News

A lawyer for former House Speaker Mike Hubbard says prosecutors are seeking a "ridiculously extreme" prison sentence after Hubbard's conviction on ethics charges.

Defense lawyer Bill Baxley says the 18-year sentence prosecutors want is absurd.  The attorney general's office, in a court filing this week, says they want Hubbard to spend five years in prison and another 13 on supervised probation.

Prosecutors are also asking for Hubbard to pay $1.6 million in fines and restitution.

Hubbard trial
Todd J. Van Ernst / Opelika-Auburn News

As Mike Hubbard’s sentencing date approaches, prosecutors are recommending the former Alabama House Speaker should spend five years in a state prison for breaking the state ethics law.

Attorney General Luther Strange’s office filed a brief yesterday afternoon asking a judge to give Hubbard an 18-year split sentence. Hubbard would spend five years behind bars and the remaining 13 years under supervised probation.

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab will benefit from a multi-million dollar settlement with a Norwegian shipping company.

DSD Shipping Company was found guilty of dumping thousands of gallons of harmful bilge into the Gulf of Mexico.

Helene Hassell is the Executive Director for the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. She says the money from the settlement will be put to good use…

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is a half million dollars richer today thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice.

WKRG-TV reports the Sea Lab received the $500,000 check as the result of an investigation that found a Norweigan shipping company guilty of dumping oil and sludge into the Gulf of Mexico.

The settlement reached totaled $2.5 million. As part of the settlement, half a million dollars had to go to a community organization as restitution. The Department of Justice chose the Dauphin Island Sea Lab due to their commitment to stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico.

State Auditor Jim Zeigler wants to join an ongoing lawsuit in an attempt to put a stop to Governor Robert Bentley’s spending of the BP settlement money.

The state is receiving billions of dollars after reaching a settlement with BP after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

Zeigler says the governor is acting as a “one man legislature…”

The Tuscaloosa City Council has approved a deal that will allow the ride-sharing service Uber to begin operations in the city within a month.

The Tuscaloosa News reports the council voted 6-1 yesterday to change its vehicle-for-hire ordinance to allow Uber and similar companies to begin operations in the city.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walter Maddox says he plans to sign the amended ordinance into law.

APR Selma coverage wins national awards

Jun 29, 2016
APR

The industry group Public Radio News Directors, Incorporated named Alabama Public Radio the winner of two first place “PRNDI” awards. These prestigious national honors are connected to APR’s international award-winning coverage of the 50th anniversary of the “bloody Sunday” attacks on voting rights marchers in Selma in 1965. State troopers and a sheriff’s posse used clubs and tear gas to beat back demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

The families of two girls who were killed in a DUI crash involving a former NASA astronaut in rural west Alabama have filed wrongful-death lawsuits in state and federal courts.

Authorities say 11-year-old Niomi James and 13-year-old Jayla Parler were killed in a crash that left two others injured on June 6 in rural west Alabama.

Former NASA astronaut 59-year-old James Halsell has been charged with reckless murder in the crash and now faces wrongful-death lawsuits in Tuscaloosa County and in federal court.

Ed Robbins: World's oldest polo player

Jun 28, 2016
MacKenzie Bates/APR

So, what would you like to do on your eighty fifth birthday? If one Northern Alabama native has his way, he’ll be doing more than just blowing out a lot of candles. Ed Robbins is now known internationally for his love of “The Sport of Kings.”  APR’s MacKenzie Bates reports Robbins has the record to prove it…

“I started in 1980 and that was 20, 36 years ago.” 

Ed Robbins is talking about polo. The sport didn’t come easy to him. He first tried to ride a horse when he was seven.

An Alabama judge will hear arguments today in a dispute between the state’s teachers and their health insurance provider.

The Alabama Education Association is suing the Public Education Employees’ Health Insurance Program, or PEEHIP. Coinciding with a raise that Alabama’s lawmakers allocated to teachers earlier this year, the health insurance program announced it was dramatically increasing its premiums. The AEA argues those rate hikes were decided upon in a secret meeting that violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.

A new LGBT organization in Tuscaloosa is looking to expand. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more.

Druid City Pride held a fundraiser this past weekend to help shape the future of the organization.

The group formed late last year to organize the city’s annual Pride festival. But thanks to community interest and recent events, they’ve taken on advocacy efforts as well. The first step is becoming an official nonprofit.

“It costs a little chunk of change to become a non-profit, which is funny.”

The Montgomery County District Attorney says his county’s court system is drowning in a massive backlog of pending drug cases.

District Attorney Daryl Bailey tells the Montgomery Advertiser that a backlog of more than 1600 cases means that anybody arrested for drug-related charges would currently be waiting more than two years for trial as evidence is processed.

Bailey says the state's budget crisis and staff cuts mean the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences is struggling to keep up with the number of cases it needs to analyze.

A Cat's Age

Jun 25, 2016
Helena Jacoba [Flickr]

Unlike dogs that tend to turn gray around the face as they age, a cat's appearance may not change so much.  What you may notice is less muscle tone, drier skin and coat, maybe a little arthritis.   But even elderly cats still enjoy some play time and attention.


Gov. Robert Bentley asks the FBI for assistance after finding that several state workers in the finance department had unauthorized access to Alabama's criminal justice database.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency released letters today showing that Bentley also dismissed the state's chief information officer and placed another finance official on administrative leave.

Muscle Shoals Middle School
TimesDaily

School workers in the Muscle Shoals region will be seeing a bit more money in their pockets soon.

Muscle Shoals City Schools Superintendent Brian Lindsey says the school board tacked on an additional 3 percent local raise to a 4 percent state-mandated raise approved by lawmakers earlier this year. School finance officer Sarita Tapscott says the raises will cost the school system around $850,000.

The U.S. Supreme Court says death-row prisoners must have "rational understanding" that they are about to be executed and why.  But a lawyer for an Alabama inmate say their client fails that test.

A lawyer for 65-year-old Vernon Madison told a panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges today that stroke-induced dementia has made Madison unable to understand why the state plans to execute him. Madison was convicted in the 1985 killing of Mobile police Officer Julius Schulte.

Victor Gaston
Albert Cesare / Montgomery Advertiser

Acting Alabama House Speaker Victor Gaston says he isn’t interested in making that title any more permanent.

The Mobile Republican representative announced yesterday that he will not be a candidate for speaker. Gaston says he was grateful to the colleagues and friends who encouraged him to seek the post. He says he will dedicate his remaining time as acting speaker to making sure all the various House functions run smoothly.

Alabama Department of Public Health officials say a new law allows people and businesses to keep epinephrine injectors on hand in case of an allergic reaction.

A new state law allows people and organizations including camps, child care centers, restaurants and others to keep single-dose epinephrine auto-injectors on hand.  It’s in case someone has an allergic reaction because of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is often caused by insect stings, foods and medication.

A new national report shows Alabama is trailing the rest of the country in overall child well-being.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is out with its annual Kids Count Book this week. The study ranks child welfare based on indicators in four areas including economics, education, health and family. Although Alabama has seen some improvements, the state ranks 46th in the country for economic well-being and 48th in education.

Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is asking a state judicial panel to dismiss ethics charges against him. Moore says he never told probate judges to refuse marriage licenses to gay couples.

Moore is accused of violating judicial ethics with a 2016 administrative order.  It came six months after the U.S. Supreme Court effectively legalized same-sex marriage.

His lawyers say the order only noted correctly that a state court injunction to refuse same-sex marriage licenses had not been lifted.

Supreme Court
Equal Justice Initiative

The U.S. Supreme Court says lower courts in Alabama and two other states must re-examine three death penalty convictions for evidence of racial prejudice in jury selection.

The court ruled yesterday in the cases of Christopher Floyd of Alabama, Jabari Williams of Louisiana and Curtis Giovanni Flowers of Mississippi.

APR Documentary Wins International Award

Jun 20, 2016
APR

The New York Festivals International Radio Competition named Alabama Public Radio the winner of the “Bronze Radio Award.” The honor is for APR’s documentary “More Bridges to Cross,” focusing on the 50th anniversary of “bloody Sunday” in Selma. In 1965, a sheriff’s posse used tear gas and clubs to attack voting rights marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Fifty years later, 70,000 people gathered to remember this historic moment in the civil rights movement.

A large number of dead fish were found at the top of the Black Warrior River this weekend. A-P-R  Student Reporter, Katie Willem has more…

State officials are investigating after dozens of dead fish were found at Mulberry Fork south of Jasper, which is near the William Crawford Gorgas power plant operated by Alabama Power.

Lance LeFleur is the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. He says ADEM is collaborating with other organizations to figure out what happened…

The Cuddle Party

Jun 20, 2016
Cuddleparty.com

We live in a time and society where touching someone is usually associated with one thing, and that’s sex. However there is a growing trend aimed at removing the stigma of physical contact. Alabama Public Radio’s Stan Ingold did some research and has this report on an activity known as the “Cuddle Party.”

A federal jury has found former Birmingham Health Care CEO Jonathan Dunning guilty on 98 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering.

According to AL.com, jurors began deliberating last Tuesday afternoon, and finally reached a verdict Friday. Dunning was acquitted on another 14 counts.

Customers at more than 120 Walmart locations across Alabama will be able to checkout using their smartphones.

Customers could start using Walmart Pay as early as Thursday. Company spokeswoman Molly Blakeman told Al.com the service also rolled out in three other southern states including Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.

 

Walmart Pay is already available in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It will soon be available nationwide.

APR

For the fifth year in a row, the Alabama Associated Press named Alabama Public Radio the "Most Outstanding News Operation" in the state. This generous honor came during yesterday's AP awards luncheon in Birmingham, where "Morning Edition" host Alex AuBuchon won "Best Regularly Scheduled Newscast," and former APR student intern Josh Hollis took first place in the AP's inaugural college journalism awards.

Members of the Alabama Legislature will elect a new House speaker in February, possibly sooner if Governor Bentley calls a special session.  

Contenders for the job are beginning to emerge after former House Speaker Mike Hubbard was removed from office after being convicted on twelve ethics charges.

LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs [Facebook]
LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs [Facebook]

Tim Hetzner, president of K-9 Comfort Dogs, says dogs are great counselors, because they are good listeners, they keep it confidential, and they offer affection to everyone unconditionally.   

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Alabama’s latest unemployment numbers remain unchanged from this time last year. APR’s student reporter, Katie Willem, has more…

The newest jobless figures from the Alabama Department of Labor are for May. The State’s unemployment rate stands at 6.1 percent, which is unchanged compared to the month before, or May of 2015. 

The state is less than twenty-five thousand jobs away from having two million people at work around the state.  This is the highest number the state economy has supported in the last twenty years. 

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