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The memory of a beloved pet inspires one couple's fight against injustice.

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    Image from the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
    Just two days ago, we asked: Does police dishonesty pose almost as big a threat to society as police brutality? We pointed to signs that law enforcement officials had lied in statements about the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago and in the eviction-related assault that left my wife with a shattered arm in Missouri.

    New reports last night in the McDonald case suggest the answer to our question might be yes. Meanwhile, the free-lance journalist who brought video of the McDonald shooting to light says he is far from finished seeking details about the case via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

    Raw Story was among news sites reporting yesterday that still images taken inside a nearby Burger King on the night of the McDonald shooting show officers checking video from surveillance camera. Those are the same cameras from which the restaurant's manager said more than 80 minutes of video were missing.

    Manager Jay Darshane said officers spent more than three hours at the restaurant that night, and the new images appear to support his story. Were the officers gathering evidence or tampering with evidence? The answer to that question is not clear, but we do know this:

    * A police official originally had said McDonald lunged at officers with a knife, but video shows that did not happen.

    * According to Raw Story, before McDonald’s family could even file a lawsuit, the city gave them a $5 million settlement on the condition that the family agreed not to publicly release the dashcam footage of the teen’s death. After suppressing the video for 13 months, the city received a court order to release the footage.

    Does that sound like a police department that believes in transparency? Not exactly. But journalists are pushing for information anyway, led by Brandon Smith, who publishes the blog muckrakery! In an article yesterday at The Daily Beast, Smith said his efforts to shine light on the McDonald case are ongoing:

    I’m the journalist who sued Chicago and won the release of the video that showed Laquan being shot to death 16 times on Oct. 20, 2014. But I’m not stopping there. With the help of attorneys, I’m continuing my Freedom of Information Act request of the city to release officer statements made to investigators, emails from city officials, and more. The public needs to know what as many as eight officers did immediately after the shooting, as well as how the department handled what should’ve been plainly seen as murder by one of its own officers that night.

    Raw Story provided information about the minutes leading to the fatal encounter with police in Chicago:

    Surrounded by officers and suspected of breaking into cars on October 20, 2014, Laquan McDonald, 17, was attempting to walk away from a group of Chicago cops when Officer Jason Van Dyke exited his patrol car. According to initial reports, McDonald was armed with a knife and lunged at Officer Van Dyke. Fearing for his life and the lives of his fellow officers, Van Dyke shot the teen in the chest out of self-defense.

    But according to witness statements and police dashcam video, McDonald was walking away when Van Dyke opened fire. After McDonald had collapsed to the ground in a near-fetal position, Van Dyke continued firing his weapon until emptying his clip. As Van Dyke began reloading his gun, a fellow officer had to order him to cease firing at the dying teen.

    McDonald’s autopsy revealed that Van Dyke shot him 16 times, including two bullets in the back, seven in his arms, two in his right leg, once on each side of his chest, and single bullets wounds to his right hand, scalp, and neck. Nine of the 16 entrance wounds had a downward trajectory. None of the five other officers at the scene fired their weapons.

    What about the case here in Springfield, Missouri, where deputies brutalized my wife, Carol, and left her with a shattered left arm--as Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott watched from a few feet away? We've shown that Arnott's first instincts were to lie and cover up--falsely claiming that Carol had assaulted a police officer and ordering her arrested and taken to the county jail. Carol was told that she faced felony charges and a likely $100,000 bond, and that only changed when X-rays showed her arm had been severely broken just above the elbow, suggesting she was the victim, not the perpetrator, of an assault.

    We've also shown that officers had no lawful grounds to be on the property that day because the eviction was unlawfully scheduled and was stayed by our Notice of Appeal filed the day before.

    My guess is that the police dishonesty is just beginning in Carol's case. For example, we've seen evidence that officers concocted a claim that I had placed a 911 call, threatening any officers who attempted to evict us. I never made any such call, but comments on the scene that day indicate officers used their belief in such a "call" to justify acting like a SWAT team, pointing an assault rifle and multiple handguns at us as they burst into our apartment.

    Scott Harrison, the deputy who drove Carol to jail, said he had heard the 911 call, and it had been traced to our phone and our apartment. That is impossible, but we will see what an investigation turns up.

    Would cops lie to cover up their own misconduct--in Illinois, Missouri, or anywhere else? Here is video about the Laquan McDonald story that suggests a disturbing answer to that question:

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    An astonishing array of corporate, legal, and institutional entities in Alabama have employees who engaged the services of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site.

    In fact, one of the biggest names on the Alabama corporate scene--Harbert Management Corporation--has a top executive on the AM list. So does Liberty National. Hoar Construction, Royal Cup, Southern Company, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Cadence Bank are among a long list of Alabama companies with employees who have paying AM accounts.

    Research shows a similar number of high-level executives in Missouri have been AM customers. We will take a look at those in an upcoming post.

    How is any work getting done these days in corporate America?

    Alabama and Missouri are where I've lived over the past two years, so we have focused on those two states. In fact, we've focused primarily on the Birmingham metro area in Alabama and the Ozarks region surrounding Springfield in southwest Missouri.

    Even with fairly limited research parameters, due to the massive size of the Ashley Madison files, it becomes quickly apparent that huge numbers of wealthy, powerful, connected, and seemingly smart individuals were stupid enough to fall for what easily should have been seen as a Web-based scam.

    The Alabama AM customers we've found by name are overwhelmingly male. In fact, one researcher estimated that AM had 1,500 active female users, compared to about 20 million men. In other words, huge numbers of men were in hot pursuit of affairs with women who, by and large, did not exist. And many of the men who were stupid enough to fall for this con have high-paying jobs (in some cases, extremely high-paying jobs) at prominent companies and institutions.

    Who are some of those big-time employers? Let's look first at a sampling from Alabama, and we will publish a similar list from Missouri soon.

    It's important for readers to know that this is based on a very small sample size in both states. We know, for example, that Alabama has roughly 8,000 paid AM users--and that is the list we have searched so far. But the state has roughly 220,000 total AM users, so there is much, much more data to be explored.

    Alabama companies or institutions that are home to Ashley Madison customers

    * Harbert Management

    * Sterne Agee

    * Royal Cup

    * BBVA Compass

    * Hoar Construction

    * Capstone Collegiate Communities

    * ACIPCO

    * Royal Automotive

    Harbert Management Corporation is one of the many
    Alabama companies with at least one high-level
    executive on the Ashley Madison list.
    * UAB

    * Nowlin and Associates

    * HealthSouth

    * Southern Company

    * Cadence Bank

    * Blue Cross/Blue Shield

    * Pangea Two

    * Protective Life

    * Raytheon

    * Wells Fargo

    * Daimler

    * Regions Bank

    * Western Steel

    * Birmingham-Southern College

    * Bhate Engineering

    * Liberty National

    * BioHorizons

    * Bradley Arant law firm

    * Wiggins Childs law firm

    * Cabaniss Johnston Gardner law firm

    * Lightfoot Franklin White law firm

    * Ogletree Deakins law firm

    * SEC Network

    * LAH Commercial Real Estate

    * Gentle Sexton Turner law firm

    * ReMax

    * U.S. Steel

    * Bromberg's

    * Cochran law firm

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    Laquan McDonald, on a Chicago street, seconds before
    cops shot him 16 times.
    Five Chicago police officers who witnessed the Laquan McDonald shooting say the 17-year-old lunged threateningly at them before Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot him, according to documents the city released Friday night. That differs from events in a video released last week, which shows McDonald walking away from officers before being shot 16 times.

    Were officers honestly mistaken about what they saw or was this part of an orchestrated campaign to lie and cover up for what now appears to be a gross misuse of deadly force?

    If this was an effort to intentionally lie--and we suspect it was--it raises a number of troubling questions for my wife, Carol, and me, here in our current "home" of Springfield, Missouri. Carol is recovering from trauma surgery required to repair her left arm, which was shattered during an unlawful eviction that Greene County deputies conducted on September 9. Sheriff Jim Arnott was standing about five feet away when three of his deputies surrounded Carol as she was trying to retrieve our cat's litter box, slamming her to the ground and yanking on her arms so severely that both were badly bruised and one was broken to the point that the humerus almost came through the skin.

    How unlawful was the eviction? The public record shows officers had no grounds to be at our rented property that day, much less to handcuff us both, rough us up, point weapons (including an assault rifle) at us, and break Carol's arm.

    Before we were forced to leave Alabama, largely because of a dubious foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham, I was arrested and spent five months in the Shelby County Jail--all because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation lawsuit that was unlawful under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. Research indicates I'm the only journalist in U.S. history to be incarcerated under such circumstances.

    In brutalizing Carol, Missouri cops have made statements--before, during, and after the event--that we know are false. Arnott immediately pointed at Carol and said, "She assaulted a police officer." This was laughably contrary to the facts and the law (more about Missouri law on this subject coming soon), but a Deputy named Scott Harrison drove Carol--with her broken arm handcuffed behind her--to the Greene County Jail and said she was facing a felony charge, with likely a $100,000 bond.

    We've also seen evidence that officers concocted a claim that I had placed a 911 call, threatening any officers who attempted to evict us. I never made any such call, but comments on the scene that day indicate officers used their belief in such a "call" to justify acting like a SWAT team, pointing an assault rifle and multiple handguns at us as they burst into our apartment.

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm, borken by
    Missouri deputies.
    Is flagrant dishonesty part of police culture? Consider this from a Chicago Tribune report on the McDonald shooting:

    Hundreds of pages of newly released Chicago police reports from the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald are most striking for one simple reason: They are dramatically at odds with the dash-cam video that has sparked protests across the city, cost the city's top cop his job and embroiled Mayor Rahm Emanuel in scandal.

    The reports, released by the city late Friday, show that Officer Jason Van Dyke and at least five other officers claim that the 17-year-old McDonald moved or turned threateningly toward officers, even though the video of the October 2014 shooting shows McDonald walking away, and the scenario sketched out by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez in charging Van Dyke with murder contends he was walking away as well.

    At least one patrol officer said McDonald was advancing on the officers in a menacing way and swung his knife at them in an "aggressive, exaggerated manner" before he was shot and killed. Officers claimed, too, that even after McDonald had been shot by Van Dyke, the teen tried to lift himself off the ground with the knife pointed toward the officers, and though he had been mortally wounded, still presented a threat.

    The reports, a collection of handwritten statements from the night of the shooting, and follow-up reports in the days and months after, often refer to Van Dyke as VD and call him the victim. McDonald is O, for offender. Some are in police shorthand.

    "VD believed O was attacking w/knife," said a report of Van Dyke's account. "Trying to kill VD. In defense of his life, VD backpedaled + fired. O fell to ground, continued to move/grasp knife. VD continued firing. O appeared to be attempting to get up, still holding knife. Pointing at VD."

    Are these police accounts pure rubbish? We invite you to watch the video at the end of this post and come to your own conclusions.

    Our conclusion is this: Chicago cops intentionally lied to provide cover for Officer Van Dyke,and we suspect a similar campaign of dishonesty is under way here in southwest Missouri to protect the officers who brutalized Carol--one cop in particular who appeared to be mostly responsible for breaking her arm.

    We also suspect that institutional dishonesty was present in my unlawful arrest and incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama. The signs there are unmistakable, and we will address them in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Some of the best-known health-care facilities and law firms in the Ozarks region of southwest Missouri have high-level employees who appear as paying customers at the Ashley Madison (IM) extramarital-affair Web site.

    Also represented on the list . . . an advertising agency with a national footprint and a base in Chicago (Noble Communications), a finance/technology company with locations in roughly 20 states (Jack Henry and Associates), one of the largest mortgage companies in the Midwest (Gershman Mortgage), and two of the area's most vibrant real-estate firms (Murney and Associates and Carol Jones Realtors).

    Health-care facilities represented include Cox Health Center, Mercy Medical Center, Smith Glynn Callaway Clinic, Missouri Eye Institute, and Ferrell Duncan Clinic.

    The legal community is well represented, including Palmer Oliver law firm, Chaney and McCurry law firm, Turner Reid Duncan law firm, Norrid and Robertson law firm, Appleby Healy law firm, Crites law firm, and more.

    Springfield is the third largest city in Missouri, with a population of about 164,000. It's closest comparator in Alabama probably is Huntsville (186,000), with Springfield's economy evolving around health care and education (the city is home to Missouri State University, Drury University, and Evangel University, plus a highly regarded public-schools system), and Huntsville's featuring space-related research, technology, engineering, and the military.

    The business centers of Missouri are Kansas City (467,000) and St. Louis (318,000). The metro St. Louis area of 2.8 million is the state's largest, followed by Kansas City metro at 2.1 million.

    Our research, so far, has focused only on the Ozarks region around Springfield. We will get to St. Louis and Kansas City later, but we already can see a trend that is apparent in Alabama. High-end professionals and executives--lawyers, doctors, bankers, engineers, educators--are big-time users of Ashley Madison services, even though the Web site apparently offers little in the way of actual services.

    Focusing on the Springfield area, here is what our Missouri research shows so far. You might say this is the tip of the Show-Me State's AM iceberg.

    Missouri companies or institutions with one or more Ashley Madison customers

    * Smith Glynn Callaway Clinic

    * Jack Henry and Associates

    * Missouri State University

    * Murney and Associates

    * Noble Counseling

    * Incredible Pizza

    * Norrid and Robertson law firm

    * Cox Health Center

    * Carol Jones Realtors

    * Missouri Eye Institute

    Noble Communications, home to at least one Ashley
    Madison customer in Springfield, MO
    (From iamchrisbrewer.com)
    * Drury University

    * Crites law firm

    * Executive Coach Builders

    * Springfield First Community Bank

    * Palmer Oliver law firm

    * Chaney and McCurry law firm

    * Ferrell Duncan Clinic

    * Turner Reid Duncan law firm

    * Noble Communications

    * Gorman-Scharpf Funeral Home

    * Appleby Healy law firm

    * Gershman Mortgage

    * Mercy Medical Center

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    Ken Curtis, of WTVY
    An Alabama television reporter recently took several swipes at the Web-based press, including our little operation here at Legal Schnauzer. We have no problem with thoughtful, constructive, fact-based criticism, but the piece from Ken Curtis, a senior reporter with WTVY in Dothan, was none of those things. In fact, those who read or viewed his piece likely were less informed about the issues afterward than they were going in.

    We contacted Curtis via e-mail in an effort to set the record straight and maybe even help educate his viewers on important First-Amendment issues. But we haven't heard back from Curtis, or news director Kim Allen, so we can only assume they aren't interested in helping viewers understand a subject that forms the foundation for our democracy.

    Curtis' article is titled "Is Freedom of the Press Too Free These Days?"--an odd title, to be sure, from someone purporting to be a journalist. It's kind of like Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, writing an article titled, "Do Banks Have Too Darned Much Money?"

    Curtis' primary target is the Henry County Report, a blog published by Jon Carroll from his base in southeast Alabama, and its recent investigative series about Dothan police officers and their alleged tendency over the years to plant drugs and weapons on young black males, leading to a series of bogus convictions over roughly a 10-year period. The explosive report garnered considerable attention in both the Web and mainstream press before a number of outlets started questioning Carroll's reporting and largely backed off the story.

    What to make of the report from Carroll's blog? It's too early to say where the story is headed, but we are not going to join the race to distance ourselves from the reporting. Given our experience with corrupt police officers in multiple states (Alabama and Missouri), we would not put much of anything past law-enforcement officers--especially as we learn more about efforts to cover up the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago.

    Rob Riley
    From a journalistic standpoint, Carroll published an article two days ago ("Victims Come Forward and Describe Dothan’s Narcotics Team Terrorizing the Black Community for Years") that appears to provide solid support for his original report.

    As for Legal Schnauzer, WTVY's Mr. Curtis could not resist taking a bone-headed shot at us. It's based on our coverage of the relationship between Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley (son of former governor Bob Riley) and lobbyist Liberty Duke, which led to my five-month incarceration in the Shelby County Jail after Riley and Duke filed a defamation lawsuit. Here are Curtis' words on the subject, with a reference to heat that the Henry County Report and Jon Carroll have generated:

    Some have threatened lawsuits against Carroll for false reporting though, to our knowledge, none have been filed. However, the man behind the Alabama-based website Legal Schnauzer was recently jailed for several months after refusing to remove unproven reports involving the son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley.

    A reasonable person could read that paragraph and come to the following conclusions:

    * Journalists are incarcerated all the time because of defamation lawsuits; it's a regular thing, an "occupational hazard" for reporters, you might say;

    * My incarceration was proper, based solidly on provisions of law that provide such a remedy for those who claim they have been the victims of false and defamatory reporting.;

    Both of  those conclusions, of course, are wildly off target. The imprisonment of journalists in defamation cases almost never happens--and our research shows I probably am the only journalist in U.S. history to be jailed under circumstances present in the Riley/Duke case--because of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that are contrary to 230 years of First Amendment law.

    Liberty Duke
    More importantly, no U.S. law exists to support my incarceration. In fact, Near v. Minnesota (U.S. Supreme Court, 1931), considered the "foundational" 20th century case on the subject, specifically prohibits such preliminary injunctions as "prior restraints."

    Did Ken Curtis bother to clue in his readers on any of this? Not in the original article. Does he intend to correct the record, based on accurate information I sent him? Doesn't look like it.

    That leaves me to take matters into my own hands, which I will do by sharing the e-mail that WTVY apparently does not want you to see.

    (To be continued)

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
    Your IP : - Country : - City:
    Your ISP TRACKS Your Online Activity! Hide your IP ADDRESS with a VPN!
    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    Ken Curtis, of WTVY in Dothan
    How could a journalist be blindingly ignorant of First Amendment law, which to a great degree forms the foundation for his profession? If the journalist is not up to speed on the First Amendment, how could he be so lazy as to not even attempt to research the subject before reporting on it?

    Those are some of the questions that come to mind in the wake of a piece by Ken Curtis, senior reporter at WTVY in Dothan, Alabama, which trashed Web-based journalism in general--and Legal Schnauzer, in particular.

    In taking a swipe at our coverage of the relationship between Republican lawyer/politico Rob Riley (son of former governor Bob Riley) and lobbyist Liberty Duke, Curtis proves that he knows zero about the facts surrounding the case--and maybe even sub-zero about the relevant law.

    We sent an e-mail to Curtis, in a good-faith effort to set the record straight and hopefully help educate his viewers on a subject that is pretty darned important under the U.S. Constitution. But Curtis has not responded, so we can only assume that he is not in the business of enlightening the masses.

    That leaves us to take matters into our own hands by sharing the e-mail that lays out facts and law with which Curtis obviously is not familiar. Here is the missive we sent to Mr. Curtis, with a copy to his boss, news director Kim Allen, at 2:42 p.m. on December 7:

    Mr. Curtis:

    I write the blog Legal Schnauzer, which you noted in the above-referenced article. Here is the notation about my blog:

    "Some have threatened lawsuits against Carroll for false reporting though, to our knowledge, none have been filed. However, the man behind the Alabama-based website Legal Schnauzer was recently jailed for several months after refusing to remove unproven reports involving the son of former Alabama governor Bob Riley."

    I think you should know the following:

    * I have a bachelor's degree in journalism (B.J., 1978, University of Missouri), with more than 35 years of professional experience in the field. The defamation lawsuit that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed against me in fall 2013 was the first such case in my career.

    * First Amendment law in the U.S. requires that defamation cases must be heard at trial, by a jury, to ensure that a single judge does not, in essence, act as a one-man censor. The Riley/Duke case against me never went to trial, never was heard by a jury. A judge (Claud Neilson), in fact, acted as one-man censor, contrary to law--and he did it in a case where there was no discovery. Riley and Duke never sat for depositions, never answered interrogatories, never turned over documents--they did nothing to prove their case in an adversarial setting.

    * Your piece implies that it's common practice for reporters to be jailed in defamation cases. In fact, there is no provision of law for incarceration under such circumstances. It appears that I am the only journalist in U.S. history to be imprisoned because of a preliminary injunction that is expressly forbidden by Near v. Minnesota (U.S. Supreme Court, 1931), which is considered the "foundational" case of the 20th century on the subject.

    * My reporting never has been found false and defamatory at trial. In other words, Riley and Duke did not come close to meeting their burden of proof. I gave up five months of my freedom for practicing journalism and writing a story that has not been proven to be anything other than true.

    * Rob Riley has made no statement under oath that my reporting was false. As a lawyer, he could face serious repercussions for making a false statement under oath.

    Please accept this as a formal request for an interview, so that you and I can shine light on the actual facts and law surrounding the Riley/Duke case. I think it would be a great idea for you to also interview Rob Riley and Liberty Duke and their respective attorneys (Jay Merrill, of Birmingham, and Christina Crow, of Union Springs). In fact, I would love to take part in a televised panel discussion, if your station is willing to host such an event.

    As it stands now, you have given the public a wildly skewed and inaccurate portrayal of what took place in the Riley/Duke case. I submit that it's important to set the record straight, and I would welcome the opportunity to do so.

    Best regards,

    Roger Shuler

    Three key takeaway points from all of this?

    (1) The Riley/Duke lawsuit, contrary to law, never went to trial and never went before a jury. Judge Claud Neilson violated federal law by acting as one-man censor.

    (2) My reporting was not proven false or defamatory at trial; there was no trial. Riley/Duke never came close to meeting their burden of proving my posts were false.

    (3) There are no provisions under state or federal law for a preliminary injunction in a defamation case, which could lead to incarceration of a journalist for writing a story that has not been proven to be anything other than true.

    Liberty Duke
    (4) Even Rob Riley has not made a sworn statement claiming my reporting was false--no affidavit, no answer to an interrogatory, no answer to adversarial questions in a deposition or open court. Nothing, nada, zilch. Riley's own actions indicate the story is true.

    Finally, I am absolutely serious about the highlighted section above. I dearly would love to be involved in a panel discussion about the Riley/Duke case. My incarceration drew international news coverage, and while many of the stories were solid and well reported, I'm not sure any of them has fully explained that my treatment was so grossly unlawful that . . . well, it should make any constitutional scholar want to vomit. Heck, it should make any sentient citizen want to puke.

    So I hereby challenge Rob Riley and Liberty Duke, and their attorneys Jay Murrill and Christina Crow, to a panel discussion--hosted and televised live by WTVY, of Dothan. Heck, Ken Curtis can even serve as moderator, and I would be glad to help him get boned up on the relevant facts and law in advance.

    What are the chances that any of the individuals above will take up this challenge? I will keep you posted.

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    Legal Schnauzer is the only journalism site spotlighted in a national feature story about fallout from a hack of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site.

    Fusion.net published the story, titled "Scared, dead, relieved: How the Ashley Madison hack changed its victims’ lives," on Wednesday (December 9). Fusion is a multi-platform media company that is a joint venture between ABC Television Group, the Walt Disney Company, and Univision Communications. Launched in 2013, it includes standard television distribution, along with Web and mobile platforms.

    Reporter Kristen V. Brown, who has been covering the AM hack since the story broke in August, focuses primarily on the personal repercussions for those whose names appear on lists that have been published at various Web sites.

    For a perspective about news coverage on the story, Brown turns to our blog. We've published roughly a dozen posts on the Ashley Madison story, focusing mostly on our recent home bases of Alabama and Missouri. We broke the stories that Alabama AM participants include Bradley Arant lawyer (and son-in-law of former governor Bob Riley) Rob Campbell, al.com reporter Charles J. "Chuck" Dean, and former U.S. Congressman Artur Davis.

    We plan many more AM posts, based on our research that shows prominent, highly paid professionals and executives are among the most frequent users of the site--at least in Alabama and Missouri.

    Brown interviewed me last Friday and asked mainly about my motivations for covering the story. I told her that I have a bachelor's degree in journalism (B.J., 1978, University of Missouri), with more than 30 years of professional experience in the field, and I consider this an important story on multiple levels. It's a technology story, a privacy (or lack of privacy) story, a psychology story, a sociology story, a religion story, and (perhaps of most importance to me) a class story.

    Kristen V. Brown
    My research has focused on "elites," and I told Brown that I've been amazed at the number of lawyers, doctors, scientists, computer programmers, wealth managers, engineers, CEOs, corporate vice presidents, and other seemingly bright individuals who were stupid enough to sign up for what (in my view) should have been seen as a scam right off the bat. From Brown's article:

    Roger Shuler, a Missouri blogger, used his site, Legal Schnauzer, to out a prominent attorney and a local journalist in his former home state of Alabama, as well as the names of local companies who had executives with names on the list.

    “It’s of interest to the public,” he told me, assuring me he would never print the name of “just some guy who runs an auto parts store.”

    While people use Ashley Madison for all kinds of reasons—in open relationships, for example, or to mentally escape abusive ones—Shuler had a hard time accepting that people might use the site for any reason other than a lack of moral character.

    “I’ve been married for 26 years and I treat marriage seriously,” he said. “I’m just amazed that in this country where people seem to trumpet their Christian values we treat christian marriage so shabbily. A lot of people on the Alabama list are people who make judgments about us all the time, so it’s relevant to expose what kind of judgement they use themselves.”

    Brown notes that the story has grown particularly firm legs in the supposedly conservative South--and my interest grew because the Alabama list includes numerous immediately recognizable names. My guess is that the most prominent names self-identify as "pro family" Republicans. Writes Brown:

    In the U.S., at least, the worst of the fallout seemed to happen in the south, where small community websites and blogs published the names of locals who used the site. Sometimes they were organized by zip code, making cheating neighbors especially easy to find. In Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, conservative Southern politics, religion and the nature of close-knit rural culture turned the internet into a small-town pillory.

    In Hartselle, Alabama, Mayor Don Hall was forced to resign despite denying ever having used the site. The names of many public officials (like President Barack Obama, for one) appeared in the leak even though they weren’t users, because Ashley Madison didn’t require that users verify e-mail addresses before creating an account.

    Brown provides important perspective on the fallout:

    Among the rubble of the Ashley Madison hack, I’ve counted at least three suicides, two toppled family values evangelists, one ousted small-town mayor, a disgraced state prosecutor and countless stories of extortion and divorce. The blast radius of a database dump, it seems, is very large indeed. . . .

    Tom*, a 65-year-old user in Nebraska told me that he paid off blackmailers after receiving one of the many e-mails threatening to out users to their spouse.

    An East Coast woman who had found her husband in the leak and considered divorcing him said that the hack ultimately helped repair a long-widening chasm in their marriage that neither of them had addressed. He told her he signed up before they got married and never bought the credits necessary to send messages to women, a claim I was able to help her verify in looking at his transaction records.

    One person I talked to found their father in the hack, affirming long-held suspicions that he was a cheater. Another user said that after contemplating suicide, he decided to come clean to his wife, and that she forgave him. Yet another, who has lost 13 pounds since the hack due to stress, was now hopeful after his wife agreed to marriage counseling.

    Other suspected post-hack outcomes, like the Pentagon cracking down on members of the military who used the site given adultery being a crime, never materialized. But, unlike the leak itself, most of the aftermath unfolded behind closed bedroom doors. Its full effect is difficult to discern.

    I agree with Brown on that. One question that has gone unanswered: Why has Ashley Madison, and its tag line "Life is short, have an affair," been so attractive to upper-class, mostly white, professional men?

    One might think that such individuals would be too savvy or busy to get involved with a shady outfit like Ashley Madison. (The site's whole purpose is to perpetuate cheating, so why should customers be surprise when the company cheats them by failing to protect their data?) You also might think that, with more assets than the average person to lose in a divorce, the well-to-do would be uber careful about getting involved.

    But our research indicates that is not the case. And we think that story needs to be told.

    Is it possible that quite a few people who help run major companies and institutions have more money and power than common sense? Is it possible they have too much time on their hands? If they are willing to cheat on their spouses, and possibly heap embarrassment on their children, how are they likely to treat customers?

    We will examine all of those questions, and more, in upcoming posts.

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    Laquan McDonald, on a Chicago street, seconds before
    cops shot him 16 times.
    When one of their own needs protection against allegations of misconduct, police officers can turn to the kind of fudges and squirms that constitute relatively normal lies--or they can produce monumental whoppers.

    We know that from following the Laquan McDonald shooting in Chicago. And we suspect it because of the wrongful eviction that left my wife with a broken arm, courtesy of a Greene County sheriff's deputy in Springfield, Missouri, plus the actions of Alabama deputies that led to my unlawful five-month incarceration in 2013-14.

    We will take a closer look at the law-enforcement lies emanating from our Missouri and Alabama experiences in upcoming posts. Those posts specifically will focus on the words and actions of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott in Missouri and deputies Mike DeHart and Chris Blevins in Missouri.

    But first, let's look at the outrageous nature of police dishonesty in the McDonald case. Thanks to video produced because of a free-lance journalist's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, we know cops lied when they claimed McDonald was coming toward them before Officer Jason Van Dyke fatally shot the 17-year-old--firing 16 shots, many of them at a downward trajectory, indicating McDonald was on the ground as Van Dyke kept shooting. In fact, the video shows, McDonald was walking away from officers.

    But a recent Chicago Tribune story, about hundreds of pages of documents the city finally released in the McDonald case, shows that cops can lie with reckless impunity when they feel backed into a corner. Consider this from the Tribune article about statements from cops on the scene of the McDonald shooting:

    As is the case with all police shootings, supervisors and union officials came to the scene. Just hours later, the reports suggest the direction the investigation was headed when the department made a preliminary finding that Van Dyke was justified in shooting McDonald.

    One report states that three officers were "battered" by McDonald. Another lists Van Dyke as having been injured.

    "Based upon information available at the time of this report it is the preliminary determination of the undersigned that Officer Van Dyke fired his weapon in compliance with Department policy. Officer Van Dyke fired his weapon in fear of his life when the offender while armed with a knife continued to approach and refused all verbal direction," Deputy Chief David McNaughton wrote in a report.

    Does the video show that McDonald battered three officers, that Van Dyke was injured, and that McDonald continued to approach officers with a knife? Not even close. But the lunacy from officer reports does not end there. In December 2014, based on the reports, the department officially classified the McDonald shooting as a "justifiable homicide." From the Tribune article:

    "McDonald committed aggravated assault against the three officers, finally forcing Officer Van Dyke, in defense of his life, to shoot and kill McDonald," according to a report of that determination.

    Again and again in reports, Van Dyke's account is supported by the other officers at the scene, each one describing the teen as a threat to the veteran cop. Four officers claimed that McDonald advanced toward Van Dyke, even though the video shows him walking away. Two others said he turned or raised an arm toward him.

    Aggravated assault? Van Dyke was in defense of his life? The video shows none of that.

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm, shattered
    by a Missouri deputy
    Would it be appropriate, borrowing a crude phrase, to call these cops "no good, lying bastards"? We invite you to watch the video below and come to your own conclusion.

    The report provides a glimpse at the kind of disdain some cops have for the public they supposedly are protecting. From the Tribune:

    How police viewed the shooting, though, was clear. In the report that closed the investigation, filed in March, a detective offered this terse assessment.

    "Criminal attacked officer," the report says, "that officer killed criminal."

    Never mind that the video shows McDonald did not attack anyone, that he was walking away when Van Dyke shot him 16 times.

    Meanwhile, the cops who wrote these bogus reports might wind up paying a high price, according to the Tribune:

    With the video of the shooting as a backdrop, the reports — the first detailed accounts from the officers at the scene — offer a way to examine what Van Dyke and his colleagues say happened. Because they diverge so dramatically from the video, they suggest one possible avenue for additional investigation.

    Federal officials also are investigating the shooting. A federal grand jury investigation has involved more than 80 witnesses and branched into possible obstruction of justice by the officers at the scene, sources told the Tribune. In particular, the sources said, federal prosecutors are investigating the officers who made statements as well as the officers who prepared the reports of the statements.

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    Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott
    That a Missouri deputy would assault and shatter the left arm of a 55-year-old woman--my wife, Carol--might seem outrageous enough. But a review of court documents shows that events leading to Carol's broken arm were almost as disturbing as the brutal nature of the attack itself.

    What might be called Missouri's "justice apparatus"--lawyers from multiple firms, a judge, a sheriff, even a landlord--acted so far outside the rule of law that it almost makes Alabama's dysfunctional court system seem quaint by comparison.

    Do concepts found in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution--due process, equal protection, etc.--mean anything, anywhere, in this country. I'm starting to think the answer is no.

    Carol's arm was broken--so badly that it required trauma surgery and probably will return only to 75 percent usage, at best (see X-ray below)--in the course of an attempted eviction. But court documents show that Missouri tenant-landlord law was butchered in the process, bringing to mind the kind of "justice" portrayed in the Smokey and the Banditmovies.

    How sour was our first taste of Missouri "justice"? Two documents that I prepared--neither of which drew written opposition from an opposing party--spell it out. First, we'll look at a Motion to Quash Execution, which was filed in Greene County Circuit Court at 11:54 a.m. on September 8, 2015, the day before the eviction was scheduled. (The full motion can be read at the end of this post.) What are the document's key points?

    The court had no jurisdiction over the defendants, Carol and me

    If you rent property in Missouri and ever have a dispute with a landlord, you quickly will realize the playing field is grossly unlevel in the other guy's favor. Missouri has a special system for tenant-landlord cases where certain niceties that apply to most cases--the need for personal service of defendants, 30 days to respond with an answer, having a counterclaim heard at the same time as the plaintiff's complaint, etc.--are largely ignored. If a tenant association got together and challenged the Missouri system in federal court, the whole shebang almost certainly would be found grossly unconstitutional. (That could be the subject for a post all of its own.)

    How did this loosey-goosey system play out in our case. We never were personally served with the complaint, but in tenant-landlord cases, Missouri allows a "posting-mailing" form of service. (See RSMo. 535.030(2).) This lets a landlord "serve" a tenant by posting the complaint on the door, and he can get away with just that . . . almost. But the pesky "mailing" component of the service process remains. This hurdle is so low that a 300-pound snail should be able to clear it. But the Missouri court--and the lawyers involved--were so inept that they could not clear it. The docket (which you can find by going to case.net and searching for "Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler") shows that the complaint never was sent via U.S. mail, as required by the second portion of the "posting-mailing" scheme.

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm
    This means lawful service never was completed, and Missouri courts (in theory) take that seriously. The law holds: "Proper service of process must be accomplished before a court can obtain jurisdiction over the person or property of defendant."Reisinger v. Reisinger 39 S.W. 3d 80 (Mo. App. E.D., 2001). 

    But the law does not stop there. Missouri courts also have held: "[A] personal judgment rendered by a court without personal jurisdiction over a defendant is void and may be attacked collaterally."Crouch v. Crouch, 641 S.W. 2d 86 (Mo., 1982).

    Bottom line? The Greene County Court had no jurisdiction over us, and Judge Kelly Halford Rose's order to allow the eviction was void.

    A deputy broke Carol's arm because of an order that was void--and every judge, lawyer, and sheriff involved should have known that. My motion spelled it out well in advance of the eviction.

    How, for example, did Gregory Lulich, attorney (from the Lowther Johnson law firm) for landlord Trent Cowherd, not know this? It isn't complicated. Public records show that Craig Lowther, the firm's named partner, is quite the landlord himself, but he doesn't have a clue about tenant-landlord law? Does Lowther abuse his own tenants while encouraging Trent Cowherd to do the same?

    The Notice of Eviction did not appear to be signed by a judge

    An eviction can only be carried out under the authority of a court; it's not something a tenant and a sheriff can effectuate on their own--I believe this is the case in all 50 states. Even Missouri seems to recognize that an eviction is a serious matter--one that is ripe for abuse--and must be authorized by a judge. (See RSMo. 534.350.)

    The eviction notice that was attached to our door did not appear to be signed by a judge--either by Kelly Halford Rose or anyone else. I scoured it from one corner to another and could not find anything that looked like a judge's signature. Could I have missed it? That's possible, but at this point, I believe the eviction notice was not signed by a judge, as required by law.

    Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was on hand for our eviction--Why? I have no idea--and as I tried to explain to him that we had filed a Notice of Appeal that put an automatic stay on execution of the eviction, he shrugged his shoulders and uttered the sheriff's usual phrase, "Well, I've got a court order."

    "Is it signed by a judge?" I asked. "The notice that was attached to our door did not appear to be signed by a judge." (Our copy of the notice, like much of our important paperwork, was lost in the chaos of the eviction process. It should be in the official court file.)

    "Well, it's in my car," Arnott said.

    "Can I see it?"

    "I'll show it to you before I leave."

    Did I ever get to see it? Nope--Arnott's deputies were too busy brutalizing my wife.

    The judge was disqualified because she received an improper ex parte communication

    On August 24, one day before the docket hearing in our case, my attorney-brother, David Shuler, sent a letter to the trial judge, Kelly Halford Rose. It was one of the most vile and nasty pieces of correspondence I've seen written about anyone--much less about my wife and me, by my own brother. In so many words, David trashed Carol and me and said he was going to do everything in his power to ensure that landlord Trent Cowherd prevailed in the case, and we lost--no matter what the facts and the law showed.

    Trent Cowherd
    (From Facebook)
    Again, we lost our copy of the letter during the eviction, but it is part of the official docket. (Interestingly, my brother has a duty to serve me as a party in the case, but he has never done it. I've asked him via e-mail three times to serve me with a copy, and he hasn't done it yet.) The letter proves that an attorney who supposedly was in the case to represent our mother actually was striving to help another party, the landlord. In essence, the record suggests, my brother was pulling a con on the court. If that letter was not prejudicial to the point that it required the judge's recusal, I'm not sure what would be. (I plan to have more on this letter in an upcoming post.)

    (When we were growing up together in the same household, I always thought of David as an intelligent, honorable guy--and he could be funny as heck when the time was right. I was proud to have him as my little brother. Apparently all of those positive characteristics, went out the window when one goes to law school. I know my warm feelings toward him have been long gone for a while now.)

    I moved for Rose to recuse herself, and in denying my motion, acted as if she had been accused of being a member of ISIS.

    As for me, I would have preferred having a member of ISIS as a judge--I would take that over Kelly Halford Rose any day. She actually makes some of the Alabama judges I've encountered look honorable and regal by comparison.

    The eviction was unlawfully schedule during a 10-day window when no such action can be lawfully taken

    This probably is the most important legal point of all. And it might be best explained by quoting directly from the Motion to Quash:

    The Notice of Eviction in the instant case indicates eviction is scheduled for 9 a.m. on September 9. That is inside the 10-day period that defendant has to file a notice of appeal that would stay the execution. RSMo. 534.350. The docket shows that judgment was entered in this case on August 31, 2015, and the 10-day period, per Rule 44.01, ends on Sept. 10, 2015. Cowherd is attempting an unlawful eviction, during the 10-day period after judgment when eviction is not allowed. Again, eviction is due to be quashed because it is unlawful.

    What do we learn from all of this?

    * A court issued an order against Carol and me, without having jurisdiction over either of us. That means the court's order was void.

    * We've seen no sign of an eviction order signed by a judge, but it really does not matter because the judge (and the court) had no jurisdiction over us anyway.

    * The judge was disqualified because she received a flagrantly prejudicial ex parte communications.

    * My brother, David Shuler, was not really in the case to represent my mother--Trent Cowherd had no lawful grounds to sue her, and David either knew that or he's one ignorant lawyer. The truth? David was only in the case to help hurt Carol and me--and his letter to Judge Rose proves it. Got to love that family love and support!

    * The eviction was conducted during a 10-day period when it could not lawfully take place.

    Have Carol and I suffered because of all these screw-ups and the intentional malfeasance/corruption? Well, she has a broken arm that likely will never be the same. We both were handcuffed for no valid reason, she was arrested and taken to jail for no valid reason, an undetermined amount of our personal belongings were stolen by members of Cowherd's eviction crew (per an eye witness who saw them take items and place them in their personal vehicles and drive away.)

    Has anyone in my family expressed the slightest concern about the injuries Carol suffered and the trauma we both experienced--I had an assault rifle pointed right at my face? Nope, they still want to have us declared incompetent, although I've heard no news about that case in a while. Has anyone in my family expressed the slightest concern about all of our property that was stolen, thanks to Trent Cowherd's eviction crew? Heck, no. In fact, my brother David has made it clear, in writing, that he backs Trent Cowherd all the way in these proceedings.

    Many Americans see the famous image of lady justice, who is blindfolded as she holds a set of perfectly balanced scales. We see that and maybe feel a sense of pride that such a symbol represents our justice system.

    The next time you see that image, I hope it will cause you to think of this post. Because this describes the real world of American "justice." The system is badly broken in Alabama, and I'm seeing signs that it's every bit as bad in Missouri.

    It's so broken, in fact, that my own brother--with whom I've always gotten along and had a good relationship--has no qualms about stabbing my wife and me right between the shoulder blades. And he's probably helping to provide cover for the individuals who heaped abuse on us.

    At the very least, you might think David Shuler would say something like, "Hey, I know a good attorney who I think could help you, both with the case against the sheriff and landlord in Missouri and against the cops and lawyers who abused you in Alabama. I would be glad to contact him (or her) on your behalf." He has said nothing of the sort--not even anything close to that.

    In law schools around the country, there must be a large trash bin where students are instructed on the first day of class to place their consciences. Once any sign of a moral compass has been sent to the trash compactor--you likely are never to see it again--the student heads to class.

    Three years later, with good luck on the bar exam, a lawyer emerges from the assembly line. But any sign of humanity probably will be gone. I know that's how it's been in my family.

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    (From Al Jazeera)
    A university president, one who has become a nationally known commentator on economic issues, is among customers of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affairs Web site in Missouri. The list for Missouri also includes a former player in the National Football League, who spent six years with the St. Louis Rams and two with the Chicago Bears.

    Those are just two examples of the many bright, accomplished, prominent individuals who were stupid enough to sign up for a Web site that should have been readily perceived as a scam.

    The university president is not your standard low-key, ivory-tower type. He has deep international interests, with connections to China, Thailand, Ghana, Nigeria, and several parts of Europe. Before accepting his current position, this individual served as business dean at a university in St. Louis. The business school is named for an individual from one of America's most prominent political families. While there, the dean was named one of the areas "Most Influential Leaders" by the St. Louis Business Journal.

    An expert on building corporate alliances, this academic leader forged relationships with Boeing, Bank of America, Edward Jones, Monsanto, Wal-Mart and Thomas Reuters. Those are some of the biggest names in the Missouri business firmament. The university president also serves as vice chair of the board at a capital-finance company that manages more than $3 billion in assets.

    If you follow business news closely, you probably have seen this individual. He has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, the CBS Evening News, and St. Louis affiliates for FOX, ABC and NBC. His commentaries have appeared in USA TODAY and on public radio’s Marketplace. He consults for leading Fortune 500 companies in the areas of strategy, leadership, corporate responsibility and market positioning. He is a former consultant to the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

    As for the football player, you have to be a pretty special talent to spend eight years in the NFL, and this guy probably would have played longer if he had not been hampered by hand, knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries. A linebacker, he led the St. Louis Rams in tackles three years in a row and showed so much promise that the team signed him to a five-year, $24.7-million contract extension.

    In other words, this guy was not just a spare part. He was close to becoming a star and Pro Bowl performer until injuries got in the way.

    Our research on the Ashley Madison list for Missouri is ongoing, and we are looking into specifics about AM account activity for the university president and former NFL standout. We will hold off on full identifiers until our research is complete, but that (and much more) is coming soon about the sleazy Web site that ensnared a host of well-heeled clients, who should have known better than to get involved.

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
    Your IP : - Country : - City:
    Your ISP TRACKS Your Online Activity! Hide your IP ADDRESS with a VPN!
    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    John and Christi Gibson
    (From theblaze.com)
    A Louisiana pastor who committed suicide after his name appeared in data at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site had a history of emotional problems, his wife says in a recent report about fallout from the highly publicized hack.

    John Gibson, a teacher at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, killed himself on or about August 24, roughly six days after his name appeared on a list of Ashley Madison (AM) customers released by a hacking group called Impact Team. A number of suicides, including two in Canada, have been linked to the AM hack, but reporting has been murky on most of the cases. The death of John Gibson marks by far the most widely and solidly reported suicide tied to Ashley Madison revelations.

    In an article published last week, fusion.net reporter Kristen V. Brown wrote that Gibson had suffered from a number of addiction problems for years--some of them apparently related to sex. Gibson's wife, Christi, says her husband died, not from the hack, but from a life that had become shrouded in secrecy and false appearances. From the Fusion article:

    Christi Gibson lost her husband, a New Orleans pastor, after his name was released in the leak. John Gibson had long struggled with sex addiction and depression. She only discovered her husband’s presence on the site upon reading the note she found along with his body. In it, he confessed his feelings of deep shame and remorse.

    After her husband’s suicide, Gibson agreed to interviews with nearly every media outlet that called. She was on a mission to prevent secrets from having the power to destroy people’s lives. If her husband had been honest, she reasoned, he would probably still be alive.

    “My life was shattered by secrecy and lies — not by the hack,” she wrote me via e-mail.

    In her view, the problem isn’t so much that hackers unleashed stores of sensitive information, but that any of us keep secrets from one another in the first place.

    Christi Gibson provided more details in an interview with The Washington Post:

    For 25 of their almost 30 years of marriage, Gibson and her husband struggled with his sex addiction. She knew that he struggled and had relapsed over and over again. She did not know that he had used Ashley Madison until she read his suicide note, however. In it, her husband talked about his depression and his deep remorse and shame over having his name be among those found in the adultery Web site’s database.

    “He struggled with addiction and with depression and those were two things that he couldn’t — as much as he was willing to help other people and do for other people — he couldn’t conceive that somebody would help him and do it for him in that kind of situation,” Christi said. “The shame of this really was just more than what he could take.”

    Christi Gibson has become an outspoken advocate for truth in relationships. It was her husband's secrecy, more than the hack, that led to his death, she says. From the Post article:

    As a minister and a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the possibility that his secret life might have been exposed in the leak was simply too much.

    And it was for that reason that Gibson and her children decided to go public with their family’s once-private shame and tragedy.

    “The shame is in the secrecy and the hiddenness and the lie of this,” Gibson said. “Ashley Madison doesn’t advertise, ‘Hey come have an affair and let’s make it public.’ The whole idea, the allure of a site like this, is the anonymity and the darkness and the hiddenness of it.

    “We believe that there’s freedom in the truth,” she added. “If we can speak out and say ‘find a safe person and talk to them, get help with what you’re going through,’ then it doesn’t make our pain go away, but it redeems it.”

    Gibson's ties to the church probably made it more difficult for him to work through his struggles with addiction:

    “I think what happens to someone who is a minister is that they start thinking of themselves as having to be perfect,” Gibson said. “They start believing that in order for them to help others, in order for them to lead others and minister to others, they have to be flawless themselves.

    “It’s wrong thinking,” she added. “Every single story in the Bible of a leader or someone that God really used is a story of someone who is really flawed.”

    So, could she have forgiven him?

    “I think,” she said, pausing for a moment. “And I hope that John and I would have been able to work through this together had he come to me and said, ‘I’ve done this. I’m so sorry. Can we work through this together?’ I’ll never know because he didn’t let me do that.

    “I don’t want to get out here and say, ‘Oh yeah, I could have forgiven it,’ and make myself look like a person who can do anything, because I don’t know,” she added. “I hope and pray that I would have been able to forgive because in the past, God’s given me the grace to be able to do that.”

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    A Missouri man has filed an excessive-force lawsuit after a dash-cam video showed Kansas City police officers punching him multiple times during an arrest.

    The beating of Manuel Palacio, starkly portrayed in the video above, is the closest thing we've seen to the brutality against my wife Carol during an unlawful eviction--which also happened in Missouri, in Springfield, at the hands of deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department. That's not the only ironic twist with this story. Missouri also was home to an August 2014 police shooting--killing Michael Brown in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson--that touched off a string of misconduct cases across the country.

    Palacio was wanted in a case of armed robbery and wound up pleading guilty to theft; he's now serving a five-year prison term. But the video shows he did not resist officers and complied with their commands.

    Tom Porto, Palacio's attorney, said his client was not armed. Officers Shannon Hansen, Jacob Harris and Todd Hall punched, kicked, and spit on Palacio, taunting him with numerous verbal threats, Porto said. Release of the dash-cam video has sparked a criminal investigation Here's how the Web site copblock.org describes the actions of police:

    The dash cam starts with officers bumping Palacio, who was walking down the street, with their cruiser. One of the officers jumped out of the cruiser with his gun drawn and orders Palacio to the ground. After he complies, the officers pile on top of him and one of the officers punches Palacio three times in the head.

    Throughout the entire arrest Palacio maintains he didn’t do anything, still the officers physically abuse and verbally berate him. Most of what they say is so depraved that it makes you wonder if these are public servants or members of a violent street gang.One of the officers, either Harris or Todd repeats over and over again “You’re bought and paid for, you’re done dude.”

    Officer Hansen then threatens to give his family’s information to the victim.

    "You’re not only going to get an ass whooping from us, but you’re getting it from him,” Hansen said, while pointing to the robbery victim’s father, who was also on scene. “I’m giving him your address, your mom’s fucking address and everybody’s address that you know and I hope his family comes over and takes a fucking ball bat to your fucking head.”

    Another of the officers threatened to send Palacio to the hospital if he didn’t stop talking.

    "You sit there and you don’t open your fucking mouth, you understand? Otherwise, you are going to the hospital."

    Brian Sumner, writing at CopBlock, was mystified by the officers' behavior:

    I’m not entirely sure what these cops were so angry about, it wasn’t like Palacio had victimized them personally. In fact, their behavior should raise questions about the effectiveness of police as mediators. They didn’t even ask for Manual’s ID before pointing guns, shouting orders, and becoming physical.

    The video shows Palacio did everything the cops say you’re supposed to if you want to survive a police interaction.

    He didn’t call them pigs or cuss them out. He followed all of their orders. He never reached for his waistband or made aggressive movements. He did not resist them in any way, shape or form. He remained calm regardless of their assault. Regardless of his compliance, the officers beat and abused Palacio. The lawsuit claims Palacio suffered head and back injuries, as well as emotional distress, as a result of the attack.

    While the video above reminds me of what I saw cops do to Carol during an unlawful eviction in Greene County on September 9, there are a number of differences between the two cases:

    * Palacio was a suspect in a crime, to which he eventually pled guilty, while Carol was not connected to criminality in any way. She was trying to retrieve our cat's litter box--and she had been given permission to enter the apartment to gather our personal belongings--when at least three cops surrounded her and slammed her to the ground.

    Lawyer Tom Porto
    * Police apparently had lawful grounds to be seeking Palacio. They had no lawful grounds to even be at our rented property. The eviction was unlawfully scheduled inside a 10-day window when such actions are not allowed--and it was automatically stayed when we filed a Notice of Appeal the day before, notifying attorneys for all parties involved.

    * Palacio clearly was roughed up, but it appears that he came away from the encounter relatively intact. Carol's left arm was shattered when one cop yanked on her arms in a backward and upward direction. She was handcuffed behind her back, placed in a squad car, and driven to the Greene County Jail after Sheriff Jim Arnott (who inexplicably was on the scene) falsely claimed she had assaulted an officer. Arnott, or someone under his direction, apparently decided such a charge wouldn't make much sense once X-rays showed that Carol's arm had been broken, and both arms were bruised to the point of being purple, almost black in some places.

    Carol's injuries were so severe that they required trauma surgery, plus eight weeks of intensive physical therapy, with the likelihood that her arm will return to only 75 percent of its normal use, at best. On top of that, cops burst into our residence and pointed multiple weapons at us, including at least one assault rifle.

    One similarity between the two cases would almost be comical if it had not been part of gross police misconduct. Officers in the Palacio case are quoted as saying, "You’re bought and paid for, you’re done dude.”

    The officer who broke Carol's arm had a habit of saying almost the same thing, to both of us. Whenever either one of us said anything--often to someone else, not him--this one guy would say, "You're done, you're done." He was almost like one of those artificial clowns who pops up from a jack in the box and says the same phrase over and over.

    Where will the civil and criminal cases wind up in the Palacio matter? It's too early to say, but we can say for sure that Greene County deputies deserve similar scrutiny for their abusive actions against Carol and me.

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    MSNBC talking head Joe Scarborough made headlines the other day by pretending to stand up for a free press while taking offense at Donald Trump's positive statements about Russian president Vladimir Putin.

    Did most viewers know that Scarborough was pulling a con during the interview, which can be seen in the video above? It seems unlikely, so we are here to help shine light on the subject.

    Scarborough, a University of Alabama graduate, took exception during an interview to Trump's chummy assessment of Putin. Putting on his best schoolmarm face, Scarborough tried to set Trump straight about ugliness in Putin's past. "He kills journalists who don't agree with him,""Morning Joe" said.

    But here's what Scarborough did not say: From 2002-10, he consistently trumpeted Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley and his son, Birmingham lawyer Rob Riley. Scarborough and Rob Riley are BFFs from their days together on the UA campus in Tuscaloosa. Never mind that during his father's tenure, Rob Riley essentially was to Alabama what Uday Hussein was to Iraq--except Uday probably had more respect for the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    I'm not aware of "Riley Inc." killing any journalists in Alabama. But they've caused journalists "who don't agree" with them to be cheated out of their jobs--and they've even had journalists unlawfully arrested and incarcerated for up to five months. How do I know? I'm one of the journalists to incur their wrath--and I've lost my job (my wife also has lost her job), and I've been thrown in jail because of it.

    Does Joe Scarborough care when journalists are treated this way in Alabama? Heck, no. When Bob Riley visited the Morning Joe show in early 2011, Scarborough openly touted him as a possible presidential candidate. (Gag . . . cough . . . gag . . . ) In fact, Scarborough gushed so much over the corrupt former governor--with Uday, I mean Rob, waiting in the wings--it almost seemed the host was going to perform a sex act on Bob Riley at any moment.

    Should the public take it seriously when Joe Scarborough tries to portray himself as a champion of a free press? Absolutely not. His ties to the Riley family are proof that he has little or no respect for the First Amendment.

    For his part, Donald Trump (never at a loss for words) fired back that there is no proof Putin has killed journalists. We have a feeling "the Donald" is a bit off track about that, but there definitely is proof that the Riley family has caused journalists to be imprisoned--and they did it contrary to 230 years of First Amendment law.

    As for "Morning Joe," he probably would be wise to keep his mouth shut about those who might murder someone who causes them alarm. After all, many questions remain unanswered about the 2001 death of 28-year-old Lori Klausutis, who was an aide to Scarborough when he served as a U.S. Congressman from north Florida.

    Klausutis' body was found in Scarborough's Fort Walton Beach Office, and the Congressman decided to scuttle his political career not long after her death. The autopsy and death investigation were filled with holes, and the death never has been adequately explained.

    The whole disturbing story has been so cloaked that one seemingly cannot find a photo of Lori Klausutis on the Web.

    The bottom line? Joe Scarborough has no business attempting to lecture Donald Trump, or anyone else, about a free press. And Scarborough's hypocrisy is grotesque when he points to Vladimir Putin as a powerful individual who has people killed.

    Maybe if Scarborough held a press conference to answer any and all questions about the death of Lori Klausutis, he might regain some standing on such subjects. Maybe if Scarborough denounced the hideous actions of Bob and Rob Riley in Alabama, he would regain some stature regarding a free press.

    For now, Scarborough should keep his yap shut on topics where his own hands appear to be anything but clean.

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    Steve Feaga
    (From al.com)
    A lead prosecutor in the Don Siegelman trial, who reportedly pushed for false or coerced testimony behind the scenes during the investigation, now is perpetuating falsehoods about the case in a public forum.

    Stephen Feaga, a former federal prosecutor who now is listed by the Alabama State Bar as working for the Alabama Securities Commission, made a number of dubious statements in an op-ed piece for the Montgomery Advertiser, dated December 24, 2015, and titled "Siegelman column riddled with inaccuracies."

    Feaga was responding to a December 18 Josh Moon piece titled "End the embarrassment and pardon Don Siegelman."

    It's little wonder the Moon piece caused consternation for Feaga. Moon might be the first mainstream Alabama journalist to look critically at the prosecution's handling of the Siegelman case. Moon might be the first member of the state's MSM (mainstream media) to question the prosecution's version of the facts--and Judge Mark Fuller's application of the law. Moon probably is the first Alabama MSMer to flatly state that Siegelman--and by extension, codefendant Richard Scrushy--were guilty of no crimes.

    Moon's column starts with forceful directness and never lets up; this is one columnist who is not into pulling punches:

    It doesn't matter why Don Siegelman is in solitary confinement at a Louisiana federal prison.

    It doesn't matter because Don Siegelman shouldn't be in prison at all.

    Why this absolute travesty has been allowed to continue – and make no mistake, it is both Democrats and Republicans who have allowed it – is a mystery to me and to a number of attorneys and legal scholars from across the country.

    It is an embarrassment to the justice system.

    It is an embarrassment to the state.

    And it should be an embarrassment to every citizen.

    Feaga must have spewed Wheaties all over his breakfast nook when reading that. One can imagine him screaming: "We used to have damned reporters cowering in our corner. What in the hell happened?"

    Josh Moon
    (From Montgomery Advertiser)
    Moon obviously is not buying the prosecution's story or the legal conclusions that Judge Fuller reached--before Fuller was forced off the bench following his August 2014 arrest for allegedly beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room. According to published reports Fuller was staring down the barrel at impeachment before announcing his resignation in May 2015.

    Why would Josh Moon reject the story Steve Feaga has been selling for almost a decade? There are plenty of reasons, but this might be the most important: In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Montgomery-based Justice Department whistleblower Tamarah Grimes outlined egregious misconduct by key members of the prosecution team--including U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin, and Feaga. From the Grimes letter to Holder:

    Mr. Feaga instructed the investigators how to approach the cooperating witnesses on a particular subject and specified what he needed the witness to say in order to support his prosecutorial theory. For instance, Mr. Feaga would say, "See if you can get him to say it like this . . . , ""Ask him if he is comfortable saying it like this . . . ," or "I need him to say it like this . . . ."The investigators would return from meeting with the cooperating witnesses to report to Mr. Feaga, who would send the investigators back with new instructions.

    The process became so absurd--and so blatantly unlawful--that some members of the prosecution could only joke about it. Writes Grimes:

    I recall one of the investigators, FBI agent Keith Baker, commented on the conduct by saying, "There is truth, there are facts, and then there are "Feaga facts."

    With his December 24 op-ed piece in the Montgomery Advertiser, we know that Steve Feaga still is pushing "Feaga facts." Instead of trying to shove "Feaga facts" down the throats of investigators who reported to him, Feaga now is pushing them on the public.

    Should the public buy it? Absolutely not. And we will show you why in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    Is Governor Robert Bentley's extramarital affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason about to start hitting Alabama taxpayers in the pocketbook? Are national press and political organizations about to start paying attention? Is Bentley determined to prove that House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), by comparison, is a noble public servant? Could Bentley and Mason be heading down the same highway Hubbard is following--the one that leads to "Indictment City"?

    The answer to all four questions appears to be yes, and if that holds up, 2016 could find Montgomery awash in even more corruption than usual.

    The Bentley/Mason affair, which ended the governor's 50-year marriage to First Lady Dianne Bentley, took on new dimensions recently when State Auditor Jim Zeigler alleged the governor is renovating the state's dilapidated Gulf Coast mansion only because he lost ownership of two personal beach homes in the divorce. From a report at al.com:

    Zeigler, who has publicly criticized the governor on numerous policy issues this year, claims the governor is taking advantage of state money to build a personal home after he lost ownership of his personal beach homes in his September divorce.

    "The governor now has a personal need for a Gulf place, so only now is he restoring the governor's mansion at the gulf," Zeigler wrote in a statement.

    The two-story, 7,500-square-foot gubernatorial mansion in Baldwin County is receiving a face lift – estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million – after sitting boarded up since Hurricane Danny in 1997.

    Bentley countered by saying funds from the BP oil-spill settlement will be used to cover costs of the renovation, that no taxpayer funds will be used. But didn't the BP funds go into state coffers? Doesn't that mean state dollars are, in fact, being used to renovate the gulf mansion? Couldn't a reasonable citizen say, "This money should be used for a more important purpose"? And isn't the timing of the renovation, coming so soon after Bentley's divorce settlement, more than a little curious?

    Such questions are starting to reach beyond the borders of Alabama. James DeVinnie wrote a scorching article at occupydemocrats.com, titled "Alabama Governor Robbed Citizens Of Millions In Oil Spill Money To Rebuild Beachfront Mansion." Ouch, that headline stings--and the story itself does not let up. Writes DeVinnie:

    Showing a reckless disregard for the needs of his state’s people in favor of corporate bosses and his own fancy, Alabama’s Republican governor Robert Bentley is renovating an abandoned 7,500 square-foot governor’s mansion with money left over from 2010 BP oil spill settlement. An estimated $1.5 to $1.8 million of grants from the settlement in the Deepwater Horizon spill will be used to cover the costs of refurbishment. Such a blatant pillaging of funds intended to serve the public good for extravagant private use is downright shameful, especially given that the local communities, industry, and environment along Alabama’s Gulf Coast continue to suffer the effects of the enormous oil spill.

    The mansion in question, located on the beachfront in Gulf Shores, AL, was built in the era of famed racist governor George Wallace, and served as a secondary governor’s residence until it was damaged by Hurricane Danny in 1997 and subsequently abandoned. Bentley has claimed that his decision to renovate the property has nothing to do with the fact that he recently lost two nearby beachfront properties in a messy divorce. That divorce was the result of widely credible rumors of an affair between Bentley – who hypocritically couches his opposition to abortion and gay marriage as a belief in “family values” – and one of his staffers.

    We must quibble with DeVinnie's characterization of the divorce as "the result of widely credible rumors of an affair." In fact, we broke the story of an affair, based on information from multiple knowledgeable sources--and other state news outlets picked up on it. In other words, the story grew from journalism, not rumors.

    Other than that, DeVinnie appropriately nails Bentley for what might be called "gross gubernatorial negligence":

    The fact that almost two million dollars of funds meant to serve the people of Alabama affected by corporate negligence are instead going to fund more trickle-down extravagance for the elite has justifiably aroused the ire of many Alabamians, especially as it comes on the heels of the state’s dubious decision in 2013 to use BP settlement money meant for environmental cleanup to build an $85 million hotel and conference center on a state beach property.

    For example, in October, the state shut down 30 DMV offices, all in rural majority-black areas, and after an enormous backlash agreed to keep them open only one day per year. The NAACP is suing the state for the closures – which were rationalized by Bentley as a response to the budget crisis – arguing that they serve to suppress the votes of blacks by limiting access to state-issued voter ID cards that are necessary to vote in the state following last year’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act. In another move this year, some 15 Alabama state parks are facing closure due to the budget crisis, and lawmakers are considering serious cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other social services to shore up Montgomery’s finances.

    As for Mike Hubbard, he is facing a 23-count indictment alleging he used his public office for private gain. If Zeigler's allegations are on target, it appears Bentley used public funds for private gain--or at least for personal enjoyment. Is the governor, once seen as a distinguished man of medicine, much different from the money grubbing Hubbard? It doesn't look like it.

    Cooper Shattuck
    What does the future hold for Bentley--and Mason? The possibilities could be grim. Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins is preparing a report for the U.S. Department of Justice on Bentley's alleged criminal actions while in office. From reading Watkins' posts on his Facebook page, it appears much of the report will focus on the Alabama Council for Excellence in Government (ACEGOV), which former Bentley legal adviser Cooper Shattuck started before leaving in February 2015 to become general counsel for the University of Alabama System.

    Here is how we reported on Shattuck and others behind the shadowy ACEGOV:

    Shattuck oversees a staff of 21 lawyers who serve the three UA campuses--in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham, and Huntsville. Joining him as board members for ACEGOV are R.B. Walker, assistant to the executive vice president at Alabama Power, and Marquita Davis, a former state finance director under Bentley and current executive director of the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity.

    Shattuck helps complete a powerful trifecta--University of Alabama, Alabama Power, Poarch Creeks--that, our sources say, helped funnel money to Rebekah Caldwell Mason. How much did ACEGOV pay Mason, and what services did she perform? Was she paid mainly to stay quiet about her affair with Governor Bentley?

    Could the answers to those questions help lead to criminal charges against Mason, Bentley, and perhaps others?

    Watkins apparently is thinking along the same lines, and he used the term "slush fund" to help describe ACEGOV:

    For over a year, the governor seemed oblivious to the hurt and pain he had caused to Mrs. Bentley and his children by his love affair with Rebekah. Since he was re-elected last year, Bentley’s primary concern has been figuring out how best to use the financial resources of the state, along with leftover campaign funds and the financial resources of friendly political groups, to support his romantic lifestyle with Rebekah.

    In February, Governor Bentley established the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation. Bentley’s former legal advisor Cooper Shattuck formed the Council at Bentley’s request. The stated purpose of the organization is to “support Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater, stronger and more excellent for all the hardworking men and women who call this great state our home.” In reality, the Council is a slush fund that was set up to (a) fund Bentley’s love affair with Rebekah while concealing payments to her from the view of public oversight and accountability, and (b) stash money for life with Rebekah after the governor’s divorce from Mrs. Bentley.

    Bentley funded the Council with excess campaign funds left over from his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The Council has also received a $25,000 contribution this year from AEA and $20,000 from the Alabama Hospital Association.

    If federal investigators wind up on Bentley's trail, they will have plenty of rocks to look under. The governor's actions with the Gulf Coast mansion might provide just one more slimy rock.

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    Mike Hubbard
    (From USA Today)
    The chief attorneys for indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) are seeking to withdraw from his criminal ethics case.

    This turn of events, first reported by Alabama Political Reporter (APR) on New Year's Eve, is so stunning that it almost raises more questions than we can even formulate. But we will give it a shot.

    As with much that appears underhanded or sleazy in Alabama politics, our attention immediately turns to the Riley political machine, headed by former Governor Bob Riley and largely run by his oily son, Birmingham attorney Rob Riley.

    Hubbard faces 23 counts of ethics-law violations, with a trial date set for March 28, and the Rileys have been players from the case's earliest days. Rob Riley reportedly is Hubbard's attorney of record and helped line up the Birmingham firm White Arnold and Dowd to craft Hubbard's primary defense. Now, less than three months from the trial date, the White firm wants to bail out, per a Motion to Withdraw that can be read here.

    Attorney J. Mark White filed the motion under seal, but Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III determined that most of the document would be a public filing. Here are just a few of the questions that quickly come boiling to the surface:

    * Will Judge Walker approve the Motion to Withdraw?

    * If he does, who will represent Hubbard?

    * Will the trial be delayed once again?

    * Can Hubbard afford to hire another attorney?

    * What led the White firm to seek an exit strategy?

    * Since documents show that Hubbard agreed to the attempted withdrawal, does that mean this is just another stalling tactic from the defense team?

    Bill Britt, of ARP, shines light on some of those questions:

    A defense attorney speaking on background said, “A lawyer leaving a case this high profile a couple of months before trial is odd. As a lawyer, there’s really only two reasons you would withdraw at this late stage, and you’d need both reasons to justify it in your mind. One, you think you’re going to lose. And, two, you’re not going to make any more money. If you’re not going to make any money off of a losing case, withdrawing may be the best route.”

    For months, rumors have circulated in the legal community that Hubbard was hundreds of thousand of dollars in arrears on his legal fees. The cost of his representation so far has been estimated at around $1.7 million and counting. Money for Hubbard’s defense has primarily come from campaign donations and perhaps a legal defense fund. Hubbard used almost $400,000 in campaign contributions to pay White and his other lawyers.

    (I love the quote above from Bill Britt's anonymous lawyer. It shows what many lawyers are all about--winning and making money, not necessarily in that order. Justice isn't even a consideration.)

    White seemingly has done little to defend Hubbard, and mostly has heaped embarrassment on the Speaker. White took steps that led to the release of e-mails between Hubbard and Bob Riley. The Speaker came across as desperate for money and favors, even begging Riley for a job with the former governor's lobbying firm.

    In a second set of e-mails, Hubbard told Riley that he needed to impress the Southeast Alabama Gas District (which was paying him $12,000 a month as a consultant) but was clueless about how to go about it. When Riley suggested one possible tactic, Hubbard almost spewed all over himself, according to an al.com report:

    "That is a great plan! I will make it happen," Hubbard wrote. "I don't know what I'm doing, Governor, so I'm thankful for the guidance. I'd love to make a splash early."

    In another e-mail. Hubbard dispensed with all pretense of dignity and made it clear he has an incurable man crush on Riley:

    "I am thankful for my Risen Lord," he wrote to Riley. "Especially today. And also for you – my friend, mentor and role model."

    As for who might be left to represent the Speaker, a document filed on his behalf last March lists R. Lance Bell, of Pell City, and Phillip E. Adams, of Opelika, as joining the White firm on the Hubbard defense team.

    J. Mark White
    (From al.com)
    But who really has been pulling the strings? According to published reports, that would be Rob Riley. And we've reported that Rob Riley has been extremely nervous at times, especially when the Hubbard investigation showed signs of enveloping members of Team Riley. From a Legal Schnauzer post, dated December 16, 2014. The post is titled "Rob Riley appears to be in desperation mode as Lee County probe threatens the family political machine."

    Members of Alabama's Riley Political Machine appear to be on the verge of panic as a state criminal investigation comes closer to focusing on their unsavory activities.

    Birmingham attorney Rob Riley, son of former Governor Bob Riley, reportedly reached out to current Governor Robert Bentley and a sitting federal judge in an effort to derail the ongoing Lee County grand-jury investigation. Our research indicates the federal judge in question is Bill Pryor, who sits on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals but perhaps is best known for nude photographs that tie him to 1980s and '90s gay pornography, via the Web site badpuppy.com. . . .

    We strongly suspect that Rob Riley and Pryor have collaborated on dubious activities before, including my unlawful arrest in October 2013. At least one investigative journalist has reported that Pryor essentially serves as a "fixer" for conservative interests represented by former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove. The journalist reports that Pryor's ties to gay porn are well known among Republican factions, and they use that knowledge to essentially blackmail him into making sure key cases turn out in their favor.

    Would a sitting federal judge actually interfere with a state criminal probe? When you are talking about Bill Pryor, the answer probably is yes--and it's likely that Rob Riley knows that.

    How does a greasy lawyer like Rob Riley operate? We provided insight on that issue in late 2014, with assistance from Bill Britt:

    In an article released yesterday, titled "Is Conspiracy At Play To Thwart Justice in Hubbard Case?" Britt reports that Rob Riley and others are taking extraordinary steps to undermine the investigation. At the heart of the scheme is a game of legal musical chairs, with Rob Riley and Bill Baxley representing multiple clients in an apparent effort to use attorney-client privilege as a way to get inside information. Writes Britt:
    "The public face of Hubbard’s legal team has been J. Mark White, but the attorney of record is, and has been, Rob Riley. This was confirmed by Riley’s office. It is believed that Riley is the one who suggested that White represent Hubbard and that Baxley defend (former State Sen. Barry) Moore."

    Is the White firm's effort to withdraw part of a plan designed to leave Hubbard hanging by his fingertips off a cliff, like Wiley E. Coyote, as the trial date approaches? Is the plan designed to help the Rileys get off with a freebie, while Hubbard takes a long fall and crashes in a cloud of dust at the bottom of a canyon?

    Will Mike Hubbard, as he twists in the wind, continue to see Bob Riley as his Lord and Savior . . . I mean, his mentor and role model? Or will Hubbard come to his senses at the 11th hour and realize the Rileys have been his enemies, not his friends, throughout this process?

    Maybe it's time for Mike Hubbard to turn the tables and spill his guts about all the ugly Riley secrets he has kept under wraps. The Rileys are probably assuming that Hubbard will not be smart enough to figure this out--or bold enough to take action against them.

    Will they prove right about that?

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    A Fox News report about attempted home invasions at Danielle Rollins' home in Atlanta

    We know from our series of posts about Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins that marrying into the mega-wealthy Rollins family and then trying to get divorced can be a harrowing experience--especially if you are a woman.

    The folks behind Atlanta-based Rollins Inc., the parent company of Orkin Pest Control and other highly profitable enterprises, apparently are more than willing to play hardball when family assets are at stake. Atlanta author, socialite, and Southern Living contributor Danielle Rollins is the latest to learn just how dangerous the hardball can get.

    We first reported on Danielle Rollins with an October 2012 post titled "Sex Addiction And Big Bucks Are At The Heart Of a Juicy Divorce Story In The Deep South." Danielle's husband, former Orkin president Glen Rollins, reportedly sought treatment--apparently without much success--at the same sex addiction clinic that treated Tiger Woods.

    The sex addiction issue seems quaint compared to recent events in the Danielle/Glen story.

    Danielle divorced Glen Rollins in 2013, but the case is ongoing as Danielle challenges her proceeds from the case and reportedly seeks a share of Glen's trust fund. Danielle also is suing her original lawyers in the divorce, who she claims (according to an article at dailyreportonline.com) "pressured her to sign a hastily prepared, handwritten settlement agreement that gave her some $15 million—but cut her out of millions more—and saw her and the couple's three children forced to vacate their Buckhead estate, Boxwood."

    Is someone unhappy with Danielle's aggressive legal tactics, especially her pursuit of an equitable share of Glen's trust fund, reportedly valued at more than $1 billion? Recent evidence suggests the answer might be yes.

    Danielle recently made national headlines when she and security personnel had to scare off a home invasion or attempted robbery at her Buckhead residence for the third time in one month. From a New York Daily News article:

    "A security guard hired by Danielle Rollins, the Southern Living contributor the magazine calls “Atlanta’s preeminent hostess and tastemaker,” chased away men Rollins heard trying to break in Saturday night, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    “I’m obviously rather freaked out and tired, but I’m not going to be scared out of my own house,” Rollins said.

    How bad could the situation have gotten? A report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionprovides clues:

    (Danielle) was unpacking the night after Christmas, after a holiday break, when someone tried to enter her home.

    “The private security guard I hired after my last break-in three weeks ago, and probably for the rest of my life now after this, chased at least two men through a neighbor’s yard,” she said in a post to her Facebook page, which she granted the AJC permission to share. “They dropped a backpack containing items including but not limited to guns, mace and ties. The Atlanta Police Department responded immediately, blocking and securing the area, with helicopter and canine patrol. This is not a way to live.”

    Atlanta Police Department officers recovered a cache of weapons including a stolen gun, duct tape, rubber gloves, binoculars and other items dropped by the suspects as they ran off. Officers were unable to chase down the suspects but recovered a black ski mask, glove and other items inside a backpack the suspects dropped.

    Contents of the backpack included some disturbing evidence. Somebody was taking their assigned task seriously:

    Inside the backpack were a “loaded Ruger SR9c 9mm (Serial #33380289) with a 10 round capacity magazine with 7 rounds loaded,” an Atlanta police report said. “A second magazine was located that had a 17-round capacity with 13 rounds loaded and a 9mm ammo box with 4 rounds left. The gun was checked on ACIC and it came back stolen from Sandy Springs Police Department (Case # 2015015698). The gun was taken in a burglary where the victim walked in on the suspect still inside his home.”

    Also recovered: 3- particulate respirators. 1-Bushnell 16×32 binoculars, 1 small roll of Duct tape, 2- small Mace brand pepper sprays, 14- black rubber gloves, and 1-verizon blackberry (no battery or backing).”

    Was someone planning a kidnapping, a murder, or both? It sure sounds like it.

    How could a divorce case turn so ugly? For one thing, the Rollins family's net worth is an estimated $7.4 billion, according to a recent AJC report. (Our sources say that figure is way too low.) Also, ugliness is not new in Rollins divorces. During her divorce from Ted Rollins, Sherry Rollins said, several wheels on her vehicle mysteriously came off while she was driving--and a mechanic said all of the lug nuts had been loosened. Also, she awoke one morning to find a bloody, dead deer lying on her doorstep.

    Danielle and Glen Rollins
    (From Forbes)
    What about money? In most states, divorce law calls for an equitable division of marital assets, which can be 50/50--or even higher in cases where marital misconduct was involved.

    Was misconduct present in the Danielle and Glen Rollins marriage? The answer is yes, and some might call it misconduct of a gross nature. From an AJC report:

    After their storybook beginning, Danielle discovered that Glen had begun consorting with prostitutes — by the time of their divorce, they numbered between 25 and 50, he has admitted in court.

    That suggests Danielle Rollins might be entitled to more than a 50/50 split of assets, but the share she received in the settlement was nowhere near that. She and the couple's children even were forced to move out of the marital residence, which normally goes to a mother and children--although, as Sherry Rollins knows, that doesn't necessarily happen in a Rollins divorce.

    In her case, Ted Rollins failed to make court-ordered payments on the family home, causing Ms. Rollins and the couple's daughters--Sarah and Emma--to flee to Alabama, where they had family members living. Ted Rollins then sued Ms. Rollins for divorce in Alabama, and Shelby County Judge D. Al Crowson issued a divorce decree, even though Ms. Rollins already had initiated divorce proceedings in South Carolina, where the family had lived, and the case had been litigated there for three years.

    That can't lawfully be done, based on an Alabama case styled Wesson v. Wesson 628 So. 2d 953 (1993), which holds:

    Once jurisdiction has attached in one court, that court has the exclusive right to continue its exercise of power until the completion of the case, and is only subject to appellate authority.

    Al Crowson essentially stole the case from South Carolina, regardless of what the law says--and he proceeded to issue a final order that was wildly favorable to Ted Rollins. As Danielle Rollins is learning, strange things can happen in Rollins divorce cases.

    What will happen next in the Danielle/Glen case, which is perhaps the messiest, high-profile divorce the South has seen in years. That's hard to say, but the case is making national news. Here is a report from Good Morning America:

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    Don Siegelman and fellow federal inmate Charlie Cloud
    after the former Alabama governor recently was
    released from 57 days in solitary confinement.
    During the investigation of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, prosecutor Steve Feaga reportedly became known to those behind the scenes for trying to create doctored or manufactured witness testimony. The process became so routine and blatant that one investigator called the results "Feaga facts."

    "Feaga facts," of course, were not facts at all. They were the results of coaching and coercion from federal prosecutors,  who were determined to win convictions at any cost. Evidence strongly suggests that "Feaga facts" played a major role in sending Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy to federal prison for what we've called "a crime that doesn't exist."

    Steve Feaga now has come out from behind closed doors with an op-ed piece in the Montgomery Advertiser that apparently is designed to shove "Feaga facts" down the public's collective throat. A Josh Moon column in the same newspaper, saying that Siegelman should be pardoned and never should have been imprisoned in the first place, caused Feaga to spring into action--all in an effort to justify a prosecution that Moon correctly calls a "travesty" and an "embarrassment."

    Even more embarrassing is this: We learn that Feaga, who currently works for the Alabama Securities Commission (according to state-bar records), is as deceitful now as he was when he was trying to build a case against Siegelman and Scrushy. Let's take a few statements from his op-ed piece and stack them up against reality:

    (1) Feaga Fact -- "Leura Canary inherited the Montgomery investigation of Siegelman from her predecessor and after a few months recused herself. She played no role in bringing the investigation or in any of the charging decisions. Nor did her husband Billy Canary or Karl Rove or Bob Riley. I know this to be so because I was present and had a lead role in these decisions. Nobody who was not a part of the prosecution team was involved in the process."

    Reality --  (A) The Department of Justice's (DOJ) own actions suggest Leura Canary played more of a role in the Siegelman case than she has let on. Alabama attorney John Aaron, for almost 10 years, has sought documents about Canary's alleged recusal. Aaron has learned that more than 1,000 documents exist related to his request, but the DOJ has refused to turn over these supposedly public records. Has Leura Canary--or Steve Feaga, for that matter--ever encouraged the DOJ to release all such records related to the Siegelman case? Nope. Why not?

    (B)  Retired U.S. Magistrate Charles S. Coody stated in public documents that he had reviewed the Canary documents in camera and found no material that would help Siegelman and Scrushy. The public later learned that Coody never ordered the Canary documents, so he could not possibly have reviewed them. Why would a federal judge lie about having reviewed the Canary documents?

    (C) DOJ whistleblower Tamarah Grimes stated in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that Canary remained involved with the Siegelman case long after her announced recusal. (See full letter at the end of this post.) Patricia Snyder Watson, the district ethics officer and first assistant U.S. attorney at the time, was a frequent conduit of information to and from Canary about what became known in the office as "The Big Case," Grimes wrote:

    Mrs. Canary publicly stated that she maintained a "firewall" between herself and The Big Case. In reality, there was no "firewall." Mrs. Canary maintained direct communication with the prosecution team, directed some actions in the case, and monitored the case through members of the prosecution team and Mrs. Watson.

    Feaga tries to erect a number of "straw man" issues here, claiming Canary inherited the Siegelman case from her predecessor and that she played no role in bringing the investigation or making charging decisions. But all of those claims are beside the point. The issue is this: Did Leura Canary totally step away from the case, did she truly recuse herself, ensuring that Siegelman and Scrushy received an impartial prosecutor to which they are entitled under the law? The answer, based on Tamarah Grimes' statements, is no. Feaga surely knows this, but he is trying to con the public into believing otherwise.

    (2) Feaga Fact -- "Mr. Moon repeats allegations from a so-called “Republican attorney” about Rove or the Justice Department targeting Siegelman for political reason. Mr. Moon does not report that all of the alleged participants have denied ever having such a conversation. Most critically, Mr. Moon fails to report that one of the people disputing the claims was a member of the defense team at the trial."

    Reality -- The "participants" to whom Feaga refers are Birmingham attorneys Rob Riley and Matt Lembke, and retired Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts. Rainsville attorney Jill Simpson (Feaga's "so-called Republican attorney") stated in an affidavit, and in sworn testimony before Congress, that the three participated in a conference phone call in which Bill Canary said a plan was in place for a politically-motivated prosecution of Siegelman, and someone named "Karl" (apparently Karl Rove) was aware of the plan and approved of it.

    Riley, Lembke, and Butts all filed affidavits with Congress in response to Simpson's statements. But none of the three ever has denied under oath that such a phone conversation took place. Instead, they used lawyerly "hedge" language to give the impression Simpson was mistaken or lying. But they never actually denied being part of such a conversation. Here are examples of hedge language from the affidavits:

    "I have no memory of being on a phone call . . ." 
    "I do not believe a phone call occurred . . ."

    ". . . nor do I recall, any conference call occurring with Ms. Simpson . . . "
    "As I recall, none of us were ever outside each other's presence on that day . . . " 
    "Again, I neither recall any such call, nor do I believe any such call/conversation . . . ever took place."

    "I do not recall the phone call that Ms. Simpson claims took place between her . . . "
    "I do not believe that I was out of Justice Butts' and Rob Riley's presence for 11 consecutive minutes . . . "

    Steve Feaga
    There is a big difference between saying "I do not recall such a phone call" and "Such a phone call never took place." Riley, Butts, and Lembke state the former over and over. they never state the latter. Is Feaga trying to convince the public that Jill Simpson is a liar, a loon, or a nut? Without question. Is Feaga wrong about that--and is his version of events deeply flawed? Absolutely.

    (3) Feaga Fact -- "Mr. Moon is also wrong about the jury instruction. He should read the record of the trial. Judge Fuller instructed the jury that an express quid pro quo was necessary, and every appellate court that has reviewed the case has said so."

    Reality -- Feaga is wildly off target with this one. Both sides at trial agreed that the binding law comes from a case styled McCormick v. U.S., 500 U.S. 257 (1991). Here is how McCormick states the law--and what should be the jury instruction:

    . . . only if “payments are made in return for an explicit promise or undertaking by the official to perform or not to perform an official act, are they criminal.”

    Here is Judge Mark Fuller's jury instruction in the Siegelman case. It's different from the McCormick finding; in fact, it's almost backward from the actual law, :

    A Defendant does not commit a crime by giving something of value to a government official unless the Defendant and official agree that the official will take specific action in exchange for the thing of value.

    What's wrong with Fuller's jury instruction? For one thing, it's not an accurate statement of the law. But here's the bigger point, as we stated in an earlier post:

    Fuller's instruction, however, turned the law on its head, focusing on an action and not an agreement. The Eleventh Circuit has said Fuller's instruction was OK because it was in line with another case, Evans v. U.S., 504 U.S. 255 (1992). But Evans did not involve a campaign contribution, so it is not applicable to the Siegelman case; the alleged facts and legal issues in the two cases are radically different.

    The Eleventh Circuit muddies the water further by stating that Siegelman's lawyers claim an agreement must be "express" (memorialized in writing, etc.) rather than "explicit." This appears to be a classic red herring because Siegelman's lawyers do not make that claim. They state, correctly, that McCormick is the guiding law for a bribery charge involving campaign contributions.

    (4) Feaga Fact -- "Nick Bailey was one of several witnesses called at the trial to establish the express quid pro quo. He was cross-examined for three days at the trial by four capable attorneys. He did not retract his testimony during the trial and never has since. His testimony was supported by other testimony and other evidence. The trial jury was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, and every court to review their decision has opined that there was substantial and compelling evidence at trial to support the verdict."

    Reality -- Feaga seems to have a selective memory about Nick Bailey. Here is how Tamarah Grimes, in her letter to AG Holder, described the prosecution's treatment of Bailey:

    I particularly recall one meeting in which cooperating witness Nick Bailey was persuaded to recall something that he claimed he did not actually recollect. The matter concerned a meeting between Governor Siegelman and Richard Scrushy, a check and supposed conversation, which eventually led to the convictions in The Big Case. Mr. Bailey repeatedly said he did not know and he was not sure. The prosecutors coaxed and pressured Mr. Bailey to "remember" their version of alleged events. Mr. Bailey appeared apprehensive and hesitant to disappoint the prosecutors.

    After reading that, the public is supposed to believe Nick Bailey told the unvarnished truth on the stand? It sounds like Nick Bailey took the stand in a state of utter confusion.

    Finally, Feaga makes the preposterous claim that the public should believe in the verdict because the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld it. In truth, the various three-judge panels on the Atlanta-based court botched the Siegelman case as badly as the trial court did--maybe even more so.

    In fact, the Eleventh Circuit could not even get the simplest things right, as we explained in an August 2012 post:

    The Siegelman case, by law, could not go to a jury--much less result in convictions. And yet, Scrushy already has served a six-year federal prison sentence, and Siegelman is due back in federal custody by September 11.

    What is the one issue that should have doomed the prosecution's case before it ever reached a jury? It was the statute of limitations, and the facts and the law, show the case against Siegelman and Scrushy was brought almost one full year too late. So regardless of what one thinks about the testimony of key government witness Nick Bailey, the shaky jury instructions, the questionable juror behavior, the weak evidence on a quid pro quo ("something for something") agreement, and the myriad conflicts involving the judge and U.S. attorney . . . none of that should have been a factor.

    Evidence at trial showed that the alleged acts constituting bribery took place in summer 1999, and the original indictment was issued in May 2005. That's almost six full years, even though the statute of limitations is five years. Failure to initiate the case within the applicable statute of limitations, under the law, is an absolute bar to a successful prosecution.

    The statute of limitations issue was a matter of simple arithmetic, not much different from 2 + 2 = 4, and the U.S. Eleventh Circuit could not get it right. Steve Feaga wants the public to believe this august body is capable of conducting a semi-honest review of the Siegelman case?

    As Charlie Brown would say, "Good grief."

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    Brian Encinia's arrest of Sandra Bland
    (From Slate)
    The Texas state trooper who conducted a traffic stop that led to the death of black, female motorist Sandra Bland has been indicted for perjury, and the state has launched proceedings to fire him.

    The indictment and termination of Brian Encinia comes as salon.com reports that police perjury threatens the criminal justice system across the nation. (Newsflash: Our justice system at all levels already is a mess, a problem President Barack Obama has ignored, and police perjury is an issue in both criminal and civil cases.)

    Meanwhile, the Missouri sheriff's office that brutalized my wife, Carol, during an unlawful eviction and left her with a shattered left arm stands in an uncomfortable spotlight as one of its own deputies was indicted yesterday on federal child-pornography charges. Juan T. Jones, who had been a patrol officer with the Greene County Sheriff's Office since September 2013, was fired yesterday and charged with possession of child pornography.

    Jones worked for Jim Arnott, the sheriff who stood about five feet away on September 9, 2015, as three of his deputies surrounded Carol Shuler, slammed her to the ground, and left her with heavy bruising, a possible concussion, and a shattered left arm.

    Where does police dishonesty enter the picture in the Missouri case? Arnott immediately pointed at Carol and claimed she had "assaulted a police officer"--when, in fact, she was the victim of an assault. Arnott caused Carol to be falsely arrested and imprisoned, and she was released only when X-rays showed her arm was so badly broken that it would require trauma surgery. Our guess is that threw a bit of a wrench into Arnott's plan to bring bogus assaulting-an-officer charges.

    Did Arnott, or someone under his command, file a false incident report that would amount to the kind of perjury that got Brian Encinia fired and indicted in Texas? Do the arrest and termination of Juan T. Jones, who is black, raise issues about possible racial discrimination in Arnott's department? We will examine those questions in upcoming posts.

    Juan T. Jones: Arrested on child-pornography charges in
    Greene County, Missouri
    (From News-Leader)
    Sandra Bland, meanwhile, might be receiving justice in death that she was denied in the last moments of her life. Bland was arrested on a misdemeanor charge after Encinia became sensitive when she refused to put our her cigarette during a traffic stop. Encinia forced her from the vehicle, and Bland spent three days in the Waller County jail before she was found dead from what has been ruled a suicide.

    A Texas grand jury found yesterday that Encinia lied under oath in his report about the incident. From a report at Yahoo! News:

    Encinia, who is white, pulled Bland over on July 10 for making an improper lane change near Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater, where she had just interviewed and accepted a job. Dashcam video from Encinia's patrol car shows that the traffic stop quickly became confrontational.

    The video shows the trooper holding a stun gun and yelling, "I will light you up!" after Bland refuses to get out of her car. Bland eventually steps out of the vehicle, and Encinia orders her to the side of the road. The confrontation continues off-camera but is still audible.

    How did perjury enter the picture? From the Yahoo! report:

    Encinia's affidavit stated he "removed her from her vehicle to further conduct a safer traffic investigation," but grand jurors "found that statement to be false," said Shawn McDonald, one of five special prosecutors appointed to investigate.

    The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. At least one protester called the misdemeanor charge a "slap in the face to the Bland family."

    Jim Arnott answers questions at press conference about
    child-porn charges against Officer Juan T. Jones
    (From KY3)
    Is it time the United States started taking police perjury seriously? According to a report at Salon, titled "Perjury USA: Rampant police lying taints criminal justice system nationwide," the answer is yes. From the report:

    That Chicago police who witnessed Officer Jason Van Dyke kill Laquan McDonald in a hail of sixteen bullets may have lied to cover it up is a reminder that misplaced trust in law enforcement can lead to injustice. According to civil rights attorneys, the systemic police lying evidenced in Chicago is a nationwide problem.

    “It has been shown repeatedly that police usually close ranks and form a narrative that immediately puts the police in the defensive to justify whatever force was used,” says Ezekial Edwards, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project.

    Lies, he says, are told not just to cover up major events like a shooting but also to justify illegal searches in run-of-the-mill cases.

    “If the facts are very helpful to a police officer, obviously they’re going to tell the truth. But if they’re not,” says Edwards, “a lot of the time you’ll be dealing with testimony that’s less than honest.”

    This all hits close to home because Carol and I have seen considerable evidence that we are dealing with systemic police lying in Greene County, Missouri, which is home to Springfield, the state's third largest city.

    Carol's case, plus the arrest and termination of Juan T. Jones, indicates the overwhelmingly white Greene County Sheriff's Office might have radically different standards for white officers and black officers. Should that merit a federal civil-rights investigation? Did someone commit perjury in Carol's case, much like what Brian Encinia is alleged to have done in Texas?

    We will address those questions, and more, in upcoming posts.

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    Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah
    Caldwell Mason
    (From HBTV.us)
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley in 2015 spent more than $24,000 in campaign funds with a Montgomery law firm noted for criminal-defense work. Were Bentley's payments to the Melton Espy and Williams firm driven by issues arising from his extramarital affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason?

    News of the affair broke on August 31, 2015, shortly after First Lady Dianne Bentley filed for a divorce that ended a 50-year marriage. Reports then showed that Robert Bentley's 2014 campaign paid more than $400,000 to Mason's company, RCM Communications, of Tuscaloosa--and Bentley had hired Mason's husband for a state position that paid more than $390,000 over a five-year period.

    In short, public records showed that Rebekah Mason and her husband made more than $1 million during the Bentley administration. According to an al.com report about Bentley's latest campaign-finance report, another $76,000 went to Mason's company in 2015. (See campaign-finance report at the end of this post.)

    Robert Bentley is not the only one, in the wake of his divorce, to hire a lawyer with a history of criminal-defense work. Rebekah Mason reportedly has hired Bobby Segall, of the Montgomery firm Copeland Franco.

    The Alabama Council for Excellence in Government (ACEGOV) might be at the heart of the criminal concerns. Here's how we explained it in a post dated September 22, 2015:

    What is the most likely source of criminal exposure for Mason and Bentley? Our sources say it is the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, also known as ACEGOV, a nonprofit organization with ties to three of the most powerful entities in the state--Alabama Power, the University of Alabama System, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, who have tried to arrange a monopoly on state gaming in exchange for assistance with the state budget crisis.

    Where does ACEGOV get its money? The council is not terribly forthcoming with that information, but in a general sense, the funds reportedly come from Bentley's leftover campaign resources. More specifically, our sources say, the money comes mostly from Alabama Power and the Poarch Creeks--and a significant amount of it has been funneled to Governor Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

    Cooper Shattuck, a former legal adviser for Bentley, formed ACEGOV in February before moving on to become general counsel for the University of Alabama System.

    Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, via reporting on his Facebook page, shined additional light on ACEGOV, calling it a "slush fund" for Mason. Here is how Watkins described it:

    For over a year, the governor seemed oblivious to the hurt and pain he had caused to Mrs. Bentley and his children by his love affair with Rebekah. Since he was re-elected last year, Bentley’s primary concern has been figuring out how best to use the financial resources of the state, along with leftover campaign funds and the financial resources of friendly political groups, to support his romantic lifestyle with Rebekah.

    In February, Governor Bentley established the Alabama Council for Excellent Government, a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation. Bentley’s former legal advisor Cooper Shattuck formed the Council at Bentley’s request. The stated purpose of the organization is to “support Governor Bentley in his efforts to solve real problems and to make Alabama greater, stronger and more excellent for all the hardworking men and women who call this great state our home.” In reality, the Council is a slush fund that was set up to (a) fund Bentley’s love affair with Rebekah while concealing payments to her from the view of public oversight and accountability, and (b) stash money for life with Rebekah after the governor’s divorce from Mrs. Bentley.

    Bentley funded the Council with excess campaign funds left over from his 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The Council has also received a $25,000 contribution this year from AEA and $20,000 from the Alabama Hospital Association.

    Watkins posted those words on September 9, 2015. Bentley's latest campaign-finance report shows that on October 15, 2015, barely one month later, he paid $24,758 to the Melton Espy firm.

    Is that a coincidence? We doubt it.

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