Legal Magazine

Sonny Reagan's Credibility Teeters as His Tune Changes About Alabama Prosecutor Matt Hart

Posted on the 30 September 2014 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

Sonny Reagan's credibility teeters as his tune changes about Alabama prosecutor Matt Hart

Matt Hart

Is Sonny Reagan to be believed when he complains about Special Prosecutor Matt Hart and a grand-jury investigation in Lee County, Alabama?
A reasonable person can read two letters Reagan recently wrote on the subject and conclude that the answer is no?
Why? Reagan's first letter, dated July 22, 2014 and addressed to Charla Doucet (chief administrator in the Alabama Attorney General's Office), portrays Hart as a blustery fellow but does not seem to claim that Hart is conducting his investigation in an unlawful manner.
Reagan's second letter is dated Sept. 22, 2014 and is addressed to AG Luther Strange. It was written after Reagan had been forced to testify before the grand jury and wound up invoking the Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate himself. It also was written after Acting AG Van Davis had accused Reagan of leaking grand-jury information and obstructing the investigation in other ways.
The second letter, in other words, was written after the water had begun to boil under Reagan's seat. And that meant Hart now was portrayed as a prosecutor who was acting outside the law, intentionally going after certain individuals rather than seeking to prosecute crimes. (This was a major theme, by the way, in the prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman. Republicans, at that time, didn't seem concerned that prosecutors would go after someone for personal and political reasons having nothing to do with criminal acts.)
Consider the language about Hart in Reagan's first letter. Reagan says Hart had informed him that House Speaker Mike Hubbard was "going down, along with the Riley machine" (led by former GOP governor Bob Riley).
We have only Reagan's word that Hart made such a statement. But even if Reagan's claim is true, it likely doesn't point to wrongdoing on Hart's part. It could simply be Hart's honest assessment of what will happen based on evidence he has seen presented to the grand jury.
The language in Reagan's second letter is much different. Now Reagan quotes Hart as saying he was "going after countless elected public officials and business leaders." Now, Hart is out to "politically ruin public officials."
That strongly suggests Matt Hart is going after specific people, rather than prosecuting crimes. It suggests Hart is a rogue, the kind of prosecutor who should not be tolerated in our justice system.
I've expressed my own concerns about Matt Hart, based on his actions as a federal prosecutor. But I have even deeper concerns about the Riley machine, which I believe has corrupted Alabama's political landscape to the point that the state still tramples the First Amendment and incarcerates journalists--the only state to do so in 2013, putting it alongside countries like Iran, China, and Turkey. Who sought to have a journalist incarcerated? Why it was Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley, the former governor's son.
If it takes a guy like Matt Hart to bring the Rileys to justice . . . well, he has my support.
As for Sonny Reagan, he is a former legal adviser to Bob Riley--and that clearly makes him part of the family machine. His changing tune about Matt Hart raises serious questions about Reagan's credibility. It also suggests the Riley family is feeling heat, and Reagan is trying to deflect attention away from them.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog