- Associated Press - Thursday, March 10, 2016

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A judge on Wednesday ordered a political consultant to turn over recordings of phone conversations he had with the lead prosecutor in House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ethics case.

Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker indicated that he wants to listen to the recordings himself as he weighs defense claims of prosecutorial misconduct.

Walker ordered Baron Coleman to turn over recordings of conversations with prosecutor Matt Hart by 1 p.m. Friday. Walker also directed Coleman to give him copies of emails.

The content of the recordings is unknown. Coleman testified at a hearing last week that he drew conclusions from those conversations about the status of the investigation and used the information to try to damage Hubbard politically with a “whisper campaign” while working for Hubbard’s primary opponent. However, Coleman said Hart did not directly tell him grand jury information, but that he would put “two and two” together based on Hart’s comments and questions.

Prosecutors say Coleman was an informant, providing them information since the early days of the investigation, so the conversations were proper and legal.

The judge indicated that, at least for now, he intended to review the tapes in private instead of open court. Walker on Thursday also entered a temporary protective order to prevent the tapes from being disseminated.

Hubbard is scheduled to go to trial March 28 on ethics charges accusing him of using his public position as speaker and former Alabama Republican Party chairman to drum up clients, business and investments for his companies.

Walker scheduled a status conference in the case for March 17 to discuss whether defense and prosecutors will be ready to go to trial March 28.

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