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- 07/31/13--14:55: _Dorothea Batiste Re...
- 08/01/13--03:07: _Judge Dorothea Bati...
- 08/01/13--08:31: _Penn State Leaders ...
- 08/05/13--03:24: _Lying Luther Strang...
- 08/06/13--03:10: _How Will Alabama's ...
- 08/06/13--09:39: _The Constitution's ...
- 08/07/13--03:08: _Purchase Of House I...
- 08/08/13--03:12: _Eleven Weeks After ...
- 08/12/13--03:17: _Jessica Garrison's ...
- 08/12/13--09:07: _The White House Fea...
- 08/13/13--03:20: _Jessica Garrison's ...
- 08/13/13--09:13: _Executive Who Helpe...
- 08/14/13--03:17: _Clanton Lawyer Angi...
- 08/15/13--03:10: _Federal Law Clerk H...
- 08/19/13--03:16: _Lawyer Doug Jones C...
- 08/20/13--03:18: _Jessica Medeiros Ga...
- 08/20/13--09:05: _Photograph Of Lee G...
- 08/21/13--03:22: _Has The Baxley Fami...
- 08/22/13--02:55: _Ex Aide To Luther S...
- 08/26/13--03:23: _Ala. Supreme Court ...
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) charged Batiste with making improper use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases, and she faced possible removal from the bench. But the Court of Judiciary ruled this afternoon that Batiste should be suspended from the bench for three months.
Retired Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell led the effort to file complaints against Batiste, and her lawyers argued that she was the victim of a vindictive prosecution because of Vowell's anger that she had filed a complaint against him with the Alabama Attorney General's Office.
We reported this morning that the case against Batiste was driven largely by her decision to do away with a special masters program in her court. That decision proved to be highly unpopular with a number of domestic-relations lawyers who are close to Vowell.
We will update the story as more information becomes available.
The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (AJIC) charged Batiste with making improper use of her contempt powers in domestic-relations cases, and she faced possible removal from the bench. But the Court of Judiciary ruled yesterday afternoon that Batiste should be suspended from the bench for three months.
"The court did find that she violated the Canons of Judicial Ethics, but they gave her far less punishment than what the JIC had argued for," Batiste's lawyer Julian McPhillips said. "The best they had offered us was a 10-month suspension, and she got three months and a reprimand, with no censure.
"We consider it at least a modest victory, against all odds--on a very uneven playing field."
Retired Presiding Judge J. Scott Vowell led the effort to file complaints against Batiste, and her lawyers argued that she was the victim of a vindictive prosecution because of Vowell's anger that she had filed a complaint against him with the Alabama Attorney General's Office.
We reported yesterday that the case against Batiste was driven largely by her decision to do away with a special masters program in her court. That decision proved to be highly unpopular with a number of domestic-relations lawyers who are close to Vowell.
JIC prosecutor Griffin Sikes argued yesterday that Batiste had deprived parties of due process because she had not given them notice or hearings in which they could defend themselves for failing to appear in court. From a report at al.com:
In its opinion this afternoon, the court agreed Batiste had violated due process. "Judge Batiste, the court finds that your conduct has demonstrated a cavalier disregard for the due-process rights of litigants and witnesses guaranteed by both the United States and Alabama constitutions," according to the court's ruling read by J. Michael Joiner, a member of the state criminal court of appeals who also sits as chief judge on the court of the judiciary. "Due process is one of our most basic rights and we find that the violations of these rights, as demonstrated by the evidence presented in this case, are serious."
Batiste's lawyers, however, said the court must have recognized that any improper rulings by Batiste were mild compared to flagrantly unlawful contempt findings issued by other Alabama judges.
One case that was raised in court documents involved Clanton resident Bonnie Cahalane, who was jailed for five months last year by Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds--even though black-letter Alabama law says a party cannot be subject to contempt and incarceration due to an alleged debt from dissolution of a marriage. Also, Cahalane's house has been ordered sold, even though the alleged sales agreement was reached with her under the duress of returning to jail, meaning the contract is void.
|Former Penn State President|
* Will the second trial prove the old adage that a coverup is worse than the original wrong?
* Will the area around Penn State come to grips with the fact that a corporate executive with a history as a child abuser has set up shop in the community, even as it continues to reel from the Sandusky fallout?
Ex Penn State president Graham Spanier and former administrators Gary Schultz and Tim Curley were ordered late Tuesday to stand trial on charges that they covered up their failure to tell police about an allegation that Sandusky molested a boy in a university locker room shower.
A district judge called it "a sad day for Penn State University," and a state prosecutor said the case is about "a conspiracy of silence." From a report at centredaily.com:
Perhaps the strongest pieces of evidence were email exchanges between Curley, Schultz and Spanier regarding the Sandusky shower incidents in May 1998 and February 2001. The prosecution offered testimony from whistle-blower Mike McQueary, a former university police chief and other employees.
Here is how Huffington Post summarized the criminal charges against the three former Penn State administrators:
The three were charged with perjury, obstruction, endangering the welfare of children, failure to properly report suspected abuse and conspiracy. Those charges include allegations of hiding evidence from investigators and lying to the grand jury.
How stressful has the Sandusky saga been on residents of State College, Pennsylvania? Testimony at this week's preliminary hearing showed that Spanier tried desperately to quit after the Sandusky allegations became public--but the board of trustees fired him first.
On top of that, news reports indicate almost anyone associated with Penn State is subject to background checks, as part of the university's efforts to avoid such scandals in the future. One report stated that more than 21,000 individuals have undergone such checks, with some losing their jobs for relatively minor infractions that happened years ago.
It's ironic, then, that Penn State has welcomed Campus Crest Communities, a private developer of student housing at more than 40 sites around the country. The company is set to open The Grove at State College this month, and it has purchased Copper Beech Townhome Communities, which is based in State College and was founded by Penn State donors Jack and Jeannette McWhirter.
|Ted Rollins (right) and|
Jack McWhirter at Penn State
Public records show that Rollins was convicted for assault on his 16-year-old stepson in Franklin County, North Carolina. (See documents at the end of this post.) He also was investigated for child sexual abuse, based on a complaint from an anonymous citizen.
That presents disturbing parallels to the Jerry Sandusky story, as we pointed out in a recent post:
The bottom line? A state investigation in North Carolina led to no action against Ted Rollins. No steps were taken to protect his apparent victim.
Residents of State College, PA, and supporters of Penn State should be familiar with that kind of story. Jerry Sandusky first was investigated for inappropriate conduct with a child in 1998, but nothing came of it. More than 13 years passed, with an untold number of additional victims, before Sandusky finally was held accountable.
The search for peace at Penn State continues in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It appears the community is not likely to find it anytime soon.
Based on a newspaper account of Strange's speech before an economic-development conference last week at Point Clear, the AG's parents might not have done as good a job as he thinks in the truth-telling department. That's because Strange's own words show he can't even be honest with himself.
Consider Strange's statements at the Economic Development Association of Alabama's summer conference in Point Clear. The subject of electronic bingo came up, which is not a surprise considering Strange's long-running crusade against VictoryLand, Center Stage, and other non-Indian gaming facilities in Alabama. Here is how al.com's Michael Tomberlin reported Strange's comments, from a section of the article that was available only in the print edition:
When asked why Indian casinos seem to operate with impunity, Strange said technically they fall outside his jurisdiction.
"Indian tribes are in a different category because they are a sovereign territory," he said, but added that it is his duty to ensure the law is applied evenly throughout the state.
Why did Strange file a lawsuit seeking to shut down Poarch Creek casinos when he admits that he has no authority over the tribal facilities? Actually, the Point Clear speech was not the first time Strange has admitted the Poarch Creek lawsuit is bogus. We addressed that in a March 25, 2013, post titled "Recent Letter Shows That Even AG Luther Strange Knows His Lawsuit Against Poarch Creeks Is A Sham." From that post:
According to a new report from Bob Martin of the Montgomery Independent, Strange wrote to lawyers for VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor just before raiding and closing the facility last month. Here, in part, is what Strange said:
"You likely are aware of the situation with regard to Class 2 gambling on Indian land. Federal law governs those facilities, and I do not have jurisdiction to enforce federal or state laws against them."
So now, we have Strange admitting twice that he has no grounds for the lawsuit against the Poarch Creeks, but he is using taxpayer dollars to pursue it anyway. Lawyers are subject to sanctions if they bring legal actions that they know are without merit.
A public official who takes unlawful actions because money or favors are being exchanged back stage--wasting tax dollars in the process--is subject to criminal prosecution. Luther Strange's actions are emitting the foul odor of bribery, conspiracy, mail/wire fraud, honest services fraud, and perhaps other federal crimes.
The situation with Luther Strange becomes even more alarming when you realize his unlawful actions are not limited to the Poarch Creeks. Any first-year law student should know that electronic bingo is legal under the Alabama Constitution in Macon and Houston counties, and the Constitution trumps state statute, meaning Strange's raids there are not supported by law.
So we have an attorney general filing a sham lawsuit against the Poarch Creek tribe and conducting illegal raids against VictoryLand and Center Stage. A semi-serious investigation probably would show Luther Strange has an improper motive for taking these actions, and
that would point to criminal activity.
Many Alabamians of good will disagree on the merits of gambling in our state--and many others don't care much, one way or another. But the fact that our chief law-enforcement officer might himself be a criminal . . . well, that should be a concern to all of us.
|Ted Rollins (right), with|
Penn State booster Jack McWhirter
How will Crimson Tide nation take to a corporate executive who is entering their environs with a documented history as a child abuser? How will that square with UA's notion of family values?
We are about to find out because Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities is seeking approval to build a student-housing complex near the University of Alabama campus. It will be known as The Grove at Tuscaloosa, and the 228-unit complex is planned for Fifth Street Northeast, at the site of the former Riverview Water Treatment plant.
Ted Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest Communities, has been the topic of frequent reports here at Legal Schnauzer, mainly because of his central role in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, which reached a conclusion in Shelby County, Alabama, even though it had been originally filed in Greenville, South Carolina (the proper jurisdiction), and litigated there for three years.
We have called Rollins v. Rollins the most grossly unjust outcome we've encountered in a civil court case. The judgment in Shelby County was so unlawful and one-sided that it left ex wife Sherry Carroll Rollins and the couple's two daughters (Sarah and Emma Rollins) on and off food stamps at their Birmingham residence. Meanwhile, Ted Rollins owns three private jets, and his company has received roughly $800 million in Wall Street support.
On top of that, Ted Rollins comes from one of the nation's wealthiest families--the folks behind Rollins Inc. (the umbrella company for Orkin Pest Control and RPC Inc.), plus Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment and Rollins Jamaica Ltd.
How did Ted Rollins manage to pull off a monstrous cheat job against his ex wife and daughters in an Alabama courtroom? Public records suggest he did it with assistance from his corporate law firm, the highly influential Bradley Arant in downtown Birmingham.
If The Grove becomes a reality in Tuscaloosa--and it almost certainly will--UA students who rent apartments there had best beware. If they have a dispute with the property's owners, Ted Rollins has a documented history of bludgeoning his opponents--and receiving flagrantly unlawful favors--in Alabama courtrooms.
But that's not all. Ted Rollins also has a history of treating young people like punching bags--and we mean that quite literally. (See documents at the end of this post.)
Public records show that Rollins was convicted for assault on his 16-year-old stepson in Franklin County, North Carolina. Under North Carolina law, the beating met the definition of child abuse, although Rollins was not prosecuted for that. Here are a couple of posts where we have covered that issue:
Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins Has A Conviction For Assault In His Background (May 2, 2012)
How Was Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins Convicted Of "Simple Assault" In North Carolina? (May 10, 2012)
Ted Rollins' ugliness toward young people does not end there. He also was investigated for child sexual abuse of the same stepson, based on a complaint from an anonymous citizen. We covered that in the following posts:
Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins Was Investigated For The Sexual Abuse Of His Stepson (September 12, 2012)
Towels Soiled With Feces Point To Child Sexual Abuse Involving CEO Ted Rollins (September 13, 2012)
Ted Rollins has proven that he is a brazen fellow. The Grove at State College is scheduled to open this month in central Pennsylvania. Campus Crest will be marketing the facility to students at Penn State, home to the still-unfolding Jerry Sandusky child-abuse scandal. We have yet to see any signs that Penn State supporters are concerned that a company led by a child abuser intends to make money off the university's students and their parents. That's probably because the Penn State community remains in the dark, for now, about Ted Rollins and the ugliness in his background.
University of Alabama supporters should not be able to claim ignorance. After all, Rollins has deep ties to our state. He already has student-housing complexes at four Alabama institutions--South Alabama, Troy, Jacksonville State, and Auburn. The gross corruption in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case should be apparent to anyone who cares to check public court files in Alabama. Plus, a number of Ted Rollins' victims live in our state--and that includes his ex wife and two daughters, plus the stepson (Zac Parrish) Rollins abused on multiple occasions. Parrish, now in his early 30s, works as a residential-construction contractor in the Birmingham area.
Will the University of Alabama and its Crimson Tide nation sit quietly while Ted Rollins operates under their noses? Perhaps we will learn more when Campus Crest goes before the Tuscaloosa City Council on a rezoning request.
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|Center Stage Alabama|
Electronic bingo is legal at Center Stage, and every lawyer in the Houston County Courthouse should know it. That means Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and his agents acted unlawfully when they raided the facility last July, taking 691 machines and $283,000 in cash. That means the forfeiture hearing, now in its second full day, should have been over in about five minutes--with property returned to Center Stage, and Strange referred to the U.S. Justice Department for investigation.
How can we say that with certainty? It's because of a simple provision of law that holds in Alabama--and probably all 50 states. It's the kind of common-sense holding that would-be lawyers probably learn in the first week of law school. But Luther Strange ignores it as he wastes taxpayer dollars on a crusade that is not grounded in law. For that matter, former governor Bob Riley did the same thing when he launched his anti-gambling task force in December 2008.
What is the principal that should be guiding the forfeiture hearing in Dothan? Here is the simple version: The constitution trumps a state statute.
Another way to look at it: When the constitution and a statute appear to be at odds, the constitution prevails.
Houston County Circuit Judge Michael Conaway has to know that; it's unlikely that anyone could pass a bar exam without knowing that. So why has Conaway allowed the forfeiture hearing to drag into a second day? Our best guess is that Bob Riley appointed Conaway to the bench, so the judge now is part of a high-level conspiracy to convince Alabamians there is a controversy about electronic bingo in Alabama.
No such controversy exists, at least not in Houston County, home to Center Stage, and Macon County, home to VictoryLand. And yet, Luther Strange has directed raids at both facilities.
How does Strange get away with it? Well, he is a pro-corporate Republican of the sort favored by Alabama's white elites--and such GOPers also are supported at the polls by many middle-class whites who inexplicably vote against their own economic interests.
But it doesn't end there. Our appellate courts are 100-percent controlled by such Republicans. Our corporate-owned mainstream press is not about to wake up and inform Alabamians that Bob Riley and Luther Strange have poured millions of taxpayer dollars down a sinkhole. And the Obama Justice Department, so far, has shown that it doesn't have the spine to take on corruption that started under George W. Bush, especially in a deep-red state that Democrats aren't likely to win any time soon.
We haven't studied all of the constitutional amendments that allow electronic bingo in various Alabama counties. But Amendment 569, Bingo Games in Houston County, is easy to understand. So is Amendment 744, Bingo Games in Macon County. Here is the primary difference between them: In Houston County, the county commission is charged with promulgating rules and regulations on bingo; in Macon County, that duty falls to the sheriff.
Either way, the Alabama Constitution provides no role for the attorney general if the regulating authorities determine bingo is legal in a particular county.
So why the controversy? Well, there isn't one--under the law. Luther Strange and Bob Riley, it appears, have a political interest in creating a phony controversy. That's probably because it will benefit the Indian gaming entities who have backed them financially.
Dothan-based rickeystokesnews.com is providing up-to-the minute reports from the Houston County Courthouse, and the proceeding sounds like a replay of the hearing earlier this year over a liquor license for the VictoryLand casino.
Various agents for Luther Strange have paraded to the stand to testify that, in their opinion, the Center Stage equipment amounts to slot machines that are illegal by Alabama statute. Here is an example of the issues at hand, from a live report at rickeystokesnews, focusing on an exchange between AG attorney Sonny Reagan and agent Gene Sisson:
Reagan is still questioning Agent Sisson. States Exhibit 6. Reagan asks Sisson to identify a game that is being played. Lucky Star System. Agent Sisson’s hand.
The Lucky Star System is not that much different than any other game we have looked at. Sisson’s recollection is that you purchase the ticket from the Mega window. He can’t recall if there was a Lucky Star window or not. It was a new game.
Agent Sisson is describing the screen. Reagan is asking if this system played in the same fashion as the other game. Sisson says yes and that there are also time restraints on the game like the other games.
That's all interesting, but if the Houston County Commission finds the machines constitute a form of bingo, they are legal. The Alabama Constitution, as approved by voters in Amendment 569, says so.
A simple check of Alabama case law makes it clear. We provided evidence in a post earlier this year about VictoryLand and its owner, Milton McGregor:
Perhaps McGregor's strongest argument, however, comes from a simple legal concept that is spelled out across Alabama state law. Here is one way to put it: If a conflict exists between a state statute and a constitutional amendment, the Alabama Supreme Court has held that the constitutional amendment controls and takes precedence over the statute.
In other words, the constitution trumps a statute. And a case styled Chorba-Lee Scholarship Fund Inc., et al v. Sheriff Mike Hale, et al, 60 So. 3d 279 (2010) is one of many cases that spell it out:
"Undeniably, the legislature cannot enact a statute that conflicts with the Constitution, that is, that prohibits that which is permitted by the Constitution or that permits that which is prohibited by the Constitution.'" Opinion of the Justices No. 373, 795 So.2d 630, 632 (Ala.2001) (quoting City of Birmingham v. Graffeo, 551 So.2d 357, 361-62 (Ala. 1989)).
Law does not get much more simple than this, and we've provided links to the case law that proves our fundamental point: The constitution trumps a state statute--and that means bingo is legal in Houston County and Macon County.
Why, then, are a bunch of attorneys and law-enforcement agents engaged in a charade at the Houston County Courthouse? What has been driving Bob Riley and Luther Strange to declare that lawful bingo operations are illegal?
Alabamians should be taking a hard look at those questions.
|Luther Strange and|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison
Strange and Garrison have engaged in a long-running extramarital affair that calls into question any moral authority he might claim as Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer. But a roundabout real-estate transaction in Crestline, a fashionable section of Alabama's priciest suburb, turns the spotlight off sex and onto another great motivator--money.
The house, at 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook, is in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in the Birmingham metro area. The house is not huge--property records show it has 2,213 square feet, but it has plenty of what real-estate agents call "curb appeal." That, plus its setting in the prestigious Mountain Brook School System, lift its appraised value to $439,900.
That kind of payment will get you a veritable mansion in some parts of Alabama. But in Crestline, it gets you a "cute cottage"--and that's what Jessica Medeiros Garrison has.
How did this house come to be a factor on the Alabama political scene? Follow me on a brief journey of courtroom and real-estate intrigue:
After Jessica M. Garrison divorced Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison in 2009, she managed Luther Strange's successful 2010 campaign for attorney general. She then planned to move with her son, Michael Lee Garrison (date of birth, 3/27/07), to Montgomery in order to take a job as chief counsel and deputy attorney general in Strange's office.
Lee Garrison objected to the move, citing the Alabama Relocation Act, which places limits on moves of more than 60 miles. (See Motion for Partial Summary Judgment at the end of this post.) A custody battle ensued, and it was not settled until Jessica Garrison gave up her post with the attorney general's office and found employment in Birmingham with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and the Balch Bingham law firm. (See Amended Motion for Emergency Hearing and Order on Custody at the end of this post.)
Jessica Garrison's purchase of the house in Crestline proved to be crucial in the custody case. From court documents:
The parties were divorced . . . on October 21, 2009 . . . [and] the parties have joint legal and physical custody of their minor child. . . . The Plaintiff (hereinafter "Mother") initially petitioned this court on December 9, 2010, for full custody of the minor child due to a material change in circumstances, and included in her petition notification of an anticipated relocation. The Defendant (hereinafter "Father") responded, objecting to the proposed relocation, and counter-petitioned for a modification of custody. The Mother was able to secure alternate employment that did not require her to move more than sixty (60) miles from the residence of the Father, and she amended her Petition for Modification of Custody accordingly. The Mother's new address is 119 Main Street, Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Father's address remains 1609 Alaca Place, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Was Jessica Garrison cutting it close, under the law? Yes, she was. From the document:
The straight line measure between the two residences is 50.9 miles. . . . The shortest distance between these two locations as practically measured by a vehicle odometer is confirmed to be less than sixty miles. . . .
Records suggest that Jessica Garrison needed to not only find a house in the Birmingham area, but it had to be in the right part of the metro area. Many locations would have been well outside the 60-mile distance from her ex husband's residence in Tuscaloosa.
The ability to find and purchase a house in the heart of Crestline proved to be fortuitous to Jessica Garrison--and probably to her mentor and close personal friend, Luther Strange.
Why do we refer to the purchase as "curious." Well, when you examine certain documents closely, you notice a peculiar sales price, some dates that don't add up, and other unusual circumstances.
And speaking of money, it appears there were financial winners and financial losers in this transaction--with political power brokers perhaps pushing matters in a direction that was favorable to them.
We will take a closer look at all of this in upcoming posts.
(To be continued)
|UAB nurse Shawn Henson|
Rollins emerged from the wreck with no visible injuries, but she has reported periodic pain in different areas that range pretty much from head to toe. Her situation is complicated by two factors: (1) The vehicle was not in her name but in the name of her ex husband, Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins; (2) She has no health insurance, thanks largely to the cheat job she received in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, over which Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson unlawfully presided.
How is Sherry Rollins doing now, almost 11 weeks after the wreck happened on May 24? Well, she probably is not doing nearly as well as Shawn Taylor Henson, the 23-year-old UAB nurse who hit her. In a May 28 post on his Facebook page, Henson features a picture of a red truck that he is driving while his Acura is being repaired from crashing into the rear of Sherry Rollins' Subaru.
Meanwhile, Ms. Rollins has no vehicle. She has no way to drive her daughter, Emma, to school when it starts in a few days. They recently had to take a taxi cab for Emma to get shots and a checkup for the school year. Also, Sherry Rollins still has not received a thorough medical checkup, and she has no idea about the kind of physical toll the wreck might have taken on her. She did visit St. Vincent's emergency room, but received only a limited exam when she reported being uninsured.
And get this: Ted Rollins reportedly received about $9,000 in insurance money for the Subaru, but he has chosen to pocket it rather than apply it toward a new vehicle for his daughter and ex wife. This from a man who, at last report, owns three private jets and is CEO of a company that has received about $800 million in Wall Street support since late 2010.
As for the wreck itself, there is no question about who was at fault. This is from a May 28 post on Shawn Henson's Facebook page:
For those of you who are unaware, I was in an accident Friday night. I've always been a safe driver, and this experience has definitely shown me that even looking down for a SECOND can be too long. So, this red truck shall be my ride until the Acura is fixed. Very thankful that the car was all that was damaged.
A friend wrote, "AGAIN?!?! Didn't you just get hit back a few days ago?" Henson responded with this:
Yes. Last time, someone else hit me in the parking lot. This one was on me.
Shawn Henson admits he was at fault, but he apparently is fine and has had a vehicle to drive all this time. Sherry Rollins has not even had a genuine medical exam to determine if she is fine, and she has been without a vehicle for almost 11 weeks--plus, she has no way to get her 15-year-old daughter to school in a few days.
Is that a just outcome?
The alert reader might ask, "Can't Sherry Rollins get a lawyer to help her?" Well, she's been to at least three--James Beaird in Jasper, David Wininger in downtown Birmingham, and Gusty Yearout in Mountain Brook. All three have more or less shrugged their shoulders and indicated they couldn't do much. None of them offered a strategy for addressing Ms. Rollins' two most immediate needs--getting a thorough medical checkup and obtaining a replacement vehicle.
Shouldn't Shawn Henson's insurer be responsible for filling those needs, not to mention paying any damages that might be proven with an investigation of the crash? I don't pretend to be an expert on personal-injury law, but I would think that a semi competent lawyer in these circumstances should be able to ensure that (1) Sherry Rollins gets seen by a doctor; (2) She gets a replacement vehicle in a prompt fashion; (3) The crash is investigated to determine what (or who) might have contributed to Shawn Henson's reckless driving.
Beaird, Wininger, and Yearout are experienced personal-injury lawyers, well known in the profession. But not one of them even hinted to Sherry Rollins that they could help her with any of the three issues noted above.
Ted Rollins already has demonstrated that, with the apparent help of his corporate law firm (Birmingham's Bradley Arant), he can manipulate a divorce case in Shelby County, Alabama. Are the same forces powerful enough to ensure that the area legal tribe turns its back on Sherry Rollins in a personal-injury matter? A reasonable person might ask that question.
In our June 10 post on the wreck, we noted several oddities, based on information in the accident report and from Sherry Rollins. (See accident report at the end of this post.)
* Was the UAB nurse driving without lights at 8:05 p.m.?
* How could the UAB nurse have caught up to a vehicle driving 45 mph and inflicted that much damage while driving 50 mph?
* How do you accidentally hit a vehicle that hard when it is moving in front of you, when it has not braked? Did the nurse's air bags deploy before impact or upon impact?
* Why did the St. Vincent's ER physician say it sounded like possibly the strangest wreck he had ever heard about?
That last question might be the most interesting one of all. This came from Dr. John Ammon, a veteran ER doc who probably has treated thousands of wreck victims. The story Sherry Rollins told him--that she was driving about 45 mph and still got mashed in the rear by a vehicle supposedly driving 50--reportedly left him baffled.
Wouldn't it be interesting to interview Dr. Ammon? Wouldn't it be enlightening to look into Shawn Henson's background, at his phone and e-mail records, at his trip to Atlanta just before the crash, and his apparent taste for sporty, luxury cars (per his Facebook page, which by the way, no longer includes posts about the Atlanta trip; they seem to have vanished.) Who was Shawn Henson visiting in the tony Buckhead section of Atlanta, anyway?
Is it possible that someone with much deeper pockets than Shawn Henson's orchestrated this crash and should be held accountable? Is it possible that person has connections to Atlanta, home to Orkin Pest Control and its umbrella company, Rollins Inc.?
Shouldn't a semi-motivated personal-injury lawyer be willing to ask such questions, especially with a possible major payday hanging in the balance? Why do Birmingham lawyers, so far, show not the slightest inquisitiveness about the crash that has upended Sherry Rollins' life?
|Jessica M. Garrison, with Bill Pryor|
and Jeff Sessions
We are talking about U.S. Circuit Judge William H. "Bill" Pryor, who entered the spotlight in 2003 when he became President George W. Bush's controversial nominee to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Pryor drew such strong opposition from Democrats, primarily because of his stance against abortion rights, that Bush was forced to make a recess appointment in February 2004. Among the issues at Pryor's confirmation hearing was his decision to schedule a family vacation to Disney World so as not to coincide with the park's "Gay Days" festivities.
Pryor's national profile recently became even stronger when President Obama inexplicably appointed him to a six-year term on the U.S. Sentencing Commission. By statute, the commission must be bipartisan, and at least three of its members must be federal judges. But of all the federal judges in the country, including Republican appointees from Democratic-leaning states, why would Obama choose Bill Pryor? Was it a favor to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a long-time Pryor supporter?
In a recent newspaper interview, Jessica Garrison lists Bill Pryor as her "real-life hero" and calls him a "mentor" who has given her invaluable advice "since I was in college." (More on that interview in an upcoming post.) The relationship apparently started when Garrison worked as an intern in the attorney general's office under Sessions, and Pryor was one of his chief deputies. When Pryor ascended to the AG's position, Garrison worked for him in public relations and legislative affairs.
Many Alabamians probably assume that Pryor is based in Atlanta, home to the Eleventh Circuit. But he lives in Birmingham and is based at the Hugo Black U.S. Courthouse downtown, where he has an office on the sixth floor.
Pryor's profile, however, extends beyond the courthouse door. He is involved with a Birmingham-based ministry that has connections to the downtown law firm where Garrison serves in an "of counsel" position. And Pryor started the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which now is Garrison's primary employer.
That raises this question: Has Bill Pryor been involved in the maneuvering that apparently started with the Strange/Garrison affair, her divorce from Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison, and her effort to modify their custody agreement so she could take a job under Strange at the attorney general's office? More specifically, has Pryor been involved in the curious financial payments and peculiar real-estate transactions that are central to the Strange/Garrison saga?
Pryor is known as "the Johnny Appleseed" of the Federalist Society, the ultra-conservative legal group for which he started chapters in New Orleans and Birmingham. He also is known as a deeply religious sort who wears his Catholic faith for all to see.
If Bill Pryor is such a moral guy, why would he come anywhere near the mess that Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison have created? Besides that, what kind of mentor is Bill Pryor if one of his acolytes becomes ensnared in a scandal that involves an extramarital affair and other ugliness?
What about Pryor's ties to a Birmingham "ministry"--and why would he be involved in such an organization, given that he is a federal judge in a democracy that supposedly is based, in part, on a separation of church and state?
The Web site for the Fixed Point Foundation states that its mission is "to seek innovative ways to defend and proclaim the Gospel and to prepare Christians to do the same." Prominent among Fixed Point's speakers is Bill Pryor, and he has served as a debate moderator for the foundation.
Fixed Point's staff includes Will Hill Tankersley, a partner at Birmingham's Balch Bingham, as outside general counsel. The Balch firm happens to be where Jessica Garrison landed an "of counsel" position after having to give up her position in the attorney general's office in order to resolve a custody dispute.
To add to the intrigue, Garrison's primary job is with RAGA, which is an affiliate of the D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). As we noted in a previous post, Luther Strange has a habit of using RSLC as more or less a money-laundering organization:
We know that Strange takes hypocrisy on gambling issues to monumental dimensions. After all, this is the guy who has tried to shut down non-Indian gaming facilities, such as VictoryLand in Macon County and Center Stage Alabama in Houston County, while taking a $100,000 campaign contribution from the Poarch Creek casinos. This also is the guy who used the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to help obscure the donation via a PAC-to-PAC transfer.
Federal judges have lifetime appointments, so the public and the press tend to think they are above scrutiny. But perhaps it's time to shine a spotlight on Bill Pryor's ties to the Luther Strange/Jessica Garrison mess.
In the meantime, here is Bill Pryor speaking at a 2007 Federalist Society symposium on morality and the law:
President Obama fears an assassination attempt if his administration tries to prosecute apparent crimes from the George W. Bush terms, according to a new book by a veteran Washington, D.C., lawyer and journalist.
In fact, the president's security plan has been significantly enhanced for 2013, reports Andrew Kreig in Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney, and Their Masters. Obama's dismal performance in the first presidential debate against Republican nominee Mitt Romney might have been driven in part, Kreig writes, by a report from military aides earlier that day of a plot against the president.
Released in paperback on July 26, Presidential Puppetry is the first book to encompass the Obama second term and one of the first to examine the 2012 elections.
Kreig's primary thesis is that elites from both political parties have failed everyday Americans on the economy, privacy, civil rights, national security, and a host of other fundamental issues that are supposed to under gird our democracy. Kreig reports that voting machines controlled by private entities put our election integrity at risk. And he shows that neither party has the fortitude to fix a justice system that has gone wildly off track, perhaps most famously in the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Concerns about Obama's safety first made national news in fall 2011 when top advisor Christopher Edley Jr. said the transition team preparing the Obama administration in 2009 feared a "revolt" if they tried to prosecute Bush-era law breaking. Edley, dean of the University of California law school, did not state what form a revolt might take. But Kreig writes in Presidential Puppetry:
The context of his comments suggested their fear that senior defense and national security officials and their outside patrons might undertake violent reprisal in some fashion.
History tells us that any hint at assassination must be taken seriously, Kreig writes:
We cannot ignore the physical attacks on United States leaders in modern times as an additional factor in explaining Obama's behavior. Official inquiries after the attacks almost always determined that crazed assassins and would-be assassins acted entirely on their own to commit the crimes. Most of us are far too busy to research, much less dispute, these official findings.
What is the real-world impact of security concerns surrounding the president? One example came in the first presidential debate against Romney in fall 2012, when Obama performed as if he was on a powerful anesthetic. Writes Kreig:
Obama's debate performance was so beneath his abilities that former Senate counsel, [Joe] Biden aide, and retired judge Lillian McEwen suggested to me shortly after the debate that the president seemed like a man dazed from a sudden threat upon his life. Her observation was prescient. A reliable source with strong national intelligence and political ties later told me that on the day of the debate, Obama was informed by military aides of a plot against him and the country. Such a plot would be one of the darkest chapters in American history, rivaling Aaron Burr's empire building schemes of yore.
Kreig is scheduled to discuss Presidential Puppetry at events in Alabama on August 22.
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|Jessica Garrison, in|
Abigail Adams attire
This is not a joke, folks; it's in the Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ), where Garrison was named one of the paper's "Top 40 Under 40" for 2013.
We can't decide which is more bizarre . . . that Garrison believes Luther Strange will become president of the United States--or that she seems to think the way to Melissa Strange's heart is by having an affair with her husband.
We've already established that Garrison has engaged in a long-running affair with Luther Strange, for whom she served as campaign manager in 2010. We've also established that Luther Strange has directed a steady flow of cash to a holding company owned by Garrison. And she has wound up living in a Mountain Brook home appraised at more than $400,000, in a transaction that includes all sorts of peculiarities.
Now, the BBJ article provides some of the darnedest reading we've seen in a while. First, we learn that Garrison's historical hero is Abigail Adams, and Garrison is dressed for her photograph in what appears to be period clothing.
When asked for her real-life hero, Garrison provides this answer:
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Bill Pryor. He has given me invaluable opportunities and advice since I was in college. We remain good friends today and I continue to enjoy the often-colorful counsel from my mentor.
We learn about Garrison's views on key policy issues:
What’s a hot topic in your industry? Federalism and federal overreach which includes issues such as the Dodd-Frank Act and the appropriate level of regulation of financial markets, the state versus federal role in consumer protection and unconstitutional mandates.
Does Garrison keep up with the news? In an era of historic financial corruption, she apparently thinks the answer is less federal oversight, not more. Well, now we know she's a true Federalist Society believer, which isn't surprising since she is buds with Bill Pryor.
The "money" question and reply come here:
Your ultimate career goal? Chief of staff to First Lady Melissa Strange when Attorney General Luther Strange is president.
We go on to learn that Garrison's guilty pleasures are "wine, dark chocolate, and sheep's milk cheeses." Her favorite spot on the planet is "Katama Airfield in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard." (A Republican likes Martha's Vineyard? I didn't think that was allowed.)
My main question is this: How did the interviewer keep a straight face after receiving that answer about Luther Strange in the White House?
|Mike Hartnett and Ted Rollins, when|
Campus Crest was founded in 2004
Mike Hartnett, chief investment officer and co-chairman of the board, is beginning a gradual process to step away from the company, Yahoo! Finance reports. Hartnett and Rollins co-founded Campus Crest in 2004, and it has developed some 40 student-housing complexes near public universities around the country.
The news has special significance at Legal Schnauzer for two reasons: (1) Campus Crest has properties near four universities in our state (South Alabama, Troy, Jacksonville State, and Auburn), with plans to build one in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama; (2) Ted Rollins played a central role in Rollins v. Rollins, a divorce case unlawfully decided in Shelby County and described here as the worst courtroom cheat job we've encountered in the civil arena.
Here is how Yahoo! Finance describes Hartnett's plans:
On August 5, 2013, Campus Crest Communities, Inc. (the "Company") and Michael S. Hartnett, Chief Investment Officer and Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors, entered into an Amended and Restated Employment Agreement (the "Amended and Restated Employment Agreement"). Pursuant to the Amended and Restated Employment Agreement, Mr. Hartnett will relinquish the title and role of Chief Investment Officer and Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors on October 19, 2013. Effective October 19, 2013, Mr. Hartnett will commence a three year term of employment during which he will serve as the Company's Vice-Chairman, Special Projects. Mr. Hartnett will remain on the Board of Directors through the expiration of his current term and will not stand for re-election to the Board of Directors at the 2014 annual meeting of the Company's stockholders.
What does Mike Hartnett's exit mean? The answer to that question remains unclear, but our Campus Crest-connected sources in Alabama were shocked by the news. One of those sources is Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins, who was married to Ted Rollins when the company started. She says Hartnett was more or less the conscience of the company, and his departure almost certainly is a sign of conflict and upheaval.
Campus Crest seems to have a solid bottom line, and it recently announced plans to dip a toe in international waters, with plans for a student-housing complex in Montreal. But the company continues to be plagued with complaints about shoddy construction, faulty utilities, and other operational problems. (Here is an example from the student newspaper at the University of Northern Colorado.)
Rollins recently entered the market in State College, Pennsylvania, home to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State. That was a curious choice, given Rollins own documented ties to the physical abuse of his stepson, plus an investigation for child sexual abuse of the same stepson, based on a complaint from an anonymous citizen in North Carolina.
The choice becomes even more odd, based on recent press reports in Central Pennsylvania that some 21,000 individuals associated with Penn State have been subjected to background checks in the wake of the Sandusky scandal--and that process is ongoing. Will Ted Rollins be the target of a background check, and if so, will he pass it? Not if it's done by someone with even a sliver of competence.
Is Mike Hartnett distancing himself from some of the problems bubbling beneath the surface at Campus Crest Communities. Sherry Rollins, in an e-mail to us, says the answer probably is yes:
If Mike Hartnett is getting out, it is because, as I have often suspected, he has a conscience. He has one daughter (graduated SMU) and a nice wife, Terry. I would imagine he would rather stay home and spend his fortune slowly and carefully than continue with the tomfoolery of Ted Rollins. And I suspect he might be concerned about his reputation. . . . Mike was reared by caring , nice parents in Maine. He is not from the same background as Ted--and it's good that he isn't. Something must have really [conflicted with] his morals.
|Angie Avery and Jamie Collins|
"You know she's f----g Shane Mayfield," James Thomas "Jamie" Collins is quoted as saying in an incident report filed December 14, 2012. (See report at the end of this post.)
Angie Collins has been the attorney of record for Clanton resident Bonnie Cahalane, who unlawfully was incarcerated for more than five months last year in the fallout from a divorce case styled Wyatt v. Wyatt. Collins also served as counsel when Cahalane's house unlawfully was sold, based on the orders of Chilton County Circuit Judge Sibley Reynolds.
Court records show that Collins did pretty much nothing to protect her client's personal or property rights. Is that because Collins is in a vulnerable position with her own divorce case and must gain favor with the judicial establishment in an effort to help her cause?
The answer appears to be yes. Records also suggest Angie Collins has filed a number of incident reports against her estranged husband that might be of questionable merit.
Why do we say that? Consider this timeline: Angie Collins filed for divorce on September 11, 2012, and Jamie Collins responded with a counterclaim for divorce on Sept. 28. The case originally was assigned to Reynolds, but upon Jamie Collins' motion, it was assigned to Talladega County Judge George N. Sims.
As the case moved into the discovery stage, Angie Collins apparently was slow providing responses, so Jamie Collins filed a motion to compel on December 7. One week later, Angie Collins filed a Petition for Protection from Abuse (PFA).
As grounds for the petition, she cited an incident where she let Jamie Collins into her residence and said he grabbed both of her breasts before leaving. On another occasion, she said they got into a verbal altercation, and he grabbed her right arm, spinning her around, before leaving. (See documents at the end of this post.)
Such incidents can be signs of legitimate abuse. But given that Angie Collins' petition came after her estranged husband pushed for discovery responses, a reasonable person might wonder if the PFA was filed in retaliation for the motion to compel.
Central to Angie Collins' allegations of abuse was an incident at the Chilton County Courthouse at 11:10 a.m. on December 14. A report from Officer John Beutler says Jamie Collins entered Courtroom No. 1 on that date and began speaking loudly in the direction of Angie Collins, who apparently was there in her representation of a client. From the report:
He was making statements to Ms. Collins about Christmas arrangements concerning their children. Ms. Collins replied that she was not going to discuss the matter with him in the courtroom. I, Officer John Beutler, approached Mr. Collins and advised him to leave the courtroom. I escorted Mr. Collins to the hallway and asked him to calm down. Mr. Collins then made the statement, "You know she's f----g Shane Mayfield. All I want is an answer to my question."
I advised Mr. Collins to sit on the bench while I went to ask for a response from Ms. Collins. Ms Collins advised me to tell Mr. Collins to consult his attorney. I and Officer Jeff Harrell approached Mr. Collins and told him to see his attorney about the matter and to leave the building. Mr. Collins complied and left the building.
Where does that leave us. Public documents show that Bonnie Cahalane has been treated unlawfully and abusively by a Chilton County "justice system" that is wildly corrupt. Judges like Sibley Reynolds primarily are to blame for that. But we now know that Ms. Cahalane's own attorney has done her no favors--and that probably is because Angie Collins has major legal headaches of her own.
A federal law clerk who reacted rudely when confronted with a conflict of interest in my wife's ongoing employment lawsuit against Infinity Insurance did not just lose his cool once. He did it twice.
David Waters Jr., who clerks for U.S. Magistrate T. Michael Putnam in the Northern District of Alabama, ended our first conversation by saying, "This conversation is over" and hanging up on me. I called back, mainly to ask Waters why he acted with such rudeness toward a citizen whose tax dollars help fund his job, his court, and the plush building in which he works.
Why did my query get under Waters' skin? Because I was confronting him with evidence that he and Putnam have a clear conflict of interest in a case styled Carol Shuler v. Infinity Property & Casualty et al (2:11-cv-03443-TMP). That's the case where my wife--we know her here as Mrs. Schnauzer--is suing her former employer for discrimination, wrongful termination, and other torts.
It turns out that people who work in federal courthouses--even the clerks--don't much like being challenged. That came through loud and clear in both of my conversations with David Waters.
What is the basis for the conflict of interest? Waters, a 2010 graduate of the University of Alabama law school, happens to be the son of Michael David Waters Sr., a partner in the Birmingham office of the national Jones Walker law firm. Kary Bryant Wolfe, one of Waters Sr.'s associates at Jones Walker, is representing Birmingham debt-collection attorney Angie Ingram, one of the primary defendants in my wife's case.
Translation: The son of a Jones Walker lawyer serves as clerk for the judge in a case that features a defendant that Jones Walker represents. Conflicts of interest in the law don't get much more glaring than that.
When I called David Waters back, he said he hung up on me because I was making "unfounded accusations that have no basis in reality." But the accusations weren't unfounded. In fact, they weren't accusations at all . . . they were statements of fact. David Waters' father does work at Jones Walker, one of his father's colleagues (Kary Bryant Wolfe) represents a defendant (debt-collection lawyer Angie Ingram) in my wife's lawsuit, and Waters Jr.'s boss (Judge Putnam) is presiding over the case.
Waters Jr. confirmed some of that and could not deny any of it. After all, it's a matter of public record. So what did he do? He tried to claim there was no actual conflict, that--in spite of how it might appear--my wife's case was being handled with the utmost fairness and transparency.
That, of course, is rubbish. Whether my wife actually is being cheated is beside the point--and as someone with a law degree, Waters Jr. should know that. Under 28 U.S. Code 455, a federal judge or magistrate must disqualify himself "in any proceeding where his impartiality might reasonably be questioned." A person with three functioning brain cells not only "might reasonably question" Putnam's impartiality, he definitely would question it. That means it was Putnam's duty to disclose the conflict and step down from the case at the outset. It should not have been an issue that my wife or I had to point out.
Aside from the legal technicalities, the case presents plenty of evidence that my wife actually is being cheated in the case. A number of key defendants--especially Infinity, American Express, debt-collection firm NCO, and its lawyer, Laura Nettles--remain in the case, and discovery is moving forward on them.
But Angie Ingram was dismissed on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, even though she attached voluminous "matters outside the pleadings" with her document--and that means it must be treated as a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, and she is subject to discovery. In other words, Ingram unlawfully was dismissed from the case at this juncture. Perhaps it will be proper to dismiss her at summary judgment, after discovery has been conducted, but her exit now is premature, under the law.
A reasonable observer might ask: Was Angie Ingram improperly dismissed only because she is represented by Jones Walker--and the son of a Jones Walker partner works for the judge on the case? This obviously is a compelling question for Mrs. Schnauzer, but it also should be of interest to defendants who were not unlawfully dismissed. If I'm in their shoes, I am asking, "Hey, why is Angie Ingram getting special treatment?"
Near the beginning of our second conversation, Waters Jr. claims my concerns are "not material." Toward the end of the conversation, when I have made it clear to him that my concerns are material and that Judge Putnam is acting outside the law, I hear those familiar words . . .
"This conversation is over."
And then . . . click.
What did Siegelman get for that hefty expense? The answer appears to be, "Not a whole lot." Jones did not take the case to trial, withdrawing from the matter in spring 2006. Based on his testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in fall 2007, Jones attended two meetings with prosecutors, had one substantive phone call with a prosecutor and . . . that's about it. (See document at the end of this post.)
Jones was on the case for roughly three years, attended a couple of meetings, engaged in one phone conversation, and charged Siegelman $300,000? Perhaps Jones did more than that to earn his fee, but when we first tried to ask him about it, he refused to answer questions. (See video at the end of this post. In a subsequent interview, Jones did answer questions.)
We already have pointed to evidence that Siegelman did not have Jones' full loyalty in the criminal case.
Did Jones accomplish much of anything during the time he represented Siegelman? Well, the former governor currently sits in a federal prison at Oakdale, Louisiana, so Jones certainly did not help get an acquittal--even though Jones' words before Congress show that he knew the main charge, involving alleged bribery and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, was brought well after the five-year statute of limitations had expired.
Has Jones spoken up publicly in the past five years or so about this gross injustice? It seems he's been pretty quiet.
The record shows that Jones did accomplish two things during his representation of Siegelman--and both helped the prosecution:
(1) Jones agreed to toll the statute of limitations, giving prosecutors an additional 30 days to gather evidence against his client; (See pages 10-11 in document below.)
(2) Jones told prosecutors he "would not hit the media with allegations of politics," as Siegelman's original defense lawyer, David Cromwell Johnson, had done. In other words, Johnson had boldly told the truth in the press that this was a political prosecution, while Jones promised to play softball with the feds. (See page 7 in the document below.)
In retrospect, David Cromwell Johnson's death in January 2003 might be the single biggest reason Don Siegelman currently is in prison. A source close to the former governor told me "there was no way in hell" the case would have ended in a conviction if David Cromwell Johnson had lived.
Here's one other thing Doug Jones accomplished for $300,000: He managed to probably leave a permanent lip imprints on Bill Pryor's white, doughy butt. Pryor, now a federal appellate judge on the Eleventh Circuit, initiated the Siegelman investigation while serving as Alabama attorney general and is seen by liberals as a rabid, partisan right winger.
But consider this from Jones: He chose not to raise charges of a political prosecution in the press because "I had too much respect for Attorney General Bill Pryor and the U.S. Department of Justice."
Don Siegelman was paying Jones $300,000 for zealous representation. Meanwhile, Jones was busy sucking up to Bill Pryor and the feds.
A strong argument could be made that Don Siegelman is the most successful Alabama Democrat in a generation. A similar argument could be made that he's the most successful Democrat in state history, given that he held four statewide offices.
So why is the public record peppered with information that indicates Doug Jones pretty much sold Siegelman down the river? Here is my answer: Doug Jones was more loyal to the legal elites in the DOJ and the Alabama AG's office than he was to Don Siegelman--who paid him $300,000.
Check out the video below and note Doug Jones' response when I asked him about the money Siegelman spent, compared to the quality of representation he received. If I were Jones, and had screwed a client like that, I wouldn't want to answer questions either.
My conversation with Jones touches on several topics--the Alabama bingo case, Paul Bryant Jr., etc. But Jones' refusal to answer questions about his compensation on the Siegelman matter should speak volumes to the former governor's supporters.
(Note: This is the second of three attempts I made to interview Jones on a variety of topics. In the first two, he was so smug and snippy that we essentially had no interview. He simply refused to answer questions about matters connected to his role as a former public official or an officer of publicly funded courts. In the third conversation, Jones actually answered a number of questions in a fairly courteous manner. Why the change in his tone? It's probably because, prior to the third conversation, Jones left Haskell Slaughter to start his own law firm, Jones & Hawley, P.C. With his name now front and center in a law firm, Jones apparently is less inclined to act like a jackass with a reporter. That third conversation will be featured in an upcoming post.)
Doug Jones Testimony
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Jessica Medeiros Garrison|
and Luther Strange
A demand letter from Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley, dated August 16, 2013, claims posts here at Legal Schnauzer about the Garrison/Strange affair are false and defamatory. (See copy of the demand letter at the end of this post.) I responded with an e-mail to Baxley, stating that the posts in question are neither false nor defamatory, and they will not be retracted.
Baxley does not specifically threaten a lawsuit, but that appears to be the point of the letter. He closes with this:
There is not a grain of truth to warrant the horrible defamation published by you regarding our client. Each has no factual basis. Your outrageous, despicable conduct will be addressed in another forum: the Circuit Court of Jefferson County, Alabama.
It's ironic that Baxley's letter emphasizes his concern about my reporting on Jessica Garrison's extramarital affair with Luther Strange when substantial evidence suggests he actually is concerned about something else. In fact, I suspect Baxley is concerned about one of two other stories that he has reason to know I am working on--and one of those stories has nothing to do with Jessica Garrison. (We will address this in a series of upcoming posts.)
In his letter, Baxley cites six posts about the Garrison/Strange affair--from July 17 to August 13, 2013--and claims they include material that is false and defamatory. States Baxley:
Our client has not "engaged in a long-running extramarital affair" with Luther Strange, has not engaged in sexual relations with Luther Strange. . . . We hereby demand retraction of these charges in the same medium of publication as these charges were originally promulgated and in a prominent position therein, and demand public retraction of these charges and matters published in as prominent and public a place or manner as the charges or matter published occupied, and demand a full and fair retraction of such charges or matters.
Baxley then turns to various reader statements about Garrison that have been published in the comment section at Legal Schnauzer. Baxley seems to hint that I am responsible for these statements when he says, "Your blog, Legal Schnauzer, states: 'Comment moderation has been enabled. All comments must be approved by the blog author.'"
After highlighting about nine comments that he finds objectionable, Baxley states as follows:
Our client is not a whore, has no addiction to strangers, has no mental disorder, has had no sexual relationship with Luther Strange, has not allowed herself to be used sexually to advance herself in Alabama or the Republican Party, and has engaged in no financial arrangements for which anyone should be indicted. . . . We hereby demand retraction of these charges in the same medium of publication as these charges were originally promulgated and . . .
By the way, Montgomery Independent Editor and Publisher Bob Martin, one of the most experienced and respected journalists in the state, apparently does not believe my reporting on Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison is false. He cites my reports at his column in the paper's current edition.
Will Bill Baxley's bullying tactics be successful? No, they will not. Are they actually driven by concern about Jessica Garrison's affair with Luther Strange? I strongly suspect they are not, in part, because Bill Baxley is a well-connected fellow, and he likely knows my reporting on the affair is true.
So what is this really all about? We invite you to stay tuned.
Lee Garrison, candidate for Tuscaloosa|
school board , sports a penis nose
We will call it the Penis Nose Scandal, and it coincides with another scandal that we have been covering for about a month here at Legal Schnauzer.
The man wearing the penis nose is Lee Garrison, the ex husband of Republican attorney and political operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison. Thanks to her long-running extramarital affair with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, Jessica Garrison has become the focus of about a half dozen posts here, with quite a few more to come.
Lee Garrison gave up a seat on the Tuscaloosa City Council to run for chair of the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education. He is opposed by Denise Hills, and while the elections are nonpartisan, Garrison has roots in the Republican Party and is part of what might be called a corporate slate of conservative candidates.
Critics say powerful pro-business entities are trying to take over the board and give it a "Chamber of Commerce" look. The corporate candidates, Lee Garrison included, have benefited from the support of Educate Tuscaloosa PAC, which is chaired by Mike Echols and claims the present board has failed to act in a responsible fashion. Echols, a Tuscaloosa accountant, is listed as an employee of Franklin Resources Group, a Montgomery PR and lobbying firm. He has served as campaign treasurer for Governor Robert Bentley and shares a post-office box with the Red Elephant Clubs of Alabama, a powerful group of Crimson Tide football backers that includes UA trustee Paul Bryant Jr.
An infusion of corporate cash has helped inject the municipal races with an unusually combative tone. It even has sparked the creation of The Franklin Stove Blog (FSB), which can be found at ttowntruthseeker.com.
The blog's views appear to run counter to those of the corporate-backed candidates. A post dated August 18 is titled "Cash Soaked Election Covered In The News." The author of FSB says a win for the corporate candidates would be a victory for The Machine, the shadowy group that has dominated student politics at UA for decades.
Where does the Penis Nose Scandal fit into all of this? Well, we aren't sure, but the photo came to our attention a few days ago. I sent an e-mail to Lee Garrison, seeking comment, and he confirmed that it was him and was taken at a Halloween party in 2003. He served on the Tuscaloosa City Council at the time.
Here is the message I sent to Garrison via e-mail:
I understand there is a photograph of you wearing what might be described as a "penis mask." I further understand the photograph was taken somewhere around 2003, at a Mardi Gras party in Tuscaloosa, and you were a member of the Tuscaloosa City Council at the time.
Given that you are running for Tuscaloosa School Board, and Jessica Garrison's affair with Luther Strange has become a statewide story, I am investigating the photo matter.
Therefore, I would like to give you an opportunity to comment about the photograph and its possible implications regarding your suitability for a spot on the School Board.
If you wish to comment, please do so by noon on Wed. (Aug. 21).
Here is Lee Garrison's response:
That was a picture from a Halloween Party 10 years ago.
What does the Penis Nose Scandal say about Lee Garrison's qualifications to serve as chair of the school board in a major Alabama city. We will let readers--and Tuscaloosa voters--decide for themselves.
Perhaps it points to some unflattering assertions that Jessica Garrison raised in the couple's custody case. Here is a sample of claims made against Lee Garrison and his current wife. (The full document can be viewed at the end of this post.)
The father has repeatedly exhibited a willingness to forfeit time with his son to pursue recreational and social activities that often involve excessive drinking and late nights. He also admittedly has had a gambling problem and takes controlled medications for which he has no prescription or medical need. The father also has a bad temper and a consistent tendency to rage, often in the presence of the child. Moreover, the father and his wife are cigarette smokers and have pets, both of which contribute to the child's ongoing allergies.
For now, the Penis Nose Scandal has helped enliven a contest that already was plenty lively.
A Dothan-based news Web site, one with a substantial readership, apparently has been hoodwinked regarding my reporting on the extramarital affair between Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and his former campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison.
Rickey Stokes, editor of RickeyStokesNews.com (RSN), reports in a post dated August 17 that our posts at Legal Schnauzer on the Strange/Garrison affair are "highly questionable." Stokes says he reached that conclusion after conversations on Saturday afternoon with two sources, one of which Stokes "would trust with my life in his hands."
The timing of the Stokes report is curious, coming one day after I received a letter from Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley, claiming my reports were false and defamatory and threatening a lawsuit on Garrison's behalf. It becomes even more curious when you consider that Bill Baxley is from Dothan, and his brother (Wade Baxley) and nephew (Hamp Baxley) are lawyers with the Dothan firm of Ramsey Baxley & McDougle. For good measure, Hamp Baxley is Dothan city commissioner for District 6.
The Baxley family clearly is influential in Dothan, and its members are quite capable of grabbing Rickey Stokes' attention. RSN takes pains to mention that its two sources for the August 17 post are "not related to each other." But that doesn't mean that at least one of them isn't related to Bill Baxley.
In fact, we would pretty much bet the ranch--if we owned one--that one of Rickey Stokes' sources is related to Bill Baxley. We further would bet that Stokes' source did not reveal to the newsman that Bill Baxley represents Jessica Garrison and had sent me a threatening letter just one day earlier.
Did the source of RSN's post reveal that he, as someone likely related to Bill Baxley, had a vested interest in trying to undermine my reporting? My guess is that the answer is no.
Sadly, that means Rickey Stokes and his readers probably have been the victims of a con job. Who might have participated in the con job? Well, let's look to an August 15 RSN post about Wade Baxley's appointment as a special master in the ongoing forfeiture case involving the seizure of cash and electronic-bingo equipment at Center Stage Alabama in Houston County. The seizure, of course, was conducted by the office of . . . Luther Strange.
Stokes notes that Judge Mike Conaway has appointed Wade Baxley to count money and help resolve a dispute about the amount seized at Center Stage. From the RSN report:
Judge Conaway wants the money counted. That is what Dothan Attorney Wade Baxley is under order to do. He is to travel to Montgomery Alabama and count the money. Baxley is the brother of former Attorney General Bill Baxley. He is one of the senior attorneys who practices in Dothan and highly respected.
Let's follow the trail here: In an August 15 report, Rickey Stokes describes Wade Baxley as "highly respected." In an August 17 post, Rickey Stokes describes one of his sources, claiming my reporting on the Strange/Garrison affair is "questionable," as someone "I would trust with my life in his hands."
Could that be one and the same person? I will leave that for individual readers to decide.
While Rickey Stokes questions our reporting, one of the most experienced and respected journalists in the state apparently has no such concerns. Bob Martin cites our reports in writing about the Strange/Garrison affair in the current issue of the Montgomery Independent.
To be sure, the Stokes post of August 17 is a curious piece of work. The author can't seem to decide how to characterize my reporting on the Strange/Garrison affair. Let's consider some of the phrases he uses. (I am quoting them here verbatim, with no editing for grammar or spelling; first, it should be noted that Stokes identifies me as "Robert" Shuler.)
* "The articles in the Legal Schnauzer we have come to learn are very questionable as to the truthfulness and accuracy.
* " . . . there is no evidence what so ever that the article in the Legal Schnauzer was anything other than questionable. No evidence any truth to the allegations."
* " . . . my research and conversations, appear that Jessica Medeiros Garrison is a victim of someone wanting to use her to discredit Luther Strange."
* "Never do you have to use a tactic like that to discredit a politician. They do it enough themselves without involving people on something that all evidence appears to be as false and untrue."
* "I do not know Jessica Medeiros Garrison and if I have ever met or spoke with her, I do not know it. . . . She worked in the Strange campaign. And from what I have learned as I have spoke to people who do know her, she is a hard worker that is aggressive and attempts to succeed at what she takes on. . . . When the evidence points otherwise, it is unfair to her, her son and family or Luther Strange, and Luther Strange’s wife and family, to make up something that is not true."
Stokes concludes with this pearl:
The truth is the truth, and there is no reason or need to lie about the truth.
If someone can figure out what that means, don't hesitate to clue me in.
Notice that Stokes goes from describing my reports as "questionable," to saying they are supported by "no evidence," to labeling them as "false and untrue," to asserting that it is "unfair" for me to "make up something that is not true."
Why are we to trust what Rickey Stokes tells us? Because someone Stokes would trust "with my life in his hands" told him. What information did this person impart to convince Stokes my reporting is "false and untrue" (as opposed to being just "false" or just "untrue)? Stokes doesn't tell us.
Is the source connected to Bill Baxley, the lawyer who sent me a threatening letter on behalf of Jessica Garrison? Stokes doesn't tell us that, either. (Update: A source tells Legal Schnauzer that one of Stokes' sources, in fact, was Bill Baxley.)
|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
Jessica Medeiros Garrison and her former husband, Tuscaloosa city councilman Lee Garrison, are partners with Erik Davis Harp in Margaritaville, LLC. Records from the Alabama Secretary of State's office show the company was formed in 2004 and is engaged in the business of real estate. The firm has a registered office street address of 1201 Greensboro, Ave., Tuscaloosa, AL, 35401.
Harp was among 30 people indicted in October 2009 in connection with what one press outlet called "a gambling ring with ties to organized crime." Harp was 36 years old at the time of the indictment, and his address was listed as Las Vegas, Nevada. But his roots are in Tuscaloosa, and he apparently met the Garrisons while all three attended the University of Alabama. (A number of press reports about the gambling probe misspell Harp's first name as "Eric".)
Jessica Garrison has engaged in a long-running extramarital affair with Luther Strange and guided his 2010 campaign to victory on a staunch anti-gambling platform. Since his election, Strange has authorized raids that shut down electronic-bingo facilities at VictoryLand in Macon County and Center Stage Alabama in Houston County.
Lee Garrison has served on the Tuscaloosa City Council since 1997 but is giving up that seat to run for chair of the Tuscaloosa City School Board in the August 27 municipal elections.
We are not aware of Lee Garrison taking a public stance on gambling one way or another. But Jessica Garrison has been a vocal critic of gambling, aggressively attacking former Attorney General Troy King on the issue. That makes her connections to Erik Davis Harp particularly surprising--and some might say outlandishly hypocritical.
Was Harp involved in a small-time illegal gambling operation? Not exactly. Authorities in Queens, New York, led a 38-month investigation called "Operation Betting It All" and found the ring generated $20 million a month.
Was Harp a small-time player in the operation? The answer, again, is no. Authorities say he and Joseph J. Fafone, of Farmington, New York, oversaw the entire operation. From an October 22, 2009, report at MPNnow.com, of Canandaigua, New York:
Joseph J. Fafone, 48, of Pheasants Crossing in Farmington, was apprehended Tuesday at Rochester International Airport. Fafone, who officials say was bound for Panama, had roughly $24,000 in cash with him when he was arrested, according to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown.
The defendants are charged with enterprise corruption — a violation of the state’s Organized Crime Control Act — as well as money laundering, promoting gambling and conspiracy.
Authorities say a sports gambling operation took in more than $20 million per month, which was "diverted to more insidious criminal enterprises" linked to both the Gambino and Genovese crime families.
The story never mentions an Alabama connection. But it is there, with Erik Davis Harp's name front and center:
The 38-month investigation was known as “Operation Betting It All.” The alleged sports gambling ring operated on Web sites including BetAllSportsHere.com, BetMSG.com and BetOnline.com. While the ring was run in New York City, the Web sites' computer servers were based in Panama.
Fafone and Eric Davis Harp, 36, of Las Vegas allegedly oversaw the entire operation, Brown said.
Louis P. Lippa Jr., 61, of Great Wood Court in Fairport, and David Valerio, 61, of Meriden Street in Rochester, are two of nine alleged money collectors for the ring.
Of the others charged, 17 were arrested in Queens, and nine were arrested in upstate New York, Florida, Nevada and Illinois. Three others are currently being sought. More than $3 million in cash has been seized.
How serious is this matter? A law-enforcement official in New York provides perspective:
"Gambling proceeds [are] the fuel that drives organized crime," said New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. "The staggering amount of money in this case demonstrates just that. In this instance, however, the bookies ran out of luck."
Here is additional perspective that hits close to home for those of us who live in Alabama. Erik Davis Harp is from Tuscaloosa, and he was a kingpin in an illegal gambling operation that generated $20 million a month. Harp has a documented business history with Jessica Medieros Garrison, who helped Luther Strange get elected as Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer on a staunch anti-gambling platform. Strange has acted on his supposed convictions by causing two electronic-bingo facilities to be closed.
The bottom line? A clear path can be drawn from Erik Davis Harp to Jessica Garrison (and Lee Garrison) to Luther Strange. That should raise questions about Lee Garrison's suitability for a spot on the Tuscaloosa School Board. And it should raise extremely serious questions about Luther Strange, Jessica Garrison, and their close associates . . . who have ridden to power on claims that they are morally opposed to gambling.
|Judge Thomas Young|
Attorney General Luther Strange filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, seeking Young's recusal after the judge refused to approve a search warrant at VictoryLand. Under Alabama law, mandamus is the appropriate vehicle for seeking a trial judge's recusal, but it is an "extraordinary remedy that will not lie unless the petitioner can show a clear right to legal relief." In order to clear that high bar, petitioner must show that a judge's alleged bias is "personal," not "judicial."
Strange did not come close to showing that Young exhibited personal bias. Rather, the AG repeatedly pointed to examples of Young's judicial actions with which he did not agree. That does not meet the standard of personal bias required by law, but the Alabama Supreme Court granted Strange's petition anyway. (See the court's opinion at the end of this post.)
This is just the latest in a long line of preposterous rulings that show Alabama's high court no longer makes any pretense of being a fair and impartial tribunal. Rather, it is a rubber stamp for corporate interests, especially those who support Strange, former Governor Bob Riley, and their favored law firm, Bradley Arant of downtown Birmingham.
Why does Bradley Arant care about raids at non-Indian gaming facilities in Alabama? It all comes down to cash. Published reports show that Bob Riley funneled $536,115 in taxpayer dollars to the firm for gambling-related work in 2010. Since Strange took office in January 2011, he has shipped $364,000 to his former firm for work on gambling cases.
Do Riley and Strange--with the help of Bradley Arant--have the pull to cause Alabama's high court to ignore controlling law on important issues? The answer appears to be yes.
Let's consider a few key cases that should have forced the Supreme Court to deny Strange's petition:
* Ex parte Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union, 477 So. 2d 379 (Ala., 1985)--This case holds that "mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that will not lie unless the petitioner can show a clear legal right to relief." A review of the Supreme Court's ruling in the VictoryLand matter reveals that Strange failed to show a clear legal right to relief. In fact, the high court's finding is based largely on Judge Young's response to the AG's petition, not on any showing from the AG himself. The Supreme Court claims that Young made a number of incorrect rulings from the bench--and failed to show proper deference to the high court itself--but those are not grounds, under the law, for forcing recusal.
The Ex parte Army Aviation Center case also states: "There must be no other adequate remedy. . . . Mandamus is not a substitute for appeal." Strange clearly has another adequate remedy in the VictoryLand forfeiture case. If Young rules that cash and electronic-bingo machines should be returned to the casino, Strange can appeal that order. The law cannot be more clear--mandamus is not a substitute for appeal. But Luther Strange is using it for exactly that.
* Ex parte Duncan, 638 So. 2d 1332 (Ala., 1994)--This case holds that "for Duncan to demonstrate a clear right to the relief sought by the mandamus petition, he must show the appearance of impropriety by showing that the alleged bias, hostility, or prejudice is "personal" rather than "judicial." The alleged bias and prejudice to be disqualifying must stem from an extrajudicial source and result in an opinion on the merits on some basis other than what the judge learned from his participation in the case.'"
Here is a fictional example of a personal bias that stems from an extrajudicial source: Judge Smith is hearing a case styled Bob's Automotive v. Fred's Bank. Attorneys for Bob's Automotive seek recusal, showing that Judge Smith's daughter works for Fred's Bank. Furthermore, they show that when Judge Smith was in private practice, he and his firm represented Fred's Bank on a number of occasions. Even if Judge Smith believes he can hear the case in an impartial fashion, this is the kind of personal bias that raises the "appearance of impropriety" under Alabama law. Judge Smith should step down, and if he doesn't, an appellate court has legal grounds to issue a writ of mandamus that forces him to step down.
Luther Strange points to no such personal bias that would require Judge Young's recusal. So why did the Alabama Supreme Court grant Strange's petition? The only conclusion we can reach is that the high court is crooked, perhaps tainted by cash from Indian gaming facilities, and it has been for a long time.
The Supreme Court's actions in the VictoryLand matter are both unlawful and inconsistent. The Houston Economic Development Association (HEDA) last year sought the recusal of Judge Mike Conaway in a forfeiture case involving Center Stage Alabama in Dothan. In that instance, Luther Strange tried to make sure that Conaway did NOT recuse himself, even though potential personal bias clearly was present. Here is how we summed it up in an April post, noting the AG's radically different approaches to Judge Conaway in Houston County and Judge Young in Macon County:
What's the difference between Judge Conaway and Judge Young? Former Governor Bob Riley, one of Strange's close Republican allies and an avowed gaming opponent, appointed Conaway to the bench. Sonny Reagan, who now is Strange's chief lieutenant in the attorney general's office, interviewed Conaway for the judicial position while serving in the Riley administration.
How did the Supreme Court react to signs that Judge Conaway might exhibit personal bias? It let him stay on the case and did so in a cowardly fashion--declining to hear HEDA's petition, without explanation.
In the case of Judge Young, the high court heard the case and found personal bias where none existed--and where, in fact, none even was alleged.
Many Alabamians probably are too enraptured with the upcoming college football season to concern themselves with blatant corruption on our state's highest court. But the stark truth is this: Our all-Republican appellate courts continue to use tax dollars to trash state law and trample the rights to due process and equal protection that our supposed to be guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
But this is not just a matter of civil rights. It almost certainly involves a number of federal crimes, including mail and wire fraud, honest-services fraud, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and more.
Here is a scary thought: Strange filed his mandamus petition in late March, but the Alabama Supreme Court waited until late August--almost five months--to issue its corrupt ruling. Did the justices know that Alabamians would be distracted by football in late August, so they intentionally held their VictoryLand ruling until then?
Do the justices see us as a bunch of saps who will allow our obsession with college football to blind us to corruption that is right under our noses?
Are the justices right about that?
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