Articles on this Page
- 09/23/15--07:55: _Ashley Madison stor...
- 09/24/15--11:17: _Al.com reporter Cha...
- 08/04/15--09:55: _Lawyer David Gespas...
- 09/08/15--04:12: _Al.com reporter Cha...
- 09/28/15--08:01: _California journali...
- 09/29/15--08:55: _In reaching a divor...
- 09/30/15--08:15: _Are Alabama mainstr...
- 10/01/15--04:26: _Missouri deputies s...
- 10/05/15--07:39: _Al.com reporter Cha...
- 10/06/15--12:11: _Judge finds that e-...
- 10/07/15--07:41: _My family in Missou...
- 10/08/15--09:14: _Documents show that...
- 10/13/15--08:17: _My brothers in Miss...
- 10/14/15--08:19: _My brothers are try...
- 10/15/15--09:11: _My wife's shattered...
- 10/16/15--10:24: _Jessica Medeiros Ga...
- 10/19/15--08:28: _It doesn't take lon...
- 10/20/15--08:25: _X-rays of my wife's...
- 10/21/15--09:29: _We celebrate our 26...
- 10/22/15--09:38: _Jessica M. Garrison...
My FB friend, it turns out, was a bit premature. I can't speak for other journalists who have reported on the hack of data from the extramarital-affair Web site, but the Ashley Madison story is just heating up here at Legal Schnauzer.
We already have reported on two prominent Alabamians--Bradley Arant lawyer Rob Campbell (son-in-law of former Governor Bob Riley) and al.com journalist Charles J. Dean--who held Ashley Madison accounts in apparent efforts to cheat on their spouses. But those are just the opening acts--the Ed Sheeran before the Rolling Stones, you might say--for the reports that are to come.
The Ashley Madison story is challenging to report for several reasons. One, the amount of data is massive, and sorting through it is labor intensive and time consuming. I have data from four states--Alabama, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mississippi. We are working on information for Florida and Georgia.
How big an undertaking is this? Well consider the data from Alabama: Our sources say there are roughly 8,000 paid Ashley Madison users in Alabama, and those are the names we've seen so far at various Web sites. But there are about 220,000 total AM users in Alabama. That means we only know the IDs of a tiny fraction of users. The other users either access the site for free--they can search, but can't chat, swap photos, and use other features--or they obtained some kind of special debit card in an effort to hide their identity, which I'm told can be ascertained anyway. The scope of participation in this is way bigger than many of us knew at the outset.
The number of paid users in Florida, for example, is about 50,000.
A second challenge, for me, came when Missouri deputies conducted an unlawful eviction at the apartment where my wife and I were living and broke my wife's arm so severely that it required surgery. She's only been out of the hospital a few days and is nowhere near a full recovery, which likely will take two or three months, at least.
|Bradley Arant's Rob Campbell:|
Lawyer outed on Ashley Madison
Focusing primarily on the Birmingham Metro area, I've found an extraordinary number of high-level professionals--CEOs, CFOs, lawyers, doctors, bankers, engineers, wealth managers, architects, designers . . . the list goes on.
Here are just a few of the companies and entities with executives who have Ashley Madison accounts--HealthSouth, Sterne Agee, Hoar Construction, Cadence Bank, EBSCO, Western Steel, UAB, Royal Cup, Southern Company, Royal Automotive, Liberty National, Wells Fargo, Golden Flake, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Orkin, BBVA Compass, Skyline Steel, Daimler, The Club, Lakeshore Foundation, Regions Bank, Command Alkon . . . and many more. That doesn't include all the law firms, large and small, that are represented on the list.
And I'm developing a similar list for Missouri.
Is the Ashley Madison story going away? Not by a long shot.
|Charles J. Dean|
Charles J. Dean, of al.com, manages to pull off that neat trick in an article titled "Separating rumor from fact and remembering don't believe everything you read."
Dean's article is so poorly written--and al.com apparently no longer can afford to employ copy editors to clean up reporters' messes--that it's hard to tell what he's trying to say. But here is my best guess at his key points: (1) Reports are false that Rebekah Caldwell Mason, adviser and mistress to Governor Robert Bentley, left the state to work on the presidential campaign of Ohio Governor John Kasich; (2) Reports are false that Bentley legal adviser David Byrne has resigned; (3) An unnamed "blogger," apparently me, is responsible for these journalistic transgressions.
There is a slight problem with Dean's apparent claims: I've never reported that Mason went to work for the Kasich campaign, and I've never reported that Byrne resigned from the Bentley staff. In other words, Dean engages in the very inaccurate reporting that he attempts to decry.
On top of that, Dean fails to disclose to his readers the likely reason for his personal animosity toward me and this blog. In summary, Dean's reporting is inaccurate, sloppy, poorly written, and deceptive. Are we supposed to take this guy as a paragon of journalistic virtue?
Dean starts by informing us that a political interest group called Forward Alabama had posted on the Web about Mason's alleged work for the Kasich campaign. This leads Dean to tsk, tsk as follows:
A so-called progressive political group "Forward Alabama" didn't make up that post to Facebook. They picked it up from a blogger who must be part of the so-called "political insiders" group.
Who is the blogger in question, how does Dean know Forward Alabama picked up the Mason-Kasich story from him (or her), and what is this "so-called political insiders group"? Dean doesn't bother to enlighten us on any of that.
He does tsk tsk again on the subject of Byrne's alleged resignation. Writes Dean:
Of course the blogger who originally posted that Mason was working for Kasich had also posted that Bentley's chief legal advisor, David Byrne was resigning and implied it was over the unsubstantiated rumor that a romantic relationship between Bentley and Mason is why Diane Bentley is divorcing her husband of 50 years.
And by the way, Byrne was also in the hallways of the Legislature working too – for Bentley. He has not resigned.
Dean again mentions an unnamed blogger and leaves all sorts of questions unanswered. Based on my research, both the Kasich and Byrne stories originated with Alabama lawyer Donald Watkins, who has written extensively about Bentley/Mason affair on his Facebook page.
Dean never mentions Watkins by name, but he does write the following, which clearly is a reference to me:
We live in an age where anybody with a computer and an internet connection can post anything, including one blogger who has written about Bentley and Mason. That blogger, by the way, has been sued for defamation and jailed on related contempt of court charges. A Jefferson County judge in April ruled against the blogger and awarded the woman he had defamed by writing she had had an affair with a state official $3.5 million.
This is one of the few parts of Dean's article where the writing is clear; he's referring to a pair of defamation lawsuits filed against me in fall 2013, roughly one month apart, by Republican operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison. Dean, of course, conveniently leaves out a few facts:
(1) The contempt-of-court finding that led to my incarceration in the Riley matter was contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law, and even right-leaning legal analysts have written that it was blatantly unlawful. A paragon of journalistic integrity, such as Chuck Dean, should know his First Amendment law.
(2) The $3.5-million figure in the Garrison case was a default judgment, which grew from my unlawful incarceration and the wrongful foreclosure on our house, which made it impossible for me to defend myself. In other words, the judgment is not supported by law or facts, the plaintiffs' version of events never has been challenged under oath in a court of law, and my reporting in neither case never has been found to be false or defamatory by a jury. In fact, neither case went to a jury.
Why is Chuck Dean so quick to trash me? Well, it's almost certainly because I recently outed him for participating in the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site. I also asked this question: Has Chuck Dean been reluctant to report on the Bentley-Mason affair because he himself has engaged in--or tried to engage in--extramarital activity via Ashley Madison?
Before publishing my article, I gave Dean an opportunity to comment and to answer questions such as the one above. He chose not to respond.
Before trashing me, did Chuck Dean offer to interview me, to give me an opportunity to respond to questions he might have? Did Dean even bother to check the court files to discover the facts about the cases in question? Nope, Chuck Dean did none of that.
We are supposed to learn something about journalistic integrity from this guy? It's apparent he knows no more about journalistic integrity than he knows about marital integrity.
At least there is an element of truth to the headline on Chuck Dean's story. You absolutely should not believe everything you read--especially if Chuck Dean is writing it.
When twice meeting with me in the Shelby County Jail, Gespass sang from a different hymnal. He suggested to me that Neilson's actions were "questionable," at worst, never mind that they violated more than 200 years of First Amendment law. Gespass suggested that I needed to resolve the case with GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke "as quickly as possible," even though it was their dubious defamation claim that caused me to be arrested in the first place. In fact, Riley and Duke specifically asked for the unlawful arrests of my wife, Carol, and me, but that didn't seem to bother Gespass in the least.
Why would Gespass say the actions against us were "insane" and "bizarre" to national audiences, but downplay them in his communications with us? I can think of only one answer: Gespass felt compelled to speak truthfully on the big stage, so he would not look like a fool to millions; but on the small stage, he wanted to protect Riley and the interests of the Alabama legal tribe,
We've already shown that, according to Gespass' review of sealed court records, we never were served with the Riley complaint and no summons was issued until after Neilson already had granted a preliminary injunction. In fact, the record shows that we never were served with a summons, meaning we never were lawfully called to court.
That's what we learned from page one of a letter that Gespass wrote to Carol and me, between his visits to the Shelby County Jail. Now, let's take a look at page two. (You can read the full letter at the end of this post.) By the way, you can compare the words of Gespass' letter to his statements in The New York Times and to San Francisco-based radio host Peter B. Collins:
* A trial, what trial? -- In the first paragraph on page two, Gespass writes: "I would think that, since there was no notice of the preliminary injunction hearing, we could ask for, and get, another. Alternatively, we could ask that the preliminary injunction and the final hearing be combined." Notice that Gespass is talking about a "hearing," before a solo judge, even though the law requires that a defamation case be heard at trial, before a jury. Gespass is drawing straight from the Riley/Duke playbook, ignoring First Amendment law and our right to a jury trial.
* Why such a rush? -- Gespass writes: "I do not think the petitioners are expecting money damages, as the complaint alleges you have no resources, but they are asking for costs and attorney fees for the injunctive relief and that can end up being tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, there is something to be said for having this case resolved as quickly as possible at the trial level and appealing the constitutional issues." Now, wait a minute. Riley and Duke could receive tens of thousands of dollars in costs for seeking injunctive relief to which they are not entitled? Gespass told Peter B. Collins' audience that the prior restraint Riley and Duke sought was "insane." But he's telling Carol and me that we could be forced to pay for their "insane" effort to circumvent the law.
And how are we supposed to resolve the case as quickly as possible at the trial level, while appealing the constitutional issues? The general rule is that an issue not raised at trial cannot be reviewed on appeal. Plus, if the case is resolved at the trial level, what is there to appeal? Was Gespass setting us up to get screwed on violations of our constitutional rights? A reasonable person certainly could reach that conclusion.
* Let's skip over discovery -- In the second paragraph, Gespass writes: "Another consideration is how much discovery do you want to engage in. If discovery is conducted, they will want you to identify your source, which I would assume you would not be willing to do unless they were willing to come forward on their own. Obviously, if you do not reveal them, that will weaken your ability to defend the case, and that, too, argues in favor of getting it done quickly, and making constitutional arguments, rather than defending on the grounds that the statements were all true."
Gespass seems to be leaving out a few considerations here:
(a) The burden of proof would be on Riley/Duke to prove my reporting is false, not the other way around.
(b) Gespass talks only of us "defending" the case. He never mentions that Carol and I have valid counterclaims for abuse of process, false arrest, false imprisonment, (all against Riley/Duke) excessive force, false arrest, false imprisonment (against Shelby County law enforcement), conspiracy, and maybe more.
(c) Gespass focuses on supposed threats I might feel from discovery, but how would Riley and Gespass fare? How would they handle questions under oath during depositions about their relationship? How would they handle requests for production of documents, such as e-mails, text messages, letters, phone records? How would they handle depositions from third parties, such as Duke's former husband, who filed for divorce from her? Who really had the most to fear from discovery?
* The constitutional violations here are "highly questionable"? Oh, really? -- Gespass writes, in the third paragraph: "Whether a court can prohibit you from saying anything defamatory about Riley (which the preliminary injunction does), is a prior restraint and highly questionable constitutionally." It's "questionable," Mr. Gespass? You told Peter B. Collins audience that it was "insane"--and we know your characterization then was correct. So why did you chose to dance a soft shoe with me?
* No trial, no jury? -- In the fourth paragraph, Gespass more or less concludes by stating: "I do think that, before any appeal, it is probably necessary to file a motion in the trial court seeking another hearing, asking for the injunction to be lifted or narrowed and alleging that you have not had a fair opportunity to contest the findings. Otherwise, the appellate court may well just say that issues had not been properly raised."
Gespass contradicts himself--and confirms my concerns about not raising constitutional issues at trial. More importantly, he raises the issue of whether I'd had "a fair opportunity to contest the findings." Heck, I had no opportunity to contest the findings at trial. That can only be done in a defamation case via a jury trial, which Riley and Duke did their absolute best to avoid. Gespass does not mention that Neilson's "findings" amount to one-man censorship, which is specifically forbidden under years of First Amendment law.
What overall tone does Gespass set in his letter?
(1) He completely glosses over wrongdoing from law enforcement, including an unconstitutional traffic stop and the fact officers entered our home without a warrant, beat me up, doused me with mace, and threatened to break my arms--all without legal justification.
(2) We are supposed to "defend" the case, but seek no "offensive" strategy to compensate for our injuries.
(3) We are supposed to hurry through trial-court activities, including discovery--which likely would place Riley and Duke in the extremely difficult position of trying to prove my reporting was false, when it never has been proven false at trial.
(4) Actions taken by Neilson--and requested by Riley/Duke--are merely questionable, as opposed to "insane."
(5) Gespass makes no mention that my arrest and incarceration were grossly unlawful, that Riley and Duke sought remedies that are not authorized by law--in fact, they sought remedies that are specifically forbidden under the law.
(6) Gespass does not even offer a clear-cut way to get out of jail. It should have been simple, and appropriate, to say something like, "You are being held contrary to law, and I am going to file an emergency motion to seek your release, so you will have a fair opportunity to both defend yourself and seek damages for the wrongs committed against you and your wife. At this moment, you are a kidnap victim, and the court must release you immediately."
Was David Gespass trying to pull a con game on me, while I was under the duress of being incarcerated, wearing shackles and handcuffs during our meetings? I will allow readers to reach their own conclusions, but you probably can guess what conclusion I've reached.
|Gov. Robert Bentley and|
Rebekah Caldwell Mason
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.
* Dean states that a number of social-media sites and blogs are "purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact." Dean seems to have his grammar all messed up here, and al.com apparently can no longer afford copy editors to fix such sloppy sentences. We can only assume Dean means to say the sites are "reporting" not "purporting"; the latter doesn't quite fit in these circumstances. We also assume Dean means the rumor is "unsubstantiated," not "unsubstantial." Dean surely is aware that the story has gone well beyond "rumor" stage. I broke the story here at Legal Schnauzer last Monday, citing multiple anonymous sources, and by the end of the week, even Dean's own news organization was making references to the Bentley-Mason affair. Dean, of course, is free to criticize my reporting--or the reporting of his colleagues--but to refer to this story as a "rumor" is disingenuous, at best.
|Charles J. Dean|
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.
In a post at his Web site, titled "Journalist Roger Shuler Gives Detailed Account of Recent Eviction That Brutalized His Wife," Collins becomes the first third-party journalist to examine the events that led to Carol and me being handcuffed, having an assault rifle and various handguns trained on us, having many of our personal belongings apparently stolen by the landlord's "eviction crew," and having Carol's humerus (the large bone in the upper arm) "snapped in two" near the elbow, according to a doctor who examined her.
Carol's injuries were so severe that they required treatment from a trauma surgeon, rather than an orthopedic specialist who might handle most broken-bone cases.
This all happened when neither law enforcement nor the crew from landlord Cowherd Construction had lawful grounds to enter our apartment. That's because I had filed a notice of appeal that puts an automatic stay on eviction proceedings under Missouri law.
Collins interviewed me at length about the brutal encounter with Missouri "officers of the law" and the full podcast (along with a preview clip) can be heard at his Web site. From the Collins post:
Roger Shuler, the journalist who has exposed deep corruption in Alabama, shares the painful story of the unlawful eviction by heavily-armed deputies that left his wife with a shattered arm and other injuries. Regular listeners know Shuler as the investigative reporter who has exposed corrupt politicians and courts in Alabama, and that he spent 5 months in jail on bogus defamation and contempt charges starting in October, 2013. Shortly after his release, the Shulers' home in Birmingham was foreclosed, and they moved to Springfield, Missouri, in the summer of 2014.
On September 9, 5 or 6 deputies under the personal direction of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott burst into the Shuler's apartment with assault weapons drawn, and first handcuffed Roger and Carol. Later, the handcuffs were removed, and Carol was told she could enter the apartment to retrieve personal items. Two or more deputies jumped her, slammed her to the ground, and twisted both arms behind her back.
Shuler reports that Sheriff Arnott exclaimed that Carol had assaulted a deputy, while Roger observed no contact or provocation. Carol was taken away in a squad car, and after repeated complaints about her broken left arm, they finally took her to a hospital, where she spent several days and required major surgery to patch her shattered arm. She suffered other injuries, including serious bruising on her other arm.
How far outside the law was this whole series of events? Collins provides insight:
Shuler tells us that they were current with the rent when the landlord unilaterally moved to terminate their lease. The eviction occurred before a ten-day grace period had elapsed, and despite a legal appeal that had put a hold on any eviction proceedings.
And he says flatly, "There's absolutely no question in my mind" that the eviction is retribution for his ongoing reporting about Alabama corruption--most recently breaking the story about the sexual affair of current Alabama governor Robert Bentley that led his wife of 50 years to file for divorce.
The Shulers lost most of their property in the eviction, some items were stolen by employees of the landlord. They are living in a fleabag motel with just the clothes on their backs. If you can make a donation of any size, please visit the Legal Schnauzer blog.
Collins correctly notes that we are in need of financial assistance, especially in light of recent events. Does our reporting here matter? Our blog played a major role in bringing down wife-beating federal judge Mark Fuller, whose corrupt actions from the bench led to the unlawful convictions of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. In fact, I think it's safe to say that no other blog or news site has provided as much in-depth coverage of the Siegelman case as Legal Schnauzer--and Siegelman remains a federal prison in what likely is the most notorious political prosecution in American history.
|Jim Arnott, sheriff of|
Greene County, Missouri
Most recently, we broke the story of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, another so-called Christian and Republican who wears his faith on his sleeve, but has engaged in an extramarital affair with married adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, leading Bentley's wife to file for divorce after 50 years of marriage. That's another story the mainstream press almost certainly would have sat on if we had not broken it here at Legal Schnauzer.
Our goal is to continue such ground-breaking coverage--showing that our courts are hopelessly compromised and many "conservative" political and legal figures are not what they appear. We also are focusing heavily on perhaps the most important domestic story of the past year--the militarization, corruption, brutality, and disrespect for civil rights that seemingly have taken over numerous law-enforcement agencies around the country. We've even seen signs that deputies in Madison County, Alabama, have resorted to a "revenge beatdown" (felony assault) and possible murder.
Carol and I now have firsthand experience with Missouri deputies who committed a felony assault that left her with a shattered arm. We also know what it's like to have deputies burst through the door, with roughly a half dozen weapons drawn, including at least one assault rifle. With five more heavily armed deputies bursting into our apartment at the same time, what if one had bumped into another who just happened to have his finger on the trigger of an assault weapon, while it was pointed at Carol or me? One or both of us would be dead.
If you would like to contribute to our ongoing efforts to expose legal and political corruption, we invite you to click on the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the blog's front page for contributions via PayPal. We are working on establishing a GoFundMe site, and hope to have an announcement about that soon.
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|Gov. Robert Bentley and|
Rebekah Caldwell Mason
The governor's office yesterday announced the settlement, and it came four weeks after Dianne Bentley filed a divorce complaint, alleging the marriage had suffered an "irretrievable breakdown."
Nowhere in reports of the settlement is mention of the real reason for the divorce--that Bentley is going through a late "mid-life crisis," falling madly in love with a woman almost 30 years his junior and dumping his wife in a shameful manner. This comes from a politician who consistently has touted his Bible-thumping ways and overt Christian faith.
Where does major deception enter the picture? Consider this from an Associated Press report on the settlement:
The settlement was filed Monday, just four weeks after the first lady filed for divorce, saying their marriage had suffered an "irretrievable breakdown."The governor said he has asked a judge to unseal the case file so the public and media can see it.
"Today, Dianne and I have reached a mutual agreement in our proceedings. I have asked Judge Philip Lisenby to unseal settlement documents so the public and the media will have full access to it. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. I am truly blessed and deeply honored to serve as your governor."
A judge sealed the divorce file from public view three days after it was filed at the request of the Bentleys.
First, you will notice that the story says two different things. In the first highlighted area above, AP reporter Kim Chandler writes that Bentley has asked a judge to unseal "the case file," presumably the entire case file. In the second highlighted area, Bentley is quoted as saying he asked Judge Philip Lisenby to "unseal settlement documents," which presumably would leave the rest of the case unsealed.
Bentley, it seems, can't keep his story straight--or Alabama journalists can't get it straight, or both. Either way, it's highly likely that the case file will say absolutely nothing about Rebekah Caldwell Mason or the real reasons behind the divorce.
We already know that Dianne Bentley's original complaint contained boilerplate language that is used to start many divorces and often reveals nothing. Now that the case has settled so quickly, you can rest assured that the settlement papers also will contain dry, unrevelatory language.
In fact, an al.com report just out confirms that the documents have been unsealed and revealed pretty much zilch.
This does tell us one thing of substance: Dianne Bentley probably got a pretty nice settlement, in exchange for making sure the case went away quickly and contained no documents that would shine light on Robert Bentley's abominable behavior in recent months. This probably means the governor intends to fight and claw to keep his exalted position.
Obviously, I'm not a divorce lawyer--and thankfully, I've never been through a divorce myself--but I've seen enough files to know how such cases often play out. Any information that cuts to the core of real issues behind a divorce are likely to come from the discovery process. That generally includes answers to interrogatories (which can be quite probing in divorce cases), transcripts of depositions (given under oath), and material produced during requests for production of documents.
This third category could have been particularly dicey for Gov. Bentley. Imagine if Dianne Bentley had requested copies of e-mails, phone records, and text messages between the governor and Ms. Mason. That likely would have revealed the real Robert Bentley to a public that has been duped into believing he is a man of genuine faith and high morals--and elected him twice primarily because it was believed that, contrary to his predecessor (Bob Riley), he would at least behave in an honest, honorable fashion.
If the divorce case had gone on long enough for the file to contain e-mails and texts between Gov. Bentley and Ms. Mason, is there any chance it ever would have been unsealed? The answer to that question, in my view, is an overwhelming no.
So Robert Bentley is trying to convince the public that he is promoting transparency by asking for the court file to be unsealed--when, in fact, he's pulling another con on the citizens of Alabama.
On top of that, Robert Bentley proves himself to be a coward. He's happy to have a divorce file unsealed, once he knows it will contain nothing of substance, when it won't reveal that he truly is a creep, a lowlife, and a cheater.
Bentley has sunk so low that he almost makes Bob Riley look honorable by comparison--and I didn't think that was possible.
|Rob Holbert, publisher of Lagniappe|
Was someone connected to the MSM butt-hurt enough to hack our blog and cause the original post about Dean and Ashley Madison to disappear for several hours? The answer, at this point, appears to be yes.
The September 8 post, titled "Al.com reporter Charles J. Dean manages to merge the Robert Bentley and Ashley Madison sex scandals," disappeared from both the blog and the internal composing/editing page, where all posts (published and unpublished) are stored. That suggests to me that someone went out of his way to hack our blog, remove the Dean/Ashley Madison story, and probably send a message about future efforts to report on such discomfiting issues. In more than eight years of publishing Legal Schnauzer, this is the first time I've had a post disappear from multiple locations, so I'm still trying to figure out how it could happen.
If the message was supposed to be, "Schnauzer, we are trying to intimidate you into avoiding the Ashley Madison subject," it's not going to work. With the help of several tech-savvy sources, I was able to republish the post in question and take steps to help ensure that similar hacks are less likely to happen in the future.
Just how butt-hurt are the MSMers that they got beat on the Bentley/Mason story, while one of their own was outed for creating an Ashley Madison sex scandal of his own? It's hard to say for sure, but the best indicator might come from an article titled "Schnauzer puts bite on al.com journalist," recently published at Mobile-area weekly Lagniappe.
You might think that a weekly newspaper would publish news in an "alternative" fashion, the kind not often found in the daily press. But you apparently would be wrong. Our sources in south Alabama say Lagniappe is dedicated more to kissing the collective behinds of the corporate establishment than to bringing any real insight that might upset the status quo.
Rob Holbert is the publisher of Lagniappe, and his commentary on my reporting seems to be an example of "don't rock the boat journalism" at its finest. Holbert's piece contains so much nonsense it's impossible to address it all. But let's examine a few of the lowlights. Here are a few of Holbert's pearls, in bold, followed by my response:
* "Robert Shuler, who writes a blog called The Legal Schnauzer, went to great lengths this week to personally attack al.com reporter Charles Dean, accusing him of being named in the recently released Ashley Madison files."
Holbert establishes his journalistic "bona fides" right away by getting my name wrong. Then he characterizes it as a "personal attack" to report accurately that Chuck Dean's name is, in fact, on the Ashley Madison list for Alabama, which has run on numerous Web sites. It's not a matter of me "accusing" Chuck Dean of anything. I contacted him prior to publication and gave him an opportunity to comment or be interviewed regarding the Ashley Madison story. Dean did not respond, so even he has not denied the accuracy of the story.
* "In his article (about the Bentley/Mason affair), Dean referred to the rumor coming from radio and “blogs of dubious credibility,” something that apparently got the schnauzer’s hackles up. For his efforts, Dean was treated to a classic blast from Shuler this past Tuesday in which he claims Dean’s name appeared in the Ashley Madison document dump and offers it as a reason the veteran reporter might not have immediately jumped with both feet into the schnauzer’s unsourced, undocumented claims of an affair between the two."
Holbert conveniently fails to mention that Dean's own news organization has treated the Bentley/Mason story seriously, uncovering important information about apparent payments to Mason via a nonprofit and calling on the governor to address issues related to the affair in a public manner. As for the sourcing of my story, it was attributed to sources who wished to remain anonymous out of concern about possible retaliation. It's likely that both Holbert and Dean have used anonymous sources before, so both should know that doesn't mean a story is "unsourced" or "undocumented."
* "I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing how airtight the Ashley Madison documents are as journalistic sources, but even if someone’s name did appear on the list, the time, circumstances and outcome of any activity aren’t clear. Shuler’s reporting of the matter as fact shows once again why those who purport to be “real” journalists should steer clear of Shuler as a primary source of information."
Holbert is quick to criticize my reporting, but he apparently can't be bothered to actually read it. Of the two individuals I've reported being connected to Ashley Madison--Dean and Bradley Arant lawyer Rob Campbell--I went way beyond just saying their names are on a list. I provided details from their accounts, including either work or home addresses, and I gave both an opportunity to comment prior to publication, to deny the accuracy of the information if they had some way to show that, in fact, it was untrue. As for "real" journalists who might be inclined to use me as a primary source of information, Chuck Dean's own employer has done that. I was first to name Mason as Gov. Bentley's paramour, and al.com soon followed with a story titled "Who is Rebekah Caldwell Mason?"
* "In his attack on Dean, Shuler quickly brushed off any questions the rest of us on the World Wide Web might have about the veracity of what he’s burned pixels on over the years. He claims that in his 35-year career as a journalist he’s only been sued twice and both times by Republican operatives, as if that proves he was right. It would be hard to imagine who else might sue him since he typically only writes about Republican operatives having illicit affairs or engaging in sexual behavior that would fly in the face of their squeaky-clean, family-values images."
This is the usual pablum with which right wingers try to attack a blog they have not been able to silence. It's a reference to defamation lawsuits brought against me by GOP operatives Rob Riley and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, within about a month of each other, in fall 2013. My response is simple: An Alabama jury has never found my reporting, in either case, to be false or defamatory. That's because Riley never sought a jury trial, and Garrison did not seek a jury trial in her initial filings--she did so only after I had sought a jury trial in my answer. In other words, neither Riley nor Garrison wanted a jury of their peers to hear their claims; they wanted compromised judges to rule in their favor, regardless of what the facts and the law might be. In the highlighted section above, Holbert proves he knows very little about defamation law. His "as if that proves he was right" line shows a profound ignorance of defamation law--in fact, of law in general. The burden of proof in any lawsuit, including one involving alleged defamation, is on the plaintiffs (Riley and Duke). They must make a prima facie showing that my reporting was false and defamatory or their cases, by law, are kicked out at summary judgment. In both cases, the plaintiffs never came close to meeting their burden because there was no discovery, and thus no evidence that my reporting was false. The issue in the defamation case is not whether I, the defendant, can prove I was right (although there is no doubt I could via my reporting and discovery), but whether the plaintiffs can prove I was wrong. Until they meet that burden--and neither Riley nor Garrison came close--I don't have to do much of anything to defend myself. Again, Holbert burns plenty of pixels on a defamation matter when it's clear he has no clue how the law works.
* "Do I doubt some of that [hypocritical behavior] happens? Of course not. People are people. But Shuler goes after his political enemies with such reckless gusto.
"There are some real doozies, like the nude photos [of] former Alabama Attorney General Bill Prior supposedly took for a magazine when he was a young buck. And, of course, those affair claims that got him sued into the ground — a $3.5 million judgment — and jailed for five months after he refused to sit for a scheduled deposition. In one of his stories, Shuler claimed Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and a campaign aide had an affair that produced a child, an accusation both denied.
Talk about doozies. Holbert puts his ignorance on such display here that it's hard to know where to begin. First, he claims that I go after my "political enemies" with "reckless gusto." I'm a journalist, not a politician--I don't have political enemies. Anyone who has followed this blog closely knows I have taken a number of Democrats to task, as well as Republicans. As for my reporting being "reckless," Holbert can't be bothered to provide a shred of proof, not one example, to support that claim.
Holbert mentions former AG Bill Pryor (again, Holbert has problems with spelling) and the current U.S. judge's ties to 1990s gay pornography. Does Holbert offer anything to suggest my reporting on the Pryor was inaccurate? Nope. In fact, Holbert doesn't even claim it's inaccurate.
Holbert then dips into "bizarro world," in the section I've highlighted. It's as if the publisher/writer went out to lunch and had way too many cocktails. He references a $3.5-million judgment (in the Garrison case) without saying it was a default judgment that had zero support in fact or law. Then he claims I was jailed for five months, apparently for "refusing" to sit for a scheduled deposition in the Garrison case. This reference can only be to the Garrison case because there were no scheduled depositions in the Rob Riley case. But Holbert seems blissfully unaware that my unlawful incarceration--which was reported by national and international news outlets--was related to the Riley case; it had nothing to do with the Garrison case.
Holbert then claims I reported that Attorney General Luther Strange fathered a child with Garrison, his former campaign aide. Holbert's claim has a slight problem--it isn't true. I've never reported that Strange was the father of Garrison's child, and a simple search on this blog would show that.
In fact, court records show that almost all of the $3.5-million default judgment in the Garrison case is based on claims she and Strange apparently made in court--when I was not present, and they were not challenged--that I had reported Strange was the father of Garrison's child.
In essence, the $3.5-million default judgment is built almost entirely on a lie. But Rob Holbert can't be bothered to find that out.
How to summarize? Holbert obviously can't spell, and he apparently is too lazy to educate himself about the subjects upon which he pontificates. Why would anybody take such a "journalist" seriously? I have no idea.
Let's return to our original question: Who hacked Legal Schnauzer and removed the post about Charles J. Dean and Ashley Madison? The answer remains unclear, but I suspect neither Dean nor Holbert is sharp enough to do it on his own. Could someone with a bit of tech know-how have done it on the journalists' behalf? I would say that is possible.
How's this for irony. Numerous reports have indicated that the hack the of the Ashley Madison Web site involved criminal activity and could have a far-reaching impact on how individuals feel about providing personal information on the Web.
If that's the case, it stands to reason that a hack on Legal Schnauzer also would involve criminal behavior. Since the hack seems designed to intimidate journalists who might dare report on sensitive topics, it also could have far-reaching social implications--not to mention implications for the First Amendment rights of a free press, supposedly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.
Does that mean we need to report the apparent hack to authorities? We are considering that, and other options, at this moment.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate that point is with two documents--a Motion to Quash Execution and a Notice of Appeal. Both were timely filed in Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler, a case where landlord Cowherd Construction, of Springfield, Missouri, tried to evict us contrary to state law. Both documents are embedded at the end of this post.
With Jim Arnott, the sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, on hand to supervise a half dozen deputies or so, you might think that someone would have a clue about the law applicable to such situations. But you would be wrong. And Arnott certainly did nothing to keep his underlings from engaging in blatant police brutality.
We will go into more detail in upcoming posts, but here is the simplest way to understand that this eviction--which really was an orchestrated act of terrorism--was off-the-charts unlawful.
If you check item No. 4 in the Motion to Quash Execution, you see that the eviction was scheduled for 9 a.m. on September 9. But Revised Missouri Statues 534.350 (RSMo. 534.350) says no execution shall be levied until the time for appeal has expired. Missouri Supreme Court Rule 81.04 sets the time for filing a Notice of Appeal at 10 days from the time a judgment becomes final.
Rule 74.01 states that "a judgment is rendered when entered. A judgment is entered when a writing signed by the judge and denominated "judgment" or "decree" is filed." The docket for Cowherd v. Shuler can be found by going to this link, typing my name into the litigant search and clicking on the entry for the case title. The docket shows judgment was entered on August 31, 2015.
Missouri Rule 44.01 states that the first day of "an act, event, or default" is not to be included in computation of time, but the final day of the period is included. That means our 10-day period for filing an appeal ended on Sept. 10, 2015. Our Notice of Appeal was filed on the morning of Sept. 8, so we were more than two full days inside the window for filing an appeal.
That put a stay on execution of the notice of eviction (per RSMo. 534.350 noted above), which had been scheduled for September 9. Attorneys for all parties were served via e-mail with both the Motion to Quash and Notice of Appeal at 4:44 p.m. on September 8, so they had plenty of time to notify Cowherd Construction and the Sheriff's Department that the eviction could not take place.
As a matter of fact and law, it was improper for the eviction to be schedule for September 9 in the first place, which even without a notice of appeal, was inside the window when execution could not be levied.
The eviction raised a number of other legal issues, and we will address those in future posts. But for now, this is the most direct way to show that law-enforcement had no grounds to be at or in our apartment on September 9, 2015. And they sure as heck had no grounds to burst through the door, point guns at us, handcuff us and brutalize Carol to the point that her arm was broken.
|Charles J. Dean|
We reported on September 9 that Charles J. Dean was one of numerous prominent Alabamians whose names appear at Ashley Madison, which was hacked by a group that took offense at the site's efforts to encourage spouses to cheat on each other.
Dean joins Bradley Arant lawyer Rob Campbell, the son-in-law of former governor Bob Riley, as the two Alabama Ashley Madison users we have outed so far. But never fear, there are more big names where those two came from--many of them corporate, legal, and financial types. They will be exposed shortly, as will similar types in Missouri, where my wife and I now live--and where deputies unlawfully evicted us and left Carol with a shattered left arm and horribly bruised right arm.
As for Chuck Dean, he apparently was quite eager to cheat on his wife, and we now have a summary of his account activity at Ashley Madison. Those of a literary bent will be impressed that Dean borrowed words from one of America's best and most beloved writers to further his extramarital activities.
In fact, we have to admit that Dean's come-on lines are quite well written--better than anything we've seen from him at al.com. Here is Dean's description of himself and his desires, which comes under the clever caption of "Hi, Baby":
I like a woman who knows that less is often more, whether in how she dresses or in the words she uses, or in the kisses she gives. And I like some indication that a brain is at work. What is between the ears is every bit as important, maybe more important, than what is between . . . well, you know. I try to take the advice Mark Twain offered: "Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile." Some of these I have failed at, and some I have succeeded in. Life is a work in progress, if you are interested!"
Got to admit that I'm impressed with Dean's use of the language here. Most of it is stolen from Mark Twain, but if you are going to steal, you might as well steal from one of the greats. If I were a woman, Old Chuck might have me out my drawers in no time--at least until I saw his picture.
taken me to task for reporting on the subject, especially in regards to Chuck Dean. Well, here is some information for Holbert to chew on; it's data straight from Chuck Dean's AM account: (The full summary can be viewed at the end of this post).
* Account number -- 27665102
* Last name/first name -- Dean, Charles J.
* Account creating date/time -- 08/07/2014 12:05 PM
* User name -- flyby25
* Account email -- firstname.lastname@example.org
* Sign-up IP address -- 18.104.22.168
* Geographic location -- 33.4602, -86.8092
* Gender -- male
* City/state -- Birmingham, AL
* Initially seeking -- Whatever excites me
* Weight -- 195
* Height -- 6 foot
* Body type -- Fit
* Date of birth -- 07/17/1960
* Relationship status -- single male seeking female (This surely would be news to Dean's wife, Laurie O. Dean, who is listed as co-owner of their $284,000 house in Homewood; we can find no record in Alabama court files that they have divorced.)
* What turns me on -- Sense of Humor, Confidence, Discretion/Secrecy, Casual Jeans/T-shirt Type (Discretion/secrecy is a turn on? Sounds like Old Chuck is serious about this cheating thing.)
Payment history --
(a) Date: 01/23/2015
(b) Credit card: AMEX 1003
(c) Amount: $19.99
(d) Billing Address: 328 Lathrop Avenue, Birmingham AL 35209
Ashley Madison might be a slipshod operation--and it is a scam that anyone with three functioning brain cells should have seen from the outset--but, by God, the company knows how to keep detailed records on its paying customers.
Chuck Dean's full summary can be viewed below. And we have more such summaries coming on prominent professionals in multiple states--Alabama, Missouri, and perhaps others.
(Note: We have to give major props to our Legal Schnauzer Computer Forensics and Accuracy Research Team--we call them C-FART, for short. Seriously, we have some extremely talented tech-savvy individuals who are helping us gather data from the Ashley Madison info that hackers placed on the dark Web. These reports would not be possible without the helping hands of individuals who know their way around many corners of the digital world. We are deeply grateful for their expertise and support.)
Meanwhile, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor is taking steps to reopen the casino, possibly in a matter of weeks. And Macon County leaders said at a press conference yesterday that they intend to pursue a civil-rights lawsuit against the state for closing VictoryLand in 2013, costing the county more than 2,000 jobs and a significant amount of revenue--all in apparent violation of equal-protection provisions guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford said he has asked Governor Robert Bentley to intervene and stop Attorney General Luther Strange from appealing.
Judge William Shashy said in his Friday ruling that Strange was unlawfully "cherry picking"by seizing property at VictoryLand, while allowing similar facilities to operate freely in other parts of the state. Shashy gave Strange 45 days to enforce the AG's version of the law equally or return VictoryLand's machines, currency, and paperwork. (See the full ruling at the end of this post.)
Shashy issued an order in June that Strange's raids at VictoryLand were unfair and unconstitutional. That ruling, however, did not order the AG's office to return the casino's property, and both sides filed motions asking Shashy to clarify or amend. Friday's ruling did just that, with Shashy finding that e-bingo was legal in Macon County and Strange must return the casino's property unless he takes steps to enforce the state's anti-gambling laws equally.
While Friday's ruling clearly was welcome news for McGregor and VictoryLand, Shashy appears to contradict himself. If e-bingo is legal in Macon County--and Shashy's order clearly states that it is--then the AG's office has been in the wrong all along and, by law, should be forced to return seized property, regardless of any action it might take at other bingo facilities.
To no one's surprise, Strange vowed to appeal Shashy's ruling to the Alabama Supreme Court, which consistently has ignored its own precedents to rule in the AG's favor--and in favor of the state's previous anti-bingo crusader, former Governor Bob Riley. Will that tactic work again for Strange? It's hard to see how it can, given that his team presented no evidence to counter VictoryLand's evidence at the forfeiture hearing upon which Friday's order was based. From Shashy's order:
The Supreme Court of Alabama has recognized that it is proper to consider the intent and will of the people in interpreting the Constitution of the State of Alabama. "The object of all construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the people in the adoption of the [C]onstitution. The intention is collected from the words of the instrument, read and interpreted in the light of its history."State v. Sayre. . . . The use of evidence to aid the Court in its constitutional interpretation is also recognized in Cornerstone. . . . "[In] ascertaining the meaning of a constitutional provision, the primary duty of the courts is to look to the intention of the makers and adopters of that provision.
KCED, the parent company of VictoryLand, presented testimony from Ford, Myron Penn, Louis Maxwell, Mary Hicks, and Theodore Samuel. Writes Shashy:
Their testimony was that Amendment 744 was proposed to allow all forms of bingo in Macon County so that they could compete economically with other counties that allowed other forms of bingo, including electronic bingo. Sixteen exhibits offered by KCED, consisting of election flyers, advertisements, proclamations, and newspaper articles, either advocating for or against Amendment 744, were also admitted. These exhibits provided substantial evidence that the voters in Macon County understood bingo to mean all forms of bingo, including electronic. The State of Alabama did not produce any evidence in opposition. Based upon the evidence presented by KCED and the lack of any evidence from the State, the Court concludes that the Macon County voter when voting on the amendment understood it to be all forms of bingo.
Additional evidence made the scenario even more grim for Strange. Writes Shashy:
In addition, KCED submitted evidence that on July 29-30, 2015, the casinos in Greene and Lowndes Counties had in operation 1,798 electronic bingo machines at six casinos. . . .
The State did not deny the existence of these casinos or the electronic bingo machines. Thus, the Court reiterates its ruling that the State of Alabama is cherry picking which facilities should remain open or closed, and this Court will not be used as an instrument to perpetuate this unfair treatment. It is interesting to note that since the Court's Order of June 25, 2015, and the last hearing on August 4, 2015, the number of casinos and machines in Alabama has increased. The Lowndes County casinos began operation between these time periods. The State obviously is not enforcing the law equally.
Why did it take so long for an Alabama judge to come to his senses and recognize what has been obvious for months, for years--that both Strange and Riley have been targeting certain large casinos (in Macon County and Houston County) because they are the primary threats to the market share of the Indian tribes that have paid millions of dollars to help get Strange and Riley elected?
Shashy finally seems to be admitting the likelihood of a quid pro quo involving Strange/Riley and Indian tribes in Mississippi and Alabama. Such an arrangement, of course, is a federal crime, and if proven, would constitute federal-funds bribery.
That is a subject for another day. But for now, it's hard to see how the Alabama Supreme Court--perhaps the most corrupt judicial body in the country (and there is a lot of competition for that "honor') can rule in Luther Strange's favor this time.
At the trial level, VictoryLand essentially pitched a shutout (an appropriate metaphor, we think, with the MLB playoffs starting tonight)--and the final score was something like 16-0. If the Alabama Supreme Court overturns this lopsided e-bingo ruling, it might be inviting a federal investigation that could lead to a number of justices winding up in orange jumpsuits--where they probably should have been some time ago.
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|Cowherd Construction in|
Documents have been filed in Greene County Probate Court, asking that a guardian or conservator (or both) be appointed for us. This area of the law is new to me, and I'm still researching it, but my understanding is that this can lead to the loss of many rights--the right to manage your financial affairs, the right to manage your own health care, the right to vote, the right to file a lawsuit . . . well, you get the idea.
Evidence suggests that last item--the right to file a lawsuit--is the real reason these cases have been filed. They were filed on September 29 and 30, roughly 20 days after Missouri sheriff's deputies conducted an unlawful eviction that left Carol with a broken left arm (which required repair from a trauma surgeon) and a badly bruised right arm. This blatant example of police brutality took place as Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott stood and watched, pointing a finger and claiming Carol had assaulted a police officer--when, in fact, all she had done was try to enter our apartment (as she had been given permission to do) to retrieve our cat's litter box.
By the way, Carol had a followup visit yesterday with her surgeon, and her recovery seems to be going well. We will have more details in a few days, hopefully with copies of X-rays that show the extensive damage to her arm and reflect the brutality that was involved in the assault. (A personal message from Carol's Facebook page about her recovery is at the end of this post.)
Who has reason to be worried about the events of September 9, 2015? The eviction had been schedule inside the 10-day window during which, under Missouri law, no execution (such as an eviction) can be levied. Court documents indicate the Lowther Johnson law firm of Springfield, Missouri, representing landlord Trent Cowherd and Cowherd Construction, unlawfully scheduled the eviction. That means both the firm and landlord stand to be liable for Carol's injuries--and other damages we suffered--so they have reason for concern.
Not only was the eviction unlawfully scheduled, I timely filed a notice of appeal on September 8, which put an automatic stay on execution. Attorneys in the case--Gregory Lulich, of Lowther Johnson, and my brother, David Shuler of the Shuler law firm, who was representing our mother, Gondylyn ("Gondy") Shuler because Cowherd had included her as a defendant, with no grounds for doing so--were timely served with our Notice of Appeal and had every reason to know that execution was stayed. That Lulich and David Shuler, and their law firms, allowed a stayed eviction to take place means they stand to be liable for Carol's injuries--and other damages we've suffered--so they have reason for concern.
Finally, Sheriff Arnott and his deputies brutalized and seriously injured a 55-year-old woman who posed no threat to them--on a day, and under conditions, where law enforcement had no grounds to be on the property. In an environment of growing concern about police misconduct, which ironically started in August 2014 with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Arnott and his crew have reason to be concerned.
Are Carol and I really incapacitated and disabled--and do we really need a guardian or conservator? Of course not--and while we have been the victims of 15 years worth of court-related abuse, and we both have been diagnosed with PTSD after my unlawful incarceration and (likely) wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years--the notion that we can't handle our affairs is preposterous. We have, however, refused to stay quiet about the abuses we've suffered--and similar abuses heaped on other litigants in Alabama and elsewhere--and my determination to continue such reporting on this blog likely is the reason someone wants to legally have me declared a "nut job." I've already been kidnapped and thrown in jail for five months in Alabama, and this appears to be a slightly different version of the same tactic. In fact, I would not be surprised if the idea originated in Alabama, with someone serving as "liaison" for conservative legal and political forces that want to do us harm in both that state and Missouri.
So what is going on with this effort to more or less turn us into wards of the state? I'm still trying to figure that out. But readers can check out the basics by going to this link, clicking on "litigant name search," and keying in either my name (Roger Alan Shuler) or my wife's name (Carol Tovich Shuler). The style on my case, for example, is "1531-PR00897 - ROGER ALAN SHULER INP and DIS." The style and docket entries on Carol's case are pretty much identical. "INP and DIS" apparently stand for incapacitated and disabled.
|David Shuler of Shuler Law Firm|
That makes me think my other brother, lawyer David Shuler, is driving this slippery train--probably in an effort to protect his cronies in the legal, law-enforcement, and landlord communities. David has a company called Old Ivy Properties, which mainly seems to deal with rental units, so he's tied in with landlords. For good measure, he started another company less than a month ago, called G Shuler Properties, and I'm not sure what that's about. Our mother's name is Gondy, so does the "G" stand for her name? That would be my guess. Why, at age 86, does she suddenly need something called "G Shuler Properties"? I have no idea.
I'm still learning the law on all of this "INP and DIS" stuff, but it certainly is emitting a foul odor--the kind I grew to recognize quickly while living in Alabama. In fact, I'm learning that odors coming from Missouri courtrooms can be every bit as rank as the ones that come from the "halls of justice" in the Heart of Dixie. One big difference? In Missouri, I seem to have two brothers who are right in the thick of the sleaze.
Following is a message from my wife, Carol Tovich Shuler, about her recovery from the brutality heaped upon her by Missouri deputies. A special thank you to Dr. Brian Buck, and his trauma team at Cox Medical Center South in Springfield. Dr. Buck and his team also are affiliated with the University of Missouri in Columbia. They have provided Carol with top-notch care, and we deeply appreciate it.
From Carol Tovich Shuler:
Had a follow-up appt with my ortho trauma surgeon today. He was pleased with the results thus far, but I have a long way to go. They removed the stitches from ~8-10" long incision & took additional xrays. It was the first ones I've seen. It was rather horrifying seeing all the hardware in my arm...all the titanium plates, screws & pins. And my elbow looks like a jigsaw puzzle, it is in so many pieces. My arm was truly shattered by these maniac cops. Today they put me in a post-op compression sleeve to help with swelling & the healing process. However, I can't help but worry my arm will never be the same again. And that these freaks responsible will never be held accountable for all the trauma, loss & civil rights violations inflicted upon me & my family
|Artur Davis and his wife, Tara Johnson Davis|
The Web site gotnews.com, led by publisher Charles C. Johnson, broke the story about Davis as an Ashley Madison customer on August 21. The site produced additional evidence in a pair of followup articles (see here and here), which drew denials from Davis spokespersons.
Davis, at first, claimed his name appeared at Ashley Madison because someone stole his credit cards. He later said the information came from operatives for the campaign of Todd Strange, against whom he was running for mayor of Montgomery. He eventually stated: "I have never been a customer of the Ashley Madison site."
Our research shows that Davis is flat-out lying about that. (See summary of his Ashley Madison activity at the end of this post.)
Data shows that the first Davis account was created on May 10, 2011, at SNR Dentons, the Washington, D.C. law firm where he went to work after Ron Sparks trounced him in the Alabama Democratic primary for governor in 2010. A payment in July 2015 was made from the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, Colorado, where Davis was speaking to a Republican group, after having switched parties.
The party switch didn't work out so well for Davis. After he moved to Virginia and became a Republican, there seemed to be little interest in his legal and political skills. He returned to his hometown, only to have Strange thump him in the race for mayor of Montgomery. Now, Davis wants to "return to his Democrats roots," which has drawn mostly yawns (or outrage) from party leaders, who remember that Davis alienated his liberal base in 2010 in order to side with the Business Council of Alabama and other conservative groups.
In fall 2007, Davis looked like a bright star on the Democratic horizon. He served on the U.S. House Judiciary Committee and played a starring role when the committee investigated Bush-administration abuses of the justice system in late October of that year. Davis showed signs of being interested in addressing the firings of U.S. attorneys and unlawful political prosecutions, including the highly publicized case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
With his calm demeanor and smooth speaking style, Davis was seen by some as the "Obama of the South." It looked like Davis might prove to be a hero for those who believe in actual justice, the rule of law, and constitutional protections. But Davis let all of that slide, indicating he never was seriously interested in the issues to begin with. He gave up a safe Congressional seat to run a disastrous campaign for Alabama governor, and his political star has been in free fall ever since.
Now the Ashley Madison debacle reveals Davis to be both a cheater and a liar. Data shows that he had three accounts at the site and paid to have all of them deleted. But they still showed up when the site was hacked, and information was placed at the dark Web for public examination.
Under "What Turns Me On," Davis wrote the following:
What Turns Me On: Aggressive/Take Charge Nature, Confidence, Discretion/Secrecy, Imagination, A professional/well groomed, Stylish/Classy, Long Hair, Not Possessive, Good Communicator
Open To: Conventional Sex, Sex Talk, Extended Foreplay/Teasing, Good With Hands, Kissing, Sensual Massage, Someone Who Can Teach Me
Perhaps, Davis deserves credit for one thing: Unlike other prominent Ashley Madison clients we've outed from Alabama--Bradley Arant lawyer Rob Campbell and al.com reporter Charles J. Dean--Davis does not claim to be single. Under relationship status, Davis describes himself as:
Attached Male Seeking Females
Davis, however, earns demerits for his description of his physical appearance. After stating that he is 5'10" and 160 pounds, Davis says his physique is:
Aside from the spelling problem here (we assume Davis means "shapely"), when have you ever heard a man describe himself as "shapely"?
We will leave that question for another day, but for now, this much seems clear: Artur Davis' political career, thanks to a series of self-inflicted wounds, is in a shambles. Now that he's been outed in the Ashley Madison scandal as a cheater and liar, that career should be over--with no hope for resuscitation.
Readers are missing out on a real treat if they don't click on the Artur Davis summary below. Members of our Legal Schnauzer Computer Forensics and Accuracy Research Team (C-FART) have outdone themselves with this one. It is awesome, if we do say so ourselves. And it unmasks a prominent Ashley Madison customer in a way that, to our knowledge, no other news organization has done.
That's also true of our summaries for Rob Campbell and Charles J. Dean, which hackers have removed multiple times from the document-storage site Scribd. But the Davis summary is filled with all kinds of special flourishes that should make it must reading, especially for anyone who has suspected that Artur Davis is a fraud and a truly creepy guy.
I'm a long way from being an expert on this area of the law, but I've studied enough to know that Carol and I do not come close to meeting the definition of "incapacitated" or "disabled," there are no grounds for appointment of a guardian or conservator, and it appears that my brother, Paul, who is listed as petitioner, does not have standing to bring such a case. So why has he filed such a case in Greene County Probate Court?
This dubious train seems to be driven by my two brothers--Paul, a radiology tech at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, and David, a lawyer in Springfield (at Shuler Law Firm, focusing mainly on divorce and DUI defense cases). If no lawful grounds exist for bringing such a case, what gives? My best guess is that it's an effort to ensure we cannot seek justice against the Greene County Sheriff's Department, landlord Trent Cowherd, and Lowther Johnson law firm (representing Cowherd), and anyone else who might be liable for injuries we suffered in an unlawful eviction on September 9--including Carol's shattered arm, which required repair from a trauma surgeon, using all sorts of screws and titanium plates.
|Mercy Hospital, Springfield, Missouri|
They don't, and they apparently don't mind grossly abusing the legal process to seek whatever perverted outcome they are after.
What about Missouri law on "INP and DIS" cases? An online document titled "Guardians and Conservators Under Missouri Law" shines light. (It's in a PDF format to which it apparently is not possible to link, but a Google search of the document title should bring it right up.)
Here is the answer to one key question:
What Does it Mean to Be Incapacitated or Disabled?
As defined by Missouri law, “an incapacitated person is one who is unable by reason of any physical or mental condition to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions to such an extent that he [or she] lacks capacity to meet essential requirements for food, clothing, shelter, safety or other care such that serious physical injury, illness, or disease is likely to occur.” Similarly, a disabled person is one who is “unable by reason of any physical or mental condition to receive and evaluate information or to communicate decisions to such an extent that the person lacks ability to manage his [or her] financial resources.” Under certain circumstances, a conservator may be appointed by the court for a person who has disappeared or is detained against his or her will.
Neither Carol nor I come close to meeting that definition. We have food, clothing, shelter, and safety--we are in no position where serious physical injury, illness, or disease to likely to occur. Despite all we've been through, our overall health probably is as good, or better, than anyone on my side of the family. In terms of ethics, I might be the only one from our Missouri clan who has any left.
|David Shuler, of Shuler law firm|
He, at least to some extent, is responsible for her injuries, so it's little wonder that he wants to have her (and me) declared incapacitated so we possibly would be precluded from pursuing legal claims against him. Gee, do you see a little self interest here in my brother's actions.
Here is the answer to another central questions:
What is the Legal Effect of a Judicial Determination of Incapacity or Disability?
The answer depends upon whether the court has made a finding of total disability and incapacity or only partial disability and incapacity. If the court finds that a person is only partially disabled and partially incapacitated, the person is still presumed competent and loses only those rights specified in the order. A person who has disappeared or is being detained does not lose any rights. On the other hand, if the court finds a person totally incapacitated or totally disabled (or both), the person is presumed to be incompetent for all legal purposes. A person who has been determined by a court to be disabled is referred to as a “protectee” and a person who has been determined by a court to be incapacitated is referred to as a “ward.”
We could be declared incompetent and essentially lose all our rights and even our freedom, becoming wards of the state--all at the request of two brothers who know virtually nothing about us or the numerous court cheat jobs that have caused us to lose our home and many of our possessions.
And finally, we have this:
Who May Be Appointed Guardian or Conservator?\
If no suitable person has been nominated by the incapacitated or disabled person, the court will consider appointing, in order: the spouse, parents, adult children, adult brothers and sisters and other close adult relatives.
As you can see, the No. 1 person on the list to be declared a guardian or conservator is "spouse"--and that would be Carol. That's a slight problem for my devious brothers, so they are trying to have her declared incapacitated, too--which I would guess is against the law.
As for "adult brothers and sisters," they are well down the list. That probably means my brother Paul does not even have standing to bring such a case. The Paul J. Shuler I used to know would not try to pull such a low-down stunt. But apparently, that person doesn't exist anymore.
And I'm starting to wonder if my lawyer brother ever was worth a crap. Since joining the legal tribe, he certainly is proving to be quite the "bottom feeder."
|Lowther Johnson law firm of Springfield, MO|
The answer to both questions is "not even close." In fact, we have come to see the Republican presidential primary race often described as a "clown car." Now we know that term should be reserved for the legal stunt my brothers--Paul J. Shuler (radiology tech at Mercy Hospital) and David N. Shuler (lawyer, Shuler Law Firm)--are trying to pull in Greene County Probate Court.
My brothers' nefarious activities make the Donald Trump-led GOP train seem positively quaint and genteel by comparison. At least there is a legitimate reason to have a GOP primary. There is no lawful or factual basis for the "INP and DIS" (incapacitated and disabled) case my brothers have wrought.
How do we know? For starters let's look at the Public Administrator page for Greene County, the very jurisdiction where my brothers filed their petition. It's clear that "INP and DIS" proceedings are not for people who have been the victims of bad luck or the targets of bad people (as we have been)-- it's not for folks whose property has been stolen over a 15-year period of time (as ours has been, by corrupt lawyers, judges, and law-enforcement types); it's not for folks who've had their home wiped out by a tornado or flood; it's not for those badly injured in a car crash or other mishap.
These cases are for people who have the most serious of mental-health conditions. Here is how the Greene County public administrator explains the process--and it seems reasonable to assume that he is drawing from statutory and case law:
The Guardian/Conservator Appointment Process:
There are four types of mental disability and incapacitation that may cause the probate court to appoint a guardian and/or a conservator:
* Mental illness (such as schizophrenia and bi-polar illness)
* Mental retardation/developmental disabilities
* Brain injury or disease
* Diseases of the aging (such as Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia)
Do we have schizophrenia or bi-polar disease or anything similar to them? No one has even hinted that we do. Do we have mental retardation or brain injury or any form of dementia? Again, no one has even hinted at that.
Even if we did have one or more of those conditions, that is not necessarily grounds (under Missouri law) for appointment of a guardian or conservator. From the Public Administrator Web page:
The above disabilities are not by themselves sufficient reasons to declare someone incompetent. Competency has to do with a person's ability to make an informed decision without the risk of harm that may be experienced as a result of inability to provide for him/herself or manage his/her affairs.
Further, a conservator may be appointed when only a physical disability impairs a person's ability to handle his financial affairs. . . .
Guardianship/conservatorship is the most restrictive form of protection given to mentally disabled and incapacitated individuals and should be used only when less restrictive measures are not adequate to meet their needs.
That Paul and David Shuler have brought such a baseless case should be grounds for sanctions against them. It also should outrage taxpayers who are seeing their funds wasted.
Even more alarming is this: Evidence strongly suggests the "INP and DIS" case was filed with an ulterior motive in mind. It has nothing to do with the well-being of Carol and me. It's all about protecting the landlord, sheriff deputies, and lawyers (including my brother, David) who are responsible for our injuries. One sign of that is the court-appointed lawyer who is assigned to "represent our interests."
|Daniel G. Menzie|
In other words, Lowther Johnson and Trent Cowherd (not to mention the Greene County Sheriff's Office) have major liability for the injuries Carol and I have suffered--and "our attorney" just happens to be Daniel Menzie, one of Lowther Johnson's office neighbors.
On top of that, we have become aware of documentation about the way Mr. Menzie spends some of his extracurricular time, and it calls into question his ethics, taste, and judgment. We will share that information shortly, and it likely will help you understand why we want no part of Mr. Menzie--or the charade he is trying to help my ethically challenged brothers to pull.
Those are two conclusions from Joan Brunwasser's new interview with me, "Truth-telling journalist evicted, wife assaulted by heavily armed deputies," at OpEd News. Brunwasser is based in Chicago, but she long has reported on political and legal corruption in Alabama, which I have called "Ground Zero" for deterioration of our justice system that started during the George W. Bush administration and largely has continued unabated under Barack Obama. OpEd News is ranked among the top 100 political blogs on the Web.
My wife, Carol, has had her stitches removed after trauma surgery to repair her arm. But she now must wear a compression garment, and her arm is filled with enough screws and titanium to build Tiger Woods a new set of golf clubs. Caregivers have said the goal is to get function in her arm back to 95 percent. While Carol's recovery is going well, it appears unlikely she will regain full and normal use of her arm.
In our interview, Brunwasser begins by setting the stage for the assault on Carol: (Brunwasser is "JB," and I am "RS.")
JB: You've had a pretty eventful life of late. Would you care to catch us up on what's been happening?
RS: Your readers probably remember that I was incarcerated in Alabama for five months (October 2013 to March 2014)--for daring to practice journalism--and my wife, Carol, and I lost our house in Birmingham to a foreclosure that I now am convinced was unlawful. After all that trauma in the South, we fled to Springfield, Missouri, where I grew up and still have family. But it seems the conservative forces that want to shut down my reporting on the blog Legal Schnauzer have followed us, perhaps through my brother David, who happens to be a right-leaning lawyer in Springfield. On Sept. 9, we were unlawfully evicted from our apartment in Springfield. Sheriff deputies (about seven or eight of them) burst through the door, trained at least one assault rifle and multiple handguns on us, handcuffed us both, and ultimately assaulted Carol, breaking her arm. A trauma surgeon used all sorts of screws and titanium plates to piece her arm back together. Her recovery seems to be going well, but she's a long way from "back to normal." In fact, we are concerned that her arm might never be the same.
Is such a show of force normal for an eviction? Brunwasser and I examined that issue:
JB: I'm really sorry to hear about the assault and Carol's resultant injuries. Is this the normal course of things for an eviction, Roger? It sounds more like you were on the Most Wanted List, based on the law officers' behavior. And why were you being evicted in the first place? I'd like some more details to sink my teeth into, please.
RS: I've never been involved in an eviction, Joan, so I don't know for sure about the normal course of these things. But I understand it's common for a deputy or two to be on hand and play a relatively passive role while the landlord's crew removes items from the property. In our case, I don't know why we were targeted for eviction. Our rent had been timely paid, and we had been model tenants. According to the lease, we were to go on a month-to-month basis after the first 13 months. That's what we thought would happen, but we had a notice to vacate taped to our door on July 2. When I called to see what was going on, the landlord's representative told me that we were being ousted under grounds that violated the lease. We fought the vacation notice in court, but as I've seen happen repeatedly with judges in Alabama, the Missouri judge seemed to pay little attention to the facts or law and ruled against us. Under Missouri law, there is a 10-day window where execution on an order (such as an eviction) cannot be carried out (levied is the term used in the law).
Facebook is filled with videos and articles about law enforcement officials lying to cover up misconduct. That certainly was present in our case:
JB: I believe the law officers accused Carol of attacking them. What really happened?Brunwasser also addresses the latest nuttiness, an attempt by my brothers (Paul, a radiology tech at Mercy Hospital Springfield, and David, a Missouri lawyer) to have Carol and me declared incompetent. That came after I told Brunwasser that I planned to continue my reporting as long as we are physically and fiscally able. And I pointed out that we definitely could use donations to help keep our reporting efforts on track:
RS: Jim Arnott, the sheriff himself pointed at Carol, as her arm had just been broken in four or more places, and said, "She assaulted a police officer." I didn't know whether to guffaw or blow my stack. I saw the whole thing from the driver's seat of our car. I heard Carol say, "I'm just trying to get . . . ", and then I saw her being slammed to the ground, and one officer grabbed both of her arms and jerked them in an outward and upward motion, before putting handcuffs on her. Carol is 55 years old, very feminine (she's hardly Rhonda Rousey) [editor's note: RR is current UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion] and I've never seen her do anything remotely violent in the 28 years I've known her. We're about to "celebrate" our 26th wedding anniversary, with her arm in a compression garment. This is a blatant example of the kinds of lies law-enforcement officers will tell when they know they are in the wrong. We saw it on video with the Sandra Bland case in Texas. Facebook is filled with images and videos of cops abusing citizens--and in this case, officers had no lawful grounds to be on the property at all.
JB: Wow. That's brave, some would say foolish. Kudos to you and Carol! How can people help?
RS: Well, the latest is that my two brothers--David, a lawyer, and Paul, a radiology tech at Mercy Hospital, both in Springfield, MO--have filed court documents to have Carol and me declared incapacitated and disabled, with a guardian or conservator appointed for us. I'm just beginning to learn the law on this, but it sounds like we could lose many of our rights--right to vote, right to take care of our own finances (such as they are), right to make our own medical decisions, even the right to bring a lawsuit.
I think that last one is the real reason this court case has been filed--someone wants to prevent a lawsuit because of Carol's injuries, theft of our property, etc. It also sounds like it could be a first step toward having us physically committed. I guess that's what we do now to journalists who report on uncomfortable truths--first jail, now this? I reported on this latest development at Legal Schnauzer in a post dated Oct. 7, 2015. It sounds wacky, I know, but it's the latest thing we are dealing with. As for ways to help, we could use financial support, for sure. Donations are the main way we have of keeping my reporting going, so any help is very much needed and would be greatly appreciated.
JB: How very Kafkaesque. Your brothers sound like two scary dudes. On a more positive note, how would someone make a donation? Give us everything we need in order to help.
RS: I'm not sure my brothers are scary, Joan, but I do think they are misguided--and perhaps they've been influenced by some corrupt forces from Down South. Probably the best way to donate is to go to the Legal Schnauzer blog and click on the donate button in the upper right-hand corner of the front page. That's connected to our PayPal account, and there are several payment options. Again, any support is greatly appreciated.
Brunwasser then asked a big-picture question, connecting the blow back Carol and I have experienced to my reporting on the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who remains imprisoned at Oakdale, Louisiana:
JB: I thought we were done but something else occurred to me, Roger. Your blogging activities since 2007 have seemingly gotten you in trouble. Unlike the mainstream/corporate press, you spent a lot of time and energy covering the Don Siegelman* case. So, do you think that, at bottom, this all started with Siegelman and the attempt by the powers that be to shut you up?
RS: Oh, there is no doubt the answer to that question is yes, Joan. Here is a link to one of several posts I've written that provide evidence showing I was fired from my job as an editor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB, where I had worked for 20 years) because of my reporting on the Siegelman case. Near the end of the post is a partial transcript of a conversation I had with a UAB human-resources exec named Anita Bonasera. This conversation took place after I had been put on administrative leave for allegedly writing my blog at work but before I was fired --UAB's own IT expert, who monitored my work computer for 4-5 weeks, later testified at a grievance hearing that I never touched the first keystroke on my blog while at work. Bonasera states that my supervisor, Pam Powell, went to UAB IT to check on my computer usage, and the following exchange takes place.
Bonasera is AB, and I'm RS.
AB: She was able to determine what you were working on and whether it was related to your blog . . .
RS:Well, you just said it, it's all about my blog. You just said that.
AB:That was a piece of it. Some of it was research related to your blog, from my understanding. I understand there were some things about Siegelman, screens up about Don Siegelman, things that they saw you doing that they consider to be research for your blog because then that was topics that you wrote about on your blog.
RS:Those are also news articles that we are supposed to keep up with, about Alabama, stuff in the news.
At the end of that blog post, with the link above, is a video where your listeners can listen to a tape recording of the actual conversation.
You can see from the [highlighted] sections, that Bonasera admits two things:
(1) My supervisor, Pam Powell, targeted me because of my blog, which UAB's own expert said I was not working on during company time;
(2) My supervisor specifically was looking for anything I might look at on my computer regarding the Siegelman case--even though it was the biggest news story in Alabama at the time (and we were supposed to keep up with Alabama news stories), Siegelman, as governor, was a former member of our board of trustees, and Siegelman's codefendant, Richard Scrushy, was and probably still is the most well known UAB alumnus in school history.
Here's what it boils down to: The concern about my Siegelman coverage, I'm convinced, was that, back in 2007-08, I was showing that U.S. Judge Mark Fuller had acted corruptly in the case. And Fuller had been hand-picked by Karl Rove and other Bush types to make sure Siegelman got convicted for a "crime" that doesn't even exist under U.S. law. Some 7-8 years later, the entire country knows Mark Fuller was corrupt and unfit for the bench now that he's been forced to resign after being charged with beating his wife. My reporting was both accurate and way ahead of its time, but it made the regime of GOP Governor and prime Siegelman opponent Bob Riley uncomfortable, and they caused me to be cheated out of my job. I have zero doubt that Bob Riley's son, Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley, who later filed the lawsuit that led to my unconstitutional imprisonment, played a major role in getting me fired. I lost my job in May 2008, and in October 2009, Carol lost her job at Infinity Insurance in Birmingham under bizarre circumstances. I feel certain that Riley forces also were behind that, and the job loss largely is the reason we now find ourselves barely above homelessness.
Sorry for the long answer, but your question goes straight to the heart of our situation. That someone saw fit to mess around behind our backs with our jobs is what led to much of what we discussed earlier.
What's the future of other journalists who might dare to uncover unpleasant truths in swampy, shark-infested waters? Brunwasser and I addressed that topic:
JB: It's good to have the background so our readers can get the context. Pretty sordid. So, it's not out of line to ask at this point, what's in store for other intrepid journalists who rock the boat by actually doing their jobs?
|Dana Siegelman, daughter of|
political prisoner Don Siegelman
JB: I wish I could disagree with anything you've said here. Anything you'd like to add before we wrap this up?
RS: Our justice system is failing us. It became obvious during the Bush II administration, and the Obama administration has done almost nothing to fix it. In my view, most of the corruption initiates with Republicans or conservative Democrats, but Democrats of all stripes have been enablers. We're talking here about basic constitutional protections--due process of law, equal protection, rule of law--the very things that are supposed to make us America. They are rotting right under our noses, and before long, we're going to have a country that we don't recognize. The legal profession has proven that it cannot be entrusted with our justice apparatus. We somehow must get regular citizens involved in an oversight capacity. Lawyers overseeing lawyers simply does not work--no more than foxes guarding henhouses, to borrow a phrase from my rural roots.
I would encourage your readers to pay attention to the various presidential debates and see if they ever hear a question or comment about corruption in our justice system and the overwhelming need for reform. I've yet to hear a single Republican candidate mention it. And I would be shocked if Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, or any other Dem raises it.
Don Siegelman can only be described as a political prisoner, but it seems our citizens and our candidates are willing to accept that as part of our postmodern American democracy. I refuse to accept it. And I think most of my fellow citizens would refuse to accept if they took the time to educate themselves and understand just how badly the system betrays all of us. For those who think this doesn't affect them, here's a thought: If you live in America, you almost certainly will be in court someday--over a divorce, an estate, a car wreck, a property matter, an insurance matter. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, court is almost certainly going to beckon you one day. When that day comes, you will want to make sure the judge and lawyers you face act in an ethical manner. But too many of them now are unethical, and if something isn't done about it, you will be victimized down the road.
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|Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Luther Strange|
(From Yellowhammer News)
The Garrison article is more or less in first-person form, as told to someone named Liz Welch. Did Ms. Welch bother to actually question Garrison about any of her statements? Sure doesn't look like it.
Al.com, the largest news organization in the state, picked up on the marieclaire.com piece today, and reporter Leada Gore proceeded to mangle the simplest facts about the case. For good measure, the right-wing site Yellowhammer Newsran the original piece verbatim, repeating all of the false statements it contains.
Did any of the "journalists" involved contact me for comment--or question me about key legal and factual issues that they got wrong? Nope. Did any of them check the court file, which is public record and easily available at alacourt.com? They clearly did not.
The story in question involved allegations that Garrison had an affair with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, for whom she was campaign manager in 2010 and (according to some press reports) in 2014. Did any of the "journalists" involved in the latest Garrison coverage point out that my reporting never has been found false or defamatory before a jury? Did they report that Jessica Garrison, in her original filings, did not even seek a jury trial--and her lawyer, Bill Baxley, only asked for one after I had demanded one in my answer to her complaint? Did the "reporters" note that my posts never have been found false or defamatory in any adversarial proceeding in a court of law?
Have Garrison or Strange ever sat for cross examination under oath, such as in a deposition, or have they ever turned over documents (emails, text messages, phone records, etc.) related to their relationship? Have Garrison or Strange ever volunteered to unseal records from her divorce case in Tuscaloosa County, where she once was married to school-board member Lee Garrison?
The answer to all of those questions are no. And none of the reporters wrote that I was the victim of a default judgment only because I was unlawfully thrown in jail for five months and then got out to find our home of 25 years going into a foreclosure that smells to high heaven. The foreclosure almost certainly was wrongful, and no one benefited from it more than Jessica Garrison--because I was not able to defend myself against her lawsuit, or bring a valid counterclaim.
Did any reporter question Jessica Garrison about her knowledge of my incarceration and the foreclosure? No.
Here are a few items that did come out in the marieclaire.com article:
The final straw was when Shuler wrote a follow-up post claiming my then five-year-old son was actually Luther's illegitimate child. I could handle the professional stuff—I have pretty thick skin—but this crossed a line. It upset his father, my ex-husband, who sent Shuler a comment to set the record straight, which of course he never posted.
There is a slight problem with this statement from Garrison--it isn't true. I never reported that Luther Strange was the father of her child. Anyone can go to Legal Schnauzer, go to the search box at the top of the page and key in "Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange," and review every post I've written on the subject. Never have I reported that Luther Strange is the father of her child. In fact, I contacted Lee Garrison and interviewed him on the subject. He said he was convinced the child was his, and I never reported otherwise.
I have that interview on tape and will be running it shortly. I'm not aware of Lee Garrison ever sending me a comment. If he did, he certainly did not identify it as being from him. And there was no reason for him to "set the record straight" regarding his son's parentage because I never reported anything about Luther Strange fathering the child.
Jessica Garrison really goes off the deep end with the following:
There is no second place in politics—you either win or you lose—and this ridiculous little blog was being used as a tool to try to gain a competitive advantage. I was livid.
Then, it got worse.
Shuler posted photos of my home on his website, which felt like a threat, not to mention a huge violation of privacy. Had he been at my house? Was he stalking me? I installed a home security system and put the police on notice. I was so paranoid that I called the cops in tears one night, convinced someone was outside, and was relieved—and slightly mortified—to learn it was the police doing a drive by.
Garrison implies that I was stalking her, but she fails to mention that the home in question was subject to a foreclosure, and documents related to that proceeding are public record. Also, the home apparently had recently been on the market, and the photos in question came . . . right off the Web. I also ran a photo of her and Luther Strange, which might have been taken in her yard--I don't know. But I do know the photo came straight from . . . Garrison's own Facebook page.
a significant factor in a child-custody case that grew from her divorce.
Do I now have a defamation case against Jessica Garrison? I'm not sure; that question will require some research. But I do know that the law, in general, frowns on making "imputations" that someone has committed a crime that they have not committed. And stalking, last time I checked, is a crime.
As for al.com and reporter Leada Gore, consider this from her article that was published today:
In April, a Shelby County judge entered a default judgment against blogger Roger Shuler and his website Legal Schnauzer, ordering him to pay $3.5 million in damages to a former campaign manager for Attorney Gen. Luther Strange.
Again, we have a little problem. The Garrison case was in Jefferson County court, not Shelby County. Nothing like screwing up your story--and ruining your credibility--in the very first paragraph.
We can excuse, Ms. Gore, because her error is in keeping with the whole Garrison public-relations charade. The original marieclaire.com article reads like it was written by the cast from Fantasy Island. So we probably shouldn't expect much from any of the followups.
|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
We've already shown that Garrison's claim that I stalked her is laughably untrue--in fact, Garrison presents zero evidence that I've ever been anywhere near her house and admits that on one occasion she was convinced a boogeyman (me, I guess) was outside only to discover it was cops doing a drive by. Her assertion that I reported Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is the father of her child can be proven false with a simple search on my blog.
You have to read down into the Garrison piece a ways to discover the stalking and "Lutha as baby daddy" fables. But the nuttiness starts right at the top. Consider the lead on Garrison's piece, which was told to a marieclaire.com writer named Liz Welch, who apparently is incapable of asking a few questions to determine if anything Garrison says is true. Ms. Welch also must not have been capable of sending me an e-mail or calling me and allowing me to respond to Garrison's wacky tales.
Perhaps Welch was afraid I would present a number of facts that would run contrary to the point of her juicy piece--and facts were not supposed to get in the way of this "good story." Here is how Garrison/Welch start their tall tale, in Garrison's voice:
My saga started in July 2013. A friend texted me, asking, "Do you know this guy, Roger Shuler?" I didn't, but quickly learned he was the political blogger behind the website Legal Schnauzer and author of a new post that would forever change my life: "AG Luther Strange Has a Messy Extra-Marital Affair with Ex-Campaign Aide Jessica Garrison."
A reasonable assumption here seems to be that the friend was not asking if Garrison knew me personally; the question seems to be: Did she know of me? And Garrison's answer was no. Well, I've got evidence to show this is false.
It appears the friend's inquiry was triggered by my first post about Garrison's affair with Luther Strange, and that post was dated July 17, 2013. Garrison gives the impression that she was baffled as to who I was or what I was working on. But e-mail records show she had every reason to know who I was and why I had contacted here. That's because I sent her an e-mail on July 12, 2013, informing her of my investigation on the alleged affair and asking for an interview on the topic.
Here are the contents of that e-mail:
I am a journalist in Birmingham, reporting on justice/legal issues at a number of Web sites, including the blog Legal Schnauzer. I've received reports from multiple sources that you and Luther Strange had an affair that culminated with your divorce and his election as attorney general of Alabama. I have been researching this matter for several months, and I'm at the point where the stories are ready for publication. I would like to give you an opportunity to respond to questions and ask that we schedule a time for an interview, either via phone or in person.
My plan is to begin running the articles in the next few days, so I ask that you respond to this request by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 16.
Roughly five days before the inquiry from her friend, Garrison knew exactly who I was and why I was contacting her. So Garrison either has a horrifically bad memory--in which case, marieclaire.com should not be running her story--or she is lying.
The careful reader--for example, one who has followed the Garrison/Strange story here at Legal Schnauzer--has every reason to doubt Garrison's veracity from the opening lines of the Marie Claire article.
In terms of accurate reporting, the story only goes downhill from there.
Since a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer fatally shot Michael Brown in August 2014, Americans have been inundated with stories about the victims of excessive force, police brutality, and other forms of law-enforcement misconduct. We are about to show you images of the physical wreckage thug cops can leave behind--and we will do it in a dramatic form that I do not believe has been used at any other news site.
Ironically, this also involves a Missouri style of police brutality, in Springfield (Greene County), in the southwest corner of the state. That's where some half dozen deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department, including Sheriff Jim Arnott himself, conducted an unlawful eviction on September 9 that played out like an orchestrated terror attack.
My wife, Carol, and I had at least one assault rifle aimed at us, along with five or six handguns. We both were handcuffed, even though we were not alleged to have committed any crime, and the eviction itself was unlawfully scheduled during the 10-day post-judgment window when no such action can take place under Missouri law. On top of that, we had filed a Notice of Appeal and timely served attorneys for all parties, putting an automatic stay on the eviction. In other words, deputies had no lawful grounds to be on our rented property on September 9.
But a veritable SWAT team invaded our residence anyway, and in the ensuing chaos, Carol's left arm was so badly broken that it required the expertise of Dr. Brian Buck, a trauma surgeon from Cox South Hospital in Springfield (and the University of Missouri) to piece it back together. Carol's caregivers have told her that the goal with such a serious break is to restore her arm to 95 percent use--and that would be a best-case scenario. The chances that her arm will return to normal appear slim.
What did Carol's arm look like immediately after a Greene County deputy had slammed her to the ground and twisted both of her arms behind her--all because she was trying to retrieve our cat's litter box? I can't provide an exact answer to that question because I have not seen those X-rays. I have seen that her right arm (the one not broken) was purple over more than half its surface from bruising. And Carol has told me that, in the hours immediately after the assault by cops, her left arm was almost black from the elbow up, with a large bump where at least one bone apparently was close to breaking through the skin.
We can, however, show you exactly what her arm looks like now--on the inside--with all of the hardware required to repair the damage. During a followup visit on October 8, Dr. Buck's staff took several X-rays and gave us copies. Carol's recovery seems to be going about as well as we could hope. But the X-rays--even after surgery--give an idea of the kind of damage with which Dr. Buck and his team were faced. And they reflect the brutality with which an officer, who has the duty to "protect and serve," treated a 55-year-old woman who simply was trying to make sure our cat had a place to use the bathroom as the three of us stared homelessness in the face.
I don't have the medical expertise to provide a detailed commentary on the image above--and on the images that will be featured in upcoming posts.. But I don't think it will be hard for you to see the damage for yourself. When Carol asked Dr. Buck exactly how many places her arm had been broken, his answer was "enough." One of his assistants looked at one of the X-rays and pointed to four or five lines that represented fractures.
In the image at the beginning of this post, most of the fractures are to the left of what appears to be a loose screw, with its point heading upward at a slight right-to-left angle. The screw, of course, is not loose; it's one of at least nine screws you can see on this image to hold Carol's shattered bone in place. But the "loose screw" is a good reference point because much of the damages--apparently four or five fractures--are just to its left.
You can see the damage even more clearly on an image for an upcoming post.
(To be continued)
Got to love that family support!
As for the X-ray above, we showed you No. 1 yesterday, and this one is a slightly different view of the area that includes multiple fractures. Just above Carol's elbow, you will notice that screws and titanium plates form a five-sided geometric figure. Inside that figure, you can see lines that represent fractures. The damage is so severe that Carol's caregivers have said a 95-percent recovery might be the best we can hope for.
Again, happy anniversary!
Do we actually have anything to celebrate today. I think we do; for one, we're still together--in mind, body, and spirit--so, in an age of starter marriages and rampant dysfunction in many homes, I consider that an accomplishment. If I'm going to have to experience a bunch of crap in life, I would rather experience it with Carol than anyone else. And when things are going well--although we might never get to such a state again--Carol is a fine companion then, too.
I thought about staying away from the blogging gig on our anniversary, but the 26 years Carol and I have spent together inspired me to share a few thoughts on various marriage- and justice-related subjects. I hope you will find them worthwhile, so here it goes . . .
* Take those marriage vows seriously; they can be a bee-atch--If you are married in a traditional Christian ceremony, you likely will say vows that go something like this: "I, (Roger), take thee, (Carol), to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health," When the vows raise the specter of bad things that can happen in a marriage--"for worse,""for poorer,""in sickness"--they aren't joking. Carol and I have had a lot of good things--even wonderful things--happen during our 26 years of marital bliss. But we've had up-close-and-personal experiences with that "for worse" and "for poorer" stuff. In terms of sickness, we both have been diagnosed with PTSD, and that has very real repercussions. Otherwise, our general health seems remarkably good for all we've been through. When most of us think about those scary parts of the wedding vows--if we think of them at all--we tend to consider things like accidents, unavoidable health woes, mistakes, job loss for legitimate reasons, etc. In other words, it all comes under the heading of "s--t happens." But that's not necessarily the way it works in real life. Almost all of our negative experiences have intentionally been heaped upon us by bad people. We didn't lose our jobs (at UAB and Infinity Insurance) for legit reasons--political forces stole them from us. A word to the wise: If you are married, you likely will have a few things that you value, that generally are seen to have worth. If you have any such items, whether they be living beings or inanimate objects, there is always someone out there who would not mind stealing them. All of our legal problems started from a neighbor, with a significant criminal record and signs in his past that he has sociopathic tendencies, who wanted to (in essence) steal our yard. He wanted to use it without permission, and without paying for it and helping to care for it, and that's what I call stealing. Even if we are talking about real property, which can't be moved, bad people still can try to steal it from you--as this guy did, in part, by fencing in about 400 square feet that clearly belonged to us.
* Stand for something, especially something that causes you to step outside your comfort zone--A friend of long standing recently scoffed at the notion that Carol and should seek to be restored for all of the civil (and criminal) wrongs that have been committed against us. This fellow doesn't deny that we've been cheated in horrific ways, but his counsel is to just accept it and more or less "push the reset button." As for seeking restoration and justice via the court system, this fellow opines, "The system doesn't work that way."
(Never mind that this guy and his wife have both, when they saw signs of being victimized, sought the counsel of attorneys. It seems the system is designed to restore them; it's just not designed to restore us.)
Some of you might be thinking, "I would tell that 'friend' to hit the highway and never come back." I'm starting to think along the same lines, but he did cause me to be extra grateful for the kind of woman I married.
Critics are free to aim their arrows at Legal Schnauzer, and quite a few of them do, but no one can dispute that Carol and I have stood for something. I'm the author of the blog--and except for the five months when I was in jail, and Carol kept it alive--I am solely responsible for its content. But Carol signed off on this effort to expose corruption, when many spouses would have shied away. We've paid a heavy price for the journalism here, and we've attracted quite a few enemies.
But have we made a difference? Ask some of the victims of injustice we've reported on--Don Siegelman, Sherry Carroll Rollins, Linda Upton, Richard Scrushy, Paul Minor, Bonnie Cahalane, Wes Teel, Dr. Mark Hayden, and many more. Their answers, I feel certain, would be yes.
* Try to stand with someone who represents the goodness in mankind--Carol and I have our cynical moments, and there is no doubt that we now are very slow to trust anyone. And we certainly can get on each other's nerves from time to time. But I don't think we've allowed our unpleasant experiences to turn us into cynics. We still believe goodness exists out there.
I've seen goodness in my wife for 26 years (28, if you count two years of dating). Consider our recent "eviction," the one that led to Carol's broken arm: When deputies allowed her into our apartment to retrieve some of our belongings, the first thing she made sure to get were the wooden urns that contain the ashes of our two late, beloved pets--Murphy, the miniature schnauzer for whom this blog is named, and Chloe, the beautiful Tonkinese kitty kat who died of cancer in July of this year.
Carol has a number of inanimate objects that she values--her furniture, her jewelry, her clothes. But the first things on her mind, in a moment of crisis and terror, were Murphy and Chloe. In fact, Carol's arm was shattered because she was trying to return to the apartment to retrieve the litter box for our one surviving pet--Chloe's brother, Baxter.
At a moment of extraordinary stress, when she had just been handcuffed and had multiple weapons pointed at her, Carol thought outside herself. Murphy, Chloe, and Baxter, technically, are not "of" Carol--they are not the "fruit of her loins." But she loved Murphy and Chloe dearly (and she loves Baxter dearly now), and they were the first beings who popped into her mind as she and I were facing homelessness--and, given all the weaponry, on the premises, possible execution.
I had always hoped to marry a good-hearted person. And that's just the most recent proof that I did marry a good-hearted person. Even though we now live on the brink of ruin, I will always be grateful that I've been able to share the good and the bad with Carol.
I might have a few more profound thoughts to share, but that's it for now.
Back on the subject of X-rays, here is No. 3 below, which shows that Carol's arm needed support well above the elbow. We are guessing this is because her arm was dislocated, in addition to being broken.
|Jessica Medeiros Garrison|
Perjury. the offense of willfully telling an untruth in a court proceeding after having taken an oath or affirmation, is a crime. In fact, the kind of perjury that appears to be present with Garrison (and possibly Strange) is a Class C felony in Alabama. Here's how it's described in the Code of Alabama:
A person commits the crime of perjury in the first degree when in any official proceeding he swears falsely and his false statement is material to the proceeding in which it is made.
Should Garrison, and maybe Strange, be referred to Jefferson County District Attorney Brandon Falls for a perjury investigation? Court documents in Jeffco Circuit Court show that Garrison clearly committed perjury. It's less clear exactly what Strange stated under oath, but given his status as our state's chief law-enforcement officer, the matter merits serious investigation.
For now, let's follow the evidence trail, as we know it.
In her article at marieclaire.com, as told to writer Liz Welch, Garrison says she was able to handle my reports here about her affair with Strange, in part because she has a "pretty thick skin." (Never mind that the article reveals her to have an extremely thin skin.) Garrison then lays this on her readers:
The final straw was when Shuler wrote a follow-up post claiming my then five-year-old son was actually Luther's illegitimate child. I could handle the professional stuff—I have pretty thick skin—but this crossed a line. . . .
I decided I had nothing more to lose—so I rolled up my sleeves and fought back.
In other words, Garrison didn't decide to sue me until I wrote a follow-up post about the parentage of her son. One could reasonable state that her lawsuit was based almost entirely on that follow-up post about Luther Strange being the father of her Garrison's child.
For Garrison, there is a slight problem with all of that--I never wrote such a follow-up post. In fact, I never reported--at any time or any place--that Luther Strange was the father of her child. I invite readers who are interested to go to the search box at the top of this blog, key in "Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Luther Strange" (which should call up everything I've written about them), and see if there is any reporting about the parentage of Garrison's son. I can tell you the answer in advance: It's no.
In his order awarding Garrison a $3.5-million default judgment, Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship indicates Garrison testified falsely on this issue. Were her statements "material," as required by Alabama law? Well she has admitted they were the basis of her lawsuit, and Blankenship's order suggests they were the determining factor in the $3.5-million award. It's hard to get more "material" than that.
Here is a key section from Blankenship's order, which was issued on April 13, 2015, even though the court record shows I never was served with notice of an earlier default-judgment hearing: (Failure to notify the opposing party of a default-judgment hearing, under Alabama law, makes any judgment void.)
The Court first heard testimony from the Plaintiff. She testified that the Defendant [me] had written, in a blog dubbed Legal Schnauzer, several misleading and inappropriate comments concerning her and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. The comments suggested that the Plaintiff received preferential treatment from the Attorney General because the two were engaged in an ongoing extramarital affair; and that the Attorney General was the father of the Plaintiff's minor son.
Garrison's claim that I had reported that Strange was the father of her son was made in court, presumably under oath--and it is glaringly and indisputably material and false. That probably equals perjury. It certainly merits a criminal investigation.
Blankenship's order is less clear about Strange's testimony. But transcripts should be available that would shine more light on the AG's statements under oath.
Do the people of Alabama have an interest in whether Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange committed perjury? Well, Strange's office is leading a long-running investigation of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, and its dubious raids have led to the closure of the VictoryLand casinio in Macon County. Strange's office has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on these investigations--and others; his honesty, or lack thereof, matters.
Garrison served as Strange's campaign manager in 2010, and according to some reports, also helped in his 2014 re-election. She helped get him elected, so her honesty matters, too.
The evidence is clear that Jessica Garrison lied under oath. We would say the odds are better than 50-50 that Luther Strange did the same thing. The public should demand a formal and objective inquiry.
For now, let's consider Garrison's reaction when she learned that she had "won" her lawsuit, where the opposing party was kept almost totally in the dark, not even notified of key hearings. This is from her account to marieclaire.com, which apparently the fashion magazine accepted without asking a single question of Garrison:
One day a month later, I was running late for a meeting with a close colleague when my lawyer called with the news: Not only had I won my case, but the judge had awarded me $3.5 million in damages. I ran into my meeting literally shouting, "I won! I won!" I was elated—not about the money, but about the fact that I'd seen justice done.
Here's what she should have said in her meeting: "I won because I lied! I won because I lied! I lied under oath and got away with it! Isn't it great to be a Republican and an insider and a member of the elite? We can lie under oath and Win! Yeeeeeee . . . .!
I suppose that might have reduced some of the elation in her meeting and raised questions about whether justice really was done--and we certainly would not have wanted that.
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