimed that voter ID laws have nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with lowering election turnout. The report compared the changes in voter turnouts from 2008 elections (before voter ID laws were in place) to 2012 elections (after voter ID laws were in place) in Kansas and Tennessee. Both states experienced a two percent drop in turnout from 2008 to 2012. Their results pointed towards the cost of getting a driver's license, in order to comply with voter ID laws, as a deterrent to citizens.

Chairman Armistead said, "If voter turnout dropped in Kansas and Tennessee after implementing a voter ID law, then that may be a good indication that the law is working and has curtailed fraudulent votes. The intended purpose of voter ID laws is to prevent fraud and hopefully that is what is happening." -- ALGOP Responds to GAO Report Questioning Photo ID Laws

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October 4, 2014

"Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million"

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Political campaigns in Alabama have spent at least $26.8 million on advertising this year, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State's Office.

The figures jumped significantly last month, as campaigns began emptying their wallets for the fall push toward the general election. According to campaign finance reports, political ad spending reached $4.7 million in September. That was nearly four times the spending reported in August, but still well below May's peak, when candidates spent over $11 million to secure victory in hotly-contested Republican primaries.

The total spending on ads this year is larger than all but nine state agencies received in the General Fund budget in fiscal year 2014, which ended on Tuesday. The sum is also very close to the total General Fund allocations that the state's district attorneys ($27.5 million) and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles ($27.2 million) received from the budget.

To date, the largest spender has been the Alabama Education Association, which has spent over $3.8 million on advertising this year. Gov. Robert Bentley's campaign has spent $2.8 million to date this year. Bentley's campaign reported spending $1.6 million on ads last month; AEA reported spending just $30,000 on advertising, though it spent $1.1 million overall in September. -- Alabama political ad spending hits $26.8 million

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October 1, 2014

Jeeferson County fires staffer who ran for office

AL.com reports: Jefferson County today fired Richard Finley, the County Commission staffer, who had been placed on leave after questions were raised about violation of a state law.

Commissioner George Bowman said today that Finley had "forfeited" his job.

"His leave of absence has now been turned into a forfeiture of employment," Bowman said.

AL.com reported Sunday that Finley, an aide to Bowman, qualified as a Libertarian for the District 1 seat. But, after qualifying, Finley apparently failed to follow the state law that requires he take unpaid leave from his government-based job. -- Jefferson County Commission aide fired after apparent violation of state law | AL.com

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September 24, 2014

Alabama is 11th nationally in political-TV spending

AP via Opelika-Auburn Now reports: Alabama ranks 11th in the U.S. in spending on TV ads for the 2014 state-level campaigns and first on such spending in legislative races, according to a national report.

The report by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity found that Alabama campaigns for state-level offices, ranging from governor to the Legislature and state school board, had spent $6.9 million on TV ads that had aired through Sept. 8. The number will grow significantly as the general election approaches on Nov. 4. ...

In some states, political groups running ads independent of the candidates have played a major role in TV spending. But in Alabama, candidates accounted for $6.5 million of the total and groups only $433,800. The biggest spending groups were the political action committee of the state teachers' organization, the Alabama Education Association, with $307,300 in ads and former Gov. Bob Riley's Alabama 2014 PAC with $125,000. Riley's group spent money to try to maintain the Republican majority in the Legislature, while AEA spent money to challenge some incumbent Republican legislators. ...

These figures represent only part of the money spend on political advertising. They do not include the money spent on ads on radio, online, in direct mail, or on local cable systems, or the cost of producing the messages. That means the total cost of spending on political ads can be significantly higher. -- OANow.com | AP News

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September 18, 2014

"Why did feds sue Texas over voter ID law but not Alabama?"

AL.com reports: The U.S. Justice Department last year pounced on a Texas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls, but the agency chose not to challenge a similar statute in Alabama,


Holly Wiseman, the civil rights enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Mobile, told the local League of Women Voters chapter at a Wednesday luncheon that she is not privy to those decisions. But she contrasted the two laws.

She said Texas has stricter requirements for the types of identification that a voter can produce, and when documentation is needed to obtain an ID, the state charges for it. In addition, she said, residents in some cases have to drive hundreds of miles to get to the registrar's office to obtain an ID.

Wiseman said Alabama's law, on the other hand, provides a photo ID for free to voters who do not have one. The state also issues copies of documents like marriage and birth certificates to voters who need them to obtain IDs. -- Why did feds sue Texas over voter ID law but not Alabama? Government lawyer explains | AL.com

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September 7, 2014

Editorial: "Campaign funds should fund campaigns, not lawyers"

The Dothan Eagle editorializes: Alabamians should be troubled by the news this week that Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard has spent about $230,000 in campaign funds on legal fees since December 2013.

An attorney general's opinion issued in 2000 states that an incumbent can use excess campaign funds to defend criminal charges brought in relation to the public office they hold, and that opinion was taken at face value by some lawmakers tried in the federal government's futile case against a clutch of lawmakers and lobbyists in an alleged vote-buying scheme over electronic bingo in recent years. ...

Campaign funds are meant to fund campaigns, not to pay lawyers for undetermined legal work.

This matter deserves more than an opinion from the attorney general. It should be weighed by the state Supreme Court, where rulings carry a measure of legal weight. -- Our view: Campaign funds should fund campaigns, not lawyers - Dothan Eagle: Editorials

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"Campaign finances can make for daunting record-keeping"

The Jacksonville News reports: Candidates for Jacksonville's school board election Aug. 26 didn't have access to six-figure checks from wealthy political action committees, yet they were subject to the same campaign finance laws as higher-office candidates who do enjoy such access.

Local party officials say candidates for local offices didn't use to worry much about filing campaign finance reports. But that has changed over the years, and in 2011 state law was amended to make it easier to track where campaign funding comes from and how it is spent.

Party executives and officials with the Alabama Secretary of State's office have worked to teach candidates the rules, but as the five school board candidates recently learned, it can still be tough to track down details about the new requirements. They wound up filing their campaign finance reports in a variety of ways. -- Campaign finances can make for daunting record-keeping - The Jacksonville News

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September 5, 2014

Ala. Supreme Court denies Barry Moore's appeal

Al.com reports: The Alabama Supreme Court today ruled against state Rep. Barry Moore in his effort to have his perjury case dismissed.

The decision was 8-0. The court did not release an opinion to accompany the decision.

Moore, a Republican from Enterprise, is accused of giving false testimony to a special grand jury in Lee County in January. ...

Moore sought dismissal of the case by claiming the prosecutors were not appointed legally and the indictment was improperly written. -- Alabama Supreme Court rules 8-0 against Rep. Barry Moore's move to dismiss case | AL.com

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Campaign cash is buying influence in Alabama courtrooms

Cameron Smith opines on AL.com: Imagine for a minute that a corporation with an effective monopoly in the State of Alabama became the target of litigation initiated by a state prosecutor. Not only does the corporation use their cash to fight the litigation in court and by lobbying legislators, but they also go after the prosecutor politically in the middle of the legal proceedings.

In an attempt to find a more favorable prosecutor, the corporation funnels $1 million to the prosecutor's political opponent through a series of vaguely named political action committees (PACS) managed by a former felon.

Why not make it even more interesting? What if the transfers and the amount of money were legal under state law and the manager received a pardon a few months after his conviction?

While the hypothetical might seem like the latest legal fiction thriller, it happens to be reality in Alabama politics. The state prosecutor is none other than Attorney General Luther Strange, the business is the Poarch Band of Creek Indians that operates casinos in Alabama, and the A, T, and Speed PACs the tribe funds are managed by former state senator John Teague. -- It doesn't take much to imagine that campaign cash is buying influence in the courtroom: opinion | AL.com

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August 28, 2014

"Tracking" comes to Alabama

AL.com reports: An advisory to Democratic county chairs has been sent, warning them of Republican-leaning videographers who are recording candidates at events, according to Herbert Kuntz, chairman St. Clair County Democrats and the author of the letter.

Kuntz told AL.com on Wednesday that he sent the letter after an incident on Aug.14 at the Pell City recreation center. ...

Kuntz had organized the meeting to let state Rep. Joe Hubbard, D-Montgomery, speak about his candidacy for Alabama attorney general.

But a videographer, known as a "tracker" in political circles, showed up to record Hubbard speak. Hubbard's campaign took pictures of the videographer, and identified him as Chris Cato from South Carolina. Cato works for America Rising LLC, which disseminates its videos through its political action committee, America Rising PAC.

The PAC is a Republican-leaning organization that seeks to research and record Democrats during this election season. -- Warning sent to Alabama's Democratic county chairmen: You are being tracked | AL.com

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"What if Alabama elected multiple congressmen per district? A radical reform proposal"

Al.com reports: No one would dispute that Alabama is a Republican-leaning state, but an electoral reform group contends the current voting system distorts GOP dominance.

Presently, six of seven members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Republican. But the state is not 85 percent Republican. The Maryland-based Center for Voting and Democracy, in an analysis of the upcoming 2014 election issued last month, puts the Republican percentage at 63 percent. ...

The center recommends combining ranked choice voting with multi-member "super districts." For Alabama, that would mean folding the current seven districts into two. One would combine the 1st, 2nd and 3rd districts, covering Mobile and Baldwin, the Wiregrass and east Alabama. The other district would combine the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th districts, covering Huntsville, Birmingham and west Alabama.

Both super districts would be between 62 percent and 65 percent Republican. But because of the nature of ranked voting, it is unlikely they would elect all Republicans. -- What if Alabama elected multiple congressmen per district? A radical reform proposal | AL.com

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August 26, 2014

"Did Alabama state candidates violate law by taking money from Congressman Bonner's campaign?"

AL.com reports: The Democratic candidate for Alabama attorney general on Monday accused his Republican opponent of breaking state law by accepting a campaign donation from the campaign account of former U.S. Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile.

Attorney General Luther Strange disputes the interpretation offered by challenger Joe Hubbard, and has the backing of the Alabama Secretary of State's Office on the matter.

If Hubbard is correct, then nine other state and local candidates in Alabama made the same mistake.

Hubbard, a state representative from Montgomery, said the law clearly counts campaign committees as political action committees. The Legislature in 2010 banned PACs from transferring funds to other PACs as part of a series of ethics reforms that Republicans enacted when they wrested control of the House and Senate from Democrats that year. The intent was to stop what had been a common practice of donors hiding the source of political money by routing it through a series of PACS so that it would be difficult or impossible to trace. -- Did Alabama state candidates violate law by taking money from Congressman Bonner's campaign? | AL.com

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State drops prosecution of Barron and Johnson

AL.com reports: The prosecution of former state Sen. Lowell Barron is over.

The Alabama Attorney General's office, which brought a six-count indictment against Barron in 2013, filed a motion Monday in DeKalb County Circuit Court to dismiss the charges.

Trial judge Randall Cole hasn't ruled on the motion filed late Monday afternoon yet but his approval is considered a formality.

Dropping the charges was not unexpected after the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday denied an appeal by the AG's office, upholding ruling by two lower courts on evidence that could be admitted at trial. Based on court documents filed by prosecutors, that decision left the state without a case against Barron. -- Alabama Attorney General's office drops criminal charges against Lowell Barron | AL.com