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|Ken White, of Popehat blog|
But what about Riley's lawyers in the case, who were from his own Riley Jackson firm--perhaps because no real lawyer would touch such a facially bogus case? What about Jay Murrill, who seemed to be Riley's primary in-house shill? Is he a lawyer with a strong sense of honor and respect for the truth? Uh . . . not exactly.
And you don't have to take my word for it. We will let Ken White, a Los Angeles lawyer and First Amendment expert at the Popehat blog, take the honors.
Popehat is not a good source of information on all topics. On matters that require more than surface research, White tends to become a lazy, name-calling hack. But he does know First Amendment law, and he can recognize a con artist like Jay Murrill when he sees one.
It's unusual for one lawyer to say or write anything negative about a fellow member of the legal tribe--at least in public. But White administers a spanking to Jay Murrill that's unlike anything I've seen before. It came in an article posted roughly three weeks after my arrest on October 23, 2013. The following is from a Popehat post that is based in part on a report by Mike McClanahan of CBS 42 in Birmingham. (Unfortunately, the link to the original CBS 42 piece no longer works.):
This week a local news station reported that on November 14, 2013, the Alabama court held a hearing and indicated that it would issue a permanent injunction finding Shuler's posts about Robert J. Riley, Jr. to be false and ordering him to take them down.
The local station quoted Riley's law partner and attorney James Murrill as dismissing the prior restraint and First Amendment concerns:
Here is the Jay Murrill quote, in all of its "glory":
There's been speculation that the Court's previous orders have infringed on Mr. Shuler's constitutional rights. Actually, libelous speech is not protected by the First Amendment. As the United States Supreme Court ruled in Linn v. United Plant Guard Workers of America, "it must be emphasized that malicious libel enjoys no constitutional protection in any context."Also, the concept of "prior restraint" applies to an action to enjoin speech before it occurs. This lawsuit dealt with speech that had already occurred, and the law allows a plaintiff to seek civil remedies for defamatory speech that has already occurred. All of this is clear if you look at the Court's records, which the Court has now agreed to unseal.
How does Popehat assess the Jay Murrill statement? Well, to say he treats it with disdain would be putting it mildly:
That press statement is either one of the most blindingly ignorant or cynically dishonest I have ever read from an attorney about a case. Riley may be suing Shuler based on past speech. But Riley — through Murrill — sought an injunction that prohibits future speech. That's classic prior restraint. Murrill is simply lying when he suggests that Riley has not litigated to silence Shuler's ongoing and future speech.
Let's make sure we all understand what's being said here--and it comes from Ken White, a California-based expert on the First Amendment. I'm not necessarily a fan of everything White writes, but I think it's understood he is knowledgeable about free-speech issues.
Bottom line? A well-known expert says Riley's lawsuit was designed to unlawfully shut down my reporting, and Riley's lawyer is lying about it. Also, Riley's lawyer is trying to mislead the public about constitutional issues in the case.
Language from one lawyer, about two other lawyers, does not get much more blunt than that.
Popehat does not address this, but I want to make it clear for the record: Murrill also is lying about the meaning of a prior restraint. It is a restriction on speech prior to a finding at trial that the speech is defamatory--and case law generally holds that such a finding should be made by a jury, not a single judge. The notion that you can enjoin speech before it occurs is absurd; most third graders would know that. In my case, there never was a lawful finding that anything I reported was false or defamatory--and that's because there was no trial, no discovery, no cross-examination, nothing to challenge Riley and Duke's bare assertions in their complaint.
As for Popehat's tendency to go off the rails, let's consider a couple of things he wrote about me in a post dated October 27, 2013, four days after my arrest. First, I should note that White repeatedly states that Alabama Judge Claud Neilson ruled unlawfully by granting a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in a defamation case--and then ordered me jailed for "violating" orders that run contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. White, however, can't leave it at that; he has to make assumptions about me, someone he knows nothing about, has never met, and with whom he's never sought an interview, even though I'm easily available. Consider these statements from White:
* White says I am "creepy and crazy," and he claims to have formed that opinion from reading my blog. What, specifically, has White read on my blog that makes him think I'm "creepy and crazy"? White doesn't say; he doesn't cite one example. If White is like most lawyers I've encountered, he's a righteous defender of his "profession"--even though it costs Americans millions of dollars while returning very little in either financial or societal benefit. Perhaps a journalist who knows what he's talking about, and is willing to unmask the legal tribe, is "creepy and crazy" (and threatening) to a guy like Ken White.
* White says I am "a vexatious litigant, a serial pro se abuser of the court system," and he claims to have formed that opinion from researching records of my litigation history. White helpfully provides a footnote with information that he unearthed. But when you check at Footnote 1, you find that White's "research" barely scratched the surface of any case. He apparently accessed PACER to determine the outcome of certain federal cases, and since I "lost" several of them, that makes me vexatious and abusive. White, however, did not take the time, or expend the effort, to see if those cases were lawfully decided. (Answer: They were not, not one of them.) He also did not bother to check any underlying state matters. If those had been correctly decided (and they were not), there would have been no federal cases. White's effort stopped at determining who "won" or "lost" the case, so he really knows nothing about the merits of the cases I presented to the courts.
How's this for irony? White correctly chastises Judge Claud Neilson for repeatedly making unlawful rulings in the Rob Riley/Liberty Duke case. But White apparently assumes Alabama federal judges in those other cases ruled correctly. And he's so sure that Alabama state judges are highly competent, other than Claud Neilson, that he doesn't even bother to check state cases. In Ken White's world, Claud Neilson is an incompetent or corrupt boob, but every other judge in Alabama--federal or state-- is a paragon of legal virtue. Does that make a lick of sense? Of course not. But Ken White can't be bothered to actually research cases that would show judicial corruption in Alabama is widespread and goes way beyond Claud Neilson. It's easier to hurl insults at me.
* Finally, White tries to connect me to an anonymous commenter at Breitbart Unmasked who goes by "RogerS," and White wonders if that person is me. "RogerS" is devoted to urging liberal activist Brett Kimberlin to file a RICO lawsuit against various right-wing bloggers who operate under the Breitbart umbrella--and White has taken up the bloggers' cause, even though their activities have devolved from legitimate criticism and research on Kimberlin to what appear to be harassment and stalking. (The "RogerS" saga is closely associated, in time, with my incarceration, and I will have more on the bizarre episode in an upcoming post.)
In Footnote 5 of his October 27 post, White wonders if "RogerS" is me, in part because he claims we both have a poor understanding of federal civil procedure. I, of course, was not (and am not) "RogerS," but here is what White has to say about me anyway: "Now, I'm not saying that Roger Shuler is definitely RogerS. But I can't help noticing that both like Kimberlin and both have an astoundingly awful grasp of federal law. I'm not just saying Roger Shuler is ignorant of federal civil procedure; it's a dry subject, and there's nothing wrong with learning about other things instead. Rather, Shuler seems to have acquired a positive aversion to correct federal civil procedure, possibly by electrical means."
Where did White get the notion that I "like" Brett Kimberlin? I don't know Brett Kimberlin, and I believe my interaction with him consists of one brief telephone call. I don't "dislike" Brett Kimberlin, and I've written all of one post about his battles with the Breitbart bloggers, noting that (unlike many liberals) Kimberlin doesn't mind fighting back against those who appear to be bullying him.
Where did White get the notion that I have a "positive aversion to correct federal civil procedure"? Again, he doesn't say; he doesn't cite a single example to back that up. Does he examine any of the federal cases involving me and show how U.S. judges, such as William M. Acker Jr. and Abdul Kallon, have repeatedly ruled contrary to simple procedural and case law? Nope, he doesn't do that either.
While I appreciate Popehat's accurate assessment of Jay Murrill and First Amendment law, the lawyer/blogger might be wise to steer clear of complex topics that require the kind of in-depth research to which he apparently has a "positive aversion."
Judicial immunity, in theory, allows judges to make bold, legally sound decisions--even when they are not popular with powerful interests. In reality, the doctrine provides a license to cheat, even steal. And its victims tend to be the everyday folks immunity supposedly is designed to protect.
Unless a judge acts abominably outside his official capacity--say, by harassing or discriminating against his office staff--or attracts the attention of law enforcement by, say, beating his wife (see Fuller, Mark), he is unaccountable and truly above the law.
A Georgia woman, however, is trying to pierce the veil of judicial immunity and hit a corrupt judge where it hurts--right in the wallet. So far, it looks like she might succeed. She certainly appears to have exposed an extraordinary law-enforcement campaign to retaliate on the judge's behalf. That could turn an already intriguing case into one of the legal stories of the year.
Angela Garmley, of Chatsworth, Georgia, filed a judicial disciplinary complaint in 2012, claiming that Murray County magistrate judge Bryant Cochran had solicited sex in exchange for a favorable ruling in a case she had before him. She went to the press with her story and alleged that Cochran retaliated by planting methamphetamine in a magnet box on the underside of her car, conspiring with sheriff's deputies to frame her for a false arrest. Two deputies eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges of planting the drugs.
At a trial last December, a federal jury sided with Garmley, finding the judge guilty on six counts of civil rights and drug violations. The trial also revealed that Cochran had engaged in a three-year affair with a paralegal who testified at his trial that Cochran had asked her to lie about the affair to state and federal authorities.
The judge has been booted off the bench, but the legal battle is far from over. Garmley filed a civil complaint against Cochran, but a North Georgia judge dismissed it in February 2014. Now, after Cochran's criminal convictions, it looks like the lawsuit might rise again. It appears that Cochran's behavior was so heinous, and so far removed from his courtroom duties, that even judicial immunity won't save him. (See civil complaint at the end of this post.)
Stuart James and McCracken Poston, Garmley's attorneys, filed a motion in January for a judge to reconsider the lawsuit. From the motion:
It would be a strange contortion of the law for Cochran to stand in one courtroom of the United States District Court and have it declared 'not plausible' he committed these acts, yet stand in another courtroom in the same courthouse and have it be declared beyond a reasonable doubt that he violated the plaintiff's rights.
The case took another twist in February 2015 when Garmley, who has acknowledged that she has a methamphetamine problem, pleaded guilty to drug-trafficking charges. Her arrest in that case came last September, roughly two months before Cochran's criminal trial.
The attorney for a woman who pleaded guilty to distributing meth on Friday says she was targeted by Murray County officials because of her role in bringing down former Murray chief magistrate judge Bryant Cochran. Angela Garmley was sentenced by Judge Jim Wilbanks to 90 days house arrest and 10 years probation. She must also pay a $2,000 fine plus court costs and surcharges, perform 300 hours of community service work, receive drug treatment and have random drug screens.
Garmley’s attorney, McCracken Poston, called that sentence fair.
“She is motivated. She will get the help she needs. It’s a very good sentence,” he said.
But Poston said Garmley had been targeted by law enforcement because she was the star witness in a federal trial of Cochran.
“Nothing excuses her meth activities that go along with her addiction,” said Poston. “They were going after a federal witness. They were trying to discredit a federal witness before she testified against Bryant Cochran. Ironically, this backfired against them because her arrest made her realize she had a problem. And because she recognized that and dealt with it she was a wonderful witness.”
Is law enforcement running out of control in North Georgia. It certainly looks that way. From the Dalton newspaper report:
Garmley was arrested on Sept. 9, 2014, by Dalton police at the Wal-Mart on Shugart Road on a warrant arising from an undercover drug investigation that began in Murray County.
“I don’t know of any other attorney who has had a client who was twice targeted like this by law enforcement,” Poston said.
What will become of Garmley's lawsuit? Will her guilty plea on drug charges hurt her case if it goes before a jury? How much prison time will former judge Cochran receive? Will a judge finally be forced to pay out of his pocket for gross misconduct and violations of constitutional rights?
All of those questions remain unanswered. But that last one will be of particular interest as this drama continues to unfold.
|Carol Shuler, from her Facebook page|
The firm, of course, is headed by Rob Riley, the son of former governor Bob Riley and the individual (along with lobbyist Liberty Duke) who filed a dubious defamation lawsuit that led to my time behind bars. Murrill was the chief counsel for his boss, apparently because no lawyer from another firm would dare touch a lawsuit that so flagrantly ran contrary to First Amendment principles.
So why was Jay Murrill, who had filed papers asking that Carol and I unlawfully be arrested, writing my wife? He was trying to convince her that the Riley firm had no intention of actually seeking her arrest--even though Murrill's own court documents tell another story.
We've already shown that Rob Riley and Jay Murrill have epic struggles with the truth. (See here andhere.) But this might be a falsehood for the ages.
Murrill's letter arrived via U.S. mail, and we have lost our only paper copy. I saw the letter but didn't read it, while my wife read it multiple times because she couldn't believe what she was reading. It was short, and this is the gist of it, based on Carol's memory:
Re: Robert R. Riley Jr., et al v. Roger Shuler, et al
We would like to correct an apparent misunderstanding regarding the above-referenced case. Several news reports have indicated you are afraid to leave your home, from fear that you will be arrested. Please know that we never have had any intention of seeking your arrest in this matter.
Why did Murrill write the letter? I can only assume he and his Riley Jackson colleagues decided it was a bad public-relations move to be seen as seeking Carol's arrest in a matter that did not involve her. But that's exactly what they were doing--and Murrill's own court papers prove it.
(The words of Shelby County deputies also prove it. On the night of my arrest--while I was sitting in the back of a patrol car with pepper spray dripping all over me--I could hear deputies talking about trying to also apprehend Carol. She was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, and the cops apparently didn't want to call even more attention to themselves by breaking down a door to get to her.
(During the first week I was in jail, deputies made at least three additional visits to our house--all apparent attempts to arrest Carol, and each one failed. The visits only stopped after word about my arrest started circulating in the press.)
As for written proof of Murrill's intentions, let's consider a document styled "Petitioner Robert R. Riley's Petition to Hold Respondents in Contempt." (See document at the end of this post.) This is the primary document where Riley asks the court--under Jay Murrill's signature--to have me arrested, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. But Riley was not after just my arrest. The clear language shows he was seeking Carol's arrest, too.
First, her name is listed right under mine as a defendant. Then consider these words from the petition's first paragraph:
Comes now Petitioner Robert R. Riley Jr. and moves this Court to hold Respondents Roger Shuler and Carol T. Shuler in contempt of this Court's September 20, 2013, Temporary Restraining Order (the "TRO") and its October 1, 2013, Order on the Petitions for Preliminary Injunction ("Preliminary Injunction") . . .
That language clearly seeks to hold me AND Carol in contempt. How nutty is this? I could not lawfully be held in contempt of a TRO and preliminary injunction that amount to prohibited prior restraints under longstanding First Amendment law. But at least I did (and do) write, edit, and administer the Legal Schnauzer blog--and I wrote the blog posts in question. Carol had nothing to do with the blog or the posts.
Now let's consider the last paragraph of Rob Riley's petition, under Jay Murrill's signature:
In light of the foregoing, Petitioner Riley respectfully requests that the Court find that the Respondents are in contempt of the TRO and the Preliminary Injunction and requests that the Court exercise its authority pursuant to Ala. R. Civ. P. 70(A)(e)(2) to require Respondents to comply with this Court's orders.
Notice again the use of the plural ("Respondents"), referring to both me AND Carol. Also note the reference to Alabama Rule of Civil Procedure 70(A)(e)(2), which holds:
(2) COMMITMENT IN CASES OF CIVIL CONTEMPT. The court may order that a person who had been found to be in civil contempt be committed to the custody of the sheriff until that person purges himself or herself of the contempt by complying with the court's writ, subpoena, process, order, rule, or command.
This rule is about having someone arrested for alleged contempt of court. And Jay Murrill's own words show that he intended to have it applied to me AND Carol.
So why did Murrill lie his fanny off and state in a letter that he never had any intention of seeking Carol's arrest? I can think of only two possible explanations: (1) He and Riley were receiving blow back for seeking my spouse's arrest, with no lawful grounds for doing so; (2) They were trying to convince Carol to let down her guard, so they could then nab her.
If No. 2 was the goal, it didn't work. Carol remained free and was able to drum up national and international press coverage about the trampling of constitutional rights in Shelby County, Alabama--at the direction of attorneys Rob Riley and Jay Murrill.
Does this remain a sensitive topic for Murrill? Apparently so. I sent him the following e-mail on February 19, 2015:
I understand that while I was in jail, upon the demands of you and Mr. Riley, you sent my wife a letter, assuring her that she was not the target of arrest.
I have seen a copy of that letter and would like to have a copy for my files.
Could you please send a copy via e-mail attachment.
When that did not draw a response, I followed up with another e-mail on March 16:
This is a followup to my request of Feb. 19, asking that you send a copy of a letter you wrote to my wife, assuring her that she was not the target of an arrest.
I do not have a copy of that letter for my files, and this is my second request for you to send me one via e-mail attachment.
Also, would you please send a copy of any affidavit that Mr. Riley filed in the lawsuit against my wife and me. I have a copy of Liberty Duke's affidavit, but I do not have a copy of any similar affidavit from Mr. Riley.
Since you and your client rushed to file a lawsuit against us, and to have me unlawfully thrown in jail, I assume you also will act in a speedy fashion to get these requested documents to me. I ask for receipt by end of workday on Friday, March 20, 2015.
When that did not draw a response, I tried again with an e-mail on March 31:
This is a followup to my requests of Feb. 19 and March 16. In those e-mails, I asked for a copy of the letter you wrote to my wife, assuring her that she was not a target of an arrest. I have not received a copy of that letter, and hereby renew my request for a copy. I have seen that letter, so I know it exists.
I also asked for a copy of any affidavit that your client, Rob Riley, filed in the lawsuit against my wife and me. You also have not sent a copy of any Riley affidavit. Does that mean one does not exist? If so, why did Liberty Duke file an affidavit, while Mr. Riley did not?
One other item that I would like to request: Would you send any and all documents related to the temporary restraining order (TRO)/preliminary injunction that Mr. Riley and Ms. Duke sought against me. Please enclose any proof that I received actual notice of the TRO by personal service or otherwise, as required by Rule 65 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP). Also, please enclose a copy of any security bond (noting the amount) that was filed with the TRO/preliminary injunction application, again as required by ARCP 65.
As you know, the court file in this case was sealed for a number of months, at your client's request, meaning my access to documents either was limited or nonexistent. In the interest of fairness, I trust that you now will respond promptly to my requests for the above documents.
I discovered the following on my own: (1) Rob Riley did not file an affidavit; (2) He and Liberty Duke did file security bonds; (3) The file appears to include no evidence that I was personally served, as required by law, with either the TRO or the preliminary injunction. It would seem hard to violate orders that you did not lawfully receive.
The record shows that Rob Riley and Jay Murrill were quick to invade our lives, even though they had zero grounds for doing so under the law. But when questions are headed in their direction--in an effort to determine to what degree they engaged in falsehoods--they are not so quick to respond. In fact, they don't respond at all, and essentially go into hiding.
Now, why would that be?
|Ernie Potvin (far left), from gaytoday.com|
Potvin also helped organize one of the nation's largest archives of books, articles, photographs, and other items related to the gay-rights movement.
This last attribute--his desire to keep and gather items related to gay life--is one of the primary reasons we suspect Ernie Potvin played a key role in helping gay-porn photos of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor surface across the Internet in fall 2013.
Potvin almost certainly would appreciate that the Pryor photos might wind up having historical significance. After all, Pryor has been virulently anti-gay in his public statements, and we have shown that his personal secrets have made him vulnerable to blackmail--ensuring that he will help conservative interests get their way in key cases before the federal bench. The photos also strongly suggest that Pryor lied during his Senate confirmation hearings and should be subject to impeachment proceedings.
As we reported in September 2013, the Pryor photos appeared in the 1990s at the badpuppy.com Web site, which has grown to become a "super store" of gay, male images. The Web site was in its infancy when the Pryor images appeared around 1997, and a notation at the top of the nude gallery provides a clue about the photos' origins. (A screenshot of the gallery can be viewed at the end of this post.) Here is what it says:
WizardBoy Gallery #19 features new scans of classic color and B&W pix from a private collector. Thanks, Ernie! Comments to WizardBoy welcome.
So, who is "Ernie"? Here is a clue: Ernie Potvin served at the One Institute, a gay-themed nonprofit affiliated with the University of Southern California (USC). Potvin wrote for the One Institute newsletter and also for Gay Today magazine--which had an affiliation with Bad Puppy.
Potvin also was a friend and associate of Jim Kepner, who was a leading activist and historian on the gay-rights movement. This is from a New York Times article about Kepner's death in 1997:
The cause of his death was a perforated intestine, said Ernie Potvin, a board member of the One Institute. The nonprofit organization, which concerns itself with lesbian and gay issues and history, includes an archive begun by Mr. Kepner in 1942.
The One Institute is affiliated with the University of Southern California and encompasses a collection of two million items, including books, pamphlets, magazines, clippings, letters, photographs, paintings, recordings, films, videos and political banners, buttons and T-shirts.
Started when the mere whisper of homosexuality was considered scandalous, the archive offers historians and scholars vivid glimpses into the turbulent civil-rights struggle by gay men and lesbians.
How important a figure was Kepner in terms of preserving gay-rights history? An article from The Los Angeles Times, again citing Ernie Potvin, provides insight:
Kepner died Saturday at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles after surgery for a perforated intestine, said Ernie Potvin, a member of the archives executive board. . . .
The collection, valued by gay studies scholars around the world, is housed at USC. Other universities, including UCLA, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara, had vied for the archives.
"All of the public institutions for many, many years seemed like our enemies. So it's very astonishing," Kepner told The Times when USC won the treasure two years ago.
The Texas-born Kepner started collecting memorabilia and reference material when he was working as a railroad clerk in San Francisco in the early 1940s. At that time, he said, he and gay friends were just "trying to figure a way to come out of the closet."
"I've always been inquisitive," Kepner told The Times in 1988, "and, even though I never envisioned that the collection would evolve to what it has become, I always had an innate sense that what I was doing was important. It was something I felt driven to do."
Ernie Potvin clearly shared Kepner's inquisitive nature. In fact, portions of Potvin's personal papers are stored at USC and the Online Archive of California.
We know that Ernie Potvin was an avid collector, and he had ties to numerous gay publications, including Gay Today and Bad Puppy. Our research leads us to believe that he is the "Ernie" who helped provide the Bill Pryor photos that wound up on the Web.
Can we contact Mr. Potvin and ask him about this? Sadly, the answer is no. He died of heart failure in 1998. Here is a brief biography from the California archive:
Born in Massachusetts in 1931, Ernie Potvin moved to Puerto Rico in 1956. He later helped to found one of Puerto Rico's first gay and lesbian rights organizations, Comunidad De Orgullo Gay, in 1972. After moving to Los Angeles in 1976, Potvin worked as an actor, a journalist for local gay publications, and a commercial graphic artist. He volunteered for gay organizations such as the Los Angeles Gay Men's Chorus, Christopher Street West, and the ONE Institute and Archives. Potvin died of heart failure in 1998.
We have tracked down a number of Mr. Potvin's friends and associates who might have details about the origins of the Bill Pryor photos. We are in the process of contacting them and will let you know what our research uncovers.
The Wikipedia page for Badpuppysays "The website has increased its consumer base through online campaigns as well as Gay adult print publications over the years such as: Allboy Magazine, Freshmen, Men, Unzipped, JustUsBoys, Playgirl Magazine, Mandate, Dude Magazine and others." Our research indicates the Pryor photos probably first appeared in at least one such print publication in the 1980s before resurfacing in the 1990s on the Internet.
Who served as the conduit to take the Pryor photos from a print format into the digital era? We believe it was Ernie Potvin.
The order from Circuit Judge William Shashy appears to pave the way for VictoryLand to reopen, after being closed for roughly 28 months. The facility shut down after agents for Attorney General Luther Strange seized equipment and money in a February 2013 raid, claiming violations of state anti-gambling laws, VictoryLand had operated lawfully for years under a voter-approved constitutional amendment that allowed bingo in Macon County.
Shashy's ruling grew from a forfeiture hearing in September 2014. The facts and the law appeared to be heavily on VictoryLand's side, and a ruling was expected to come around November 1 of last year. Why did it take so long to get a ruling on a relatively straightforward matter? Why was Shashy's ruling almost eight months late in arriving?
We don't have the answers to those questions, but VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor probably considers it a case of "better late than never." He also probably is relieved to have finally prevailed in a legal matter, considering that the Alabama Supreme Court consistently has violated its own precedents to rule in favor of former Governor Bob Riley (who launched the anti-bingo crusade in 2008) and Strange (who picked up the baton from Riley after being elected AG in 2010).
McGregor told al.com today that he plans to get back in business at VictoryLand, which includes a casino, hotel, and greyhound track. "The decision paves the way for electronic bingo to resume at VictoryLand and for the people of Macon County to once again go back to work and provide for their families," McGregor said in a statement.
Shashy ruled primarily on constitutional grounds, finding that Strange, by closing some electronic bingo facilities and leaving others open, had violated VictoryLand's right to equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state, Shashy wrote, was unlawfully "cherry picking" some casinos to target and some to leave alone.
Shashy cited the Alabama Supreme Court's six-pronged test from Barber v. Cornerstone, 42 So. 3d 65 (Ala., 2009), which has been used to determine if casinos are offering a lawful form of bingo. But Shashy found that Barber had been unevenly and unlawfully applied:
Through testimony and discussion with counsel for all the parties, it is undisputed that other facilities within the State have operated the same type of gaming devices for substantial periods of time, even while VictoryLand has been shut down. The State did not dispute that other facilities have the same machines or that they are open. The Court asked State counsel, "My question is, if they've got the same machines, why are they open?" Counsel for the State protested that the State had, at times, raided some of those other facilities; however, the State did not dispute that between August 9, 2010, the date of the first closing of VictoryLand, and the beginning of trial, a period of approximately four years, electronic bingo games like those at issue here were in operation at Tribal Facilities in the State of Alabama continuously and without interruption. The State also did not dispute that during the same time frame, non-Tribal facilities in the State of Alabama also operated bingo games at Center Stage (Houston County), Greenetrack (Greene County) and Greene County Charity Bingo (Greene County) almost continuously for 1,166 days, 1,134 days, and 1,058, respectively. During this same four-year period, Victoryland operated the same type of electronic bingo for only 63 days. Electronic bingo operations ceased at VictoryLand permanently on February 19, 2013, the day of the raid that is the subject of this trial. While electronic bingo operations at VictoryLand remain shuttered, today, both Tribal and non-Tribal facilities within the State of Alabama continue to operate the same type of electronic bingo games. The State could not and did not offer any substantive reason why it permitted this state of affairs to continue at other facilities, while taking its present stance against the same operations at Victoryland.
Such uneven treatment, Shashy wrote, runs contrary to long-held Alabama case law:
The propriety of the State of Alabama electing to currently pursue action against only one facility is of great concern. It is apparent at the present time that the State of Alabama is cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed. This Court refuses to be used as an instrument to perpetuate unfair treatment. The judiciary "cannot allow our justice system to do injustice in the name of doing justice."Aspinwall v. Gowens, 405 So. 2d 134 (Ala., 1981). "Courts exist to redress or prevent wrongs, not to perpetrate them."Kennedy v. Davis, 55 So. 104 (Ala., 1911).
Shashy then address the constitutional issues at stake:
Equal protection, under the law, is one of the corner stones of our American system. . . . It is so integral to those foundations that the motto "Equal Justice Under Law" is etched into the facade of the United States Supreme Court Building. In order to achieve the equal protection that is so fundamental to our system, the law requires that we must equally apply the law. The Alabama Supreme Court . . . quoting from the United States Supreme Court in Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982), stated: "The Equal Protection Clause directs that 'all persons similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike.'"
Applying this rationale, all facilities operating the same type bingo machines (Center Stage, Greenetrack, and Greene County Charity Bingo) should have the same forfeiture action applied against them each time there is a violation. This has not been done. . . .
This Court is not free to disregard an opinion of the highest court of the United States of America or the State of Alabama, nor is the State of Alabama free to apply the law in an unequal manner. Allowing unequal treatment places the Court in an untenable position.
The Court cannot condone or perpetuate unequal treatment. Perhaps it is best stated by the Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.: "Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the facade of the Supreme Court Building, it is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists . . . it is fundamental that justice should be the same, in substance and availability . . . "
Will Strange appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, which consistently has ruled in his favor? That is unknown at this time, but Shashy's ruling seems to rest on sturdy legs, the ones that are supposed to under gird the U.S. justice system,
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Alabama GOP operative Rob Riley and Jay Murrill, his sidekick from Homewood's Riley Jackson law firm, provide prime examples.
We've already caught Riley lying to The New York Times about the dubious defamation lawsuit he and lobbyist Liberty Duke brought against me, my wife, and the Legal Schnauzer blog. We also have caught Murrill lying about the case to the CBS television affiliate in Birmingham.
But Riley and Murrill are not limited to making false statements to the press. No, they are "talented" liars who are quite capable of fudging the facts (and the law) across multiple platforms, including court documents.
Let's consider Riley's words to Sara Rafsky, a reporter for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), in an article titled "Censorship in Alabama's Shelby County." Rafsky reports that Riley, in a telephone interview about his lawsuit against me, said "he has a right to seek injunctive relief in a defamation case and there is legal precedent for doing so."
Riley has a slight problem with that statement: It is false. The work of his own hack lawyer, Jay Murrill, proves it is false. The words of experts on First Amendment law, of which Riley clearly is not one, also show it is false.
As for Murrill's handiwork, evidence in the record suggests he or other members of the Riley firm wrote many (maybe all) of the orders that Judge Claud Neilson wound up signing in the case. That includes the Order on Petitions for Preliminary Injunction, which is dated October 4, 2013, and can be viewed at the end of this post.
On page 2 of the order, second paragraph, Murrill/Neilson cite a case styled South v. City of Mountain Brook, 688 So. 2d 292 (Ala. Crim. App., 1966) for the proposition that "injunctive relief can be an appropriate and effective remedy to repeated and ongoing defamatory speech."
The South case, however, says nothing of the sort. It's a criminal case, involving alleged harassing communications, and has nothing to do with defamation, injunctive relief, or any other civil matter. In fact, you don't even have to read the case to see that it represents a bogus citation--it's styling shows right up top that it's from the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, so it couldn't have anything to do with civil defamation. This is a stunning example of legal chicanery, which more or less amounts to a fraud on the court.
But Murrill/Neilson do not stop there. At the sentence regarding the South case, they refer to footnote No. 3. The reader can look to that footnote at the bottom of the page and find . . . 12 other cases that supposedly support the claim that injunctive relief is proper in a defamation case.
That raises another slight problem for Murrill/Neilson--and Riley: None of those cases supports the proposition that injunctive relief is proper in a defamation case; in fact, quite a few of them say just the opposite.
Indeed, not only were these substantial U.S. Supreme Court cases not presented to the Court, the cases cited in the Preliminary Injunction (see p. 2 and n.3) demonstrate that injunctive relief in a defamation case requires a final determination on the merits of the litigation.
In other words, those 13 cases cited by Jay Murrill do not remotely say what he claims they say. For the record, there was no final determination on the merits of the litigation because there was no trial--and that's because Riley and Duke did not seek a trial and did not ask to have their case presented to a jury.
Ken White, a Los Angeles-based First Amendment lawyer and author of the Popehat blog, picked up on the ACLU's theme in a post dated October 27, 2013, noting that Neilson had declared certain Legal Schnauzer posts to be defamatory without any such finding at trial. Wrote White:
So how did Judge Neilson excuse granting Riley's motion for a preliminary injunction before any trial of the matter? Very badly.
Judge Neilson — who may have executed a proposed order from Riley's attorneys — utterly failed to cite or distinguish any of the wall of authority discussing how preliminary injunctions are strongly disfavored in both equity and First Amendment law. Judge Neilson didn't cite the "only in the most extraordinary circumstances" rule, let alone apply it. He only cited two Alabama cases — one 1947 case about defamation of a business that had no First Amendment analysis, and one appeal of a criminal harassment conviction that doesn't even mention prior restraint or injunctions. In a footnote, Judge Neilson cited a melange of state and federal cases from California, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois with no explanation or analysis. Those cases actually undermine his authority to issue the injunction, because they support the proposition that an injunction against defamation is almost always inappropriate before a finding on the merits at trial or if the plaintiff wins a summary judgment motion. It appears that the drafter of this order simply scoured the nation for the handful of outlier cases saying something positive about injunctions against defamation — plus the tiny number of cases approving them pretrial — while completely ignoring the authority (including from the United States Supreme Court) that such injunctions are inappropriate. . . .
How is that for an honest, accurate, and brutal analysis of Murrill and Neilson's work? White does not let Rob Riley off the hook, either:
It's difficult to see what justifies this order — unless it's the fact that Robert J. Riley, Jr. is the son of a former governor and well-connected in the Alabama Republican party. It's very rare for judges to approve pretrial injunctions against defamation in the face of the overwhelming law against it, but when it happens it tends to benefit the rich, connected, and powerful. It's called the rule of law: they rule, that's the law.
As White reminds us, all of this lying was done on behalf of Rob Riley (and Liberty Duke). How bad was it, how flagrant? To arrive at an answer, you have to understand what those 13 cases cited by Murrill/Neilson actually say. We will address that in an upcoming post.
I don't think so, and that's because the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP) provide a remedy that should be a fit for VictoryLand. In fact, if I were in charge of the legal team for owner Milton McGregor, the remedy would have been sought a long time ago.
What am I talking about? Well, let's first return to last week's ruling from Circuit Judge William Shashy, finding that VictoryLand has been denied equal protection of the law under both the Alabama Constitution and the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That means VictoryLand has been treated unfairly under the law, and as a result, it has suffered significant civil damages--and those probably total in the tens, maybe the hundreds, of millions of dollars.
As attorney general, Luther Strange and members of his prosecutorial staff likely are immune from a lawsuit--even though two leaders of his anti-gambling unit, Sonny Reagan and Gene Sisson, have been forced out amid allegations that they acted corruptly in the investigation of House Speaker Mike Hubbard.
But who has been pulling Luther Strange's strings? Who has been encouraging the attorney general to unlawfully target VictoryLand, and who has benefited from the casino being closed for roughly 28 months?
Judicial immunity likely protects members of the Alabama Supreme Court from a lawsuit. But who is pulling their strings? Who has encouraged them, over and over, to rule contrary to law in a way that has heaped devastation upon VictoryLand and its former employees?
Any individuals who are operating unlawfully "behind the curtain" might face liability that likely would reach into the eight or nine figures.
Who has been causing this massive economic harm to VictoryLand and its employees? The casino has a right to find out, and Alabama civil procedure provides a mechanism for doing just that.
It's called Rule 27 ARCP ("Discovery before action or pending appeal"). The rule allows a person or entity to seek "preaction discovery" to determine if it has a case against someone, what the nature of the case might be, and who might be among the defendants. In other words, it allows anyone who thinks he might have a cognizable legal claim to conduct discovery--via depositions, requests for production of documents, etc.--to determine if he has grounds for a lawsuit and against whom the suit should be directed.
Here is the long-winded version of what Rule 27 is about:
A person who desires to perpetuate that person’s own testimony or that of another person or to obtain discovery under Rule 34 or Rule 35 regarding any matter that may be cognizable in any court of this state may file a verified petition in the circuit court in the county of the residence of any expected adverse party. The petition shall be entitled in the name of the petitioner and shall show: (1) that the petitioner expects to be a party to an action cognizable in a court of this state but is presently unable to bring it or cause it to be brought, (2) the subject matter of the expected action and the petitioner’s interest therein, (3) the facts which the petitioner desires to establish by the proposed testimony and the petitioner’s reasons for desiring to perpetuate it, (4) the names or a description of the persons the petitioner expects will be adverse parties and their addresses so far as known, and (5) the names and addresses of the persons to be examined and the substance of the testimony which the petitioner expects to elicit from each, and shall ask for an order authorizing the petitioner to take the depositions of the persons to be examined named in the petition, for the purpose of perpetuating their testimony or to seek discovery under Rule 34 or Rule 35 from the persons named in the petition.
As the title states, Rule 27 is appropriate either before an action or pending an appeal. Well, Luther Strange's actions have VictoryLand now facing an appeal. So casino officials have every right to seek information that will either help with their appeal or with a future claim against those who have caused them damages. Also, the proper venue for such a petition likely would be Macon County.
Are there possible downsides to a Rule 27 filing? Perhaps, and the biggest one is that the petition could wind up on appeal before the same high court that already is cheating VictoryLand. But our research indicates the Alabama Supreme Court's own rulings provide support for the notion that VictoryLand is entitled to conduct "preaction discovery" under Rule 27.
We have more on that coming up.
The bottom line? Parties who are being cheated by a dysfunctional court system--and that includes VictoryLand or anyone else--have a right to seek information that might identify the individuals or entities who are causing them harm. VictoryLand has the legal resources to pursue a Rule 27 petition, and in my view, it is way past time for doing so.
(To be continued)
I have shown on this blog that both Times' claims are false. (See here and here.) But now we've learned that Robertson's own words contradict his claims about my alleged unwillingness to hire a lawyer. And the public record, which Robertson apparently did not bother to check, shows that the newspaper's claims regarding defamation lawsuits are false.
All of this raises serious questions about the Times' competence, its motivations--or both--in reporting on a First Amendment case that represents a first in American history. Did the Times convey to its readers the grotesque nature of constitutional violations in my case? No, it did not, and that is not just my opinion. It comes also from Andrew Kreig, a lawyer/journalist who serves as director of the Washington, D.C.,-based Justice-Integrity Project. Kreig minces no words in showing how the Times "flubs" its reporting on my case; he also gives Robertson an opportunity to explain his approach to the article--and the reporter winds up showing that he can't keep his story straight.
How shallow was the Times' coverage? Kreig sums it up:
The Times story underplayed the court system's outrageous confiscation of Shuler's rights -- and the damage to the public. The kangaroo court proceedings set back the state's image more than 50 years to the time of the segregationist "Jim Crow" era when libel and contempt of court proceedings were used to crush the civil rights movement.
These days, the Shuler case illustrates how a court system can destroy targeted individuals and businesses by selectively ignoring basic due process protections typically expected in the legal system.
I spoke with two Alabama lawyers--David Gespass and Austin Burdick--while I was in jail, so that seems to make it fairly obvious that I was open to having legal representation. If I wasn't open to representation, I would not have spoken with Gespass and Burdick. (For the record, Gespass never presented a clear plan for gaining my release under the law and seeking damages for violations of my constitutional rights; Burdick stated that he likely would need to bill an amount that I could not afford. He also said he probably would write off the amount as pro bono representation, but I was concerned about winding up with a hefty bill--again, with no plan for seeking damages on my behalf, from which I could pay his fees.)
Robertson apparently knew I had spoken to multiple lawyers, but he still wrote the following:
So while the furor has all but dissipated, Mr. Shuler remains in jail, unwilling to take down his posts but also unwilling to hire a lawyer and contest his incarceration in the state courts.
Robertson and I spoke for an hour--in four 15-minute increments while I was in jail--and I would estimate that about 75 percent or more of the conversation was on the "hiring a lawyer" issue. Of all the profound issues present in my case, this seemed to be the only one that held any interest for Robertson.
Did I state that I had a hard time trusting lawyers, given my experiences with them in the past? (See here, here, and here.) Yes. Did I state at various times in the different interviews that I didn't want to hire a lawyer--or I was reluctant to hire a lawyer--because of those trust issues? Yes.
But did I say I was unwilling to hire a lawyer or that I would not even consider it? The answer is no. In a February 2014 post here, I summed up what I ultimately told Robertson:
I had specifically told Campbell Robertson that we are open to being represented by the right lawyer with the right strategy under the right circumstances. I felt I made that very clear, but there must have been some misunderstanding because The New York Times incorrectly reported that I was refusing to hire a lawyer. That's not true and I just want to make sure that's clear."
Does that sound like someone who is "unwilling to hire a lawyer"? No, it does not. And Robertson admits, in his comment to Andrew Kreig, that I told him I was open to hiring a lawyer. Robertson's full comment can be read at the end of this post, but here is the key section:
I spoke, in 15 minute increments, to Mr. Shuler for an hour from jail. I asked him multiple times about hiring a lawyer; it was in fact my main line of questioning, having already gotten many of the other details in a long interview with his wife. He said that he did not want to hire a lawyer because he did not trust lawyers (an answer he repeated every time I asked), and that he did not want to fight this in state court, where it currently stands.
He did say he was open if someone were to offer pro bono representation if this was in federal court. He also refused state-provided counsel on his criminal charges. None of this lessens the constitutional problems of the judge''s actions. But it does lead to a complicated story.
In other words, I did say I was open to hiring a lawyer--and Campbell Robertson admits his reporting was inaccurate. Did that hurt my wife and me as we sought justice for what amounted to a state-sanctioned kidnapping? Yes, it did--and here is how Andrew Kreig sums it up:
The Times column said that Shuler does not want a lawyer. That seems to be an error harming their chances of obtaining counsel.
Shuler’s wife Carol . . . is a co-defendant in the suit who has been permitted by authorities so far to remain in their Birmingham home without arrest. But she has been too frightened to leave for the most part since except for occasional quick trips to a store.
She told me in a phone interview this week that they would very much like to have a lawyer, as they told [Robertson].
As for the federal-court issue, my arrest raised issues under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments--constitutional matters that usually are addressed in federal courts. If I was going to seek redress for the wrongs committed against me, it seems federal court would be the proper venue. Robertson's reporting--and his questioning--hinted that my only option was to seek release in state court while ignoring any possibilities for damages in federal court, or anywhere else.
One of the lawyers I spoke with in jail seemed to have that viewpoint--and we will report on that in an upcoming post. The lawyer suggested that I should always maintain a defensive posture, never seeking to go on the offensive. Did Campbell Robertson have a similar agenda in his reporting?
It sure smells that way from here. Why would Robertson take such an approach to the story, essentially offering up a cheap hit piece on a journalist who has been abused in a way that appears to be a first in American history? We've uncovered some evidence that points to possible answers for that question, and we will look at that in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)
|Carol Shuler, from her Facebook page|
Let's look at the evidence, and use a little common sense, to arrive at a likely answer to that question. Here are a couple of unsettling hints: (1) Our house, or rather a desire to scour the contents of our house, was the driving motivation behind the ugly events of fall 2013; (2) Carol and I, and our pets, were at significant risk of being killed.
As we noted in a previous post, suing Carol (or "Mrs. Schnauzer," as we most often call her here) is like suing tennis great Steffi Graf for something her husband, fellow tennis great Andre Agassi, wrote in his 2009 autobiography, Open. It's absurd, nonsensical, unlawful, and a classic example of what lawyers like to call "vexatious" litigation. That means it has no purpose other than to harass and annoy, and if our case had a legitimate judge other than Claude Dent Neilson, Riley and Duke would have been hit with sanctions.
Including Carol in the Riley/Duke lawsuit probably had a purpose other than to harass and annoy. Our guess is that it was designed to steal and terrorize, which makes it even more unlawful--perhaps even criminal. Why do we say that?
For starters, let's stipulate that Carol, because she was named in the lawsuit, was targeted for arrest. Jay Murrill, from the Riley Jackson law firm, sent her a letter after I had been in jail for several weeks, stating that he and his client/boss never had any intention of having her arrested. But Carol and I both know that is a lie.
When I was being arrested on the night of October 23, 2013, dragged from our home with pepper spray dripping off of me, I heard three or four officers on the scene talking about trying to arrest Carol. She was asleep in an upstairs bedroom, and somehow managed to remain asleep while deputy Chris Blevins beat me up and left debris all over the floor in our garage two stories below. I could hear officers talking about trying to nab Carol ("the wife") that night, but they apparently were reluctant to knock down our front door to get at her.
During the first week I was in jail, Carol reports that deputies made three more trips to our house--at least one of them at night, with lights being shined into our windows. They again pounded on the front door and yelled something, apparently trying to get Carol to come to the door so they could make off with her. Wisely, she did not fall for it and managed to get word out to various news outlets about my arrest. During one night-time visit, Carol was on the phone with Andrew Kreig, of the Justice-Integrity Project, so he was able to get a sense of the siege she was under.
Only when the story began to spread, with the help of Andrew Kreig, Peter B. Collins, and many other journalists, did the threatening visits to our house stop.
So what was the purpose of this terror campaign against someone who, as Riley and Duke seemed to admit in court documents, had nothing to do with writing or editing the posts in question--or any other Legal Schnauzer posts, at the time?
It took me awhile to arrive at an answer to that question, perhaps because of the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) I've experienced since being released from five months in jail--apparently the first journalist in American history to be incarcerated under such circumstances. By the way, I'm not loosely throwing around the term PTSD; multiple medical professionals have diagnosed me with the disorder, and I am receiving treatment for it, although I feel its effects every minute of every day.
Carol also has been diagnosed with PTSD. Perhaps of more concern at the moment, she has not been able to receive medication for a thyroid condition, and the lack of treatment puts her health at serious risk. That's what happens when you've been cheated out of your jobs--and your health insurance--kicked out of your house, and forced to move to an unfamiliar area.
Here is the likely answer to why Riley/Duke named Carol in the lawsuit and sought her arrest; it seems abundantly clear to me now, after months of wondering, "Why on earth did they do that?"
Carol and I now are convinced that the Riley/Duke lawsuit was all about our house--or rather the imagined contents of our house.
In the fall of 2013, I was conducting research on a number of sensitive, and potentially explosive, topics regarding the tribe of white, elitist conservatives who more or less run Alabama. Some of that research led to posts about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com--a series that drew national and international attention, given Pryor's status as a controversial Bush-era appointee who was known for his numerous anti-gay public statements and actions.
|Bill Pryor, at badpuppy.com|
As noted here previously, the Riley/Duke complaint had almost nothing in common with a standard defamation lawsuit. It didn't seek a trial, it didn't seek a jury, it didn't seek monetary damages, it didn't seek discovery to prove the material in question was false or defamatory. That's because it wasn't about defamation or a civil dispute (lawsuit)--it was about having me thrown in jail.
And it was about having Carol thrown in jail. Why her, too? That's where common sense enters the picture--and it took me several months to regather my wits in order to figure this out.
What happens when the two human occupants of a house--we also have two much loved and slightly spoiled kitty kats--are arrested and thrown in the slammer? The house suddenly becomes free of human barriers and open to thorough "investigation."
With the help of law-enforcement officials or "security specialists," who can easily pick locks and comb through possessions, anyone could go through our house from top to bottom. They could rifle through everything we owned--and even steal items that held a special interest for them.
We feel certain they would have found plenty of interest, especially in one room. That's why it was so important to arrest Carol. With both of us stashed in jail cells some 20 miles away, our house would have become an open book. And it's important to keep this in mind: The Riley/Duke lawsuit file was sealed, so the public would not have known the case even existed--we would have vanished, with the general public having no way of knowing what happened to us. Readers likely would have started asking questions when my blog suddenly stopped, with no explanation, but authorities easily would have been able to fend that off.
Carol's ability to escape abduction almost certainly threw a major wrench into the plans. But individuals close to Rob Riley had reason to know that our house contained information that could be highly damaging to their interests. So they had another trick up their sleeve--a Plan B, if you will.
We will spell that out in an upcoming post, and I think this much will be clear: Carol and I have been the victims of organized crime. And that's because Alabama is a dysfunctional, red state that is run by a band of white, "conservative" elites who, when threatened, resort to tactics that are criminal and organized.
How serious is this? Well, Carol and I were the targets of a conspiracy to kidnap. And had we both been abducted, and we failed to produce the desired information, I think we likely would have been killed; our pets almost certainly would have been killed. And with the lawsuit file sealed, it's likely no one ever would have known what happened to us. The local press probably would have portrayed our disappearance as "suicides" or an "accident."
If that doesn't scare you, no matter where you live . . . well, this story isn't over. Wait until you hear about Plan B.
(To be continued)
We deal with a lot of unpleasant subjects here at Legal Schnauzer, so we (and probably our readers) could use something uplifting once in a while.
I can't think of anything more inspiring than the video for a song called "Every Praise," by Brooklyn, New York, pastor and gospel artist Hezekiah Walker. Maybe best of all, the video was filmed (expertly so, I might add) in the Historic Five Points South district of Birmingham, Alabama.
Why was Birmingham chosen for the filming? I don't know, but it's very familiar territory for me; I used to work about three blocks down the hill from where this was shot. And to see the area used to help send a soaring message that crosses racial, religious, and political boundaries . . . well, it touches the soul.
The video apparently first appeared on YouTube in October 2013. Ironically, that's the same month I was unlawfully arrested and thrown in jail for five months because of a defamation lawsuit filed by GOP operative Rob Riley. (No wonder I'm just now finding out about "Every Praise" and its video.)
My incarceration represents the ugly underbelly of the Alabama political/legal world--one that still is ruled by greed, race-based fear, white privilege, and disregard for the constitutional principles that are supposed to bind us as a nation.
So how great is it to discover that Birmingham was the site for a video that seeks to touch the best in men's souls--to give us hope for justice and a better tomorrow? Better yet, the video now has more than 5 million views on YouTube, and the song went to No. 1 on the Billboard gospel chart.
As regular readers know, my musical tastes tend to run toward what I call "1970s white guy pop/rock." But I've long had a fondness for classic church music--hymns like "Morning Has Broken,""God of Our Fathers," and "Holy, Holy, Holy." And there is no doubt that a rousing gospel tune can touch this white boy's heart. Years ago, I was fortunate to attend a performance of Mama, I Want to Sing! at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center Concert Hall. It remains one of the finest theatrical performances I've ever seen--filled with rousing gospel music--and I highly recommend the show to anyone who ever has a chance to see it.
After watching the above video, all I can say is, "Thank you, Hezekiah Walker, for helping to write and perform a song that deserves to live for the ages. Thank you for bringing your choir to Birmingham, Alabama, and for choosing our city as the location for your video. May the spirit that jumps off the screen from 'Every Praise' help transform our city, state, and nation."
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We've shown that Rule 27 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure (ARCP) is a vehicle for parties to conduct "preaction discovery" in order to determine any "cognizable" legal claim they might have--and against whom a potential lawsuit might be directed.
A case styled Ex parte Anderson, 644 So. 2d 961 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1994) provides insight on how VictoryLand might be able to proceed. The case involved Loyd L. Anderson, who had been fired from his position with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office and sought information for a possible lawsuit against the Shelby County Commission. Specifically, Anderson sought documents from an Alabama Bureau of Investigation (ABI) probe that led to his departure from the sheriff's department.
The trial court granted Anderson's petition. But Major Jerry Shoemaker, head of ABI, appealed to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, which found that Anderson was not entitled to discovery because Rule 27 applied only in cases where evidence might be lost or destroyed.
Anderson appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor, stating that the federal counterpart to Rule 27 indeed involved only evidence that might be lost, but the Alabama rule is broader in scope. Here is how the high court summarized the issues at stake:
Anderson alleged in his Rule 27 petition that he expected to sue the [Shelby County] Commission for money he claimed was owed to him as a result of his previous employment. Anderson took the position that he needed to see the ABI's records before he could make a good faith determination as to whether he had a cause of action against the Commission. After conducting a hearing, at which Anderson and the ABI were represented by counsel, the trial court ordered the ABI to comply with Anderson's discovery request. . . .
The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment, holding that Anderson's petition was not sufficiently specific to state a claim under Rule 27 and that he was not entitled under Rule 27 to require the production of the ABI's records, in the absence of evidence that those records were in danger of being lost or destroyed. . . . Presiding Judge [William E.} Robertson dissented, stating that he could find no basis for holding that the trial court had abused its power in granting Anderson's discovery request.
The Alabama Supreme Court wound up agreeing with Robertson, stating:
Although Alabama Rule 27 does not give a potential plaintiff "carte blanche" to "fish" for a ground for filing an action, it nonetheless provides for preaction "discovery under Rule 34," regardless of any need to perpetuate evidence, provided that the requirements of the rule are met and that the trial court is satisfied that such discovery might serve to prevent a failure or delay of justice. . . .
We must agree with Anderson and the trial court that Rule 27 is significantly different from the federal rule and that it does not limit preaction discovery under Rule 34 to perpetuating evidence. We note in this regard that limited use of Rule 27 for the purpose of evaluating a potential claim is entirely consistent with the underlying purpose of both Rule 11, Ala.R.Civ.P., and the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act, Ala.Code 1975, § 12-19-270 et seq., in that Rule 27 provides a limited means by which potential plaintiffs (and their attorneys), within the discretion of the trial court, can examine evidence before actually deciding whether they have a reasonable basis for filing an action.
What does this mean for VictoryLand? While it doesn't have "carte blanche" to "fish" for information (whatever that means), it is entitled to discovery that might help it evaluate a potential claim or respond to an appeal, which Strange has filed. The Anderson ruling suggests that even a law-enforcement agency can be subject to discovery under Rule 27. The court, however, did provide this qualifier in a footnote:
We make no judgment as to whether the ABI's records are protected from disclosure under other provisions of Alabama law. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment on the holdings that Anderson's petition was not sufficiently specific to state a claim and that he was not entitled to preaction discovery of the ABI's records for the purpose of evaluating a potential cause of action. It did not rule one way or the other as to whether the ABI's records should be the subject of a protective order. Our review in this case is limited to those particular holdings.
As we noted in our previous post on this subject, prosecutors generally are immune from suit, and our guess is that records of the Attorney General's Office likely are protected under some provision of state law. But VictoryLand's interest might be in seeking information from, or about, those individuals or entities that it believes have influenced Strange and the Alabama Supreme Court to act unlawfully against it--resulting in damages that likely reach the tens of millions of dollars, if not more.
Who might some of those individuals and entities be? Likely candidates include former Governor Bob Riley, attorney Rob Riley (the former governor's son), House Speaker Mike Hubbard, anti-gambling activist Eric Johnston, former Strange campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, and officials with the Poarch Creek and Mississippi Choctaw tribes.
Discovery related to those individuals, and perhaps others, almost certainly would bolster VictoryLand's position on appeal--and for any action it might bring in the future to recover economic damages.
The investigation lasted 10 years, finally closing down in 2008, after the Federal Election Commission fined Rob Riley and his father's campaign $10,000 for making and accepting excess contributions. At the heart of the controversy was Triad Management Services, a Virginia-based consulting firm devoted to keeping the Republican majority in Congress, according to its promotional materials in 1995 and '96. Carolyn Malenick, a former fund-raiser for Oliver North, was president of Triad.
According to a number of press reports, Rob Riley likely avoided criminal charges only because Republican Fred Thompson (R-TN) headed the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and it decided there was insufficient evidence to take the investigation any further.
Who stood up for Rob Riley's "integrity" during this tumultuous time? It was Michael Scanlon, his father's press secretary. That's the same Michael Scanlon who was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison for his role in a public-corruption and fraud scandal involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Michael Scanlon standing up for your integrity? That's a little like having the late John Holmes vouch for your virginity.
According to a 1997 Associated Press story, Michael Scanlon was aghast at the notion that Rob Riley would intentionally circumvent campaign-finance laws. From the AP report:
The son of Rep. Bob Riley, R-Ala., contributed $1,000 to four different political action committees that later donated identical amounts to Riley's campaign, federal disclosure records show.
Robert R. Riley Jr., a Birmingham lawyer, contributed another $1,000 to a fifth PAC that donated $500 to his father's campaign the following day, according to Federal Election Commission records.
``To say that Rob wrote the checks to the PACs and the PACs wrote the checks to the campaign is incorrect,'' said Mike Scanlon, press secretary to the freshman Republican.
Scanlon didn't stop there; he was just getting warmed up. Here is more from AP:
Scanlon said the congressman's son wrote the five PAC contribution checks and mailed them together in late April or early May to Triad Management Services Inc., a Washington-based firm that advises conservative donors who want to contribute to conservative PACs and candidates.
``Whatever transpired between Triad and these PACs, we have absolutely no idea about,'' said Scanlon. ``That's between Triad and the political action committees.''
Scanlon said the younger Riley wanted to help conservative candidates and sent the PAC checks to Triad ``under the assumption that there was a very good possibility that none of the money would come back to Bob Riley's campaign.''
Is Michael Scanlon a trustworthy source on this subject? Well, to answer that question, we highly recommend an article at breitbartunmasked.com titled "How Rob Riley Learned to Launder Political Money."
We also recommend that you view the following scene from Casino Jack, a Hollywood film about the Abramoff scandal. This scene features Kevin Spacey as Abramoff and Barry Pepper as Scanlon:
We called that Plan A behind the Riley/Duke lawsuit and noted the likelihood that we would have been killed if we refused to cave into whatever demands they planned to make of us as kidnap victims. That plan was foiled when Carol managed to escape being abducted on the night I was arrested--I heard officers talking about trying to get her that night--and when Shelby County deputies made three visits to our house during the first week I was in jail. After that, the story of my arrest--thanks largely to Carol's efforts and reports by Peter B. Collins and Andrew Kreig--started spreading rapidly around the Web and in mainstream news outlets. It appears Alabama law-enforcement thugs decided it was best to leave Carol alone once the story of my arrest got out.
Keep in mind that the Riley/Duke lawsuit was sealed at the time, and the sealing almost certainly had nothing to do with litigation-related concerns. It was done so that, once Carol and I were in custody, the public would have no way of knowing what happened to us. And it would have provided almost absolute cover had we been murdered.
Carol's ability to remain free and communicate with news outlets threw a major wrench into Plan A. But that doesn't mean the politicos behind the Riley/Duke scheme did not have a Plan B. And that likely involved the foreclosure on our house.
About three days before I was released from jail, I learned that our home was threatened with foreclosure. Trust me when I say that you haven't lived until you've learned about a foreclosure while having been kidnapped and thrown in jail. I can't imagine many worse circumstances, short of learning that all of your loved ones have died in a plane crash.
When I arrived home from jail, it was not exactly a joyous occasion. Yes, I was thrilled to be free, and I think Mrs. Schnauzer was glad to have me home (for the most part). But under the law, we had less than 30 days to try to save our house--and with both of us having been cheated out of our jobs and me suffering from the PTSD associated with having been kidnapped and jailed--we had almost no way to save it. About our only hope was to file for bankruptcy, but we did not qualify for the two primary options--Chapter 13 and Chapter 7.
To make matters worse, a wealthy individual from west Alabama (who shall remain nameless, for now) contacted us and promised to help save our house. We went back and forth with him for roughly three weeks, honestly answering every question that he had, only to have him renege at virtually the last minute. We later discovered that this individual has longstanding ties to University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr., so we now suspect this person never had any intention of helping us stave off foreclosure. In fact, it appears he conned us from the outset.
That pretty much ensured that we would lose our home of almost 24 years. We had to pack up our things, under extraordinary duress, and try to find another place to live in just a few days' time. We faced the very real possibility of homelessness. In fact, that still is a possibility, although we have shelter for the time being.
We had lived at 5204 Logan Drive since March of 1990. We had made our mortgage payment on time for roughly 23 years--and of the people living in the 24 or so houses on our street, I'm pretty sure we had been there longer than anyone.
Someone else now lives at that address, while we have been forced to live like refugees. Are the current occupants of 5204 Logan Drive in lawful possession of our house? The evidence suggests the answer is no. (More on the law of wrongful foreclosure in an upcoming post.)
Let me make a few quick points here:
* We were behind on our monthly payments, but we had received one extension from Chase Mortgage.
* I'm not an expert on this, but several knowledgeable individuals have told us that when you have considerable equity in a home (as we did) you often are given more than one extension to get things back on track.
* I'm not sure what warning letters Carol might have received from Chase during the last six months or so we were in the house, but I don't think she received any. Even so, with her husband in jail and Rob Riley's court documents threatening to have her arrested, her hands were tied. In a lot of ways, my incarceration helped cost us our home because we had no way to address the looming foreclosure--even though I don't think Carol had much advance warning anyway.
* We were behind on our payments, but that does not necessarily mean a foreclosure is lawful. The key point of wrongful foreclosure, under Alabama law, is this: If a foreclosure is conducted for an ulterior reason, anything other than to collect the debt owed on the mortgage, it is unlawful--and there can be serious consequences for the individuals who helped the homeowners wrongfully lose their house.
What were the likely ulterior motives in our foreclosure? I can think of two right off the bat:
(1) Any move is challenging, but to move because of a foreclosure--especially when one party has been in jail, and you didn't even have the full 30 days to fight it--probably is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences an adult can experience. It throws the homeowners' lives into off-the-charts upheaval and forces you to focus on the bare essentials of life--like shelter. A side activity, like blogging, becomes out of the question. And in fact, my blog went away for several months after we were forced out of our home. Was that part of the plan behind the foreclosure, to bring Legal Schnauzer to a close?
(2) Foreclosure moves, I suspect, tend to be done in a haphazard manner. Ours certainly was. We had almost no time to plan it, and for a variety of reasons, it was done in two or three parts--all the while, the company that supposedly bought our house at auction was threatening to shut off our utilities. In fact, they did shut off our water one day, which is against the law in Alabama--and most other states.
Because of the uber stressful nature of our move, there were several days where part of our belongings had been removed from the house, but quite a bit of our stuff remained--with neither Carol nor me around to help oversee things.
In fact, we still don't have almost one full room of our belongings. And what room was that? You might recall from our previous post that we had turned one room of our house into the nerve center for this blog--we called it the Legal Schnauzer Anti-Corruption Research Center. Almost everything from that room still is missing, and we have no idea what happened to it.
We've been told the purchasing company, Spartan Value Investors, placed the items in a Birmingham storage facility. But we have no idea if that is true. The same company told us they would pay $2,000 of our moving expenses if we got out by a certain date. We got out by that date, and we've never seen a dime from the company.
What happened during those days that possessions remained in our house while we were not around? We're not sure, but with law-enforcement obviously playing a role in the Riley/Duke scheme, it would have been easy for a "professional" to pick a lock, allowing any number of people to enter our home and go through research material I had collected for this blog.
That points to an ugly plan behind the foreclosure on our home. And as we will show shortly, such a plan is wildly unlawful.
Believe it or not, Ted Rollins now espouses something called "conscious capitalism." Its adherents apparently seek to operate above the greed-driven, dollar-centric norms that mark regular capitalism. Conscious capitalists, in theory, make decisions with the needs and desires of "stakeholders" and the broader community in mind. In a sense, they are to treat business as a sort of higher calling (must . . . not . . . guffaw).
That should be quite a challenge for Rollins, given that public records and laws from at least three states (Alabama, North Carolina, and South Carolina) indicate he is a child abuser, convicted criminal, deadbeat dad,perjurer, fugitive from justice, and abusive litigant. Now that the Campus Crest board of directors has dumped him, you can add "failed CEO" to his list of achievements.
As for Rollins' new company, it's called the Balance Group and is based in Greenville, South Carolina. Where Campus Crest built housing for young people, students near college campuses, Balance Group focuses on housing for old folks--senior living, you might call it.
Campus Crest always seemed an odd fit for Rollins, given his conviction in Franklin County, North Carolina, for assaulting his teen-aged stepson. Perhaps Rollins will be less likely to beat up the seniors who inhabit his Balance Group properties.
As for Rollins' devotion to "conscious capitalism," evidence for that can be found at the Web site for TXG Capital, an investment firm he's had for quite some time--in fact, it apparently predates Campus Crest Communities. At the About page for TXG Capital, we learn the following:
Conscious capitalism is an important part of the business strategy at TXG Capital. It builds on the foundation of capitalism (voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, rule of law, and freedom to trade), and expands it with four pillars: higher purpose, conscious culture, conscious leadership, and stakeholder orientation, the combination of which yields conscious capitalism.
Our vision is thriving businesses that succeed because of their focus on purpose, customer experience, and corporate responsibility. Headed by Ted Rollins, our team of conscious capitalists will create positive customer experiences while outperforming in the areas of economics, environmental preservation, and social stewardship.
Ted Rollins is going to adhere to the "rule of law"? That's interesting, considering that his divorce from Birmingham resident Sherry Rollins, which spanned two states, was conducted so far outside the law--and in such an abusive fashion--that it left his ex wife and two daughters to rely on food stamps for survival.
Conscious capitalism, by the way, is not something Ted Rollins created. It's the latest business buzz phrase, growing from a 2013 book co-written by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. The concept even has a Web page, touting its annual CEO summit, this year in Austin, Texas. If you do a Google search on "conscious capitalism," you will receive page after page of articles about CC's potential to transform American business.
According to Merriam-Webster, the word conscious means "to be awake and able to understand what is happening around you." In other words, being conscious essentially means that you aren't unconscious, or maybe even comatose.
Does that mean that Ted Rollins, by virtue of being awake, is supposed to be a more effective businessman than someone who is, say, asleep--or maybe in a vegetative state?
My guess is that the movement really should be called "conscientious capitalism." After all, the word conscientious means "to do what is right, to stick by one's principles, to do one's work or duty well and thoroughly." Someone who is conscientious also exhibits empathy, a concern for the rights and feelings of other people.
Maybe John Mackey passed on "conscientious capitalism" as a buzz phrase because he knew many corporate types could not live up to it. That raises the specter of CEOs who do not have a functioning conscience, meaning they are sociopaths. According to the book Snakes in Suits, the workplace is filled with them, especially in management.
No wonder Ted Rollins is aflutter about "conscious capitalism." It's a cool sounding phrase that requires absolutely nothing from him, other than to be awake. "Conscientious capitalism," on the other hand, would require a lot from its adherents, and it might actually empower everyday folks and change the world for the better. It seems doubtful that Ted Rollins could handle that.
Many homeowners seem to have a perception that goes something like this: "If you are behind on your mortgage payments, especially by three or four months or more, you can face lawful foreclosure--no questions asked."
The truth is very different from that. Birmingham lawyer John Watts defends homeowners in foreclosures and has written extensively about the subject at his Alabama Consumer Law Blog. Watts has written an article titled "What Is Wrongful Foreclosure in Alabama?" and it's probably the best overview on the subject you will find. Watts shows that foreclosures often are sloppily conducted, and a whole lot can go wrong to make them unlawful--and turn homeowners into victims.
Here is an example of a lawsuit Watts filed against Chase Mortgage, which held the mortgage on our home. As the complaint shows, the foreclosure process is not always as cut and dried as many homeowners might think.
My primary focus, at the moment, is on an element of wrongful-foreclosure law that is perhaps best stated in a case styled Reeves Cedarhurst Development v. First American Federal Savings and Loan 607 So. 2d 180 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1992). From the Reeves Cedarhurst decision:
A mortgagor has a wrongful foreclosure action whenever a mortgagee uses the power of sale given under a mortgage for a purpose other than to secure the debt owed by the mortgagor. Johnson v. Shirley, 539 So.2d 165, 168 (Ala.1989); Paint Rock Properties v. Shewmake, 393 So.2d 982, 984 (Ala.1981).
At the heart of the underlying Johnson v. Shirley case was a divorce, where the wife alleged that a bank foreclosed on the couple's home in order to benefit the husband financially. The Alabama Supreme Court found in the wife's favor, ordered the issue go before a jury, and wrote:
The mortgagee cannot use the power of sale for purposes other than to secure the debt owed by the mortgagor. Any improper use of the power for such purposes as oppressing the debtor, or serving the purposes of other individuals, will be considered by the court as a fraud in the exercise of the power.
Were we the victims of foreclosure fraud? Considering that conservative political interests had caused me to be unlawfully thrown in jail, and had also tried to arrest my wife Carol, evidence suggests someone wanted both of us out of the house so it could be scoured for documents I had gathered in research for Legal Schnauzer.
When Carol managed to escape abduction and was able to spread news about my arrest, that apparently foiled Plan A. But Plan B involved foreclosure on our home, which kicked into gear just as I was being released from jail. That process, and the resulting haphazard move, could have allowed our home and belongings to be rifled through--in search of damaging information about conservative political interests--while both Carol and I were gone. If proven, that points to a grossly improper use of the power to secure the debt--and a classic case of wrongful foreclosure and fraud.
What about those other oddities connected to our foreclosure? Here are a few:
* A Huntsville law firm called Stephens Millirons, and an attorney named Robert Wermuth, conducted the foreclosure process on our home. Does that firm conduct its affairs in a competent and upright fashion? Well, it's hard to say, but they still have never supplied us with a copy of the foreclosure deed.
* An outfit called Spartan Value Investors supposedly bought our house at an auction on the steps of the Shelby County Courthouse. I say "supposedly" because we didn't attend the event, and given our experiences with the Shelby County "justice system," I would be amazed if the sale was conducted properly. What is Spartan Value Investors? It apparently is a house-flipping company that originated in Tuscaloosa with a University of Alabama graduate named Clayton Mobley. The firm has a Web site, plus an office on Birmingham's Southside. Are they a noble outfit? Well, Lindsay Jackson Davis, the company's market director, told our representative they would pay $2,000 of our moving expenses if we were out of the house by a certain date. We were out by the date, but we've never seen a dime from Spartan.
* Court records show that roughly two weeks after we left the house, Spartan sold it to JAG Investment Strategies, which appears to be another house-flipping company. Records with the Alabama Secretary of State's office show that the registered agent for JAG is Robert F. Williams, with an address of 5213 Logan Drive in Birmingham. That's right down the street from our house. Does that seem odd? And why would Spartan go to the trouble of successfully bidding on the house--and then promptly sell it to another house-flipping outfit?
* During our last few weeks in the house, Spartan had most of the utilities put in its name. And at least two of the utility companies--Alabama Power and Birmingham Water Works--made the change without checking with us. At that point, under the law, we were in a tenant-landlord relationship with Spartan--assuming Spartan lawfully bought the house, and that's a big "if." It is standard for utilities to be in the tenant's name because the tenant usually pays them. Why did Spartan want the utilities in their name? Apparently, it was so they could terrorize us by threatening to have the power and water shut off. In fact, they did have the water shut off at one point, which is illegal under Alabama law.
* Let's consider some possible political intrigue. Perhaps no law firm in Alabama is more known for doing work with utilities than Birmingham's Balch Bingham. In fact, the firm pretty much is joined at the hip with Alabama Power. Balch Bingham just happens to be where Jessica Medeiros Garrison serves in an "of counsel" role; that's the same Jessica Medeiros Garrison who is suing me in an ongoing defamation case. It's also the same Ms. Garrison who publicly has stated that her mentor is U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor--and Shelby County deputies started showing up regularly on our property very soon after I reported on Bill Pryor's ties to 1990s gay pornography via nude photographs that appeared at a Web site called badpuppy.com. Did Jessica Garrison and/or her legal compadres connected to Alabama Power help ensure our home would go into foreclosure, and that our power unlawfully might be turned off as part of a scheme to terrorize us? And was this done, at least in part, in retaliation for my reporting on Bill Pryor?
* Speaking of Alabama Power and Balch Bingham, they are connected to a curious outfit called Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE). It sounds like PACE is concerned with keeping energy affordable for consumers. But published reports indicate PACE's primary purpose--perhaps its only purpose--is to ensure that Alabama Power's rates stay at a comfortably profitable level. What law firm helped incorporate PACE? Why, it was Balch Bingham. Who really is behind PACE, and how is it funded? That is not entirely clear, but Mobile-based investigative journalist Eddie Curran is shining considerable light on that question. We never have held Mr. Curran in particularly high regard, mainly because we view his reporting on the prosecution of former governor Don Siegelman as way off base. But we think Curran's reporting on Alabama Power and PACE, at his blog mrdunngoestomontgomery.com, is worth a look. The following post describes the curious relationship between Alabama Power, PACE, and the Montgomery-based political consulting firm Matrix LLC. I never thought I would find myself on the same page with Eddie Curran, but I think he's onto something important with PACE, and I am looking into the matter as well.
* Finally, a friend provided us with a copy of the foreclosure deed on our house, and it shows that Spartan produced a winning bid of $74,359. During the period that we were trying to save our house, Stephens Millirons sent us information, at our request, showing that we could own the house free and clear for a payment of $66,000. My research indicates that it's rare for a house to sale at foreclosure for more than is owed on it, but when that happens, the difference between the two amounts represents equity for the homeowner. In other words, we are owed roughly $8,359, and my sources close to the foreclosure industry say it is Stephens Millirons' responsibility to make sure we receive those funds. Has the law firm sent us a nickel? Nope.
* For the record, a couple named Preston Crider and Angela Gulledge Crider are the current occupants of our home. We know little about them other than they appear to work in or around the nursing field. Are they in our house lawfully? I doubt it. Do they have any idea about the skulduggery that caused our home of 25 years to become available? I doubt it, but then again, who knows how deep all of this goes?
Below is the copy of the foreclosure deed, which a friend found and sent to us. Stephens Millirons, the Huntsville law firm that ramrodded the foreclosure, still has never sent us a copy of the foreclosure deed or any other subsequent paperwork. Our original mortgage, in 1990, was with a company called Troy & Nichols, and we refinanced with Troy & Nichols at some point in the 1990s. A 1993 New York Times article calls Troy & Nichols a "residential mortgage servicer." and reported its sale to Chase Manhattan. Here is how The Times described Troy & Nichols convoluted history:
Troy & Nichols services about $10 billion in residential mortgage loans. The company operates 21 offices in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, New Mexico and Florida. Chase manages a $35 billion mortgage-servicing portfolio. Last July, First Gibraltar paid the Resolution Trust Corporation $82 million for Troy & Nichols, which had been part of the failed Southwest Savings Association of Dallas. First Gibraltar is owned by the financier Ronald O. Perelman, who also controls Revlon Inc. and Marvel Entertainment Group.
A document that Spartan Value Investors sent us described the auctioneer on our home as James J. Odom Jr., of Troy & Nichols. The foreclosure deed below identifies Odom in a different, and more detailed, way.
(Note: The Alabama State Bar lists a James J. Odom Jr. as an attorney in Pelham, with an office on Yeager Parkway. Could he be related to Michael B. Odom, who with his mentor Jesse P. Evans III, screwed us royally in our defense of the lawsuit that our troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity, brought against me? That, of course, is Mike McGarity with the extensive criminal record. Wouldn't it be ironic if the lawyer who auctioned our house was related to the lawyer who helped usher in our 15-year Era of Legal Headaches? Odom and Evans took roughly $12,000 of our money, did pretty much nothing that they should have done, refused to file a valid counterclaim after stating they would do it, and then lied to me about their actions. When I requested a refund--as you would do with a mechanic who failed to fix your car--Odom and Evans refused. In my view, they flat-out stole about $12,000 from us.)
Bottom line: We have no idea who actually "owned" our mortgage. Based on The Times article, the paper trail goes something like this: Troy & Nichols > Southwest Savings Association > Resolution Trust Corporation > First Gibralter > Chase Manhattan.
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|Chloe (right) and her brother, Baxter|
The title of this blog is a hint that my wife, Carol, and I are animal lovers, and we've tried to treat and love our pets as if they were true members of the family. We always enjoy hearing from readers about the animals who have brought much joy to their homes. I've written several times about Chloe and her brother, Baxter, trying to give a sense of their personalities--and how much we've enjoyed having them around. (See here, here, and here.)
Losing Chloe has us in a state of shock and grief--I'm literally typing through tears as I try to write this.
We spent most of last evening at an emergency veterinary clinic, and blood work showed that Chloe's kidneys were shutting down, and her other key numbers were in dangerous territory. She had to be euthanized, and even though she hadn't been eating right for about three months, we thought we had her headed in the right direction. We thought the lethargy she showed yesterday was due to dehydration, and we hoped an IV treatment would make her much better. But it turned out that we were dealing in the past few months with something much worse than what we had imagined.
What did Chloe mean to us--what will she always mean to us? Gosh, it's hard to find words right now. Of the three pets we've had in 25 years of marriage, she wasn't the most active, or the most alert, or the most playful. But she was the sweetest. She had a round "moon pie" face, and gorgeous blue eyes--and while we sometimes joked that she wasn't "burdened with heavy thoughts"--she was invariably good natured and very low maintenance. She loved her "noms" at meal time, and when she was ready for some loving, she would rub back and forth against our legs, and she seemed to enjoy being patted on her rather ample rump. But mostly, she was just a great "chill buddy," a gentle, calming presence in an often stormy world.
We have a tendency to create "personas" for our pets. Murphy, the miniature schnauzer for whom this blog is named, was a feisty, playful sort, who was an utter joy but could be a bit overprotective of her family unit. She reveled in her "humans," but she probably didn't come across as overly friendly to people she didn't know.
Baxter, Chloe's brother (from the same litter), is our court jester and clown. He's got the typical curiosity of a cat and tends to get into things and occasionally causes messes. We think of him as this "dude" kind of fellow, who likes to go to the gym with his guy friends--where they swim, play racquetball, tell off-color jokes, and snap each other in the butt with towels when showering in the locker room. Baxter tends to be right under our feet, but he can turn into a "fraidy cat" when strangers enter the house. (Baxter, by the way, is doing fine, although he seems puzzled by his sister's absence.)
As for Chloe, it's like she never met a stranger. It's not that she would be all over them with affection. But she seemed to say, "Hey, come on in, there's tea in the fridge, snacks in the cabinet, and I'll be around listening to music if you need me. Hopefully, you won't need me, but make yourself at home anyway."
Music was a big part of the persona we created for Chloe. Something about her big, round face and clear blue eyes made us think she would like songs that maybe weren't terribly deep, but had a happy, bouncy vibe to them. We decided that her favorite band was Wings, and she was particularly enamored with the band's lead singer and songwriter, "Mr. McCartney." We imagined that she always thought Mr. McCartney was about to celebrate his 29th birthday--"Girl, we're pretty sure Mr. McCartney is a little bit older than that--and she refused to believe that he ever had played in another band besides Wings. We would say, in our minds, "Girl, Mr. McCartney was in this other band before Wings, and a lot of people actually think they were pretty good." Then we would imagine her shaking her head and saying, "Nope, no way. No band could ever come close to Wings."
Then she would put buds back in her ears and groove along to her all-time favorite song, "Band on the Run." In fact, in the strange little world we created for her, Chloe listened to "Band on the Run" over and over and chatted with her girl friends about the latest Wings news from the Internet. Her dream was to someday see Wings in concert and have them play "Band on the Run" for two hours.
If Chloe had been a child, she would have been one of those quiet, unassuming kids, who maybe isn't a "star" this or "star" that, but gets along with everybody and never causes any problems. She was anything but a "drama queen."
Chloe was a gorgeous, happy, healthy kitty kat until her eating problems developed back in April. First, we learned that she had feline tooth resorption, a condition where tissue essentially grows over the teeth, causing sensitivity and pain. We had several of Chloe's teeth pulled and hoped that would correct the problem. (By the way, this isn't caused by lack of dental cleanings. Scientists apparently don't know what causes resorption, but it happens with many cats.)
When the dental procedure didn't solve Chloe's eating problems and she began to throw up regularly, we took her back to the vet, and an X-ray showed a "thickness" in her gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The vet said it probably was one of two things--(1) Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), or (2) Cancer.
The only way to know for sure was to do exploratory surgery and take biopsies. If it was cancer, the only treatment was low-dose chemotherapy, which would provide comfort care but might not extend Chloe's life for very long. If it was IBD, we likely could manage it with a combination of medicine and diet change. Since there were no real positive options with cancer, we elected to treat it as IBD and hope that putting her on a moist, grain-free food, and gut-soothing medicines like Pepcid, would get her back on track. (It's thought that IBD is an autoimmune disorder, with the inflammation caused by an allergy to grain or other additive in many cat foods.)
Chloe seemed to do pretty well on her new regimen. Her vomiting went away for the most part, and her poops began to get more solid. She lost weight, but that seemed to have stabilized in recent weeks, and our hope was that she would start putting pounds back on soon. She often would not eat on her own, and Carol fed her almost every meal by hand and squirted water into her mouth with a syringe.
It wasn't until two days ago that we noticed Chloe looking unsteady on her feet. Then yesterday, all she could do was lay on her side, and her eyes looked sunken. That's when we made the appointment for her regular vet this morning. When we read on the Internet about the dangers of dehydration, we decided to seek emergency care last night. The hope was that IV treatment would make her much better.
The emergency vet palpated her abdomen and said, "This might be something more than IBD." We waited for about half an hour for the results of Chloe's blood work, and the news was devastating. All of her numbers were way off, her kidneys were shutting down, and it looked like she was heading for multi-organ failure. The vet said euthanasia was the only reasonable option.
This was the first time we'd ever had to have a pet "put to sleep," and the experience was gut wrenching. The vet staff put Chloe in a little pet bed, covered her in a blanket, and brought her back to the exam room, so we could say our goodbyes. We patted on her and kissed her and whispered in her ear that we would always love her--and we would always be thankful for all she had done for us. Carol said a prayer, thanking God that He had brought Chloe into our lives, thanking Him for the sheer goodness and grace she brought to our home, and praying that Murphy would be the first to greet her in Heaven.
Chloe's beautiful blue eyes were open, and as we loved on her one last time, we noticed that our tears more or less covered her eyes. The vet came in, injected her with an anesthetic, and she was gone in a matter of seconds.
Our best guess, based on what the vet told us and our research, is that Chloe had feline gastrointestinal lymphoma. It's a form of cancer that comes in two varieties--a small-cell version that is not too aggressive and a large-cell version that is very aggressive. Even with chemotherapy, survival with the large-cell version is about two months.
Thanks to Carol's ability to feed her by hand and vigilantly give her medicine and water, Chloe lived for three months--and except for yesterday, she seemed to gradually be getting better during that time.
We chose to have Chloe cremated, and will get her ashes in a cedar box, engraved: "Chloe, 2003-2015, Our Sweet Girl."
That's how we will always remember her--for her gentle, sweet nature. We pray that she knew how much her guile-free spirit meant to us, especially with the torment we've experienced via the "justice system."
During her 12 years on this earth, Chloe seemed to bring the Biblical concept of "loving-kindness" into our home. Her presence seemed to say, "Everything is going to turn out OK. Look how calm I am. You can be calm, too." It's as if she trusted in a higher power, with a connection that we can't comprehend. To us, she always will represent the "fruits of the spirit," the kind that we so seldom see in humans.
Chloe brought a sense of peace and stability to two people who desperately needed to feel that. She did a tremendous amount of good, and I'm not aware of her ever harming another living being.
Hers, truly, was a life well lived. Thank you, Sweet Girl.
In Chloe's memory, here is the ever-youthful "Mr. McCartney" singing "Band on the Run." Below that, is a video where we introduced Chloe and Baxter to Legal Schnauzer readers.
|Robert Stacy McCain and Ali Akbar|
At the heart of the matter is a commenter at a progressive Web site who goes by the handle "RogerS" and appears to have a fair amount of knowledge about legal matters--in fact, he was encouraging liberal activist Brett Kimberlin to file a federal RICO lawsuit against members of the bloggers club and other individuals on the right. When Kimberlin did, in fact, file a RICO suit, I wound up in jail roughly one week later. Coincidence? That's hard to say, but let's look at what we do know.
In certain corners of the blogosphere, it became popular to suggest that "RogerS" and Roger Shuler (me) were one and the same--even though I had nothing to do with the comments in question, I was not aware of any possible federal lawsuit, and I have no clue about the identity of "RogerS." Still, evidence suggests I might have paid a high price--loss of my freedom for five months-- for something that did not involve me.
As for the National Bloggers Club, it operates under a media umbrella created by the late right-wing publisher and provocateur Andrew Breitbart--and its president, Ali A Akbar, has a criminal history and admitted connections to former Bush White House advisor Karl Rove. Akbar also has a history of trolling for gay sex on adult Web sites. (More on that and Akbar's criminal record in an upcoming post.)
For a touch of irony, the NBC reportedly received seed funding from Foster Friess, a wealthy Wyoming businessman. How wealthy is Foster Friess? Reports vary, but assets in his investment-management firm total $15.7 billion, while The Wall Street Journal reported his personal net worth at $530 million. Friess is touted as an "active patron of religious and conservative causes," and he perhaps is best known for backing the 2012 presidential run of the virulently anti-gay and anti-choice Rick Santorum. Friess appears to be setting the table for a 2016 Santorum run at the White House.
The NBC is not Friess' only foray into the right-wing media. He invested more than $3 million to get Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller Web site off the ground. On his blog, Friess seems to be a pro-gun "law and order" conservative, and he has thrown money at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is another anti-gay candidate.
Were the bloggers, or the people to whom they answer, upset enough about "RogerS" to somehow get involved with my five-month incarceration? On the surface, my arrest grew from a dubious defamation lawsuit filed by Alabama GOP operative Rob Riley and violated more than 200 years of First Amendment law. But NBC bloggers went into a virtual feeding frenzy in the days before and after my arrest, apparently convinced that I was "RogerS," the pseudo lawyer who was encouraging Brett Kimberlin to file a RICO lawsuit against them. (See here and here.)
Were the right-wing bloggers, and their benefactors, worried enough about Kimberlin's lawsuit that they decided to make me pay--for something I was not remotely involved with? Heck, did Foster Friess help bankroll an operation that led both to my incarceration and a legally shaky foreclosure on our house?
|Foster Friess: Man Atop the Horse|
But the timing of the episode is curious, and the list of questions it raises is lengthy: Were right-wing interests concerned because they thought I was encouraging a legal action that might unlock some of their secrets? Or was the "RogerS episode" a diversionary tactic to attract attention away from those who really were responsible for having me jailed? Was I actually incarcerated because of my reporting about U.S. Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography?
Did liberal interests, who one might expect to be my comrades, play a role in helping to set me up as "RogerS"? Or did liberals throw the idea out there, more or less as a joke, only to have conservatives run with it in nefarious ways?
I've come to no solid conclusions about all of this. But since I lost five months of my freedom under historic and outlandish conditions--and my wife, Carol, almost joined me in being abducted--I have obvious motivation to learn the truth about what happened.
This much is clear: Ali Akbar himself was deeply invested in the notion that I was "RogerS," as evidenced by this tweet from early November 2013. Does that mean Akbar encouraged members of his bloggers club to spread a false narrative about me?
Public documents show the following: Liberal activist Brett Kimberlin filed a federal RICO lawsuit against Akbar, the bloggers, and other right-wing figures on October 15, 2013, with an amended complaint filed on October 17. Six days after that, a Shelby County deputy entered my garage, beat me up without showing a warrant or stating his purpose for being there, directed pepper spray into my face, and hauled me off to jail.
You see what I mean by curious timing. So let's follow the trail, as we know it so far.
"RogerS" apparently made his first appearance in a September 18, 2013, post at the progressive blog Breitbart Unmasked (BU). Interestingly, that was one day after I broke the Bill Pryor gay-porn story. "RogerS" commented about a possible lawsuit that Kimberlin was planning against a number of individuals connected to the Breitbart Network.
Another commenter on the same post replied: "RogerS is one of two very cool people in Alabama . . . Everyone should read his latest: A very "stiff" portrayal of a federal judge." That's the first sign I can find of connections forming between "RogerS," Roger Shuler, and the Bill Pryor story--and it came from a commenter at a liberal Web site.
On a BU post dated October 11, 2013, "RogerS" wrote in a comment that he was a lawyer who had experience with RICO cases. He then stated the following:
I say this because if Kimberlin had us as his lawyers, we would have advised him to sue under RICO and go after a broad conspiracy, including some deep pockets. The defendants in the state case are very lucky they were not sued under RICO in federal court. It certainly appears that they have engaged in a pattern of racketeering. Those treble damages are very nice.
It didn't take long for conservatives to pick up on the idea that I was RogerS--and I was the "legal wizard" who was encouraging Brett Kimberlin to go after them under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Never mind that my only connection to Brett Kimberlin is one post I wrote about his long-and-winding feud with various conservative bloggers and entities. I've never pretended to give Brett Kimberlin, or anyone else, legal advice--after all, I'm not a lawyer, and I've never claimed to be a lawyer.
Kimberlin, acting pro se,actually filed a RICO lawsuit on October 15, 2013, four days after the "RogerS" comment above. A RICO lawsuit is a civil claim based largely on criminal allegations that typically involve a possible conspiracy. In other words, RICO involves allegations of organized crime, and it can be a pretty unsettling matter to be named as a defendant in such a lawsuit. Kimberlin filed an amended complaint on October 17, and six days later (on October 23, 2013), a Shelby County deputy attacked me in my own home and arrested me.
a post dated October 24, 2013, at Patterico's Pontifications (written by California lawyer Patrick Frey). That was the day after my arrest, and you can see the first "RogerS"/Roger Shuler comparison in comment No. 65, which was written by "Patterico" himself.
The Other McCain (written by Robert Stacy McCain) took it even further in an October 26 post. At that point, my bunk in the Shelby County Jail had barely gotten warm. From the McCain item:
If, as some have suggested today, “RogerS” is actually the self-same Roger Shuler (Shelby County Jail inmate No. 288928), then his comments at a pro-Kimberlin web site are what lawyers called “evidence.”
Evidence of what? I have no idea, especially since I wasn't, and never have been, "RogerS."
The next day, Allergic to Bull (written by Aaron Walker, also known as "Aaron Worthing") wrote about my arrest, followed by a post on October 28 that analyzes various legal actions in which I've been involved--and might include more inaccurate reporting than any blog post I've ever read. On October 31, Walker joined the "RogerS" debate and even suggested that I might have engaged in criminal activity by falsely posing as an attorney:
And while I feel the evidence is not conclusive beyond a reasonable doubt that “Roger S.” is Roger Shuler, in my opinion there is a high probability that it is.
And this could be a very big problem. As I believe it is in most states, unauthorized practice of law is a crime in Alabama.
Now look, legal advice happens all the time, on the internet. Someone says what someone should do in a suit and that is arguably legal advice, but the bar associations generally let that slide. Everyone knows you aren’t a lawyer, so an intelligent reader will take what you said with a grain of salt.
But if the person actually starts identifying him or herself as a lawyer and then starts dispensing advice on how to handle a suit... that becomes much more problematic.
In a post written two days later, Robert Stacy McCain jumped on the "Roger Shuler must be committing a crime" train. The lengthy November 2 post includes screenshots of comments "RogerS" left at BU and then attempts to draw some conclusions:
See, there are coincidences and then there are coincidences. As anyone can see from the comments I’ve screencapped, “RogerS” had been commenting quite frequently: Oct. 17, Oct. 18, Oct. 19, Oct. 21, Oct. 23 and then . . . silence, beginning the same day Roger Shuler was arrested in Alabama, continuing for a full week until, after Aaron Walker pointed out that it is a crime in Alabama to impersonate a lawyer, suddenly “RogerS” pops up to say he is definitely not Roger Shuler.
What kind of coincidence do you think that was? And don’t you think that authorities in Alabama, who seem to be very zealous in their enforcement of the law, might be able to get a subpoena to determine whether Roger Shuler was indeed the phony lawyer “RogerS”?
Because it seems to me that if there were probable cause to suspect Roger Shuler of actually committing a crime — as opposed to a mere contempt of court problem regarding civil litigation — they could get a search warrant for Roger Shuler’s computer.
McCain seems to be big on "coincidences," so isn't it curious that he has a keen interest in searching the contents of my computer, where perhaps my research related to Judge Bill Pryor was stored?
What does all of this mean? I still don't know, but we have clear evidence of a coordinated campaign to falsely suggest that I was "RogerS"--and I was encouraging Brett Kimberlin to file a RICO lawsuit.
Matt Osborne, editor at Breitbart Unmasked, tried to put the whole thing in perspective with a post titled "Why is Team Akbar So Invested In Believing That Roger Shuler Comments Here?" Osborne stated that "RogerS," whoever he is, posted comments from a geolocation far removed from my home base of Alabama. Osborne also showed that "RogerS" had left a comment just hours after my arrest--and correctly noted that it would have been impossible for me to comment from jail.
Here is Osborne's broader take on the "RogerS" saga:
After the arrest of Alabama blogger Roger Shuler on October 23, right wing blog speculation over the identity of RogerS, who leaves comments here from time to time, reached fever pitch. Robert Stacy McCain, Aaron Walker, John Patrick Frey, Kimberlin Unmasked, and even Ken White (of Popehat blog) all weighed in with excitement bordering on bloodlust. In fact, one might even be tempted to think that all their blogging about Shuler’s arrest was driven by an intense desire to link Mr. Shuler with this website, as if they thought such a link would magically absolve Team Akbar of defamation. But last Thursday evening, RogerS spoiled their plans with a comment from the same IP address that he always uses. . . .
Looking over Team Akbar’s blog coverage of Shuler’s arrest, we find Aaron Walker the most hypocritical. A few weeks ago, Walker pretty much admitted to practicing law without a license in Maryland; now he tries to compensate by speculating about RogerS, Roger Shuler, and whether the latter has broken the law by making litigation-related comments as the former. But for sheer dumbassery, R.S. McCain is impossible to beat. As if to underscore just how desperately he needs to believe RogerS is Roger Shuler, on Saturday McCain wrote a breathless justification for his conspiracy theory. McCain’s writing is far short on proof, but overly long on speculation. He seems to think that Shelby County deputies would be justified in seizing Mr. Shuler’s computer to search for proof of nefarious criminal coordination with McCain’s mythical “Team Kimberlin. . . . ”
(McCain) hates liberals with the utter contempt and eliminationist loathing of a racist. He does no fact-checking against what he thinks he knows. He panders to a reactive audience that actually believes the president was born in Kenya, and (McCain) hoards guns and gold in anticipation of the Second Amendment remedies for Obamacare. The tone is absolutist and authoritarian: if you disagree with McCain’s politics, you are not human, and therefore not entitled to constitutional protections. Team Akbar is characterized by two kinds of thinking, magical and misanthropic, and McCain is the perfect avatar for both.
How is this for irony? I've never had much interest in the Kimberlin v. Team Akbar story. The one post I've written on it was at the request of a valued source. While the story raises some important issues in the digital age, it generally falls outside the boundaries of what I normally report.
Someone, though, decided to drag me into the fray--based on false assumptions that I was encouraging Brett Kimberlin to file a RICO case. I intend to find out more about why that happened.
Before we go, here is a video where Ali Akbar admits (at about the 2:17 mark) that he has worked with Karl Rove:
(To be continued)
Anthony Dewayne Ware, 35, ran into nearby woods when officers from the Tuscaloosa Police Department (TPD) approached him at an apartment complex on the city's east side. Officers, claiming Ware was resisting arrest, used pepper spray to help subdue and then handcuff him. As officers were walking Ware out of the woods, he collapsed and was pronounced dead later that evening at DCH Regional Medical Center.
The story hits close to home because Shelby County Officer Chris Blevins doused me with pepper spray during an arrest--inside my own home, related to a civil matter--on October 23, 2013. We've shown that Blevins' use of pepper spray, during an arrest that was unlawful to begin with, almost certainly amounted to excessive force. Now we know that the incident might have put my life at risk--all because Alabama GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke filed a dubious defamation lawsuit against my wife and me, seeking prior restraints that have been prohibited under more than 200 years of First Amendment law.
Anthony Ware's death related to pepper spray has made national and international news. Why were cops looking for him? CNN reports:
A Tuscaloosa resident called police Friday night after spotting Anthony Dewayne Ware, 35, sitting on the front porch of a home with a gun, police said.
"Mr. Ware had an active warrant that had been verified for attempting to elude police," Tuscaloosa police Assistant Chief Ronnie Dunn said.
When officers arrived, police said, Ware fled.
"Officers chased him into the woods, and when the officers caught up to him, he resisted arrest," Dunn said.
Police pepper-sprayed Ware, who continued struggling but was eventually handcuffed, Dunn said. But while officers were walking out of the woods with him, Ware collapsed.
The Tuscaloosa News reported that investigators have requested an expedited autopsy in the Ware case, and they plan to release its results and video of the pursuit. Did the justice system have a legitimate reason to be targeting Ware? That appears to be in doubt, according to The Tuscaloosa News:
TPD had a warrant to charge Ware for attempting to elude police. Ware was arrested in September after a woman told officers that he choked her until she was unconscious, sexually assaulted her and stole her 2011 Honda Accord. The woman recanted that statement in a letter that is included in the court documents. A judge denied his request to dismiss the case, which was pending when he died.
The Ware case and my case differ in a number of respects. Ware had a criminal record (convictions for second-degree assault, escape, drug possession and drug trafficking), while I don't think I've even had a speeding ticket. Ware was wanted on a criminal matter--although it appears the supposed victim might have made up or embellished her story--while my case was 100 percent civil, with no allegations of criminal conduct.
appears to violate state and federal law. Police did have a warrant for Ware, while any evidence of a warrant has yet to be produced in my case--Officer Blevins, on the scene, did not present a warrant, never said he had a warrant, and never even stated his purpose for being on my property until I had been knocked to the concrete floor of my garage three times and doused in the face with pepper spray.
What's it like to be the target of pepper spray? Here's how The Tuscaloosa News reported its effects:
Oleoresin capsicum, called OC or pepper spray, is a chemical compound that irritates the eyes. It causes tears, pain and temporary blindness and is used by police to subdue suspects.
Based on my experience, pepper spray has much more severe effects than that indicates. I was seated on the floor of my garage, with my arms resting on my raised knees, My hands were right there, where any semi-competent officer could have put handcuffs on them. But Blevins sprayed OC into my face, apparently from about a foot away.
I immediately had the sensation of my breath being taken away, of being disoriented in a way I've never experienced. In fact, I felt immobilized, like someone had reached the switch that operates my limbs and clicked it to "off." I don't know what science has found about OC, but I believe it has an immediate impact on the neurological system. Is it safe? Well, when I got to the Shelby County Jail, officers made me strip off all my clothes and I was told I was being "de-toxed," placed into a special area with a shower. None of the officers, it seemed, was anxious to get close to me.
This much is certain: I have never felt the same since the night I was pepper sprayed? Is that due to the PTSD with which I've been diagnosed by multiple medical professionals Or has my neuromuscular system been damaged by pepper spray?
We might discover that Anthony Ware had an underlying condition--heart disease, asthma, epilepsy, or something else--that contributed to his death. But it seems clear, for now, that he would be alive if police had not directed pepper spray at him.
That makes me think I might have been lucky, on October 23, 2013, to come out of my garage alive.
Here is a video about the pepper-spray death of Anthony Ware:
|Ali A. Akbar|
Baron Coleman, a lawyer in Montgomery, Alabama, issued the Akbar threat via a letter dated October 26, 2013, three days after I landed in the Shelby County Jail. You can read Coleman's letter at the end of this post. Obviously, I never read it--or even knew about it--until I was released from jail in March 2014. Once I did read it, I knew right off that Baron Coleman is a sorry excuse for a lawyer--or he has motivations for participating in the con games that seem to bring so much joy to many Republican operatives.
Having earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and practiced professionally in the field for more than 30 years, I know a thing or two about communications law. In order to graduate from my university in journalism, you had to take at least one course in the field. I knew right off that Baron Coleman's letter was as worthless as a 1980-model typewriter.
Akbar threatened to sue me over an article about a letter Alabama lawyer and Don Siegelman-case whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson wrote to Robert Bauer, counsel for President Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. The Simpson letter grew from a bizarre appearance by Republican election guru Karl Rove on Fox News'On the Record, with Greta Van Susteren.
Rove took a question about the tax-exempt status of certain PACs and turned it into an attack on Simpson, Bauer, and Siegelman--who was the target of perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in U.S. history. Rove told Van Susteren that Bauer represented Simpson in her 2007 testimony before the U.S. Congress and that she never testified under oath.
Both statements are demonstrably false, and Simpson responded with a letter to Bauer in which she included an affidavit stating that the two of them had never met, and he had never represented her. Simpson also wrote that she thought Rove became unhinged on live TV because he knew she had damaging information about his personal life, and it soon might become public knowledge.
|Greta Van Susteren and Karl Rove|
In her letter to Bauer, Simpson stated that she took the Akbar ad and used it to unearth more information about his ties to powerful Republicans. Her research, she stated, indicated that Akbar and Rove had a sexual relationship.
I received a copy of Simpson's letter and reported on its contents in a post dated June 27, 2012. Roughly 18 months later, Ali Akbar decided he had been defamed and enlisted Baron Coleman to send me the letter you can read below.
Curiously, it seems Akbar's lawyer did not send such a letter to Jill Simpson, even though the allegedly defamatory material originated with her. Is that because Akbar knows the burden of proof to show that Simpson's statements are false would be on him--and he probably could not meet it?
As for the deep-pockets GOP donor who supports Akbar's bloggers club, that would be Wyoming investment guru Foster Friess. A 2012 report from Yahoo News! shows that the NBC grew from an annual Washington, D.C., social gathering called Blog Bash. The report makes it clear that Foster Friess helped the bloggers club take flight:
Organizers used the party to announce the formation of a new nonprofit started with seed money from millionaire Santorum-backer Foster Friess. Called the "National Bloggers Club," the group will use donations to fund private reporting projects. It also hopes to issue press passes, serving as a clearinghouse so event organizers can differentiate between a blogger with honest intentions versus someone looking for a free pass by starting a Blogspot account. But mostly, the organizers said, the new organization will support and encourage online writers.
At his fosterfriess.com Web site, Friess portrays himself as a modern-day Marlboro man, apparently without the cigarettes. On his bio page, Friess is called "The Man Atop the Horse," with a photo that evokes images from the much-parodied video for Dale Peterson, a former candidate for agricultural commissioner in Alabama. The absurd Peterson ad inspired one of the funniest videos in YouTube history.
|Foster Friess: The Man Atop the Horse|
Would such a moral, Christian, tough guy support the idea of sending letters that threaten baseless lawsuits? Well, that's exactly what Ali Akbar is doing, and his bloggers club got off the ground largely because of Foster Friess' financial support.
How do we know, by the way, that Ali Akbar's lawsuit threat has no meat to its bones? What does the law say about such matters? We will address those questions in an upcoming post.
(To be continued)
The Ripp Report (TRR), published by F. Paul Ripp, blames Tim Kant, mayor of Fairhope (a town across the bay from Mobile), for perpetrating a scam on the public. A report at the TRR Facebook page said goose poop from the area was gathered and sent to Auburn University for testing. But workers, apparently at the direction of Mayor Kant, did not gather fecal samples that obviously appear to be from humans or animals much larger than geese. In some instances, it looks like elephants have been hanging around the Fairhope beach. (See link to video at the end of this post.)
In fact, TRR reports that its sources say the poop is from humans--and it came from pier bathrooms that were being renovated at the time of the incident. The Auburn tests showed no human feces because no human feces was sent to the lab. And that likely is because no one from Auburn or the Alabama Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) was involved in the collection process.
Only goose poop, available in relatively small amounts, was sent--and that means geese have been left to wrongfully take the crap--I mean rap. Reports TRR, in a post titled "Scoop on Poop":
With a viral video and a flash of media coverage, the media lost interest and did no investigation as to the source of the infamous poop. The Ripp Report, however, had a very reliable source come forward and offer information, we also have caught Mayor Kant lying so many times that we knew he would stay true to form.
The sample sent to Auburn was NOT collected by Auburn or ADEM. It was actually collected by two employees of the sewer plant, dispatched by the manager of the plant. This information took over two weeks to obtain. The mayor ordered the sample taken, and then [told] the public that Auburn and ADEM were in charge of an independent, unbiased report on water quality at a public beach, which is totally FALSE.
The test results proved the poop on the beach, COLLECTED, was geese poop. If they collected geese poop, then they knew the test would come back as geese poop. This is classic Kant. Now if you viewed the video [and] are a sober adult and had the unfortunate experience of seeing human poop, you know Kant is full of BS.
TRR goes on to report what appears to be obvious from a video that area resident Elliott Gordon shot. These are human turds, and some of them look like they were deposited by the Dallas Cowboys defensive line after a dinner of baked beans and wieners. If we have geese dropping "bombs" like these, all of us need to wear industrial-strength helmets upon going outside. And TRR sources know where the human feces came from:
Our source is telling us it came from the pier bathrooms, which were under renovation at the exact time of the incident. The holding tank of raw sewage is suspended under the bathrooms, you can see it easily. The contractor is George Robards, who constantly gets contracts from the city as well as the Single Tax Colony for sidewalks, bathrooms, etc. Mr. Robards sits on Planning and Zoning, is a major contributor [to] Mayor Kant and friend of Lee Turner, who is in heading both Planning and Zoning and Single Tax--no poop, one big happy family, but no conflict of interest?
Our source and the history of the pier clearly show this has happened before and has been the subject of a lawsuit. That’s why the city could not take responsibility, liability, forget about public safety, let's protect the good ole boys at all costs.
Mayor Kant blames the geese, kills the geese and will continue to do so, ignoring the problem and public safety. It will happen again; Auburn and ADEM suggested the public collect samples at the time of the incident. You cannot believe the mayor or council members who have never looked into a toilet.
Blaming geese for an administration's inability to fix toilets without spreading human feces everywhere? What a sh---y thing to do.
Here is a link to video of feces on the beach.
This controversy would not be complete without a reaction from Hitler. Turns out The Fuhrer is mighty pissed to see poop on one of his favorite beaches.
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