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|Scott Vowell and Henry Lynn|
The record indicates Vowell took a number of steps to ensure the Cashion case would wind up before Circuit Judge Robert Vance Jr. on the Commercial Litigation Docket, which since has been discontinued after being found to be unconstitutional. Vance then made four critical rulings in favor of the Cashion plaintiffs, all before the case even was assigned to him. The plaintiffs--surprise, surprise--wound up prevailing on every issue in the case, but the real winners might have been the lawyers for Cashion.
Who were those lawyers? They were James P. Naftel, Tony G. Miller, and John D. Bethany Jr., from the Birmingham firm of Maynard Cooper and Gale. A shareholder, and one of 11 founding members of the Maynard firm, is George G. Lynn. With more than 40 years in the legal profession, Lynn holds senior status in one of Alabama's most prestigious firms--and it seems fair to say that he is a boss to the three lawyers in the Cashion case.
Who is George Lynn's brother? Why, that would be Henry Lynn Jr., the high-level executive at Sterne Agee who is known for his close ties to Scott Vowell. And Vowell, as presiding judge, helped ensure that George Lynn's law firm received extraordinarily favorable treatment--and lots of money--in the Cashion case. The record shows that Cashion prevailed in the case, but the big winners appear to be the lawyers from Maynard Cooper and Gale. (See document at the end of this post.)
Vowell apparently made sure the case would wind up in Judge Vance's court. Just how shady were Vance's actions and rulings? Consider the following, from the record:
* The case originally was assigned to Circuit Judge Houston Brown. Maynard lawyers went to Brown's chambers and asked him to transfer the case to Vance. Brown told them that such a request would have to go to the presiding judge, and he referred the matter to Vowell.
* Vowell was not immediately available for a ruling, but less than one hour after Brown entered his referral order, Maynard lawyers went to Vance and asked him to make a ruling in a case to which he was not assigned.
* Vance made the ruling as requested and went on to make three other rulings while the case was not assigned to him.
Here is how we described the dispute in Cashion, from an earlier post:
At the heart of the controversy is William B. Cashion, an 84-year-old businessman who is co-founder of Bessemer-based Western Steel Inc. (WSI) and a shareholder in several other Alabama corporate entities. In 2007, while in the midst of a divorce, Cashion executed a durable power of attorney, designating his nephew, Dr. Steven Mark Hayden, as his agent and attorney-in-fact. Acting in that capacity, Hayden established a Nevada trust to protect assets when his uncle began investing heavily in an Alabama gold mine.
Vance issued four rulings in the Cashion case, even though the matter was not assigned to him. All four rulings were favorable to Cashion and his attorneys from the Birmingham firm Maynard Cooper and Gale (MCG), which has contributed heavily to Vance's election campaigns. In fact, public records show that MCG lawyers gave at least $3,600 to Vance's most recent campaign, and that far exceeds the $2,000 threshold set by Alabama law, requiring Vance's recusal.
What about some of the key issues where Vance favored his financial supporters at Maynard Cooper and Gale?
* The case was filed in the wrong jurisdiction. None of the parties lived or maintained a principal place of business in the Birmingham Division of Jefferson County. Maynard lawyers apparently filed it in the Birmingham Division because they wanted the case under the control of Vowell and Vance.
* Maynard lawyers promptly sought a transfer of the case to the Commercial Litigation Docket, which would put it before Vance.
* On the day the case was filed, Vance signed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) at the request of Maynard lawyers, even though the case was not assigned to him. The Hayden defendants alleged that the TRO, plus Vance's other extra-judicial orders (including a preliminary injunction), prevented them from nurturing the Nevada trust, causing a loss of more than $20 million.
* Vance denied the Hayden defendants their right to a jury trial, even though they timely made such a demand in their answer. That ensured Vance would control the case without interference from a jury.
* Vance denied multiple motions for his recusal, even though state records show he had received $3,600 in campaign contributions from the Maynard firm, well above the $2,000 threshold that requires his recusal under state law.
|George Lynn of|
Maynard Cooper Gale
* On the Maynard lawyers' preparation of facts in Vance's final order--"Plaintiffs continue to provide pleadings to the Court that exhibit their unwavering commitment to bad faith arguments and frivolity. The courts have long frowned on orders prepared by parties for this very reason. The Supreme Court of the United States has criticized courts for adopting verbatim findings of fact prepared by a prevailing party. See Ex Parte Scott [MS. No. 1091275, 3/18/2011] __ So. 3d __ (Ala., 2011); Anderson v. City of Bessemer, 470 U.S. 546, at 572 (1985) . . .
* On Hayden's efforts to save Cashion from participation in a mining scheme, plus the abuse of Cashion by his own lawyers, from the Maynard firm--"Cashion was defrauded of at least $6 million by fraudulent mining schemes. Cashion has also been abused by the billing practices of his own attorneys. He was billed for nearly 200 hours of work to prepare a complaint and a TRO. The TRO was a verbatim cut and paste of an earlier filed TRO from the Nevada litigation. It is beyond absurd to think that the time spent preparing a complaint was justified. The plaintiffs' bills are filled with redundancies and outrageous charges. The idea of spending nearly 200 hours to produce a complaint to satisfy notice pleading is absurd, unconscionable, and abusive."
* On the mining project in which Cashion invested heavily--"It is also beyond belief that Cashion now wants the Court to enter an order referring to 10:16 Mining as an "allegedly fraudulent" mining project. Cashion has tested the site himself and found that there is no gold there, and never was. He has pulled the reclamation bond, shut down the mine and started to plant trees on the property. . . . The project is a surface mining project. Cashion's efforts to plant trees on the site leave no doubt that he has no intentions of mining the site. Cashion was so taken by the lust for gold that he may have bought out Hayden's shares, but no evidence was ever presented that Hayden profited from any such transaction."
* On the horrendous nature of Cashion's investment in the gold project--"Cashion's involvement is not just a 'bad investment.'Independent testing of the property was done, and Cashion was informed that there were no precious metals on the property. Despite this information, he invested at least $6 million in the project. In return, he received $10.00 worth of gold. . . . Even after being informed of the fraud and witnessing the results of his investment, he continued to insist that the 'investment' was the greatest gold find east of the Mississippi. He informed his family and friends that he intended to continue to invest. Only a delusional person would insist on continuing to 'invest' under such circumstances. . . . Hayden simply undertook responsible actions to protect Cashion. There is no question that Cashion was saved millions of dollars by the actions of Defendants."
* On the Maynard firm's claim for attorney fees in excess of $1.5 million--"Plaintiffs have requested that they be awarded fees for efforts expended in other matters, in other jurisdictions. . . . The rates charged to plaintiff are simply outlandish. The reasonable rates in the community are simply not what was charged in this matter. Counsel has charged $480.00 to $345.00 per hour for shareholders and $200,00 to $225.00 per hour for associates with five or less years experience. Counsel has also billed $400.00 for travel time, a rate nearly double that charged for in-court work. It is difficult to imagine how sitting on an airplane is more taxing than presenting evidence and arguments at hearings. Counsel has also charged $170.00 per hour for paralegal services . . . this rate again is double what is customary. Counsel's rates are abusive and unwarranted."
* On the Maynard firm billing almost 200 hours before even filing its complaint--"Counsel's billing in this regard is excessive, redundant, unnecessary, and trades the role of advocate for parasiti curiae. The complaint and the cut and paste TRO motion should have taken five hours or less to compose. Counsel requests hundreds of hours for talking amongst themselves about the case. Billing for three-hour phone calls, and conferences between themselves. This pattern is repeated week after week throughout the billing records. The records submitted to the Court are a case study in elder abuse through overbilling by attorneys. In short, the bills submitted to the Court are excessive if not fraudulent."
William Cashion won the case, but it does not appear that he came out a winner. Public records indicate a gold-mining scheme took him for a ride to the tune of $6 million. When Cashion's nephew tried to put a stop to that scam, the elderly businessman found the Maynard firm to file a lawsuit--and they nailed him for more than $1.5 million in charges. The final judgment indicates Cashion did not receive anywhere near that amount in damages. (The final judgment is embedded at the end of this post.)
This seems to be a clear case of Maynard Cooper and Gale benefiting because one of its founding shareholders (George Lynn) has a brother (Henry Lynn, of Sterne Agee), who has an unusually close relationship with the man (Scott Vowell) who used to preside over the Jefferson County Courthouse.
God only knows how many other cases have been decided based on similar favoritism.
|William M. Acker Jr.|
The judge in question is William M. Acker Jr., an 87-year-old Reagan appointee in the Northern District of Alabama. Acker presided over my discrimination/First Amendment complaint against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees after I had been fired at UAB for reporting accurately (on my own time, with my own resources) on the corrupt actions of disgraced federal judge Mark Fuller in the Don Siegelman case.
Acker violated simple procedural law and black-letter, Eleventh-Circuit case law to grant the university summary judgment without allowing any discovery in the case--without even setting a discovery schedule, as required by law.
Given Acker's age, some might explain this ruling as a sign of senility or some form of advancing dementia. But court records show that Acker knows the law requires discovery before summary judgment can be considered, much less granted. Records show that Acker, over and over, has ordered discovery, even in employment cases very much like mine.
So this wasn't an accident, or the result of an impaired judge. This was the result of a judge who is morally and ethically bankrupt, and his own words and actions prove it.
Let's first consider a case styled EEOC v. McPherson Companies, 914 F. Supp. 1234 (2012). It's an intriguing case involving alleged same-sex harassment on the job. In his memorandum opinion on summary judgment, Acker sets the scene as follows:
This Title VII case revolves around repeated churlish, childish, gross, sordid, vulgar, foul, disgusting, profane utterances in the workplace. The question in the case, however, is not how vile and obnoxious this workplace language was. It was vile and obnoxious enough to score nine on a scale of ten. This will become apparent as the story unfolds. The question for the court is rather whether this verbal mayhem morphed from a competition to see who could beat whom in the foul-mouth game into a cause of action under Title VII by an offended employee for same-sex sexual harassment.
How did Acker know the language was "vile and obnoxious enough to score nine on a scale of ten"? The parties conducted discovery, and facts obtained during the process show the language was, indeed, nasty. In fact, in footnote 6 of his opinion, Acker quotes directly from several depositions taken during discovery.
That establishes the obvious--discovery is necessary before a determination on summary judgment, even in an employment case, with William Acker as judge.
Now, let's consider Hunt v. 21st Mortgage Corporation (2013), a debt-collection case where Acker was asked to compel the defendant to turn over certain information in discovery. Acker granted plaintiff Charese Hunt's Motion to Compel, stating:
It is a widely known (and widely quoted) maxim that “the deposition-discovery rules [under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure] are to be accorded a broad and liberal treatment.” Hickman v. Taylor, 329 U.S. 495, 507 (1947). “[E]ither party may compel the other to disgorge whatever facts he has in his possession.” Id. Thus, plaintiff’s motion must be granted so long as he meets the low bar set out for him in Rule 26: his request must be for “nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2).
In the context of my case against UAB, I was entitled to "broad and liberal" discovery. Instead, I was denied discovery altogether.
Acker goes on in Hunt to explain why the plaintiff not only must be allowed discovery in general, but why he is due to receive particular items in discovery:
The analysis of this low bar is uncomplicated. Among plaintiff’s claims is that defendant called him using an illegal automatic dialer, and among defendant’s defenses is that, on the contrary, it used manual dialing in all of its communications with plaintiff. Obviously, plaintiff is not required to take defendant’s word for it; it is precisely these types of factual disputes for which discovery exists.
Acker then chastises the defendant for claiming the "evidence is undisputed":
Second, defendant’s claim that “the evidence is undisputed” is one it must save for summary judgment or some other later stage of this litigation. Indeed, the very purpose of the instant motion is to make the evidence disputed. Plaintiff is not required to accept defendant’s claims that all calls were made manually; in short, he is free to argue before a jury, whether rightly or wrongly, that defendant’s assertion is a lie or an error, and that in fact defendant did make “numerous calls by illegal automatic dialers and/or predictive dialers . . . at all hours of the day and night. . . .” Should he choose to do so, he is permitted under the federal discovery rules to obtain information from defendant with which to support his argument.
This all raises some obvious questions: Why didn't discovery exist to address factual disputes in my case against UAB? Why was I not allowed, via discovery, to show that UAB's assertions were lies or errors? Why was I not allowed, via discovery, to obtain information to support my arguments?
The likely answer? Hunt was not facing powerful political defendants. I was, in the form of the Riley Machine, especially then "first son" Rob Riley, and Acker felt duty bound to protect his "conservative" brethren--no matter what the law says.
Finally, let's examine a case styled Huntley v. The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama (2010). Like my case, this involves employment issues, discrimination, and UAB. The plaintiff, Dr. Horace Huntley, was a long-time history faculty member (now retired) who alleged he was denied tenure for discriminatory reasons.
University attorneys undoubtedly invoked some of the same arguments--qualified and sovereign immunity, etc.--that they used in an effort to avoid discovery in my case. Those arguments didn't work in Huntley because, as shown by Acker's own words in the Hunt case, the plaintiff was entitled to conduct discovery that would counter UAB's arguments.
Dr. Huntley was not successful in denying summary judgment to the university. But he was allowed to conduct discovery. From Acker's memorandum opinion in the case:
Additionally, Dr. Huntley admitted in his deposition that he is not a full-time faculty member: Q: Okay. So you are a part-time faculty member, correct? A: Well, I am – yes, I guess I am, you could say I am a part-time faculty member. (Doc. 35-1, at 26:3-7.)
How could Acker quote from Dr. Huntley's deposition? Because discovery had been conducted, and the deposition was entered into the record. That's the way a case against UAB must be conducted, under the law. But my case was not handled that way at all.
The concept of "equal protection of the laws" obviously means nothing to William Acker. I had to be singled out for a cheat job in court--on top of a cheat job in the workplace--because Acker's right-wing buddies from Riley Inc. were behind my termination at UAB.
No one connected to the Rileys was behind the alleged discrimination against Horace Huntley, so his lawyers were able to conduct discovery, as required by law. Acker wasn't concerned about what discovery might turn up in the Huntley case. But he sure as heck was concerned about what he knew discovery would turn up in my case. So he made sure that no discovery took place.
Is this infuriating for my wife, Carol, and me? Of course it is. With a termination on my employment record--not to mention a bogus incarceration, also driven by Rob Riley--it's been almost impossible for me to find a job. The ability to work, to support ourselves, essentially has been stolen from us--so that makes Acker's blatantly unlawful actions deeply personal.
But the thoughtful reader will realize this goes way beyond Carol and me. The right to "equal protection of the laws" supposedly is guaranteed under the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. It might be the single most profound provision in the constitution.
But a corrupt judge like William Acker has no respect for the law--or the oath he took to uphold it. This post, based on public records, makes that abundantly clear. If Americans stay silent about judges like Acker--if we allow rogues like him to chip away at our constitutional rights--we eventually will find ourselves living in a country that does not resemble a democracy.
Wise announced last week that she was resigning as chancellor, while accepting a teaching assignment and a $400,000 payment. UI the next day released e-mails showing that Wise and other top administrators had tried to hide their communications about Stephen Salaita and other sensitive campus issues. But a committee of the UI board of trustees, apparently under pressure from Governor Bruce Rauner, yesterday said it would reject the resignation agreement and begin the process of firing Wise.
Does that mean the university is trying to distance itself from Wise because of fears about a possible criminal investigation? That is not clear at the moment, but online reports show Wise had been warned that civil and criminal penalties were a possibility if she and other administrators tried to conceal their official communications by using private e-mail accounts.
The latest revelations from Illinois raise questions about the possibility that someone engaged in criminal conduct related to my termination in 2008 at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)--either by concealing evidence, influencing U.S. Judge William M. Acker Jr. to unlawfully deny discovery in my discrimination/First Amendment lawsuit, or both.
What about warnings regarding possible criminal sanctions at UI? Wise and other top administrators received such a warning last September, according to a report from Ali Abunimah at the blog electronicintifada.net. From Abunimah's report:
In an 18 September 2014 email related to Salaita, Chancellor Wise wrote from her private account that university spokesperson Robin Kaler “has warned me and others not to use email since we are now in litigation phase. We are doing virtually nothing over our Illinois email addresses. I am even being careful with this email address and deleting after sending.”
The very next day, university employees connected with the Salaita matter, undoubtedly including Wise and others participating in the secret email exchanges, received a warning called a legal hold from the university’s external law firm Perkins Coie.
The Electronic Intifada obtained a copy of the legal hold and ran it in full at the bottom of its August 11, 2015, post. Here is more from Abunimah:
A legal hold is standard practice any time litigation is expected and its existence indicates that the outside counsel were being diligent.
Headlined in capitals, “Important legal notice for your immediate attention,” it warns that “Failure to comply with this Notice could subject you and the University to civil and criminal penalties.”
The document reveals that Salaita’s lawyers informed the university’s counsel on 16 September 2014 of their intention to file a lawsuit.
The detailed four-page memo warns emphatically: “Under no circumstances should you delete potentially relevant emails from your computer or from the network server.”
UI released 1,100 previously hidden e-mails last Friday, indicating Wise and others ignored the warning.
Another report comes from Andrew Scheinman, Ph.D., J.D., an attorney who has played a pivotal role in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that brought the UI e-mail scandal to light. At his investigative online site Samizdat-Startups.org, Scheinman presents evidence that Wise likely was advised of her duty to preserve evidence even earlier than September 2014. Explains Abunimah:
[Scheinman] notes that soon after a 24 July 2014 board meeting at which Salaita was discussed, the name of Scott Rice, the university’s in-house counsel, begins appearing in Salaita-related emails previously released to him under FOIA. Everything in the emails is redacted except for Rice’s name.
“This kind of redaction – nothing but the attorney’s name – indicates UIUC is likely claiming attorney client privilege, which it would only do if they were discussing, e.g., a litigation matter such as likely litigation by Salaita,” Scheinman told The Electronic Intifada.
The fact that Wise and other officials expected, or should have expected, litigation long before the formal legal hold was sent out suggests they already had a legal duty to preserve evidence during a period when Wise admitted to deleting emails.
“I would think Rice would have taken great pains to point out to Wise early on his – Rice’s – duty to UIUC – his client – to prevent any UIUC employees including Wise from destroying documents,” Scheinman said.
“My conclusion is that Wise was likely advised of possible or likely litigation as early as 25 July 2014,” Scheinman added.
What does this tell us about the situation at the University of Illinois? It could mean that the ugliness related to a cover-up in the Stephen Salaita case is just beginning, with the looming possibility that the campus' former chief executive will face criminal charges.
The Salaita case shows that higher-education officials can take extraordinarily dumb, unethical (and maybe unlawful) steps when they are dealing with an employee they knowingly have cheated out of a job. What happened to the evidence that UAB should have been forced to turn over in my lawsuit? What would a FOIA request show about UAB officials and their behind-the-scenes actions in my case? Were UAB officials involved in a possible criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice and encourage Acker to make unlawful rulings in my case?
In other words, did UAB officials engage in a cover-up similar to the one at the University of Illinois? Is it possible that a UAB scheme was even more evil than the one at UI because it led all the way to a federal judge?
On the Collins show, Gespass also questioned the actions of a Shelby County deputy who entered our home, beat me up, and doused me with pepper spray--all without showing a warrant, saying he had a warrant, or bothering to tell me why he was on our property. In his letter to Carol and me, Gespass made no mention of law-enforcement officers and their apparent misdeeds.
Why the remarkable difference in tones? I have my own theories about that, but we invite you to come to your own conclusions. Following are excerpts from the Collins interview, and the letter can be viewed at this link, plus it is embedded at the end of this post. The full Collins interview can be heard here.
The oddities start right up front in the Collins interview. Gespass says Circuit Judge Claud D. Neilson used the wrong standard in finding that my reporting was defamatory. Don't you think that might have been of interest to potential clients? Gespass never mentioned it to Carol and me.
Gespass actually talks on the Collins show like a legitimate lawyer, one who is alarmed about what has been done to a journalist in his community, and he raises a number of important legal issues. Here's the question: Why didn't he communicate in the same fashion with us? He spent much of his two jailhouse visits with me tossing a pencil up in the air and catching it, like a third grader. Given that, and the tone of the letter he sent between visits, is it any wonder I eventually told him to get the hell out and don't come back?
The Collins interview proves that Gespass isn't stupid; in my view, he just wasn't being forthright with us--and the obvious question is: Why? Here are highlights from the Gespass interview with Peter B. Collins:
The public-figure standard--"Rob Riley is a public figure, which means to prove defamation, you have to prove not only that the statement is false, but it was made with knowledge of its falsity. The idea of a preliminary injunction telling somebody they can’t publish defamatory statements in the future--and that's what this injunction does--is insane; it’s clearly unconstitutional."
The actual law that governs defamation cases--"If you say something that’s defamatory, you can be sued for it and get money damages. It's possible at the end--and this is a matter of some debate--that after a finding of defamation you conceivably could get an injunction from repeating the specific statements that were found to be false. In this case, if Riley and Duke are able to prove they never did have an affair, to the satisfaction of a jury, then I think it would be within the bounds of reasonableness to say to Roger, "You can’t make these allegations." Even then, if you get further information, even that may change. (Notice that Gespass references a jury trial; he never made such a reference to us. His emphasis was to get the matter "resolved as quickly as possible.")
An injunction pulled from thin air--"Riley got an injunction issued without Roger appearing in court to respond, and that is unheard of. There is no legal justification that I know of to get an injunction without a full hearing on the merits—and that’s never taken place here." (Why did Carol and I not appear in court? Gespass' letter explains it. He says, after reviewing the sealed record, that we never were served in the case, and no summons was issued until long after Neilson had granted the preliminary injunction. In other words, we didn't go to court because we weren't lawfully summoned to court.)
Why was the case sealed?--"I can’t even go online to get the documents. I understand they are pretty voluminous. I’ve been in touch with Riley’s lawyer, and he’s going to send them, but he said there is more than he can send by e-mail. Why the case is sealed is beyond me. It's quite unusual. In general, that happens when you have something that involves a juvenile. I had a case where a 13-year-old boy charged abuse against a police officer. All we had there was the boy's name was redacted. But sealing an entire file is extremely rare."
Why would plaintiffs want a defamation case sealed?--"By filing suit, it calls more attention to it than it otherwise would have. It seems odd, under those circumstances, that plaintiffs would want the case sealed. If they want to prove the allegations are false, you’d think they would want to do it publicly. If you file suit for defamation, as a public figure, you want to make it a public issue."
How was I supposed to get out of jail?--"This is really bizarre. There are two kinds of contempt—civil and criminal. Civil usually is if you have to pay child support. It's coercive, as opposed to punishment. Once you do what you are supposed to do, you get out of jail. Criminal contempt is punishment, and there are limits to how long you can be placed in jail. I have no idea which it is, and [Roger] has been given no indication of what he has to do to purge the contempt--and no idea how long he's going to be in there. . . . He's sitting there with no idea when he will get out and no idea what he has to do in order to get out. That doesn't make any sense."
Did I "ignore a court order"? No--"Roger actually filed a motion to quash, so he entered an appearance. I don’t know if he was ever served with the injunction; he might have been served with the temporary restraining order. (The sealed file, according to Gespass, shows we were served with neither.) Judges are supposed to give pro se litigants leeway because they are not trained in the law . . . and all of this was done when [Roger] didn't have a lawyer to represent him and without him ever having actually appeared in court."
What about cops entering our house with no reference to a warrant?--"My assumption is that there was a pickup order based on contempt. The question there is, they went into his house uninvited. If they have a pickup order, and they see him there, they probably have a right to be there. But I think they have some responsibility to tell him the reason they want him and why he’s being taken into custody."
What were our legal options?--"The first option probably would be a motion to set aside the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on the grounds that they are unconstitutional-- and get his immediate release based on that. The other possible course of action would be some sort of extraordinary writ to the [Alabama] Supreme Court . . . , asking them to order the lower court to set aside the injunction and release him. Unfortunately, that will take some time to figure out, which is the best and the quickest way to do it. . . . It's not inconceivable that this would go into federal court, but federal courts don't like to involve themselves in state-court issues, so you would want to get as full a record as possible before going there. I would hope that would not necessary."
Did Judge Neilson abuse his discretion?--"The standard for criminal contempt is five days in jail, and with two counts, that conceivably could be 10 days. The standard for civil contempt is that the order must set out specifically what you must do to purge yourself of contempt. Since no one has seen the order, I'm not sure there is anything that says that. You can ask a judge to reconsider something that is, on its face, so completely contrary to principles of free speech. This is, after all, the First Amendment."
Why did David Gespass say one thing on the Peter B. Collins Show and something very different to his would-be clients? The answer is clear to me: Collins is based in San Francisco, and his show has a solid national and international following among progressives, so Gespass wanted to sound to that audience like an intelligent, informed lawyer, one concerned about constitutional rights. But behind closed doors, his instinct was to protect the legal tribe--probably because he knows that's what the hopelessly corrupt Alabama State Bar expects its members to do.
|From Bill Baxley's campaign, managed|
by Paul Bryant Jr.
But our inquiry does not end there. We also know that Baxley has strong ties to University of Alabama trustee Paul Bryant Jr. Baxley, a rising political star in the 1970s, was friends with the late Crimson Tide football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, and that apparently helped make him close to Bryant's son, who has built a business empire while mostly dodging a federal investigation of insurance fraud in the late 1990s.
How close are Baxley and Bryant Jr.? Bryant once served as Baxley's campaign manager in a run for governor. (See campaign document at upper right.)
Is it possible that Neilson, via his pal Baxley, also is close to Bryant Jr.? Is it possible the three of them participated in a conspiracy to have me thrown in jail because of my reporting on certain subjects at this blog?
We don't have a definitive answer to those questions. But we do know that I am the reporter who broke the story about Bryant's ties to an insurance-fraud scam that resulted in a 15-year federal prison sentence for a Pennsylvania lawyer/entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart. We also know that I was the primary source for an article at Bloomberg Marketsthat brought Bryant's connections to insurance fraud to a national and international audience. (See the print version of the article at the end of this post.)
Perhaps most importantly, at the time of my arrest I was researching an article about Jessica Garrison's ties to an individual who allegedly was involved in an activity that is extremely sensitive in college-athletics circles. As the No. 1 financial supporter of Crimson Tide athletics, and one of the most powerful boosters in college athletics, Bryant likely was concerned about my reporting efforts (which are ongoing, by the way).
How close does the trail of this unsavory activity get to Bryant? We aren't sure--yet--but the trail clearly leads through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which is Bryant's home base.
Why was I unlawfully thrown in jail, losing my freedom for five months, and who was responsible for it? I suspect there were multiple reasons I was targeted--multiple stories I was working on that made powerful figures nervous and angry.
But Claud Neilson and Bill Baxley clearly were central players in the scheme, and they have connections that span more than four decades. Baxley and Bryant Jr. have connections that span at least that long, maybe longer.
As a side note, a source close to the Baxley family tells us the one-time gubernatorial candidate and legal maverick has been seriously compromised by photographic evidence of certain activities that took place during a Las Vegas trip that involved heavy drinking and gambling. In essence, our source says, powerful interests have kept copies of said photographic evidence for several years as a way of keeping "Dollar Bill" in line.
That might explain why Baxley, a Democrat in theory, now is quick to jump in the legal bed with such corporate, right-wing types as Rob Riley, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Sonny Reagan, and Luther Strange. (That, too, is a story where our research is ongoing and might soon yield explosive results.)
As for Bryant Jr., evidence suggests his already privileged life might have been a bit more comfortable with the demise of Legal Schnauzer. Is that why the blog's publisher wound up in jail--and did Bryant Jr. enlist the help of Baxley and Neilson to make sure it happened?
We are continuing to examine that question--and it appears we are getting closer and closer to an answer.
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Torre went on, however, to be a journalism pioneer in her own right. That's good because a record she once held now has been surpassed--by yours truly.
How big was the case that landed Marie Torre in jail? You can get a feel for that by viewing the newsreel footage, via YouTube, at the end of this post.
The 1958 lawsuit was styled Garland v. Torre, which had its roots in an article Torre wrote about Garland for the now-defunct New York Herald Tribune. In the article, a CBS executive was quoted as saying Garland did not want to appear in a network television special because she considered herself to be "terribly fat" at the time.
Garland sued for defamation, and Torre went to jail when a judge held her in criminal contempt for refusing to identify her source during depositions. For 56 years, Torre's 10-day stay in jail stood as the longest for a U.S. journalist in a civil matter, one that had nothing to do with allegations of criminal activity.
That record fell, in a big way, when I was jailed for 155 days--from October 23, 2013, until March 26, 2014--because of a defamation lawsuit that Alabama GOP political operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke filed. Circuit Judge Claud Neilson ordered me held for alleged civil contempt of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction. I broke Torre's record largely because civil contempt is open ended--Neilson ordered me jailed until certain items were removed from this blog--while criminal contempt usually is limited to a relatively brief time frame--perhaps five or 10 days.
A reasonable person might think criminal contempt would be a worse punishment than civil contempt, but it's actually the other way around. There is quite a bit of debate in the legal world about whether open-ended civil contempt, most often applied in cases of unpaid child support, should be lawful--and whether it's effective.
In my case, it neither was lawful nor effective. More than 200 years of First Amendment law, most famously found in the landmark 1931 U.S. Supreme Court case Near v. Minnesota, holds that TROs and preliminary injunctions are unlawful prior restraints in defamation cases. I spent five months in jail for writing articles that never have been found to be defamatory at trial; in fact, there never was a trial in my case. And there was no jury because Riley and Duke, inexplicably, did not seek one--even though longstanding law holds that defamation cases must be heard by a jury, so that a judge cannot act as a one-man censor.
The civil contempt in my case wasn't effective because, like Garland v. Torre, it attracted national and international news. The New York Times and Al-Jazeera were among the numerous news outlets that spread the supposedly defamatory information about Riley and Duke around the world. Civil contempt is designed to be coercive, to force someone to do something, such as pay child support. But it loses its purpose when a lawsuit causes the alleged defamatory news to be spread around the globe.
More importantly, a journalist cannot lawfully be found in contempt of a TRO or injunction that is an unlawful prior restraint to begin with. Despite that, I likely still would be in jail if my wife, Carol, had not figured out how to remove certain information from my blog.
Alternet, in an article by Nicole Flatow, ranked my case No. 1 on its list of "The 10 Most Appalling Failures of the American Justice System" in 2013. I remain the only U.S. journalist to be jailed since 2006. The other five journalists jailed in the 2000s involved their reporting on criminal matters, and the incarcerations probably were lawful under a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court case styled Branzburg v. Hayes.
What happened to Marie Torre? Her stand for the First Amendment became quite a cause in journalism circles. Dorothy Kilgallen, a journalist who later became best known as a panelist on the game show What's My Line?, wrote in her syndicated column:
I never thought I would live to see the day when anyone would be thrown into the jug for saying Judy Garland had problems. . . . Stripping the current celebrated cause of its legal passementerie, Miss Torre lost her freedom for refusing to say who told her that Judy had an inferiority complex, would not make up her mind about anything, and was 'terribly fat.'
That is like being sent to the Bastille for reporting that the weather was cold yesterday and the Empire State Building is situated at Fifth Ave. and 34th St.
Marie Torre went on to become the first female anchor (1962-77) at KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was one of the first female anchors in the country. Perhaps being the target of a misguided lawsuit helped her career, I, for one, certainly hope so.
I guess Marie Torre and I will always be kindred spirits of a sort. I have become one of her fans and find myself periodically looking up information about her on the Web. If jail is hard on a man--and I can tell you for sure that it is--I can only guess that it is even more unpleasant for a woman. That Marie Torre stood her ground, and stood up for freedom of the press, tells me she had principles that should be admired.
Ms. Torre did, for sure, stand her ground. She died in 1997, at age 72, and an article about her death in The New York Times reported the following:
Miss Torre, who shortened her last name from Torregrossa, was born in Brooklyn. She joined the Herald Tribune staff in 1955. As a radio and television columnist in 1957, she quoted a CBS executive, whom she did not name, as saying that Judy Garland was balking about doing a CBS special ''because she thinks she is terribly fat.''
Miss Garland sued the network for $1.39 million, and Miss Torre, as a witness in a pretrial hearing, was ordered by the court to disclose the name of her source. She refused, arguing that a reporter should not be compelled to reveal sources in court because such an order violated the First Amendment's guarantee of press freedom.
''She never revealed his name, even to members of our family,'' Mr. Lopez said yesterday.
Chad Belville, who also serves as general counsel, said the company was receiving inquiries from other media outlets, and he would let me know what the research turned up. Belville never got back to me, and he has not responded to e-mails seeking an update.
Does that mean the company started receiving political pressure--from the right, the left, or both--and decided to keep its information under wraps? Did the company see news of my kidnapping and incarceration and decided to call off plans to research the Bill Pryor topic? Was my "arrest" designed as a warning to Badpuppy, and perhaps others, that the Pryor story had better be left alone? The answer to the first two questions is yes, in my view. And I wouldn't be surprised if the answer to the third question also is yes.
Badpuppy'shome base for roughly 20 years has been Cocoa, Florida. That just happens to be in the U.S. Eleventh Circuit (along with Alabama and Georgia), where one of the sitting judges is William H. Pryor. Is it possible that federal judges in the Eleventh Circuit could cause a lot of problems for a gay-porn company that helped disrobe one of its brethren? It doesn't require a lot of imagination to come up with an answer to that question
My communications with Belville have not turned up anything new about Bill Pryor. But they do provide insight into a company that has become a "super store" of gay pornography online. For example, the company was sold not long before we broke the Pryor story here at Legal Schnauzer. And while Badpuppy is known for its digital presence, its record keeping is, to a great extent, from the world of yesteryear. Here is what Belville wrote in an e-mail dated September 22, 2013--which was one month and one day before my unlawful arrest:
Badpuppy was sold to a man named Craig Jackson earlier this year after being owned by William Pinyon since its inception in 1995. I am currently serving as the CFO and General Counsel to Badpuppy Enterprises Inc.
The records for the site as it existed in 1997 are in file cabinets -- about 3 dozen of them -- and we are going to start digging into those files Monday morning. Other news outlets have begun to contact us regarding the nude image that was published on Badpuppy and we'd like to find some evidence that either supports the assumption that image is in fact Judge Pryor or shows that it is not him. . . .
I look at the photographs and I believe that is a young Bill Pryor.
Chad Belville CFO and General Counsel, Badpuppy Enterprises Inc.
So, we've established that a top executive at badpuppy.com thinks the photo is of the Bill Pryor--not that I had any doubt about that. Here is my response to Belville:
Thanks for contacting me, Chad.
As you might have seen on my blog, I have three sources who were connected to a law-enforcement investigation that commenced upon receipt of a tip about the images in 1997--Pryor was set to be appointed Alabama attorney general at the time. Those sources say their investigation showed the images were of the Bill Pryor who now is a federal judge, and that's what my story is based upon.
I'm intrigued by the notation at the top of the WizardBoy Gallery that says the images were from a private collector named Ernie. Seems to be a clue about their origins.
I hope we can stay in touch.
As for the mysterious Ernie, we now suspect he was Ernie Potvin, the late writer and archivist who was well known in the gay-rights movement, especially on the West Coast. Ernie Potvin was extremely well connected, and several of his friends have been in touch with us about information on the likely origins of the Bill Pryor photos, which reportedly number between 10 and 15.
Thank you for your response Roger!
I'm hoping to find out more about the circumstances surrounding the removal of those pages from the websites in 1997. I was a prosecutor in 1999-2002 and I still think like one -- there is something fishy that happened here. If those images were removed to protect Pryor and Pryor knew about it, then Pryor intentionally covered up or failed to disclose he posed nude, he committed ethical violations. In a lot of high profile cases it is not the original act that gets a person in trouble, it is the attempted cover up. The impeachment of President Clinton was not for getting a blowjob in the Oval Office, he was accused of lying to Congress about it. Martha Stewart didn't get prosecuted for insider trading, she was prosecuted for lying to investigators.
Hopefully our internal searches at Badpuppy will uncover the truth about the images. I will let you know if we find anything.
As you probably can tell, Chad Belville seems like a sharp guy, and I enjoyed my limited communication with him. He's in a key position at a company in transition, so it's possible he never found the time to do thorough research on the Pryor issue. It's also possible that political pressure from Pryor's protectors on the right convinced the company that it would be best to lay low on the subject.
And here is something for Schnauzer readers to ponder: I've seen signs that certain political forces on the left do not want the Pryor photos out there--at least not any more than they already have been. In fact, I've had one or two well-known media figures on the left try to discredit my reporting and not-so-subtly steer me away from the story.
Why would that be? Well, I have quite a bit of information on the subject. I also have a theory about what caused blow back from the left. If my theory proves correct, it is a fascinating story indeed--one tied to recent and historic news events.
|Warren St. John and|
If the answer is yes, what was the purpose of the article, given that it had almost zero journalistic merit--as shown by Andrew Kreig, director of the D.C.-based Justice-Integrity Project?
Let's look at the evidence, focusing on Finis St. John IV, a lawyer from Cullman, Alabama, and a high-profile member of his alma mater's board.
St. John is perhaps best known recent months as one of two trustees--along with Paul Bryant Jr.--most likely behind the decision to kill football at UAB, the UA System's campus in Birmingham. UAB President Ray Watts has said he will reinstate football, but his public statements include enough "ifs, ands, and buts" to suggest the once-promising program will remain on shaky ground for years to come.
UAB fans tend to see St. John and Bryant Jr. as demonic allies who are hell-bent on undercutting programs at the Birmingham campus. Blazer fans seem to have a blinding hatred for both St. John and Bryant--and my guess is that those feelings are justified.
As a one-time 20-year employee of UAB, and a long-time follower of Blazer athletics, I'm not too keen on St. John and Bryant myself--especially when you consider my long-held suspicions that one or both of them played a role in my unlawful termination from the university, for reporting accurately on this blog about the actions of wife-beating federal judge Mark Fuller in the prosecution of former governor Don Siegelman.
For now, though, let's focus on Finis St. John IV and The New York Times. You might not expect a lawyer from Cullman, Alabama, to have ties to one of the world's most famous newspapers, but you would be wrong.
Finis St. John's cousin is Birmingham native Warren St. John, a former reporter in the Times' Style section. One of Warren St. John's former colleagues in the Style section is Campbell Robertson, a Montevallo, Alabama, native who now primarily covers the South and wrote the article about my incarceration.
Warren St. John has left the newspaper to focus on his career as an author. He has written two well-received books--Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer: A Road Trip Into the Heart of Fan Mania (2004) and Outcasts United: An American Town, A Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference (2009).
Are Warren St. John and Campbell Robertson close? It seems likely, considering their shared Alabama roots, their stints in the same department at The New York Times, and the photo of the two of them we found at a 2005 book party for one of our favorite comedians and commentators--Bill Maher, of HBO.
|Finis St. John IV|
We've already shown that Bryant had reason to be uncomfortable about my reporting, perhaps enough to have me thrown in jail in an effort to shut down Legal Schnauzer. Did Campbell Robertson's sloppy, shallow, error-filled story in The New York Times play some role in furthering the Finis St. John/Paul Bryant Jr. agenda?
Let's consider a few takeaways from Robertson's article:
* He states that I had refused to hire a lawyer, even though his own words to Andrew Kreig prove that is not true;
* He claims my blog and I have been the targets of "many defamation lawsuits," while a simple check of public records shows that is not true;
* He seeks out Los Angeles First Amendment lawyer Ken White, author of the Popehat blog, as an expert about my case. White makes several accurate legal points, but Robertson allows him to take a number of personal digs at me--even though White does not know me, has never spoken to me or attempted to interview me, and clearly knows very little about my treacherous journey through Alabama courts;
* Robertson quotes multiple experts saying that the judge in my case acted contrary to law. But Robertson never bothers to name the judge (Claud Dent Neilson). and no editor at the prestigious newspaper managed to catch such a flagrant omission.
If Finis St. John pushed for the Times article, what might have been his motivations? If Paul Bryant Jr. played a role in my incarceration, and I think that is highly likely, I can think of several:
(1) The two trustees were concerned that my incarceration had drawn national and international attention in the press;
(2) They were concerned that an enterprising reporter might finally look in their direction for explanations;
(3) They wanted to portray me as a loon who hates all lawyers and regularly gets sued for defamation, thus making it harder to obtain legal counsel;
(4) They wanted to protect Claud Neilson for his unlawful (and probably criminal) actions;
(5) If I had retained a lawyer, or was about to retain one, they wanted to know who it was so they could attempt to "manage" my lawyer and turn him or her against me--thus, limiting their own exposure;
(6) They wanted to hurt my credibility as a journalist by getting a prominent newspaper to write a story about me that is filled with falsehoods.
Many questions remain unanswered on this subject, but this much is clear: Campbell Robertson had a chance to write a profoundly important article about an attack on constitutional freedoms in the Deep South, but he wound up producing a piece that would have gotten a first-year journalism student kicked out of school.
Why is that? I think Campbell Robertson probably is a capable reporter on most occasions, so why did he flop so badly on this one? A reasonable person might conclude it's because powerful forces in Alabama did not want him to produce a real piece of journalism in the first place--and a once-proud newspaper has slipped so badly that a substandard article actually found its way into print.
That, of course, is easy for him to say. He hasn't been in a case where the opposing party is writing orders, which include wildly inaccurate citations to law, and he winds up in jail because of it.
I have been in that position. In fact, I'm going to show you exactly how an opposing party can write orders that are not remotely supported by law--and a compromised judge is so lazy and corrupt (or both) that he lets it go.
We are talking about Judge Claud Neilson's order that granted a preliminary injunction against me in the Rob Riley and Liberty Duke defamation case. Evidence in the record suggests that members of Riley's own law firm, probably Jay Murrill in most instances, wrote every order in the case--and Neilson simply rubber stamped them.
Was this an important order? Well, it caused me to go to jail for five months. It also was intended to send my wife, Carol, to jail--even though she had nothing to do with writing, editing, or administering my blog. Thankfully, Shelby County, Alabama, sheriff's deputies failed to abduct her, and she was able to spread news about what had happened to me--turning the case into a national and international news story, with reports from The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, and many lesser known news outlets of both the mainstream and non-traditional varieties.
In Neilson's order, Riley's lawyers cite 13 cases that purport to show that a preliminary injunction is a lawful remedy in a defamation case. The citations start in the second paragraph on page 2 and continue in Footnote 3. (You can read the order at the end of this post.)
The Riley lawyers introduce their legal handiwork by stating: "Injunctive relief can be an appropriate and effective remedy to repeated and ongoing defamatory speech." To support this notion, they cite a case styled South v. City of Mountain Brook, 688 So. 2d 292 (Ala Crim. App., 1996), followed by a footnote that refers the reader to 12 other cases that supposedly say more or less the same thing.
There is a slight problem, however, with all of this. The South case does not remotely say what Team Riley claims it says--and neither do the 12 cases cited in the footnotes. I'm not the only individual to make note of this--so have multiple legal experts.
As First Amendment expert Ken White wrote at the Popehat blog, "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." Actually, it's worse than that--none of these cases says anything positive about injunctions against defamation, and none of them approved an injunction pretrial.
On top of that, almost all of them are from state courts outside of Alabama or federal district courts. In other words, they have zero precedential value--even if they were remotely on point, which they aren't.
What is the truth, from a legal standpoint? Neilson's preliminary injunction runs contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law; it's a classic "prior restraint," and there is no law to support what he did--what Riley's lawyers asked him to do.
Here is a brief rundown of the cases Team Riley cites, with a description of their actual findings and links so you can read the cases yourself, if you so desire. It will soon become clear that Riley's lawyers committed a not-so-subtle fraud--and it caused me to unlawfully lose five months of my freedom:
(1) South v. City of Mountain Brook, 688 So. 2d 292 (Ala. Crim. App., 1996)
Background: An Alabama man sought to have his conviction for harassing communications overturned.
Key holding: The man's conviction was proper under the Alabama criminal code.
Our verdict: As you can tell from the citation, this is not even a civil case; it's a criminal case. It has nothing to do with defamation or preliminary injunctions.
(2) Tory v. Cochran, 544 U.S. 734 (2005)
Background: Famed Los Angels attorney Johnny Cochran brought a defamation claim against a former client who, dissatisfied with legal services he had received, protested at Cochran's office.
Key holding: In the wake of Cochran's death, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a state-ordered injunction but did not address the constitutional issues raised.
Our verdict: This is the only case on the Riley list that had the potential to set precedent in Alabama and throughout the country. But SCOTUS found that, because of Cochran's death, it would be unwarranted to address the issues raised by Tory's appeal.
(3) Balboa Island Village Inn v. Lemen, 156 P. 3d 359 (Cal., 2007)
Background: A woman was found at trial to have defamed the owners of a restaurant/bar that she felt had become a nuisance in her neighborhood.
Holding: A permanent injunction, after a finding of defamation at trial, can be proper if its terms are not overly broad and are limited. A preliminary injunction, which by definition comes before a trial, is unlawful.
Our verdict: Balboa's holding is the exact opposite of what Team Riley claims. It is a negative finding about preliminary injunctions.
(4) North America Recycling v. Texamet Recycling, 2012 WL 3283380 (S.D., Ohio, 2012)
Background: An Ohio recycling company claimed a competing company in Texas had made defamatory statements and engaged in tortious interference.
Holding: After Texamet failed to oppose summary judgment, a federal magistrate judge recommended certain damages, while acknowledging that his finding might cross the boundary into unlawful prior restraint. After Texamet failed to challenge the magistrate's recommendation, the district court upheld the damages and then remitted them, on certain conditions, while again acknowledging the problem of prior restraint. Strangely, the district judge claimed the case did not even involve an injunction. We can find no record that the case was appealed to a circuit court.
Our verdict: As the district judge stated, this case was not about an injunction; it was about a Texas company failing to adequately respond to a lawsuit brought against it in an Ohio federal court. The gist of the ruling is that Texamet did not defend itself, and here is a solid analysis of the court's actions, which really don't make much sense and almost certainly would be reversed if Texamet appealed.
We are roughly a fourth of the way through the cases cited in Judge Neilson's order. We will pick up with the rest of them in an upcoming post, and we promise that things won't look any better for Riley and his team. They lied about the real contents of the first four cases, and they lied about the rest of them, too.
Account information for Rob Campbell, a partner at the Birmingham law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (BABC), appears in the data dumped from a hack of some 37 million Ashley Madison users around the globe. Sources have compiled a list of Alabama users, many of them prominent individuals (lawyers, doctors, CEOs, CFOs, etc.), and we are planning a series of posts on the subject.
Rob Campbell is married to Minda Riley Campbell, daughter to the former governor and sister to Homewood attorney and Republican Party operative Rob Riley. Here is how Rob Campbell's Ashley Madison information appears in one database compiled of Alabama users:
ROBERT CAMPBELL,655.8,RJCAMPBELL35209@GMAIL.COM,1819 Fifth Ave N,Birmingham,35203
The number after Campbell's name is the amount of money he has spent with Ashley Madison, according to the data dump. The address for him--1819 Fifth Ave N, Birmingham, 35203--is the address for Bradley Arant. Sources say Rob Campbell is one of several Bradley Arant lawyers on the list.
According to a number of news reports, data from two dumps released so far includes identifying information for paying Ashley Madison members--e-mail addresses, physical addresses, amounts paid, etc. The hacking group called Impact Team has released a third data dump that reportedly includes nude photos and chat sessions among Ashley Madison users.
Our sources are combing through that information now, and it is expected to be in publishable form in a few days. Henry County Report, a Web site based in southeast Alabama, already has published nude photos (with strategically placed black boxes) of a lawyer and a doctor from the Dothan area.
Slabbed, an alternative news site based in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, linked to a Pastebin URL, which contained data for Ashley Madison users in Louisiana and Mississippi. Publisher Doug Handshoe said his site has been overwhelmed with readers since publishing the Ashley Madison lists, causing Slabbed to crash several times in recent days. Handshoe said in a comment at the site that a normal month's worth of visitors had come to the site in the past two or three days.
In a post last night, Handshoe said Slabbed received more than 1,000 visits in a 10-minute period yesterday afternoon. The site temporarily disabled two posts on the Ashley Madison queries in order to reduce traffic to a manageable level and get back online.
How many visits did Rob Campbell make to Ashley Madison, and what did those visits entail? We likely will have that information soon--for Campbell and a number of other prominent Alabamians.
That Bradley Arant lawyers would be outed in the Ashley Madison data dump is filled with irony. The firm reportedly raked in more than $10 million during Bob Riley's final two years in office (2008-10), ostensibly to fight "illegal" electronic-bingo facilities that the firm had declared were legal just a few years earlier.
|Minda Riley Campbell|
Bradley Arant also has contributed heavily to Alabama Attorney
General Luther Strange, who picked up the e-bingo battle from Bob Riley. As of July 2013, BABC had received $364,000 in public funds to help Strange's office fight e-bingo. The firm had contributed $21,000 to Strange during and after his 2010 campaign, so those numbers reflect a 1,730 percent return on investment for BABC.
As for Rob Campbell, what kind of law does he practice, when he isn't visiting Ashley Madison? This is from his bio at the BABC Web site:
Rob Campbell is a partner in the firm’s Birmingham, Alabama office, where his practice is comprised of a broad range of complex commercial litigation, including financial institution, class action, multidistrict and parallel proceedings, insurance coverage and sales practices litigation. Rob also counsels clients with respect to insurance regulatory issues and regulatory investigations.
Much of Rob’s practice is devoted to defending insurance and financial services litigation, particularly class action and opt-out litigation, throughout the Southeast. His clients include Liberty National Life Insurance Company, MONY Life Insurance Company, The Principal Financial Group, Jefferson Pilot Life Insurance Company, AXA-Equitable Insurance Company, GE Life and Annuity Assurance Company, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, and Southland National Insurance Corporation, among others.
Are all of Rob Campbell's clients now indirectly tied to the Ashley Madison scandal? That's hard to say, but we know that at least one of them--Liberty National Life Insurance--is directly connected to Ashley Madison.
More on that in an upcoming post.
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That surely would be news to his wife, lawyer and Republican Party operative Minda Riley Campbell, who happens to be the daughter of former Alabama governor Bob Riley (GOP, 2003-11).
Records show that Campbell, a partner at the Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (BABC) law firm, joined Ashley Madison at 10:16 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2014. He used a computer with an outbound IP address of 22.214.171.124, which was located on or near the 700/800 block of Zelda Place in Homewood, Alabama. The Campbells' home address is 700 Zelda Place, Birmingham, Alabama, 35209.
Campbell has made at least three Ashley Madison purchases this year, each for an amount of $19.99. His billing address is 1819 Fifth Ave. N, Birmingham, AL 35203. That's the address for Bradley Arant.
An overview of Campbell's Ashley Madison profile can be viewed at the end of this post. His user name is "Anything Goes," and he describes himself as a "45-year-old professional looking for new friends and adventures."
What turns Campbell on? His profile says it's "casual jeans/T-shirt type, girl next door, sense of humor, creative and adventurous, relax and easy going, confidence, not possessive."
Are we to assume that Campbell finds some of those attributes missing in his wife? Hmmm.
What is Campbell open to? It's "conventional sex, light kinky fun, erotic tickling, open to experimentation, good with your hands, likes to give oral sex, extended foreplay/teasing, sex talk, bubble baths for two."
There you have it, ladies. The name is Rob Campbell, and you can find him (for now) at 700 Zelda Place, the Bradley Arant law firm, or Ashley Madison. On the Web, just ask for "Anything Goes."
|Gov. Robert Bentley and|
Rebekah Caldwell Mason
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married mother of three from Bentley's home base of Tuscaloosa, was the governor's mistress in an affair that sources say raises a number of possible legal issues--including use of the state jet and a state trooper's services for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Bentley's official role.
According to Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint, the couple separated in January 2015 because of a "complete incompatibility of temperament" and a "conflict of personalities which destroys the legitimate aims of matrimony." In fact, sources say, Gov. Bentley's affair with Mason destroyed the matrimonial bonds.
The 72-year-old Bentley, a Republican serving in his second term, repeatedly has touted his Christian faith and conservative "family values" to attract voters. He long has served as a deacon at First Baptist Church of Tuscaloosa. Bentley made national headlines in 2011 when, shortly after his inauguration, he said, ""Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I'm telling you, you're not my brother and you're not my sister. And I want to be your brother."
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, sources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. "He's been impotent as governor for at least the last six months," one source told Legal Schnauzer."People have been going into his office and saying, 'Do what I want or I'm going to play the girlfriend card.' People have been running all over him."
Who is Rebekah Caldwell Mason? She first came to public attention while serving as press secretary for Bentley's 2010 campaign. When Bentley rose from relative obscurity to win the GOP primary and defeat Democrat Ron Sparks in the general election, Mason became the new governor's communications director.
On Twitter, Mason describes herself as follows:
Wife, Mom of 3. Fan of Football. Business Owner. Senior Advisor for a great Gov. Love Family, Jesus and Reece's (sic) Cups. Not necessarily in that order.
Sources describe Mason as "between the ages of 38 and 40," meaning she is more than 30 years Bentley's junior. She is a former television newscaster and the wife of a former TV weatherman. An article at Yellowhammer News, portrays her as a highly influential figure in the governor's camp:
It’s easy to forget, but there was a time when Robert Bentley was a little-known state representative from Tuscaloosa launching a long-shot bid for governor. Very few people believed he had much of a chance against better funded candidates. But Mason was one of the true believers from the very beginning.
After Bentley was elected, Mason came into the administration as Communications Director. Bentley World has been basically devoid of controversy, which can be attributed in part to Mason’s deft handling of the communications shop.
Now that she’s moved outside of the administration, it’s freed her up to take on a greater role in shaping the big-picture direction of the governor’s office and re-election campaign, rather than having to get bogged down in the day-to-day operations.
Staffers and administration officials frequently bring problems or ideas to Mason first to find out how to best present them to the governor. And she’s written or refined pretty much any important speech or comment the governor has given over the last four years.
“Rebekah’s the governor’s voice,” one senior administration staffer told Yellowhammer. “I don’t think you can overstate how influential she is when it comes to the message the public hears from this governor.”
As it turns out, Mason might have been too influential. The Bentley-Mason affair, in the aftermath of Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint, has left the governor's administration teetering. Legal fallout from the affair could have ugly consequences, including Bentley's resignation and a possible criminal investigation. From one source:
I have . . . been told that Bentley's trooper facilitated the affair, and that the state jet was used extensively to facilitate it. And that Bentley and Mason actually used it as a bedroom at times when Mrs. Bentley was still living in the mansion. . . . The use of state resources to facilitate an affair would surely violate state law; guess it would be difficult to prove since I'm sure the woman's name likely did not appear on the jet's flight log.
Actually, Mason's name does appear on multiple flight lists for the first quarter of 2015. She is listed as a senior political advisor. Here are the flights:
|Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
(2) Date of departure: March 24 Destination: Dothan Purpose: Legislative Update to Dothan Chamber; meeting with Dothan Mayor Passengers: Governor Robert Bentley; Executive Protection Officer; Local Government Affairs Director Zach Lee; Legislative Director Ross Gunnells; Photographer Jamie Martin; Communications Director Jennifer Ardis; Senior Political Advisor Rebekah Mason Date of return: March 24
(3) Date of departure: March 26 Destination: Huntsville, Birmingham Purpose: Interview with WAFF; Legislative Update to Huntsville Chamber; Greet President of the United States Passengers: Governor Robert Bentley; Executive Protection Officer; Local Government Director Zach Lee; Photographer Jamie Martin; Communications Director Jennifer Ardis; Senior Political Advisor Rebekah MasonDate of return: March 26
(4) Date of departure: March 27 Destination: Mobile, Gulf Shores Purpose: Legislative Update to Mobile Chamber; Interviews with WALA Fox 10 and WKRG; meeting with Mobile officials; transport Governor to Gulf Shores Passengers: Governor Robert Bentley; Executive Protection Officer; Local Government Director Zach Lee; Press Secretary Yasamie August; Digital Media Coordinator Daniel Sparkman; Legislative Senate Liaison Derek Trotter; Senior Political Advisor Rebekah MasonDate of return: March 27
Neither Mason nor Communications Director Jennifer Ardis responded to our requests for comments. We will have more on the Bentley-Mason affair, and its possible legal fallout, in upcoming posts.
|Rebekah Caldwell Mason, her husband Jon,|
and their three children
Rebekah Caldwell Mason owns RCM Communications Inc. of Tuscaloosa, which was handsomely compensated for its work in advertising and polling for Bentley's re-election campaign in 2014, according to records from the Alabama Secretary of State's Office.
First Lady Dianne Bentley filed for divorce last Friday after 50 years of marriage, and we reported yesterday that an extramarital affair with Mason was the primary source of friction in the governor's marriage.
Mason became Bentley's communications director after his 2010 election, and she served as press secretary for the 2014 campaign. Bentley hired her husband, former WVUA weatherman Jon Mason, in 2011 to serve as director of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
It's not clear yet how much Rebekah Mason has been paid in taxpayer money since Bentley became governor. But between her pay from campaign funds, and her husband's pay from state resources . . . well, serving Team Bentley has been lucrative for the Mason family.
How lucrative? According to Lagniappe, a weekly publication in Mobile, the Bentley campaign paid RCM Communications more than $112,000 for advertising in 2013, the year before the election. That was the single largest expenditure from all campaign accounts for that year. From the article, titled "Rules Vague on 'Personal Use' of campaign finance money":
The year before an election, campaign committees across Alabama spent more than $4.5 million from their respective accounts in 2013, according to a review of recent reports. The expenses were ledgered against more than $15.4 million in itemized statewide cash contributions.
Besides Gov. Robert Bentley, who was the leading fundraiser in the cash category with $3.1 million last year, other leaders included Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey with $466,840.59, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard with $444,697.44, Sen. Roger Bedford with $396,615.73, Sen. Slade Blackwell with $379,550 and Sen. Arthur Orr with $343,010.00. . . .
Combined, Hubbard’s legal expenses were the second-largest single expense from all campaign accounts last year behind Gov. Bentley, who paid RCM Communications in Tuscaloosa $112,000 for advertising.
The payment for advertising was not the only money RCM received from the Bentley campaign in 2013. The total figure for that year is $143,700.75, with the additional funds coming in categories such as "polling/consulting,""travel,""lodging," and "administrative."
Lagniappe points out that candidates can dip into dangerous territory if they use campaign funds for "personal use":
|Rebekah Caldwell Mason, with|
U of Alabama coach Nick Saban
The FCPA more specifically prohibits expenses on household supplies, personal clothing, tuition payments, mortgage or rent, utility payments for a personal residence, admission or event fees for a country club or a social club, or any other expense, excluding food and beverages, which “would exist irrespective of the candidate’s campaign or duties as a legislator.” The state’s Ethics Act defines the law further, adding that contributions to an officeholder or candidate shall not be converted for personal use.
Were the payments to Rebekah Mason's company made in part because of her personal relationship with the governor? The answer is unclear at the moment. But it is clear that she was paid well.
In 2014, during the months leading to the November election, RCM received $283,277.38 from the Bentley campaign. If my math is correct, that brings the company's total haul, over roughly a 14-month period in two calendar years, to $426,978.43.
When you add Jon Mason's state salary for that time frame, the Mason family brought in more than half a million dollars--in just more than one year's time. All from Bentley-related activities.
Speaking of Jon Mason, where does Rebekah Caldwell Mason's husband fit into this picture? We will take a look at that in an upcoming post.
|Rebecca and Jon Mason|
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, whose affair with the governor led to First Lady Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint last Friday, has been paid $426,978.43 via her Tuscaloosa-based company, RCM Consulting. Those campaign expenditures are shown at the Alabama Secretary of State Web site.
Records at open.alabama.gov show that Mason has received $161,571.67 in state funds during the Bentley administration. Those payments--in fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013--were listed mostly as "personnel costs," with a small amount for "out of state travel."
That brings total payments, to Rebekah Mason or her company, to $588,550.10.
The total expands considerably when you consider payments to Jon Mason, Rebekah's husband, in his role as director of the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bentley appointed Jon Mason as director in 2011, and the office since has morphed into servealabama.gov.
At the "About Serve Alabama" Web page, the office's mission states:
ServeAlabama is a state agency under the office of the Governor of Alabama.
Serve Alabama, The Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service works to increase an ethic of service and volunteerism in the State of Alabama, strengthen the capacity of Alabama’s faith and community-based organizations, and promote collaboration among individuals and organizations striving to meet some of the greatest needs in our state.
We Serve Alabama in the following ways:
We serve as the Alabama State Service Commission, granting and administering (10) State AmeriCorps Programs across Alabama.
We are the state’s lead agency for Volunteer and Donations Management after disasters. Our work in this role includes response to Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, Deepwater Horizion Spill and the April 2011 tornadoes.
We serve as a liaison to the state for faith-based and community-based non-profit groups.
We administer FEMA’s Disaster Case Management Program for survivors of the April 2011 storms.
We administer the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.
We administer ReadyAlabama.gov, Alabama’s statewide disaster preparedness campaign.
Our role is to serve the people of Alabama and carry out the goals and objectives of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service through partnerships, integrity, and a sense of community.
How is Jon Mason, as a former weatherman at WVUA in Tuscaloosa, qualified to head such an agency? That remains unclear, but public records show he has been paid well with taxpayer dollars. For FY 2014, the most recent full fiscal year on record, Mason received $94,673.27. It looks like he will be pushing a six-figure salary when FY 2015 is completed.
Jon Mason's total compensation during the Bentley years is $393,539.82. When you add that to Rebekah Mason's haul, you get a total of $982,089.92--and our sources say the official numbers do not represent all funds paid to the Mason family under Bentley.
Alabama is in the midst of a budget crisis, with reports that 15 state parks will be closed and statewide driver's license bureaus will be reduced to four.
But at least someone has profited nicely under Robert Bentley's leadership. And that is the Rebekah and Jon Mason family of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
|Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah|
The Dean story stands out because it merges, in a roundabout way, the Bentley scandal with the Ashley Madison marital-cheating Web site scandal. It also provides a classic example of social media's potential for bringing a journalist's credibility into question.
How did Chuck Dean land at the crossroads of the Robert Bentley and Ashley Madison stories? Well, the list of paid Ashley Madison users in Alabama, released in the aftermath of a highly-publicized hack at the Web site, includes one Charles J. Dean. Here is how the official entry on the al.com reporter reads--providing name, amount spent, e-mail address, and physical address:
CHARLES J. DEAN, 1661, CJPDEAN@GMAIL.COM, 328 Lathrop Avenue, Birmingham, 35209
A check of Jefferson County property records shows that the owners of a home at 328 Lathrop Avenue (in the municipality of Homewood) are Charles J. and Laurie O. Dean. The property is valued at $284,600.
I recently sent Chuck Dean an e-mail query, seeking comment--and offering to conduct an interview--about his inclusion on the Ashley Madison list. He did not respond.
Has Chuck Dean been trying to cheat on his wife--and perhaps succeeding--via an account at Ashley Madison? Publicly available documents suggest the answer is yes. Does that help explain Dean's preposterously softball treatment of the Bentley scandal? A reasonable person could conclude the answer is yes.
But our query does not end there. A check of Chuck Dean's Facebook page reveals that one of his "friends" is Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Does that help explain a passage such as this from Dean's report on the Bentley scandal? (Dean introduces it by describing Mason's role in helping Bentley handle two traumatic events--a tornado in their shared home base of Tuscaloosa and the execution of a prisoner.)
Those are just two events and times that Mason and Bentley have shared over the past four-plus years. It is a time that has seen the now 43-year-old Mason ascend in Bentley's political life from campaign spokesperson to administration communications director to now Bentley's senior political adviser.
And now they are sharing something else, something totally unwanted. A rumor about the two has been circulating in mostly political circles for many months. It exploded across the Internet and blogger world Friday when Bentley's wife of 50 years, Dianne, filed for divorce from her 72-year-old husband. Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact.
Let's address a few points from the highlighted section of Dean's article above:
* A reporter who has spent any time covering courts should know that many divorce complaints say nothing about infidelity, abuse or any other actual causes of marital discord. Most complaints that I've seen contain boilerplate language about "incompatibility of temperament" and such, designed simply to start the divorce process. I'm aware of multiple divorce cases where infidelity or abuse (or both) were present, but the court complaints mentioned neither.
|Charles J. Dean|
* Finally, Dean refers to "some blogs of dubious credibility." Since Legal Schnauzer broke the Bentley-Mason story, it seems clear he is referring mainly to my blog. Dean apparently considers my credibility "dubious" because I've been the target of two defamation lawsuits in my 36-year journalism career--both filed by GOP political operatives, within roughly a month of each other, in fall 2013. Has my reporting in either case been found at trial to be false or defamatory? Dean easily could check the public record and find that the answer is no. In fact, he would find that both plaintiffs--Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--did not seek jury trials in their original filings. Riley never sought a jury trial and never filed any sworn statement, such as an affidavit, claiming my reporting was false. Garrison only sought a jury trial after I sought a jury trial in my answer. Her original complaint, like Riley's, did not want her case heard by a jury.
Enough about my credibility, what about Chuck Dean's? Let's consider more from his Bentley-Mason article:
I personally first heard the rumor in late January. I got a phone call from a person who would not identify herself. Her phone number was blocked also. Then another call some days later came in claiming the same thing. I also found out that other reporters and media people were getting calls apparently all from unnamed people.
My gut told me the rumor was untrue, as are most such rumors I've heard in over 35 years of reporting. But, the rumor was persistent and so sudden and was coming to so many in an effort to push it I began to wonder two things: could it be true? And if not, why was somebody trying to damage Bentley or Mason?
Those two questions started me on a journey where I asked many people many questions, turned over many rocks and met sources in many bars.
Months later I still can't say with proof why that rumor began, who is behind it or for what purpose.
I have watched. I have listened. I have asked questions. I've heard many things. None of them convince me that this rumor is true. And many of them convince me it is not true.
Let's examine the three passages highlighted above, in order:
* This is the classic lament of the reporter who has been beaten on a story--especially when said reporter has reason to know the story is true. "Well, I heard this way back in ________ (fill in the month or year), way before ____________ (fill in the name of reporter who broke the story) ever heard about it," the reporter is saying. "I'm much more careful than the reckless guy (or gal) who broke the story, and that's the only reason I didn't get it first. I knew about it, but I just chose not to let my readers (or listeners) know about it." Somehow, this always makes the beaten reporter feel better.
* Dean could only find unnamed people to discuss this subject? I had to almost fight off people, with names, who provided all sorts of details about the Bentley-Mason affair. My primary sources are all long-time, knowledgeable insiders in the world of Alabama politics and journalism. They gave me their names, and I have no reason to believe they are rumormongers or enemies of Bentley. In fact, one has been a long-time Bentley supporter.
* Why did Dean conclude that the reports of an affair aren't true? That's hard to say, but his story hints at a chummy relationship with Mason, and in fact, she shows up as a friend on his Facebook page. Does Dean disclose that to his readers? Nope.
That takes us to something else Chuck Dean does not disclose to his readers--his presence on the Ashley Madison list of marital cheaters (or attempted marital cheaters). Does Dean's own experience in the world of extramarital affairs (or attempted affairs) color his reporting on the Bentley-Mason story? It's hard to see any way that it wouldn't.
Dean's own employer doesn't seem to put much stock in his reporting. In a Sunday editorial, al.com called on Bentley to talk publicly about the affair and related issues. It also called on Tuscaloosa County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Hamner, a Bentley appointee, to reconsider her decision to seal the divorce file.
All of which leads to this conclusion: If Chuck Dean wants to question someone's credibility, maybe he should look in the mirror.
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We've provided evidence in a previous post that examined some of the cases Judge Claud Neilson cited to supposedly show that a preliminary injunction is a proper remedy in a defamation case.
A review of the court file indicates lawyers from Riley's own firm, especially Jay Murrill, wrote pretty much all of the orders in the case; that means they dug up the cases that Neilson cited. We've shown that four of the cited cases do not remotely say what Team Riley claims they say. Now we will take a look at the remaining nine cases--and then we will show how the results of our examination suggest that the case was rigged from the get-go.
This is a rare opportunity for the public to see exactly how corrupt lawyers, with a judge in their hip pocket, commit fraud in our taxpayer-funded courts. Join us for an unusual ride in journalism, the kind you likely never have, and never will, find in the mainstream press. We pick up with the fifth case cited in Neilson's preliminary-injunction order (which can be seen at the end of this post).
Remember these cases are purported to show that a preliminary-injunction is a proper and lawful remedy in a defamation. Do they say that? Let's take a look:
(5) American University of Antigua College of Medicine v. Woodward, 837 Fed. Supp. 2d 686 (E.D. Michigan, 2011)
Background--A medical school sued a former student, who started a Web site to voice dissatisfaction about his experience at the school.
Key holding--The court held that the student, by failing to respond properly to a Request for Admissions, had admitted that certain items on his Web site were false. The court held that those items had been judicially determined to be false and granted the school a permanent injunction on them. The court held that other items were not actionable defamation and denied the school summary judgment on those. In its opinion, the Court initially denied injunctive relief and cited “the First Amendment’s ‘heavy presumption’ against prior restraints” and “‘nearly two centuries of widespread acceptance at common law . . . that equity will not enjoin a defamation.’” That opinion changed, however, when the court determined that the student (Woodward) had admitted certain statements were false, leading to a permanent injunction.
Our verdict--We have found no evidence that Woodward appealed this ruling, but he probably would have succeeded because there was no finding at trial that his statements were false and defamatory. The court acknowledged that a preliminary injunction in a defamation case is unlawful, but granted a permanent injunction based on Woodward's failure to timely respond to a Request for Admissions. This is a peculiar outcome, and a higher court almost certainly would overturn it on appeal.
(6) Bluemile Inc. v. Yourcolo LLC, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXUS 62178 (S.D Ohio, 2011)
Background--An Internet technology services company in Ohio sued a competitor, claiming it had violated a registered trademark and made false statements.
Key holding--The court granted a temporary restraining order, based largely on trademark and cybersquatting grounds. The order also appears to enjoin statements that were not found to be defamatory at trial, but the court makes no finding regarding prior restraint or other constitutional issues.
Our verdict--It's unclear if this ruling was appealed, but it makes no citation to law regarding a preliminary injunction in a defamation case. Our research indicates the case was settled.
(7) Eppley v. Iacovelli, 209 WL 1035265 (SD Ind., 2009)
Background--A plastic surgeon in Indiana sought a preliminary injunction against a former patient who published numerous Web pages and videos claiming the surgeon caused a number of ailments.
Key holding--The patient lived in Massachusetts and did not respond to the surgeon's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, so the district court granted it. The patient (Iacovelli) filed a notice of appeal in December 2009, but she died in 2010, so the constitutional issues in her case went largely unaddressed.
Our verdict--As a document from a Missouri case points out, Eppley was an unreported opinion, with no precedential value, and it apparently was rendered based largely on allegations that the patient had violated stalking, harassment, and extortion laws. According to the record, the patient received a negative outcome because she failed to respond to the surgeon's request for a preliminary injunction--and she died before issues raised in her appeal could be heard.
(8) International Profit Associates v. Paisola, 461 F. Supp 2d, 672 (ND Ill., 2006
Background--A business-consulting company in Illinois sued, claiming a financial-services company had violated trademark, copyright, eavesdropping, and cyberpiracy laws, also alleging defamation.
Key holding--The court issued a narrow temporary restraining order on some issues, but noted that a broad prohibition against speech would run afoul of prior restraint provisions and the First Amendment.
Our verdict--This is another business case decided primarily on trademark and cyberpiracy grounds, a growing issue in the Internet age. It makes no finding on constitutional issues related to defamation.
(9) Evans v. Evans, WL 5490538 (Cal. Sup. Ct., 2007)
Background--A deputy sheriff sued his former wife, alleging harassment, defamation, and breach of privacy.
Key holding--The trial court granted a preliminary injunction on all claims. The injunction regarding defamation was overturned on appeal because it was found to be an improper prior restraint.
Our verdict--Evans holds exactly the opposite of what Team Riley claims. It found a preliminary injunction to be "constitutionally invalid."
(10) Griffis v. Luban, WL 338139 (Minn. Ct. App., 2002)
Background--An Alabama expert on Egyptian history (Griffis) brought a defamation action against a Minnesota resident over comments made in an Internet news group about archaeology.
Key holding--The Minnesota resident (Luban) did not respond to the action in Jefferson County, Alabama, circuit court, leading to a default judgment. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed, finding the Alabama court had no personal jurisdiction over Luban.
Our verdict--This case was decided on jurisdictional grounds, with no findings on constitutional issues related to defamation.
(11) Apex Technology Group v. Doe, MID-L 7878-09 (NJ Superior Court, 2009)
Background--The principal of a technology company sued various unknown individuals, seeking removal of posts at certain Web forums.
Key holding--The court issued an order directing the websites' upstream hosts to disable access to the websites, and ordering Facebook, Yahoo! and Comcast to disclose the identity of the individual behind two email addresses associated with www.endH1b.com that plaintiffs alleged had included defamatory postings in an email newsletter. Information about the case is sparse, but the court apparently granted one defendant's Motion to Dismiss and lifted its earlier order.
Our verdict--The court's original ruling received heavy criticism from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which called it "deeply dangerous and wrong." The court apparently came to its senses and lifted an order that has no support in the law.
(12) Bat World Sanctuary v. Cummins, No. 352-248169-10 (Dist. Ct., Texas, 2011)
Background--A nonprofit dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured and ailing bats sued a former intern who filed complaints with a government agency about conditions at the sanctuary and also wrote negative comments at several Web sites.
Key holding--After a four-day bench trial, the court found for Bat World on the defamation claim.
Our verdict--This case involved defamation, but it had nothing to do with a preliminary injunction. The former intern (Cummins) was found liable for defamation at trial, so prior restraint never was an issue.
(13) Cullum v. White, WL-3333056 (Ct. App. TX, 2010)
Background--The owner of an exotic game ranch sued a former ranch hand who made derogatory comments about the operation in e-mails and on a Web site.
Key holding--A jury found the former ranch hand (Cullum) liable for defamation. On appeal, the trial court's permanent injunction was set aside.
Our verdict--Like the Bat World Sanctuary case, Cullum simply was a defamation case that went to trial. It did not involve constitutional questions about preliminary injunctions and prior restraints.
So there, you have it--13 cases, none of which have precedential value in Alabama, and none of which says a preliminary injunction is a proper remedy in a case of alleged defamation. That means Team Riley goes 0-13 in its legal research, for a batting average of .000.
What can we draw from this? For one, it appears there are some really bad lawyers at the Riley Jackson firm. But more importantly, common sense indicates no one at the firm took research on this subject seriously. Why would that be? I can think of only one reason--the firm's lawyers knew Judge Neilson was in the bag, on their side, and that meant they were going to prevail whether they did legitimate research or not.
We hope readers appreciate what this post, and the one that preceded it, has done. It has shown--probably for the first time in Alabama history and maybe for the first time in U.S. history--exactly how a law firm and a corrupt judge colluded to cheat a litigant. And this wasn't a mild cheat job; it was one that caused the litigant to lose five months of his freedom.
This goes way beyond the hardships this brought on me and my wife. If you live in Alabama, your taxpayer dollars supported this con game. It was carried out, from beginning to end, in publicly funded facilities, with publicly funded resources.
If you live in Alabama and that doesn't make you at least a little bit angry, you might want to check your pulse.
|This looks a lot like the assault rifle that was pointed at me.|
It's called a BERYL 96.
Doctors told my wife, Carol, that the large bone in her upper left arm was broken when Greene County deputies assaulted her as she tried to retrieve some of our belongings from inside the apartment. She is scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning--and we are told it will be a five- or six-hour procedure--although it already has been postponed twice.
Damage to Carol's arm apparently is so severe that a trauma surgeon has been scheduled to operate. The procedure probably would have already been completed if doctors felt an orthopedic surgeon could handle it.
How severe are Carol's injuries? That's unclear at this point, but she was given oxygen, possibly because she was in danger of going into shock, and doctors treated her for possible blood clots. Her neck and shoulders are sore from apparent whiplash, and she shows signs of having a concussion from being thrown violently to the ground. At least three officers surrounded Carol during the assault, and I saw one officer yank both of her arms in an outward and upward motion. Her left arm, the broken one, is so badly bruised that doctors asked if she had been on blood thinners. Her right arm also is extensively bruised, and I'm still not sure how it wasn't broken, too.
The incident began when about six deputies burst through our door at about 1:45 p.m. on September 9. Jim Arnott, the sheriff of Greene County, was on the scene, and he yanked me out of a chair and placed handcuffs on me, even though I was sitting with my hands folded and posed no threat to anyone. Carol was looking out our peephole to see what was going on outside and was slammed against a wall when officers burst through the door.
One of the officers trained what appeared to be an assault weapon on me, and I think at least three or four handguns were pointed in my direction. A construction worker near the scene witnessed much of the incident and said he saw what appeared to be two AK-47s with officers on the premises. I'm not an expert on assault weapons, but I'm not certain this was an AK-47. It was, however, not your standard rifle, and it appeared to be the kind of automatic or semi-automatic weapon that is designed to blow away multiple people in quick order. The rifle looked a lot like the one shown above, which is a BERYL 96.
As officers mauled Carol on the ground, handcuffing her and breaking her arm, Arnott stood a few feet away and pointed at the violent scene and said, "She assaulted a police officer." That's a classic example of how far some law-enforcement officers will go to lie and cover up wrongdoing.
We're not aware of any charges filed against Carol, although she was taken to the Greene County Jail before someone finally realized that her complaints about soreness in her arm might be serious. She apparently was not booked into the jail, and she was transported to one hospital for X-rays that revealed the break and then to another, where the surgery is scheduled.
I witnessed the assault on Carol, and I feel certain none of the officers involved has a scratch on him (or her)--one of the officers was a woman. I was seated in our car in the driveway and could hear Carol say, "I'm trying to . . . . " I lost track of her words after that, but she told me that she was trying to get our cat's litter box. The notion that she assaulted anyone is preposterous.
|Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott|
A number of good-hearted individuals helped us place furniture and some of our valuables in the neighbor's garage. But a lot of personal belongings--clothes, wedding photos, my wedding ring, and much more--seem to be gone. As I type this, I'm not sure what Carol and I have left--the clothes on our back, our kitty kat Baxter, miscellaneous furniture, and not much else.
I put the term eviction in quotation marks above because the entire procedure that led to Carol's injuries was unlawful. I will explain further in an upcoming post, but I was the defendant in a rent-and-possession lawsuit styled Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler. I had timely filed a notice of appeal, and under Missouri law, that puts a stay on execution of an eviction notice. Neither officers nor the Cowherd crew members had lawful grounds to be on the property last Wednesday (September 9), but they broke through our door, pointed multiple weapons at me, and broke Carol's arm anyway. And if our neighbor's words are on target, they also caused many of our personal belongings to be stolen.
All of this explains why Legal Schnauzer has been quiet in recent days. I will update readers on Carol's condition and related events, hopefully in a few days. My access to a computer right now is limited, so I will not be able to post comments and respond to e-mails as quickly as I usually do.
Information about Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler, the underlying "eviction" case that led to all of this, is available at the following link:
Your Missouri Courts
You can click on "Litigant Name Search" and type in my name to call up both the trial-court case and appellate case that, by law, put a stay on the eviction. Most of the case information can be viewed by clicking "Docket Entries."
Here is a portion of the docket entry for the trial-court case. It clearly shows that I filed a notice of appeal on 9/8/15, and the eviction took place anyway on 9/9/15:
09/10/2015 -- Return Service - Other
Landlord Execution returned served/posted by the GCSD. /st
09/09/2015 -- Correspondence Filed
Missouri Court of Appeals files Correspondence to acknowledge receipt of a notice of appeal./bh
09/08/2015 -- Motion to Quash
Defendant filing pro se files Motion to Quash Execution. /kbt
Certificate of Mailing
Notice of Appeal saved and attached in PDF format for Attorney(s) to retrieve from secure case.net. Notice of Appeal sent electronically to Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District/KC
Notice of Appeal Filed
Roger Shuler Defendant Pro Se Files Notice of Appeal. /KC
Filed By: ROGER SHULER
08/31/2015 -- Judgment Entered
Formal Interlocutory Judgment executed and filed. Rose/kj Judgment for possession. Rose/kj
I will explain the law behind this in an upcoming post. For now, I have a wife whose upper arm--in the words of her doctor--is "snapped in two." Getting her on the mend is priority No. 1. Meanwhile, many of our possessions have been lost or stolen, and the roof over our head might soon disappear.
Those familiar with my bogus arrest and incarceration in Alabama know that the price is high for journalists who dare to report accurately about legal and political corruption. The price has just gotten higher--and the terrorism campaign against us officially has crossed state borders.
A trauma surgeon said the procedure went well, and he expects a full recovery. Carol's caregivers said she will need regular physical therapy, and her recovery probably will take at least two to three months.
The surgeon described Carol's injury as a broken elbow. He said a number of implants (screws, etc.) were needed to piece the bone back together. It looks like Carol will be in the hospital at least one more night.
My computer access is limited, but I will try to keep readers updated on Carol's condition and the events that led to her injury. Jim Arnott, the sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, was at the scene of the "eviction" and watched from a few feet away as his deputies assaulted Carol--doing nothing to intervene except pointing a finger and indicating Carol had "assaulted a police officer."
Arnott and at least one other officer indicated they brought heavy weaponry because I had called 911 and threatened law enforcement if officers tried to evict us. How big a liar is Arnott? Gargantuan might be one fitting adjective.
Carol was viciously assaulted, and I would bet that not one officer has a scratch on him (or her) from the encounter. Meanwhile, Carol has one broken arm, and it's a miracle the other arm wasn't broken. As for me, I've never called 911 in my life, and I've never called anyone to threaten law enforcement.
At least one Legal Schnauzer reader, who writes investigative reports on Facebook, contacted Arnott and asked several questions about the events involving Carol and me. The reader said Arnott acted as if he had no idea what she was talking about. From the reader:
Just got of phone with the . . . sheriff, and he refused to answer any questions about this. Told me I could go to their site and file a "Missouri sunshine law " request. He wouldn't answer anything and got smart with me until I told him off and hung up (yes, my phone # was blocked). I asked pertinent questions such as did he run for office as a Dem or Rep. and of course it was Republican. Also the judge on your case, Kelly Halford Rose. is a Republican. . . .
I did not know Arnott was on the scene [when I talked to him]. He was trying to act dumb when I gave him the address and asked if he had a warrant or proof there was a threat to his department called in? He stonewalled. This is beyond ridiculous.
In the moments before her injury, Carol had been told she could recover our personal belongings--and I was told I could do the same when she was finished. She was walking toward our front door, mainly concerned about retrieving the litter box for our cat Baxter, when two or more deputies jumped her, slammed her to the ground, and twisted both arms behind her back.
|Sheriff Jim Arnott|
How can such an assault happen on any eviction, much less one where I had filed an appeal that automatically put a stay on proceedings? That's hard to say, but the attorney for landlord Cowherd Construction clearly had knowledge an appeal had been filed. Associate Gregory Lulich is handling the case for the Lowther Johnson law firm. I notified Lulich the day before the scheduled eviction, both by e-mail and voice message, that an appeal had been filed--and I lawfully served him with pertinent documents.
I served another attorney in the case--David Shuler, who happens to be my brother. He represents our mother, even though she isn't lawfully a party to the case. It appears Cowherd Construction sued my mother (with no grounds for doing so) as an excuse to have David involved in the case. Like Lulich, David Shuler had knowledge that the eviction was stayed and did nothing about it--directly implicating him in Carol's injuries. David Shuler, who serves on the Springfield, Missouri Planning and Zoning Commission, is aware that his sister-in-law was seriously hurt--due in large part to his own actions and inactions--but has he acknowledged it or expressed concern about it? Nope.
As for our question about how a bogus eviction could turn into a scene of violence . . . here is a comment from a reader, who is familiar with the normal eviction process, and these words might shine light on that question:
I'm confused. I work for a rental company. There are laws in Alabama that protect the landlord and the tenant. Did they ignore your appeal or did you miss the date for the hearing? The deputies that handle our evictions are there to enforce the eviction but don't touch anything. Employees of our company remove the tenant's belongings, change locks, etc. I've never heard of this many deputies going to an eviction.
Here is my response to the reader:
Most rational people would be confused, . . . Yes, they completely ignored my appeal, which put an automatic stay on the eviction. I notified the landlord's attorney, both by e-mail and voice message, so he had every reason to know that the eviction could not go forward. I've had others tell me they've never heard of this many deputies going to an eviction and bringing at least one, maybe two, assault weapons--plus multiple handguns. The sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, himself was there. How often does that happen? Not only did they touch stuff, they handcuffed both Carol and me, they assaulted her and broke her arm while she was trying to retrieve our cat's litter box, and a neighbor said he saw the landlord's crew stealing our belongings.
|Are judicial elites trying to cover for Mark Fuller's|
corrupt actions from the bench?
The Judicial Conference of the United States stated in a letter to Congress that the severity of Fuller's actions, plus its finding of perjury, might merit impeachment proceedings--even though he resigned from the bench in August.
Legal experts have said that the conference's findings against Fuller, best known for overseeing the trial of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, represent a tough stance against judges who bring disrepute to the judiciary. But is that really the case? Is the judicial hierarchy, by focusing on Fuller's private behavior while largely ignoring his dubious actions on the bench, actually conducting a cover-up and trying to protect its own reputation.
The answers to the those two questions, in our view, are no and yes.
Should the public be concerned that Fuller, appointed to the bench in the Middle District of Alabama by President George W. Bush, repeatedly beat Kelli Gregg Fuller before and after they got married--and then lied under oath about his actions? Of course. Should the public be concerned that documents from Fuller's first marriage suggest he abused his wife and children then, drove while intoxicated, engaged in extramarital affairs, and abused alcohol and prescription drugs? Absolutely.
But what about Fuller's conduct in his "official capacity," while wearing a robe? We are among a relatively small number of journalists who have shown that Fuller repeatedly made unlawful rulings in the Siegelman case, forcing former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to prison for a sentence he already has served--while Siegelman remains incarcerated at Oakdale, Louisiana, for a "crime" that does not exist under federal law.
How corrupt were Fuller's actions in the Siegelman case? Here is the simplest explanation: Evidence at trial showed that the alleged unlawful transaction between Siegelman and Scrushy took place almost six years before federal prosecutors issued an indictment. That means the alleged wrongdoing--and evidence at trial showed there was no wrongdoing at all--took place well outside the five-year statute of limitations.
That means the case should not have gone to trial--but by law, it could not go to a jury. Fuller, however, took a number of improper steps to ensure that a stale case, which should have been dead on arrival, moved forward toward a jury that issued guilty verdicts not supported by fact or law.
Here's the key to what's really going on with the "investigation" of Mark Fuller: The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Fuller's unlawful trial rulings on multiple occasions. That's why the judicial hierarchy wants the public to focus on Fuller's home life. If citizens were to focus on Fuller's abominable actions from the bench, the inquiry could not stop with him; it also would have to focus on the appellate court in Atlanta, which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida.
Goodness knows, the Judicial Conference does not want that to happen.
That's why various legal experts were quoted in The New York Times, praising the "tough-guy stance" toward Mark Fuller. Here is one example:
“They didn’t pull any punches,” said Arthur Hellman, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in judicial ethics. “They didn’t try to whitewash it in any way, and I think that’s part of the message they’re trying to convey: If a federal judge does something bad, the judiciary will take steps to force him off the bench.”
Here is another example:
“They want to use this as a teaching moment for the federal judiciary,” said Charles G. Geyh, a law professor at Indiana University who testified during impeachment proceedings against a different federal judge.
Both Hellman and Geyh are full of horse feces. In fact, to borrow a phrase from Hellman, a "whitewash" is exactly what's going on.
Judicial elites don't mind sacrificing Mark Fuller for engaging in domestic abuse. But they don't want you to know that he was crooked on the bench--and they sure don't want you to know that appellate judges supported Fuller's corrupt actions all along the way.
|Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
Rebekah Caldwell Mason has hired Bobby Segall, of the firm Copeland Franco. Segall perhaps is best known for representing defendants in the Don Siegelman and Alabama bingo prosecutions. Meanwhile Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins reports on his Facebook page that Bentley has hired Montgomery criminal-defense lawyer Joe Espy.
What is the most likely source of criminal exposure for Mason and Bentley? Our sources say it is the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, also known as ACEGOV, a nonprofit organization with ties to three of the most powerful entities in the state--Alabama Power, the University of Alabama System, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who have tried to arrange a monopoly on state gaming in exchange for assistance with the state budget crisis.
Where does ACEGOV get its money? The council is not terribly forthcoming with that information, but in a general sense, the funds reportedly come from Bentley's leftover campaign resources. More specifically, our sources say, the money comes mostly from Alabama Power and the Poarch Creeks--and a significant amount of it has been funneled to Governor Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Cooper Shattuck, a former legal adviser for Bentley, formed ACEGOV in February before moving on to become general counsel for the University of Alabama System. What is Shattuck's role at UA? Here is how the university's Web site describes it:
The General Counsel, R. Cooper Shattuck, staffs, organizes, and manages the Office of Counsel. The General Counsel also serves on the Chancellor’s Senior Staff.
Sounds like a pretty big job. Shattuck oversees a staff of 21 lawyers who serve the three UA campuses--in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville. Joining him as board members for ACEGOV are R.B. Walker, assistant to the executive vice president at Alabama Power, and Marquita Davis, a former state finance director under Bentley and current executive director of the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity.
Shattuck helps complete a powerful trifecta--University of Alabama, Alabama Power, Poarch Creeks--that, our sources say, helped funnel money to Rebekah Caldwell Mason. How much did ACEGOV pay Mason, and what services did she perform? Was she paid mainly to stay quiet about her affair with Governor Bentley?
Could the answers to those questions help lead to criminal charges against Mason, Bentley, and perhaps others? We will address those questions in upcoming posts.
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