- Associated Press - Saturday, December 27, 2014

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Political intrigue and elections dominated the news in Alabama in 2014, but plenty of other things made headlines in the state. Here are the Top 10 Alabama news stories of the year as selected by The Associated Press:


Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who claims credit for the Republican takeover of the Legislature, is indicted on 23 felony charges of using his office for personal gain. Hubbard denies any wrongdoing and calls the charges a political witch hunt; the case will move toward trial in 2015. Separately, State Rep. Barry Moore is acquitted on a charge of lying to a grand jury and former Rep. Greg Wren resigns his seat and pleads guilty to a misdemeanor.


The Republican Party strengthens its grip on the Alabama Statehouse as Gov. Robert Bentley is re-elected by a wide margin and GOP gains transform the Legislature into a body composed mainly of white Republicans and black Democrats. The party’s control is so complete that Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions becomes the only U.S. senator re-elected without opposition from a major party.


U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller is arrested on a domestic violence charge following a fight with his wife at an Atlanta hotel but avoids prosecution by entering a pre-trial diversion program. Fuller, best known for presiding over the corruption trial that ended in the conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman, is removed from handling cases and faces calls for his resignation or impeachment headed into the New Year.


Winter strikes Alabama with an unusual vengeance. A winter storm causes havoc in late January, forcing thousands of schoolchildren and teachers to spend the night in Birmingham-area schools because roads are too icy for travel. Thousands more have to camp out in their workplaces, and stranded motorists are rescued from vehicles throughout the state’s largest metropolitan area. As much as a foot of snow covers north Alabama two weeks later, and icicles hang off palm trees at the coast.


Investigators make a gruesome discovery when the bodies of five children are found amid scrub pines, dead trees and weeds atop a hill in rural central Alabama. Their father is later arrested in Mississippi and charged with murder in their killings in South Carolina. Investigators say the man trekked across the Deep South with the bodies in his SUV before dumping them a few miles from an interstate exit near Pine Apple.


The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System becomes a focal point for trouble amid allegations of mismanagement in the nation’s health care system for veterans. Reports show facilities serving veterans around Montgomery have some of the longest delays in the country for care, and the Department of Veterans Affairs removes the system’s director and chief of staff.


Eight people from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Texas plead guilty in a federal dog-fighting case that involved the second-largest seizure of pit bulls in U.S. history. An organizer of the high-stakes dog fights, Donnie Anderson of Auburn, gets eight years in prison, the longest sentence ever in a federal dog-fighting case and four times as long as the term of NFL player Michael Vick.


Desmonte Leonard is convicted of murder in the shooting that killed two former Auburn University football players and a third man at a pool party in 2012. Lee County jurors recommended life without parole for the Montgomery man, but a judge could still condemn Leonard to death at his sentencing, set for Jan. 20 in Opelika. Meanwhile, a Tallapoosa County man is charged with killing another Auburn football player, Jakell Mitchell, in December at the same apartment complex where the 2012 shootings occurred.


The Department of Corrections is embroiled in court fights over conditions in Alabama’s overcrowded prison system. The U.S. Department of Justice investigates Tutwiler prison for women, while the Southern Poverty Law Center sues over medical conditions in prisons. Gov. Robert Bentley appoints a task force to look for answers. Meanwhile, the state is forced to halt executions because of a shortage of drugs for lethal injections.


The ministry of an Alabama pastor comes to an end following shocking allegations of wrongdoing. Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery has to sue the Rev. Juan McFarland to get him to leave after he admits from the pulpit to having AIDS, having sex with married church members without telling them about his illness, and using illegal drugs.

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