- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Three dozen legislators have called for a federal investigation of prosecutors’ behavior in House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ethics case, but the U.S. attorney in Montgomery responded Friday that it was a state issue, not a federal one.

U.S. Attorney George Beck responded in a Friday press conference to the letter sent by lawmakers seeking a federal probe of how the attorney general’s office handled the Hubbard investigation. Beck said the allegation of prosecutorial misconduct raised by Hubbard’s defense will play out in state court.

“That is an issue squarely before the court,” Beck said.

Lawmakers’ letter came after campaign consultant Baron Coleman signed an affidavit saying he had frequent conversations with prosecutor Matt Hart and used the information to try to damage Hubbard politically in the 2014 election. Hubbard’s defense submitted the affidavit with a motion seeking to dismiss the case for “gross misconduct” by prosecutors.

State prosecutors have said that Coleman was a “confidential informant” providing information to them and the conversations were proper. Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker has scheduled a March 3 evidentiary hearing on the defense allegation.

“The interests of justice require that a full, unbiased investigation be made into the sworn statement by Mr. Coleman and the allegations of others that Mr. Hart is using the grand jury process to influence political elections,” lawmakers wrote.

The signing legislators say also believe Attorney General Luther Strange, “has future political ambitions that may politically influence the manner in which an investigation would be conducted in this high profile matter.” Strange has recused himself from the Hubbard case and appointed an acting attorney general.

Beck said that if lawmakers are concerned that the attorney general’s office has been irresponsible, they have it within their own power to investigate public officials they believe derelict in their duties and launch impeachment proceedings.

Beck also noted that Republican legislators were seeking help from the Obama administration in the matter

Beck said he will seek guidance on whether any federal elections laws were at stake, but that doesn’t mean an investigation will be started.

Hubbard is scheduled to go to trial March 28 on ethics charges that he used his public positions to benefit his businesses. He has maintained his innocence and said that the transactions were legal.

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