- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - An Alabama legislator goes on trial Monday in a perjury case that will focus attention on the House Republican leadership one week before the general election.

Jury selection begins Monday morning in Opelika in the trial of Republican Rep. Barry Moore of Enterprise. He faces charges of perjury and making false statements to law enforcement. Prosecutors from the Attorney General Luther Strange’s office say he gave false grand jury testimony involving House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

Defense attorney Bill Baxley contends the questions posed to Moore were vague and incompetent and that no perjury occurred. “I have never seen a perjury indictment being returned on facts like this,” said Baxley, who served as attorney general before becoming one of Alabama’s top criminal defense lawyers.

On the prosecution side are Acting Attorney General Van Davis and Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart, who helped direct an investigation of Alabama’s two-year college system that resulted in several officials going to prison, including former Chancellor Roy Johnson.

Moore is a first-term legislator whose victory in 2010 helped Republicans claim a majority in the Legislature for the first time in 136 years. He has been an ally of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who directed the GOP takeover as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party.

Moore was indicted in April by a special Lee County grand jury convened to investigate possible government corruption in Montgomery. Hubbard was arrested Oct. 20 on a 23-count ethics indictment returned by the grand jury. It accuses him of using his legislative and party offices to financially benefit himself and his businesses. He has repeatedly called the indictment and the grand jury a “political witch hunt.”

Moore’s trial opens one week after Hubbard’s arrest and one week before the general election Nov. 4, when Republicans will try to keep their majority. Normally a trial involving the majority party just before the election would be a boon to the minority party, but there are not enough hotly contested legislative races for Republicans to lose their majority. Instead, Democrats hope to whittle it down.

Moore’s seat is an example of the lack of hot races because he has no opposition. The qualifying deadline for a Democrat to run had passed by the time he was indicted.

Prosecutors accuse Moore of lying to a Lee County grand jury when he was asked if he had told his primary election opponent that Hubbard had threatened to hold up money for an economic development project in southeast Alabama if he ran against Moore.

“OK. And you didn’t assert to him that the speaker had, in fact made that threat?” Hart asked Moore.

“No sir,” Moore replied, according to the indictment. The indictment says the same question was posed three similar ways with the same answer.

Moore’s opponent, Josh Pipkin, said he had recorded the conversation. He gave it to prosecutors and testified to the grand jury. Pipkin stayed in the race, but lost the Republican primary to Moore. Pipkin is among the witnesses scheduled to testify in the trial. Attorneys have told Circuit Judge Jacob Walker that they expect the trial to be completed in one week.

So far, the investigation in Lee County has resulted in one representative, Republican Greg Wren of Montgomery, resigning his seat and pleading guilty to a misdemeanor ethics law violation.

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