Bribery charges rock Alabama's political landscape


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama legislator and a lobbyist who once chaired the Alabama Republican Party were arrested Monday on conspiracy charges related to payments made to another lawmaker to advance an insurance bill, prosecutors announced.

State Republican Rep. Jack D. Williams of Vestavia Hills and lobbyist Marty Connors were charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and mail fraud. The California-based owner of Triana Health diabetes treatment centers, G. Ford Gilbert, was also arrested.

Prosecutors said in a statement announcing the trio of arrests that Gilbert had paid then-state Rep. Micky Hammon, who was the Republican majority leader, to push legislation in 2016 that would require the state's dominant insurance company to cover treatments at Triana clinics.

Prosecutors said Connors, who was lobbying for the bill, knew about the payments to Hammon, and recruited Williams to use his position as a House committee chairman to hold a public hearing on the bill. Williams also knew of the payments and acted to help Hammon, "who, as everyone in the scheme knew, was experiencing grave financial problems," federal prosecutors said in a statement.

Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan S. Ross said both men were arrested at their homes Monday morning. Neither were represented by private lawyers in court on Monday but have indicated that they plan to hire counsel. Ross said they will have to forfeit $25,000. The men were to be released shortly after their hearing.

Hammon was removed from the Alabama Legislature last year when he pleaded guilty to illegally using campaign funds for personal use. A judge in February sentenced Hammon to three months in prison for felony mail fraud. No additional charges were announced against Hammon.

Williams has served in the House of Representatives since 2004. Connors served as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party from 2001 to 2005.

The charges announced Monday is the latest in a string of corruption investigations that have ensnared Alabama politicians.

Former Rep. Oliver Robinson, a Democrat, pleaded guilty last year to taking a bribe for using his legislative position to oppose the Environmental Protection Agency's prioritization of a pollution site in Birmingham.

Last year, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge and stepped down amid accusations of an affair with an aide.

In 2016, former Republican House Speaker Mike Hubbard was convicted of ethics violations including using his public office to drum up clients and investments for his businesses.

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