- Associated Press - Thursday, December 31, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard has lost his high-power defense lawyer three months ahead of his trial on ethics charges.

Prominent defense lawyer Mark White filed a motion Thursday to withdraw from Hubbard’s defense team. The other lawyers in White’s team also withdrew.

The motion did not give a reason for the decision, but White issued a statement saying it was unrelated to the merits or status of the case.

“We believe Speaker Hubbard will be completely cleared of the charges against him. We wish him the very best in this matter and his other endeavors,” White said.

He declined to say whether finances were a reason.

Hubbard signed a declaration that accompanied the motion saying White and associates had “candidly” discussed the reasons for the withdrawal and that he agreed to it.

Hubbard faces 23 ethics charges accusing him of using his public offices - as speaker of the house and in his former position as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party - to drum up investments and business for his companies.

The withdrawal is a blow to Hubbard’s defense ahead of his trial tentatively scheduled for March 28.

Hubbard has other lawyers working for him. However, White was the lead defense lawyer and the spokesman for the defense team.

Hubbard has maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty.

The motion to withdraw was initially filed under seal, but Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker ordered it made public. Walker said a list of pending motions will remain under seal because some of them reference grand jury material.

Walker said he was taking the withdrawal motion under advisement and that the parties could discuss any issues related to it at a January hearing.

The March 28 trial date, if it goes forward, will overlap with part of the 2016 legislative session. The session begins Feb. 2 and could last until May 16.

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