Articles on this Page
- 03/16/16--09:10: _Obama nominates Mer...
- 03/17/16--09:24: _Ashley Madison cust...
- 03/21/16--09:15: _Obama nominee Abdul...
- 03/21/16--18:45: _"Do Not Publish" st...
- 03/23/16--08:41: _Ashley Madison cust...
- 03/23/16--09:59: _Text messages and a...
- 03/24/16--04:35: _To "Doctor Love" Be...
- 03/25/16--10:41: _Will an Alabama ver...
- 03/28/16--09:40: _Gov. Robert Bentley...
- 03/29/16--08:41: _Web press breaks st...
- 03/30/16--10:08: _Gov. Robert Bentley...
- 03/30/16--18:23: _Rebekah Caldwell Ma...
- 03/30/16--18:54: _"Freaky Becky" Maso...
- 04/01/16--10:58: _Al.com discounts We...
- 04/03/16--15:35: _FBI shows interest ...
- 04/04/16--09:36: _The next time Gov. ...
- 04/05/16--07:42: _Lowell Barron says ...
- 04/05/16--09:56: _Bentley and Mason a...
- 04/06/16--09:54: _Was Alabama Governo...
- 04/11/16--09:15: _Al.com did not brea...
We strongly support Obama's right to make the nomination, and the Republican notion that the next president should replace Scalia is not supported by law, history, or common sense. We also believe Garland is a reasonable choice--although probably not as liberal as we would prefer--and he should receive a full and fair hearing in the Senate. He also should receive a full vote, and if he is as solid and moderate as news reports suggest, he should be approved and seated on the SCOTUS bench sometime this summer.
Having said that, we are deeply concerned about some of Obama's judicial nominees in, or near, our home base of Alabama. Most troubling is his announcement on February 11 that he was nominating Birmingham-based U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
We made our feelings about that nomination clear in a post titled "Obama nominates Alabama federal judge Abdul Kallon to open seat on U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, proving incompetence still has its rewards."
Since the nomination Obama and U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) have misused high-minded rhetoric in an effort to convince the public that nominating Kallon is a wise decision. The public should not fall for it.
Obama said "Judge Kallon has a long and impressive record of service and a history of handing down fair and judicious decisions.” With all due respect to the president, for whom I have voted twice, that is bulls--t.
Rep. Sewell could hardly contain her glee and reacted with this: "What an awesome nomination! So excited [that] President Obama nominated Judge Kallon for the US Court Of Appeals. Judge Kallon has the integrity, keen legal acumen, and judicial temperament to make him a highly qualified appellate jurist!” That just shows that Sewell is a political hack who knows nothing about Kallon's actions as a judge or a lawyer.
Sewell also said, "This historic nomination could appoint the first African American from Alabama to this appellate bench." That suggests this is all about the color of Kallon's skin and not his abilities as a judge. And that's because his abilities as a judge are slim, at best. Even worse, Kallon has a demonstrated record of working against minorities--especially people of color and women. But Terri Sewll thinks he's an "awesome nomination." Is this woman drunk or clueless--or both?
We've shown that Kallon butchered two cases where my wife, Carol, and I were parties. And by "butchered," I mean he repeatedly failed to follow black-letter law. On at least one issue, his ruling was so off-the-charts wrong that it suggests he not only is incompetent, he's also corrupt. (More on that issue in an upcoming post.) In both cases, Kallon made sure to protect corporate or institutional interests over those of regular folks who had been wronged.
Specifically, Kallon protected the Ingram and Associates debt-collection law firm of Birmingham and corporate interests for which it works--including American Express and NCO, which is widely known as one of the most corrupt debt-collection outfits in the country. (See "The Debt Collector's Creed: Lie early and lie often.")
But Kallon's dubious actions go way beyond any rulings related to Carol and me. As a lawyer at the Birmingham firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (BABC), Kallon's main duty was to defend employers who faced allegations of discrimination. That's right . . . if you were a woman, a homosexual, a person of color, a person with a disability, or a person over the age of 40, and you faced discrimination in the workplace, Abdul Kallon was going to do his best to make sure you got shut out in federal court. To Kallon, civil rights are something to be trampled, not to be championed.
How do we know? Consider a case styled McCormack, et al v. Campus Crest Group, et al. (WD of NC, 2011). The case involved allegations that Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities, headed then by CEO Ted Rollins, engaged in grotesque discrimination and harassment against female and black employees. Rollins, of course, has appeared regularly here at Legal Schnauzerbecause of his central role in a divorce case that caused his ex wife, Sherry Carroll Rollins, and two children to wind up on food stamps in Birmingham.
The McCormack lawsuit suggests Ted Rollins is no better as a manager than he is as a husband or father.
How bad was the racial environment at Campus Crest? This is from an earlier post, titled "How far will one company go to avoid hiring blacks":
Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities, which develops student housing near college campuses, recently issued a $380-million IPO. But according to the lawsuit, the company takes specific steps to avoid hiring blacks for certain positions and fosters a racially hostile environment for the blacks who do work there.
Plaintiff Nicole McAuliffe says in the complaint that Campus Crest McAuliffe practiced blatant discrimination against people of color. She and other staff members were directed to hire predominantly young, white women to available positions at the company's various residential rental properties. She was directed to provide her superiors with photographs taken from the FaceBook or MySpace pages of all applicants she recommended to ensure they were not African American.
One supervisor told McAuliffe, “We have Southern investors; they do not like for us to hire blacks.” Another supervisor stated, "Once you hire an African American, you never can get rid of them because they think they are so entitled.” Several black administrative staff worked in a certain section of the corporate office, and that became known among higher-ups as the "hood."
So the area where blacks worked at Campus Crest was known as "the hood." But that is the least of the indignities black employees were made to suffer:
Qualified blacks--as well as qualified applicants over the age of 40--routinely were excluded from employment opportunities at Campus Crest's residential properties around the country, McAuliffe says.
Plaintiff Heather McCormack states in the complaint that one investor referred to blacks as "Indians." This investor said in a board of directors' meeting that occupancy levels had been reduced because too many "Indians" had been hired.
CEO Ted Rollins joined in the fun at Campus Crest, according to the McCormack/McAuliffe complaint:
Ted Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest, helped create the racially hostile environment, McCormack says. Rollins said one black property manager had caused a section of his apartment complex to fall into disrepair because he had been "throwing out his chicken grease at night."
McCormack faced questions when she hired a black female as one of her direct reports at the Charlotte office. "Who hired the black girl with the red hair?" said one of McCormack's superiors. McCormack says she was under constant pressure to terminate the new employee for false reasons.
Plaintiff Tammy Hughes-Brown says in the complaint that Rollins made it a practice to mimic the voice of a black male in her presence, insisting that he sounded just like Bernie Mac, the late African-American comedian.
For the company's 2009 annual meeting, Rollins and Chief Investment Officer Mike Hartnett presented a DVD that featured the two of them wearing large, 1960s-style "Afros." During a portion of the DVD, Hartnett mimics the voice of a black male, and both executives engage in sexually and racially charged remarks.
We've shown that Bradley Arant was the chief corporate law firm for Ted Rollins and Campus Crest Communities. Who helped defend the company against charges that it practiced nauseating racism against black employees? That was none other than Abdul Kallon. In fact, he only left the case when President Obama nominated him to a judgeship in the Northern District of Alabama. Records show that several lawyers from Charlotte helped represent defendants later, but Bradley Arant was front and center at the start.
I agree that lack of diversity on the federal bench is a concern, and qualified black candidates should be given strong consideration. But they should be persons of integrity and intellect and fairness, who hold the law in utmost respect.
Abdul Kallon is none of those things. He should not be on the federal bench, and he certainly should not be promoted.
As for Merrick Garland, we hope Obama actually has nominated a qualified individual. And we hope he receives a fair hearing in the U.S. Senate.
If Garland is as honorable as he appears to be (at the moment), we are all for him. If he is cut from the same cloth as Abdul Kallon, he should be summarily rejected.
An Alabama attorney, who has a practice in Chicago and a physician wife in Birmingham, is a paying customer of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site, records show.
Thomas Plouff, a Notre Dame graduate and former assistant U.S. attorney, has taught at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. He is married to Dr. Anne Marie Oberheu, who had a rehabilitation-medicine practice in Birmingham, for a number of years.
The couple has two daughters, Lauren and Caroline Plouff, who both attended Altamont High School. Lauren Plouff will graduate this year with a civil engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana.
Dr. Oberheu had a major impact on the direction her husband's legal career took. From Thomas Plouff's bio at his Web page:
I left the United States Attorneys Office in 1993. I knew I wanted to continue as a trial attorney, which in my mind left two options: defending criminals or personal injury work, as these are the areas where trials are most frequent. My wife having eliminated the former, I became a personal injury attorney in Chicago. It was the right decision. I have had the good fortune of being the lead trial attorney on jury verdicts that include a record $5.3 million jury verdict for a knee injury in a trip and fall case; $1.2 million jury verdict for an unoperated compression fracture at L5 in a construction case; and most recently, June 2007, $11.11 million medical malpractice jury verdict for failure to diagnose bacterial meningitis.
The family's home base had been Birmingham, but it recently became Durham, North Carolina. Oberheu and Plouff purchased a house there, and she now is medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.
|Dr. Anne Marie Oberheu and|
daughter, Caroline Plouff
Anne Marie Oberheu's uncle is Gerry Faust, who was the famed football coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati before moving into the college ranks as head coach at Notre Dame. He later was head coach at the University of Akron. Dr. Oberheu's mother's full name is Marilee Faust Oberheu.
Dr. Oberheu clearly comes from a distinguished background, and she has raised two daughters who apparently are heading down a similar path. Why is her husband fooling around on Ashley Madison?
We don't have an answer to that question. We twice contacted Thomas Plouff, seeking comment for this post, and he has not responded.
(1) Edgar C. Gentle III--attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)
(2) Stewart Springer--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)
(3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)
(4) Robert M.M. Palmer--attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)
How is this for irony? America's first black president and Alabama's only black member of Congress have trumpeted Kallon's nomination. Neither President Barack Obama nor U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) apparently are aware that Kallon spent much of his law career working against the interests of black people.
On top of that, Kallon has worked against the interests of women. Black Americans and women are supposed to be major constituencies of the Democratic Party. But Obama and Sewell support the elevation of an individual who has worked to ensure employers can get away with discriminating against blacks, women, and other minorities?
Want proof of Kallon's tendency to trample the rights of women? Look no further than McCormack, et al v. Campus Crest Group, et al. (WD of NC, 2011), a case involving allegations that Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities and then CEO Ted Rollins engaged in vile discrimination and harassment against blacks and women.
Regular readers will recognize the name Ted Rollins. He has appeared frequently here at Legal Schnauzerbecause of his central role in a divorce case that caused his ex wife, Sherry Carroll Rollins, and two children to wind up on food stamps in Birmingham. The chief corporate law firm for Rollins and Campus Crest was Bradley Arant, of Birmingham. Before Obama nominated him as a U.S. district judge, Kallon worked at Bradley Arant and was actively engaged in defending Campus Crest against allegations in the McCormack case.
What was it like for women to work at Campus Crest? Consider this from an earlier post about McCormack:
Campus Crest Communities, which develops student housing near college campuses, is charged in Charlotte federal court with creating a work environment that is hostile to women and African-Americans. Two plaintiffs in the lawsuits, Nicole McAuliffe and Heather McCormack, say they were terminated after complaining of a sexually hostile work environment at Campus Crest. A third plaintiff, Tammy Hughes-Brown, says she has faced discrimination because she is an African-American. . . .
Nicole McAuliffe was hired as an area manager at Campus Crest's Charlotte headquarters in October 2008. She was paid a salary of $82,500, with a bonus potential of $50,000. But she quickly discovered that the workplace was hostile and demeaning toward women, driven largely by Chief Operating Officer Brian Sharpe. McAuliffe's complaint states:
"Sharpe, on a frequent and/or daily basis, used the term “fuck” and “fucking,” in his verbal communications in the workplace. Sharpe further referred to women in the office as “cunts,” “bitches” and “whores” and referred to Defendant’s marketing team as the “whore’s den.” On more than one occasion, Sharpe, in the presence of Plaintiff and others, referred to Shannon King as a “cunt.” On another occasion, while on the corporate jet with Sharpe and others, Sharpe made derogatory and misogynistic remarks about Heather McCormack, Defendant’s Vice-President of Administrative Operations, calling her a “fucking bitch” and threatening to “rip her fucking head off.”
This language did not come from a low-level supervisor. It came from the company's COO. Here is more about the threatening and demeaning language women were subjected to at Campus Crest:
Shannon King, who had been executive vice president and chief marketing officer, resigned from Campus Crest in October. McAuliffe's complaint provides insight into why King and other women might have been uncomfortable at Campus Crest:
"Also, Sharpe, in Plaintiff’s presence, complained about a race discrimination complaint made by another female employee of Defendant and stated he “couldn’t believe she had fucking done this [made a complaint]” and that “if our employees don’t want to work, they should fucking get out.” On yet another occasion, Plaintiff heard Sharpe shout sex-based obscenities at McCormack and observed that Sharpe had become so angry and agitated that he popped a blood vessel in his eye."
"Further, Plaintiff heard Ted Rollins frequently yell at Heather McCormack to “go get the fucking money.” On yet other occasions, Rollins insisted that all attractive female applicants for employment be introduced to Brian Sharpe; alternatively, if Rollins saw an attractive applicant for employment in the office, he would bring Sharpe in to meet her."
Did Abdul Kallon stand up to such racism, sexism, and bullying? Nope. He tried to protect the bullies, to make sure the victims would get as little justice as possible.
Barack Obama and Terri Sewell want the public to believe that such a man is fit to sit on a federal appellate bench where civil-rights cases frequently land? Who are they trying to kid?
|Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals|
It's because unpublished opinions enhance the possibility of judicial corruption--and the likelihood that it will be covered up. Being tagged "unpublished" means they are not likely to see the light of day--and if they do, they won't be taken seriously. Hence, the possibility for hanky-panky, which is likely to favor connected individuals--such as Scalia's friend John B. Poindexter.
Even one of the nation's leading experts on legal ethics considered unpublished opinions to be a dubious practice. (More on that below--and in an upcoming post.) We agree with him and here, based on research and personal experience, is why:
If you ever are involved in a federal-court case and decide that the trial court's finding is wrong and must be appealed, you will go through a lengthy and expensive process and likely wind up with an opinion that upholds the trial court and carries a "Do Not Publish" stamp in the upper right-hand corner.
A 2009 report in The National Law Journalfound that more than 85 percent of opinions issued in the Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) are stamped "Do Not Publish." The Fourth Circuit (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland) had the highest percentage of unpublished opinions (95 percent). From 2000-2008, the national rate for unpublished opinions topped 81 percent.
In theory, "Do Not Publish" opinions allow appellate judges to decide that certain cases have no precedential value and can be struck from the official record, so as not to clutter up the federal reporters that carry binding case law. In reality, unpublished opinions can be used to cheat litigants, especially every-day citizens who, courts probably assume, can't understand legal writing anyway.
I know because I've had it happen to me three times. Contrary to what federal judges might think, many regular folks can read simple declarative sentences. That, plus the ability to conduct relatively simple online research, is enough to allow you to understand many court opinions--if you take the time to read them closely, without allowing your eyes to glaze over.
Am I a lone voice, howling in the wilderness about this issue? Not by a long shot. The Web site justicedenied.org published an article in 2006 titled "Non-published and non-precedential opinions stealthily harm the innocent." From the article:
Use of non-published opinions, which with very rare exceptions are non-precedential, has reached the point that they are a significant factor affecting the handling and outcome of state and federal civil and criminal cases.
The innocent are one class of litigants affected by the surreptitious and pervasive use of nonpublished opinions. They are likely affected more profoundly than any other identifiable group, because non-published opinions are being used by judges (and prosecutors) as a tool to deny under the cover of darkness the very thing the courts are not just touted as offering, but which is their very reason for existing — to offer litigants the opportunity for “justice. . . .”
Any institutional procedure that undermines the likelihood that a person will be fairly and impartially treated is unacceptable in a society committed to observing “justice” as a real and vibrant guidepost, and not just a meaningless catchphrase intended to placate the masses of people who will never find out how illusory of a concept it can be within the four corners of a courtroom.
Whew, I wish I had written that. Those are some of the most powerful words ever published here at Legal Schnauzer. And Justice Denied did not stop there. It quoted the late Monroe H. Freedman, who was professor and former dean at the Hofstra University School of Law. The following words are from a 1989 speech, so you can only imagine how bad the situation is now:
Frankly, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges.
I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued, judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities, judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules.”
That's not a "crazed blogger" talking. Those are the words of a law professor and former dean who lectured annually for 30 years on legal ethics at Harvard Law School. You can't get much more eminent in the field than that, and Monroe Freedman pulled no punches about the reality of modern courtrooms.
Heck, some judges have recognized profound constitutional issues that unpublished opinions raise. From The National Law Journal:
In 2000, the 8th Circuit went so far as to declare that a circuit rule allowing unpublished opinions without precedential value violated Article III of the Constitution. See Anastasoff v. U.S., 223 F.3d 898 (8th Cir., 2000). Judge Richard S. Arnold’s opinion held that the “judicial power” in Article III, though undefined, is limited and that courts do not have the power to issue decisions—whether published or unpublished—without precedential value, because precedent is the very foundation of the common law system. Although later vacated on other grounds, 235 F.3d 1054 (8th Cir. 2000), the decision generated much debate among judges and legal scholars.
Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the problems inherent with unpublished opinions. Again, from The National Law Journal:
The Supreme Court has criticized the practice of issuing unpublished decisions in consequential cases. Reversing an unpublished 4th Circuit decision, the Supreme Court “deem[ed] it remarkable and unusual” that, in holding an Act of Congress unconstitutional, the court of appeals “found it appropriate to announce its judgment in an unpublished per curiam opinion.”U.S. v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418, 425 n.3 (1993). Similarly, Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent in County of Los Angeles v. Kling, 474 U.S. 936, 938 (1985), denounced the 9th Circuit’s decision not to publish its opinion as “plainly wrong,” likening it to “spawning a body of secret law.”
I would argue that all federal appeals are "consequential" to the parties involved, and that all appellate opinions should be published and kept in reporters. That would go a long way toward forcing appellate judges to issue honest and legally sound opinions. I also would point out to Justice Stevens that the Ninth Circuit hardly is alone in "spawning a body of secret law." In reality, an alarming number of appellate judges create a body of rogue opinions, which do not represent actual law at all. I know it, Prof. Monroe H. Freedman knew it--and now, you know it.
|The late Prof. Monroe H. Freedman|
I will link to the opinions in each of my cases--such appellate rulings can be easily found on Google Scholar--and then briefly describe how each opinion is flawed and contrary to binding precedent. That goes to the reason that "Do Not Publish" is stamped on such opinions--they conflict with the actual law, and if published in reporters, would create mass confusion for lawyers, judges, and litigants. It would be like introducing a cancerous cell into an otherwise healthy body; if such a "cell" is published, and then multiplies with other rogue "cells," havoc ensues--and you no longer have a healthy body of law.
By the way, the Eleventh Circuit requires judges to issue opinions. It used to have Rule 36-1, which allowed for affirmances without opinions. But that rule was rescinded in 2006, supposedly because the court terminated very few cases in that fashion. Other circuits have varying rules, but in the Eleventh Circuit you are entitled to an opinion.
You are not, however, entitled to an honest, or legally justified, opinion. And if your opinion has "Do Not Publish" in the upper right-hand corner, that's a sign it might conflict with the actual law--meaning you've been screwed, just as I have been.
(To be continued)
|James F. Henry|
James F. Henry is the second lawyer from Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings (BABC) that we've found on the list. The other is Rob Campbell, the husband of fellow attorney Minda Riley Campbell and the son-in-law of former governor Bob Riley.
According to his biography at the BABC Web site, Henry has been listed among the best health-care lawyers in the United States from 2012-16. He has a "preeminent rating" from Martindale-Hubbell. Here's how the bio describes Henry's practice:
Jim Henry has extensive experience representing a broad spectrum of health care providers, including hospitals, senior housing and long term care facilities, physicians and physician practices, hospices, home health providers, pharmacies, and medical equipment providers. His practice encompasses operational counseling, regulatory advice, and protecting the rights of health care providers before various regulatory agencies and in state and federal courts. Jim regularly provides advice and counsel in matters relating to Stark law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, HIPAA, contract arrangements, survey and certification, licensing, reimbursement and others.
If you are a doctor charged with malpractice or an administrator charged with health-care fraud, Henry is the guy you want to see at BABC. It seems his specialty is getting such "professionals" off--or with minimal damages. And this case suggests he is pretty good at it--although the favorable ruling came from ancient U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr., who is notorious for protecting corporations, health-care providers, educational institutions, and other "elites." From the Henry bio:
In addition to providing daily advice and counsel to health care providers, Jim handles litigation in the state and federal courts in Alabama and Mississippi. Jim has extensive experience in defending cases involving allegations of health care fraud and malpractice. He has also prosecuted numerous appeals of federal and state agency determinations.
|543 Bristol Lane, Homewood|
Public records show that Henry is married to Kelly Jo Henry, and they have owned a home at 543 Bristol Lane in Homewood for more than 10 years. The home's estimated value is $345,800.
Those familiar with the Birmingham real-estate market know that houses in Homewood tend to be outrageously overpriced. The number above probably is the assessed value of the Henry home, but it's sales price probably would be around $500,000 or more.
It's unclear from the public record if Henry and his wife have children. Considering that their house has five bedrooms and more than 3,000 square feet, it seems likely that they have multiple children.
Come to think of it, that home might list for about $750,000 in Homewood.
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Gov. Robert Bentley and|
Rebekah Caldwell Mason
Spencer Collier, whom Bentley fired yesterday, said he has heard an audiotape of a conversation between Bentley and Mason that left no doubt about the nature of the relationship. On the tape, Bentley makes comments about Mason's "breasts and behind," Collier says.
Before we examine the "rest of the story," allow us to line up our trumpet players for a clarion call. Who broke the story of the Bentley-Mason affair? We did. Who took significant heat for reporting that was based on extremely knowledgeable anonymous sources? We did. Who has been sued twice for "defamation" by Republican operatives--Rob Riley/Liberty Duke and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--and absorbed childish taunts from various Alabama news outlets? We have. Have either the Riley/Duke or Garrison claims ever been proven at trial (a jury trial is required, by law, in defamation cases). Nope, there never has been a trial in either case. Since they never have proven their claims in any adversarial proceeding--much less an actual trial--that means, by law, my reporting is true.
In the Garrison case, I was hit with a $3.5 million default judgment that is not remotely supported by law; in fact, that judgment, by definition, is void because I never received notice of the default hearing, and an Alabama lawyer who examined the file said the record shows no one even attempted to give me notice.
In the Riley case, I was hit with roughly $30,000 in attorney fees--never mind that state law prohibits an award of attorney fees against a non-lawyer party who is representing himself, as I was.
A number of news outlets have made light of the money I allegedly owe, without ever mentioning that neither order has any basis in law or fact. Does that chap my fanny? Yes, it does.
But let's look at the scoreboard now: Legal Schnauzer's reporting on the Bentley-Mason affair, a story we broke last August, is true. Our reporting on Rob Riley/Liberty Duke and Jessica Garrison, as a matter of law, is true.
That sound you hear are trumpets blaring, not only for Legal Schnauzer but for the Web-based press in general--without which all of these stories, plus news of U.S. Judge Bill Pryor's gay-porn nudie photos--never would have reached public view. (And by the way, the Pryor story is accurate too, so I guess that makes the score 4-0.)
Now that we are done patting ourselves on the back, let's take a closer look at Spencer Collier's revelations. This is from a report at al.com:
Spencer Collier, head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency until he was fired today, said this afternoon he has seen and investigated text messages and audio recordings "of a sexual nature" between Gov. Robert Bentley and his chief advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.Here is where things really heat up:
It is the first on-the-record confirmation of a long-rumored affair from someone claiming personal knowledge of what took place, though people close to the governor argue it is the last gasp of an angry man.
But Collier lays out times and dates.
Collier, who was placed on medical leave by the governor last month, said he saw and heard evidence of the relationship in 2014 and approached the governor – who he considered a friend and father figure. He said the governor confirmed the relationship, but vowed to end it quickly.
"It's a horrible, ugly episode and I am ashamed to have been around it," Collier said. "But I told him I would never lie for him."
Collier said the first evidence of an affair arose Aug. 2, 2014, when Stan Stabler – who took his place as the head of ALEA – saw a text message from Mason on Bentley's cell phone. Collier said Stabler saw the message after the governor dropped his phone at a Business Council of Alabama conference at Point Clear.
He said Stabler notified his then-boss, former Bentley security officer Ray Lewis, of the "sexual nature" of the text. . . .
Three days later, at 3 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2014, Lewis brought a laptop to Collier and played an audiotape of conversations between the governor and Mason, Collier said. The tape, purportedly created by a Bentley family member hoping for an "intervention," left no doubt about the relationship, he said.
"'If we're gonna do what we did yesterday we're going to have to lock that door,'" Collier says Mason said.
The governor responded, Collier maintains, with improper comments about "her breasts and behind."
Gee, imagine if Bentley weren't such a "man of God" with "conservative, Christian values." Without that, he probably would have turned the Governor's Mansion into something that looks like a scene from Caligula.
Dr. Robert Bentley has proven he is not much of a governor for Alabama, but he sure has potential as a highly creative sex educator.
Bentley acknowledged at a press conference yesterday making "inappropriate remarks" to aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but he denied the two had engaged in "sexual activity." But an audio recording published at multiple news outlets has Bentley talking fondly to Mason about "putting my hands under you." He also says, "When I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts . . . hey, I love that, too."
Sounds like "Doctor Love" was doing more than talking dirty. How would he know he loves certain activities if he had not already engaged in them?
Where are such acts not regarded as sexual activity? Maybe on "Planet Lovetron," made famous by the late basketball quipster Darryl Dawkins. But on this particular planet, where most of us live, Bentley's words undeniably describe that "sexy thang." And Bentley must think the people of Alabama are abominably dense if he expects them to buy his story.
|The "Love Doctor," with his aide|
who has bodacious boobs and
a fine behind.
In a sign that karma really is a "bee-atch," former First Lady Dianne Bentley, who ended her 50-year marriage to the governor because of the Mason affair, played a major role in exposing the "lovebirds." That's from the conservative Alabama political site Yellowhammer News and a report by publisher Cliff Sims:
Yellowhammer was given exclusive access to the content of audio recordings captured by Dianne Bentley, Governor Bentley’s ex-wife, during which Governor Bentley makes sexual advances on and recalls sexual encounters with Rebekah Mason, his former communications director who has since become his most senior external advisor. Mrs. Mason’s husband, Jon, also serves in the Bentley administration as Director of Serve Alabama, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service.
One of the recordings was captured while Governor and Mrs. Bentley were visiting their beach house.
Mrs. Bentley, who had suspected the affair, went for a walk on the beach, but left her cell phone behind recording the audio of what took place in her absence.
During that time period, Governor Bentley can be heard making a phone call to “Rebekah” that includes sexual references to their time together. The Governor also expressed a desire to “FaceTime” so they could see each other.
Maybe Mrs. Bentley has a future as a private investigator, a female Barnaby Jones. (Barnaby was famous for going into bars and asking bartenders for a cold glass of milk. That's the kind of wholesome guy Mrs. Bentley needs and deserves. Unfortunately, Buddy Ebsen, the great actor who played Barnaby [and Jed Clampett] has gone to that big TV studio in the sky.) Anyway, here's more from Yellowhammer:
A second recording appears to have been made at the Governor’s residence.
In the recordings, the Governor calls Mrs. Mason “baby” and discusses how much he enjoys standing behind her and touching her breasts. He also references a past encounter and says if they are going to do “that” again, they will need to start locking the door and also consider moving “Wanda’s” desk further away, presumably referencing executive assistant Wanda Kelly, whose Capitol office is just outside of the Governor’s.
References were also made to encounters that took place at Blount House, a 12,336-square-foot, Georgian-style home in Montgomery that serves as a second Governor’s Mansion. The property was donated to the state in 2008 by the family of the late businessman Wynton “Red” Blount. It was valued at $28 million at the time.
Perhaps "Dr. Love" Bentley deserves credit for something. Unlike other conservative politicos who have taken a "wide stance" with their marriage vows, Bentley at least did the "schwing thing" with a woman--and she's pretty good looking, at that.
Perhaps it's reassuring to some that lurking beneath that Montgomery Burns exterior was an inner Hugh Hefner all along.
One final note: This has not been widely reported, but the taping of Bentley's apology video included a number of outtakes. Here they are:
|Mark Felt, who later was revealed as "Deep Throat,"|
the anonymous source who broke open
the Watergate scandal.
National reporters generally got it wrong about who broke the Bentley/Mason story. Credit tended to go to al.com and columnist John Archibald, who discussed the story on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow even made a comment that the story provided an example of why communities should support their local newspapers, many of which are on life support.
As much as we like Rachel Maddow--and we like her a lot--she got it wrong. Yes, al.com deserves credit for breaking comments from former ALEA chief Spencer Collier about his knowledge of the affair--and for bringing the audio recording, which revealed Bentley as a creepy phony, to public light.
But al.com did not break the story. Legal Schnauzer, this blog, broke the story on August 31, 2015. We not only broke the story about the affair, but we provided insight into how the affair had turned the Bentley administration into a dysfunctional mess, which might be the most important angle going forward. (More on all of this in upcoming posts.)
For months, al.com would not even mention the word "affair" in its coverage. And it's likely, given the substantial blow back we received, the story never would have reached the light of day if a one-man blog, which happens to have extremely knowledgeable and reliable sources, had not broken it.
Which takes us to The Washington Post. Yes, one of the most powerful entities in journalism put the Bentley/Mason story on a national stage. But it gave zero credit to the blog that actually broke the story roughly seven months ago. In fact, it gave pretty much a backhanded slap to the Web press in general--and, get this, it's all because our original story was based on anonymous sources.
Yep, here is how WaPo reporter Amber Phillips put it:
Here's the story: On Tuesday, the two-term governor fired the state's top cop. That same day, the now-fired top cop told AL.com that Bentley had been having an affair with one of his top advisers. And he said he could prove it.So you have The Washington Post taking shots at "unsubstantiated blogs" (primarily this one, we presume), and it's apparently because the story broke via anonymous sources.
The governor has denied affair rumors in the past, calling them "ridiculous. . . . "
Bentley hasn't been able to shake that over the past year, whether in unsubstantiated blogs or in the halls of Alabama's capitol, there has been a rumor swirling he was having an affair with his chief adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. (Mason is married, but Bentley's 50-year marriage officially ended this fall, an abrupt ending that Bentley has said shocked him.)
According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Phillips graduated from Texas Christian University in 2008, which suggests she is roughly 30 years old. It sounds like she is a bright young woman and a promising reporter, with quite a bit of international experience. But does she know much of anything about a little political scandal called Watergate--and her newspaper's historic role in breaking it.
|Amber Phillips, Washington Post|
How important was "Deep Throat" to famed reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein? This is from the Wikipedia entry on the Watergate scandal:
Chief among the Post's anonymous sources was an individual whom Woodward and Bernstein had nicknamed Deep Throat; 33 years later, in 2005, the informant was identified as William Mark Felt, Sr., deputy director of the FBI during that period of the 1970s, something Woodward later confirmed. Felt met secretly with Woodward several times, telling him of Howard Hunt's involvement with the Watergate break-in, and that the White House staff regarded the stakes in Watergate extremely high. Felt warned Woodward that the FBI wanted to know where he and other reporters were getting their information, as they were uncovering a wider web of crimes than the FBI first disclosed. In one of their last meetings, all of which took place at an underground parking garage somewhere in Rosslyn from the FBI on June 22, 1973, Felt also planted leaks about Watergate to Time magazine, the Washington Daily News and other publications.
Did Post editors--and readers around the country--consider Woodward and Bernstein's work to be "unsubstantiated" because they relied on an anonymous source--one whose code named was inspired by a pornographic film? Of course not. Their work was considered groundbreaking and has been hailed in numerous books and films; they remain probably the most famous reporting team in journalism history--a team that brought down a corrupt president, Richard M. Nixon.
So why would the Post take a slap at a journalist for using anonymous sources--especially one whose reporting now has proven to be right on target? Is it ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both? It's hard to say.
But history shows that an anonymous source helped bring down a president. Perhaps such a source will bring down Robert Bentley and Alabama's "de facto governor" Rebekah Mason.
|Robert Bentley: From sex scandal to criminal misuse|
of law-enforcement resources.
APR publisher Bill Britt said sources told him that Bentley's actions were a glaring violation of law, and these matters (and others) currently are part of a criminal investigation. From today's article:
Gov. Robert Bentley pressured law enforcement officers to use federal and state resources to target those critical of his relationship with senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, according to high ranking officers and staff.
In an effort to find potentially damaging information on those who spoke out against the couple, Bentley instructed top law enforcement agents to investigate private citizens, in direct conflict with the law, said those close to the matter. (These individuals spoke on background to alreporter.com because of a criminal investigation surrounding this and other matters).
Two individuals with detailed knowledge of the incidents say Bentley ordered the use of the National Crime Information Center, (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find any incriminating evidence that might be used against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler.
I broke the story of the Bentley/Mason affair here at Legal Schnauzer on August 31, 2015. The story exploded on the national scene last week when Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), told reporters he had seen and heard direct evidence of an inappropriate relationship between the governor and his aide. That story quickly was followed by the release of audio recordings that had Bentley talking about touching Mason's breasts from behind, reaching "under" her to apparently touch her behind and the area between her legs, and stating more than a dozen times that he loved her.
Watkins, at his Facebook page, published a multi-part series titled "Forbidden Love: Robert Bentley's Secret Love Affair." (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.) Here are just a few of the details Watkins' reporting added to the story:
The Governor’s relationship with Rebekah Mason raised eyebrows around the Capitol and with Mrs. Bentley. Rebekah Mason was quickly emerging as the Governor’s voice on any important speech or comment made by him during his first term. In time, Rebekah Mason would run the state of Alabama through her special personal relationship with Bentley.
By July 2013, Rebekah Mason had moved out of the governor’s office to serve as the communications director for Bentley’s re-election campaign. After the election, she became Bentley’s “Senior Political Advisor”. The two became inseparable. Bentley fell in love with Rebekah Mason. She became his paramour. After achieving paramour status, Mason had unfettered access to state trooper transportation, the state aircraft, the Governor’s mansion, and a host of other state resources and privileges typically reserved for the First Lady.
In an interview with Bill Britt, Watkins said he was not surprised to be receiving special attention from the governor. Writes Britt:
In an interview with alreporter.com Watkins said, “I knew he was targeting me, I have known for years that Bentley was upset by my public criticism of his administration and his policies.”
Watkins said Bentley first targeted him in 2013 using banking regulators: “We came under excessive regulatory review and are still under excessive regulatory review,” said Watkins.
He said in 2014 Bentley asked the SEC to investigate his businesses, even through they are not under SEC regulation. “That investigation went nowhere,” said Watkins.
But again, in 2015, Bentley sought a criminal investigation, according to Watkins, “I provided the investigators with all the documentation and that case was close within 30 days.”
“Every case started with a hint or a suggestion of impropriety on my part by Bentley’s Office and each case went nowhere,” said Watkins.
ALEA was twice asked to conduct a criminal investigation into Watkins, this has been confirmed by law enforcement officers.
As for me, I should not be surprised at anything, given all my wife, Carol, and I have been through since first encountering rocky legal waters in Shelby County some 16 years ago. I've been arrested and thrown in jail for five months; we lost our home of 25 years to a foreclosure that almost certainly was wrongful; we were evicted from an apartment in our new "home" of Springfield, Missouri, even though we had filed an appeal that put an automatic stay on the proceedings; during the eviction process, I watched three deputies surround Carol as she tried to retrieve some of our personal belongings, slamming her to the ground and yanking on her arms so violently that it badly bruised one and broke the other in a way that required trauma surgery for repair.
|Washington Post report about|
The White House Plumbers
(From Washington Post)
Despite all of that, Bill Britt's report has left me in a state of . . . well, I guess you could call it "dumbfoundedness." It's well established by now that Robert Bentley is a creep and a phony, but I did not see him as fundamentally evil. But today's news suggests Bentley has stooped to a Nixonian level of political chicanery. Carol and I have periodically wondered aloud to each other--somewhat in jest--if our e-mail and cell phone are secure, if someone has gone through our personal financial and health records, if someone has influenced one-time friends (even family members) to harm us or work against us.
The answer to all of those questions now appears to be yes. And God only knows what else Bentley and his henchmen have been up to. We long have thought our No. 1 enemies were associated with former Governor Bob Riley and his son, Rob "Uday Hussein" Riley. We have little doubt that the Rileys reside in an "ethics-free zone" where they re convinced they can get away with most anything. But it now seems the Bible-thumping Robert Bentley is every bit as crazed as are the Rileys.
From Bill Britt's article:
The Alabama Political Reporter has already confirmed the US Department of Justice is investigating the firings at ALEA, and if actions against Collier and others were part of a cover-up orchestrated by Bentley and Mason.
Shuler, on his site Legal Schnauzer, has written numerous articles on Bentley and Mason. In an August 2015 post he wrote, “Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married mother of three from Bentley’s home base of Tuscaloosa, was the governor’s mistress in an affair that sources say raises a number of possible legal issues–including use of the state jet and a state trooper’s services for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Bentley’s official role.” He also wrote, “[S]ources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. He’s been impotent as governor for at least the last six months,” one source told Legal Schnauzer. “People have been going into his office and saying, ‘Do what I want or I’m going to play the girlfriend card.’”
While the media’s and public’s attention has been primary focused on the alleged affair, Bentley’s real problems are the issues before law enforcement.
As president, Richard Nixon had a special investigative unit called The White House Plumbers, Their role was to stop media leaks and harass or punish perceived enemies of the administration. Has Dr. Robert Bentley, the mild-mannered dermatologist from Tuscaloosa, morphed into that kind of political crook?
It sure looks that way from here--where we apparently have been one of his targets for quite some time.
|Could Gov. Robert Bentley, and mistress Rebekah Caldwell|
Mason, have criminal charges in their futures.
Maybe that's why Bentley pressured law enforcement to target me and attorney Donald Watkins in an effort to shut down reporting about the gubernatorial love nest. Maybe he feared our reporting would go beyond groping and groaning and focus on abuse of the governor's official position. If so, Bentley was right to be fearful of that.
How do we know? Well, the story of the Bentley/Mason extramarital affair broke here, at Legal Schnauzer, last August--almost seven months before national news outlets, such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow Show,took notice last week. And we did not just ouline the story's "T and A" elements, the kind that tend to make a blog's page views soar. We also addressed the unsexy notion that the public trust had been betrayed, the state's government had been compromised, and criminal acts might be involved.
Consider the following words from our original report--and then we invite you to consider them in light of recent reports that members of Bentley's cabinet had received raises (double-digit percentage increases in some cases) that one state senator called "outrageous." From Legal Schnauzer on August 31, 2015:
Rebekah Caldwell Mason, sources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. "He's been impotent as governor for at least the last six months," one source told Legal Schnauzer."People have been going into his office and saying, 'Do what I want or I'm going to play the girlfriend card.' People have been running all over him."
What happens when an "impotent" governor allows people to "run all over him" because he's afraid they will play the "girlfriend card" if they don't get their way? Is that the kind of thing that leads to "outrageous" raises for cabinet members?
Well, consider some of the details about the pay-raise story, from Associated Press:
While many cabinet members are making more money this year, four cabinet members received raises of about $70,000, according to state pay records.
The salaries of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson, Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling increased from $91,014 to about $164,000. The pay increases were first reported . . . by the blog Inside Alabama Politics.
Did Byard, Gipson, Magee, or Ridling apply improper pressure to get their raises by playing the "girlfriend card" with Bentley? We don't have a yes-or-no answer to that question yet. But our blog raised the specter of such chicanery last summer.
As one of our sources said in the original report:
I have . . . been told that Bentley's trooper facilitated the affair, and that the state jet was used extensively to facilitate it. And that Bentley and Mason actually used it as a bedroom at times when Mrs. Bentley was still living in the mansion. . . . The use of state resources to facilitate an affair would surely violate state law. . . .
Here's how we tried to put the story into perspective--and this was almost seven months ago:
The Bentley-Mason affair, in the aftermath of Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint, has left the governor's administration teetering. Legal fallout from the affair could have ugly consequences, including Bentley's resignation and a possible criminal investigation.
It's no secret that sex "sells"--and helps drive blog page views. But has the Bentley/Mason story been about more serious matters? Yes, it has--right from the start.
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|Rob Riley: He invented|
abuse of police powers
against Legal Schnauzer
That leads to this question: Are the federal and state authorities investigating Bentley's misuse of law-enforcement resources to target me also going to scrutinize others who have done the same thing.
By "others," I'm referring to Homewood attorney Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley, 2003-11) and the conspirators who helped him have me unlawfully arrested and thrown in jail for five months (from October 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014). Thanks to Rob Riley and Co., I became the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006 and the only one to be imprisoned in the Western Hemisphere in 2013. My research indicates I'm the only journalist in American history to be incarcerated because of a defamation lawsuit (which had no basis in law or fact) that sought a preliminary injunction and resulting contempt order that have been unlawful under First Amendment law for more than 200 years.
Who were Riley's conspirators? Some are obvious from the public record. Riley's co-plaintiff was lobbyist Liberty Duke, and her attorney was Christina Crow, of Union Springs. Almost all members of the Riley Jackson Law Firm--Jay Murrill, Jeremiah Mosley, Keith Jackson, Francois Blaudeau--played a role in representing their boss/partner. Claud Neilson, pulled out of retirement in Demopolis to serve as "judge,"rubber stamped every document the Riley firm prepared for him, so it seems likely he was in on the scheme. Several Shelby County deputies--especially Chris Blevins, Jason Valenti, and Mike DeHart--trampled our Fourth Amendment rights, so their boss at the time (former sheriff Chris Curry) likely was involved.
I strongly suspect U.S. Circuit Judge William H. Pryor was a conspirator, given that law enforcement started swarming our home shortly after I reported about Pryor's ties to gay pornography, via full-frontal nude photos that appeared at badpuppy.com in the 1990s.
How did abuse of law-enforcement authority take shape in the Riley case? Let us count just a few of the ways:
(1) Officers trampled our property for more than a week in the days after the Pryor/gay porn story broke. Birmingham Attorney David Gespass later viewed the unlawfully sealed case file--after visiting me in jail--and reported no summons had been issued at the time the sheriff's department started flexing its muscle. The deputies' story--and they came 2-3 at a time, always in multiple vehicles, often parked to block our driveway--apparently was that they were trying to serve us with the complaint in the Riley lawsuit. But if no summons had been issued, they could not have been attempting lawful service. Without a summons, officers had no lawful grounds to be on our property and they were committing criminal trespass and invasion of privacy. The evidence suggests the officers, in fact, were trying to arrest us, not serve us.
(3) When I challenged DeHart's "service" as unlawful, filing a motion to quash service, Deputy Chris Blevins and several colleagues (including Jason Valenti, who threatened to break my arms) were dispatched to our home to arrest me--no matter how many constitutional violations it took. As I pulled our car into the basement garage of our house, Blevins entered without showing a warrant, saying he had a warrant, or even stating his purpose for being there. This violated state and federal law, but he then beat me up--violently shoving me to a concrete floor three times and dousing me with pepper spray. I then was dragged to the back seat of a squad car and driven to the Shelby County Jail in Columbiana, where I stayed for five months. as the story made international news.
Without a summons, Blevins and Co. were trespassers and kidnappers. That's how ugly the Riley case got.
What about Robert Bentley's abuse of law-enforcement power? What forms has it taken? We don't have a definitive answer to that question, but available evidence points to some very ugly actions, indeed--almost as if Bentley borrowed directly from the Rob Riley playbook.
Bottom line: If Robert Bentley is under criminal investigation, in part, because of his actions toward me, Rob Riley and Co. also should be investigated.
|Rebekah and Jon Mason|
Mason becomes the second major Alabama political figure to step down in the past year in the wake of investigative reporting that originated with this blog. The other was former U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, known mainly for causing former governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to be unlawfully sent to prison,
Fuller formally resigned on August 1, 2015, after revelations that he had beaten his second wife in an Atlanta hotel room. That came not long after our reports that Fuller's divorce from his first wife included allegations of domestic violence and substance abuse. Once wife-beating stories surfaced, the earlier reports about Fuller's first divorce probably sealed his fate because they showed a pattern of abusive behavior in his personal life.
As for Mason, she stepped down with her version of the classic "I want to spend more time with my family" bit:
I have resigned as Senior Political Advisor to Governor Bentley and will no longer be paid from his campaign fund. I have also ended my work with the Alabama Council For Excellent Government. My only plans are to focus my full attention on my precious children and my husband who I love dearly. They are the most important people in my life. Thank you for your prayers for our family.
No word if Mason's future plans include allowing a non-spouse, who happens to hold a powerful public position, to caress her breasts and explore her nether regions. Imagine what she and Bentley would have done if their relationship had been "physical."
Where does the Bentley scandal go now? For the answer to that question, we turn to Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, who has more than a little knowledge about high-level criminal-defense work. Watkins also knows how low Bentley can go when threatened. According to reports earlier this week, Bentley targeted Watkins and me for law-enforcement attention in an effort to halt our reporting on the Mason affair.
Watkins' thoughts can be found via a Facebook post titled "Bentley will not resign; feds must indict him." Here are highlights:
It's official. Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley is not resigning. Instead, he is throwing political consultant/swinging partner Rebekah Mason and her husband Jonathan under the bus. Bentley is also expected to sacrifice chief legal advisor David Byrne in a desperate bid to save his job.
Bentley is privately telling a few trusted friends that Rebekah and Byrne are to blame for everything involved in his "sex for power" scandal and public corruption activities because he simply trusted them and relied upon their professional advice. He is also claiming that Rebekah started flirting with him early on in their professional relationship and eventually seduced him around 2014. According to Bentley, he gave in to Rebekah's charm, but has now come to his senses.
Remarkably, Bentley thinks the public will forgive him if he distances himself from Rebekah. The governor is implementing the deal he struck with AL.com in exchange for their editorial board support. He is forcing Rebekah to resign.
Bentley must be hoping Mason doesn't notice the bus that just steamrolled her. But Watkins has other ideas:
If I were Rebekah's lawyer, I would strongly recommend that she contact the federal agents who are investigating this matter ASAP because Bentley has already decided his course of action. Rebekah should tell federal investigators all that she knows.
That sounds like wise counsel to me; it's the same approach indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard should have taken months ago with Bob and Rob Riley. Hubbard was not smart enough to follow that path. How smart will Rebekah Mason be in making her next move?
After all, resigning will not free her from the scrutiny of criminal investigators.
|Jessica Garison, with Luther Strange|
It looks grim for Bentley and Mason, but someone else looks almost as bad as they do--and she is a GOP insider who has been the subject of numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer.
We're talking about Jessica Medeiros Garrison, former campaign manager and all-around "gal pal" to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.
Garrison filed a defamation lawsuit against me for reporting, accurately, that she had an affair with Strange. Last October, Garrison somehow caught the attention of Liz Welch, a writer for women's fashion magazine Marie Claire. The two combined on an "as told to" article that touted Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment in the case and defamed me in more ways than I can count.
Did the "dynamic duo" of Garrison and Welch mention that her default judgment was void, as a matter of law? Nope. Did they mention that Garrison's lawsuit was built almost entirely on a mountain of fraud and perjury? Nope. Did they mention that Garrison's lawsuit, as a matter of law, proved that my reporting was NOT false or defamatory--and Garrison has publicly stated that she plans to try to have my articles censored, even though they've never been proven false or defamatory at trial? Of course not. That would take a level of honesty and integrity that Garrison and Welch apparently are not capable of reaching.
Which brings us to Garrison and Mason--and how their two stories of sleaze intersect. In her haste to defame me, Garrison apparently thought it would be a good idea to jump on the Mason/Bentley "love train." After all, I was the journalist who had broken the gubernatorial-affair story last August 31, almost seven months before the national press went gaga over it last week.
Garrison was in the process of trying to con the public into believing my reporting about her affair with Luther Strange was inaccurate, so she must have thought it was a good time to try to convince the public my reporting on the Bentley/Mason affair also was false.
In the wake of Mason's resignation--not to mention audio recordings of Bentley stating he liked to caress Mason's breasts and explore her nether regions--that doesn't look like such a good idea now.
For one thing, the Bentley/Mason contretemps could go way beyond the groping and groaning of two "family values" Christians who let lust lead them astray. Just how ugly could it get? Consider these words from Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, in a Facebook post titled "Bentley Unmasked." Some highlights:
Federal and state criminal investigators are hot on the trail of Alabama’s newest “Bonnie and Clyde” couple. Bentley’s case is dripping with evidence of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering violations under federal law, among other charges. At the end of the day, Robert Bentley is nothing more than a lovesick “swinger” and hardcore “racketeer” who ran a criminal enterprise out of the governor’s office and who sponsored his illicit love affair with taxpayer dollars and donations/funneled money to various organizations. . . .
Reports are flooding into our Facebook news team about certain “pay-to-play” contracts that implicate Bentley and Rebekah directly. It seems that the loving couple found an effective way to circumvent public oversight, transparency and competitive bid laws by channeling millions of public dollars into entities like the Workforce Councils of Alabama and others legitimate agencies and then directing the recipient agency to execute vendor contracts with certain special friends and supporters.
Now that federal investigators are following the money, Bentley has stopped talking.
Doesn't sound like anyone would want to hitch a ride on that train wreck. But Jessica Garrison did just that a few months ago. Here is what Garrison told Liz Welch, who apparently is incapable of asking a single question that might help determine if her source is trustworthy or full of horse feces:
I wish that's where my story ended. In a way, it is—but another chapter just opened.
The week before last, I got a call from a man who works in Alabama politics. He was upset about rumors swirling around the recent announcement of Governor Robert Bentley's impending divorce. Bentley's wife filed papers in late August, which prompted the same blogger who lied about me to write that the cause was primarily the result of an affair with one of his aides, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
I had no idea if any of this was true—all I knew was that it brought back all the anxiety, stress, and sadness that had consumed me for months when I was the target of the same man.
I have since learned that Rebekah has retained a lawyer, and while I don't know the details of her case, I do know this: I am proud of her for fighting for her name and reputation. If more women fight back, then maybe, just maybe, people like Shuler will stop seeing us as easy targets—and more as forces better not reckoned with.
What was Garrison trying to accomplish here? Three or four things seem apparent:
(1) She was trying to "climb in bed with" Rebekah Mason and Gov. Bentley (pardon the terrible pun). She wanted to be seen as their ally, as someone who had been through an experience similar to theirs.
(2) She wanted the public to know that the mean old journalist who had "lied about [her]" was now targeting Ms. Mason in the same reckless manner.
(3) She is proud of Ms. Mason for retaining a lawyer to fight for "her name and reputation," issuing a thinly veiled threat to other journalists that they best not report on white, female GOP operatives.
Garrison's narrative was weak to begin with, but now it has sprung massive leaks:
|Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
* If Garrison wants the public to believe I "lied" about Mason the way I "lied" about her . . . well, the public now knows I didn't "lie" about Mason. That seems to blow a major hole in the Marie Claire claim that I lied about Garrison. It certainly shows that I am a professional journalist, I take my reporting here seriously, and I have darned good sources.
* If Garrison is fired up about Mason's fight for "her name and reputation" . . . well, that fight isn't going so well at the moment. Our guess is that quite a few Alabamians now think of Mason as a "political slut" and a "power-hungry whore." Mason will be lucky if she avoids the term "federal inmate." Based on Donald Watkins' insights, Mason might want to start considering how she will look in an environment where "orange is the new black."
The bottom line? Jessica Garrison went out of her way to side with Rebekah Mason, in an apparent effort to bolster her claim that I have a habit of reporting inaccurately on matters of political intrigue. Well, the Mason case now shows that I have a habit of getting it right--and Mason's career as a political advisor is toast.
Perhaps the public needs to take another look at my reporting on the Garrison/Strange affair. That's because--as a matter of law, and otherwise--it's on target.
In an effort to add levity to the proceedings, let's check out the 1976 KISS classic, "Calling Dr. Love." Sounds like Ms. Mason put out several calls to "Doctor Love"--and he was more than willing to respond. (BTW, is it just me, or does this song need a little more cowbell in the intro?)
Al.com's cell-phone story is intriguing, and it provides a possible key angle to the story, suggesting Bentley was buying the phones to hide evidence of his phone calls and text messages to paramour and former senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
So where does hypocrisy enter the picture?
Al.com for months has tried to paper over the fact that it got soundly beaten on the Bentley/Mason story. I broke the story, here at Legal Schnauzer, of the extramarital affair and some of its repercussions seven months ago, on August, 31, 2015. Al.comfinally awoke from its slumber last week, in the wake of reports from former ALEA chief Spencer Collier that Bentley and Mason had engaged in an affair, plus release of audio that had Bentley speaking fondly of caressing Mason's breasts and exploring her nether regions.
During the seven months al.com failed to report on the affair it repeatedly disparaged my work as the product of "unsubstantiated rumors." Why the use of that language? It apparently was because I based my story on insights from anonymous sources, who happen to be highly knowledgeable insiders on Alabama politics but did not want their names released because of concerns about possible retaliation from the Bentley administration--which has shown it is quite capable of seeking retaliation.
Now, guess what al.com's used in its story about disposable "burner" cell phones. Anonymous sources--surprise, surprise! This is from reporter Connor Sheets article:
Gov. Robert Bentley personally bought multiple inexpensive, disposable cell phones last year at a Best Buy in Tuscaloosa, according to current and former employees of the electronics store. . . .
Two employees – one current and one former – of the Best Buy location in the Midtown Village shopping center in Tuscaloosa told AL.com Thursday that they had each personally sold a single disposable cell phone to Bentley last year.
"[U]p until the scandal came to light, Bentley HIMSELF would by (sic) little burner phones ... I witnessed it with my own 2 eyes and even sold him one," the current Best Buy employee wrote via online message. "I sold to him once, saw him purchase twice."
The current employee said that on both occasions, Bentley purchased inexpensive AT&T flip phones, "the type you buy minutes for. They cost around 15 bucks."
The former Best Buy employee corroborated the general thrust of the current employee's story in a phone conversation Thursday morning.
Did al.com give the Best Buy employees' names? Nope. They remain nameless in Sheets' followup piece today:
Gov. Robert Bentley spent $1,732.68 on "cell phones and prepaid wireless" at Best Buy last year, Bentley's state campaign finance records reveal.
The evidence of the expenditure bolsters the stories of two employees – one former, one current – of the Best Buy in Tuscaloosa's Midtown Village shopping center who told AL.com Thursday that they each personally sold a single disposable "burner" cell phone to Bentley last year.
Why did the Best Buy employees want to remain anonymous? Probably because they feared retaliation--in the form of being fired from their jobs for speaking out about the governor. In other words, al.com granted anonymity to key sources for the same reason I granted anonymity to mine.
|Disposable "burner" cell phones|
Here is a brief journalism lesson from someone who has spent his adult life in the field: If a story is built on anonymous sources, it does not mean it is "unsubstantiated"; it does not mean the story presents "no evidence" to support its claims. It means a professional reporter trusts his sources and believes they have legitimate reasons for wishing to remain unnamed.
Do anonymous sources matter in journalism? Can they change the course of history? Just ask Richard Nixon (except he's dead). Or you could ask Robert Bentley in a few weeks or months, when he might be out as Alabama governor and headed for a federal "correctional facility."
The Bentley/Mason story did not break last week; it broke last summer, and last week's reports only prove that my reporting was on target all along. Al.com does not want you to know that, probably because they don't like the stinging criticism I've sent their way over the years and they are embarrassed that a one-man news shop has kicked their ass--and not for the first time.
To be clear, I applaud Connor Sheets' reporting on the "burner" cell phones. It makes for darned good reading, and I think it could lead to important evidence regarding Bentley's actions.
But Connor Sheets works for a slipshod news organization, one that never has had a very good reputation, and it's now a mere shadow of its former dubious self.
Our message to Connor Sheets is "good work." Our message to his employer? Hypocrisy, thy name is al.com.
The lawyer is Donald Watkins, of Birmingham, who has written extensively about the Bentley administration on Facebook. The journalist is me, and I apparently incurred the governor's wrath after breaking the affair story last August.
Spencer Collier, whom Bentley fired on March 22 before the affair story attracted national news coverage, met with the FBI last Thursday, according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter. The meeting reportedly covered a number of topics, with one of them being Bentley's efforts to use law-enforcement resources in order to silence reporting from Watkins and me. Writes Bill Britt:
On Thursday, WSFA reported that former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Chief Spencer Collier, met with agents under the authority of US Attorney for the Middle District, George Beck. Scant details of the meeting are known at this time, but it is believed that in recent days, Beck’s office has been gathering information concerning a number of issues surrounding the Bentley Administration.
Reportedly, the FBI is looking into the firings at ALEA, the closing of criminal investigations, the use of NCIC and LETS to target enemies, and Bentley’s relationship with his now former senior advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason and her husband, Jon. Bentley’s order to lie and not provide an affidavit to the Attorney General, in relation to the Speaker Mike Hubbard criminal case, is also believed to be of interest to the US Attorney, as well as Bentley’s 501(c)4.
For now, persons of interest are believed to be, Bentley, Mason, Jon Mason, plus, current ALEA Secretary Stan Stabler, and SBI Director Gene Wiggins.
NCIC is the National Crime Information Center, and LETS is the Law Enforcement Tactical System. Britt continues:
Also according to law enforcement officers, Bentley ordered Collier to use the NCIC data base and the State’s LETS, to launch an investigation into critics Donald V. Watkins and Roger Shuler.
In a separate article, Britt reports that Collier refused to carry out Bentley's order. It is unclear if Bentley found someone else to investigate Watkins and me, what (if any) information they might have found, and how it might have been used. The second article is titled "What we know, what we think, what we can prove." Here is Britt's take on Bentley's apparent efforts to shut down the accurate reporting of two citizen journalists:
What do we know?
Bentley ordered Collier to use the NCIC data base and the State’s LETS, to launch an investigation into critics, Donald V. Watkins and Roger Shuler. Collier claims he refused.
What do we think?
If Bentley was targeting private citizens, this could be a serious abuse of power. Did Bentley have others targeted in other ways?
What can we prove?
Bentley ordered Collier to use the NCIC data base and the State’s LETS system. Collier did not comply.
For now, we know this for sure: The FBI's presence suggests this is a serious matter that might become extremely serious. Writes Britt:
The revelation that Collier met with agents from the US Attorney’s Office further confirms that events surrounding the affidavit, the firings at ALEA and other actions related to the Bentley-Mason affair, have generated more than just public outrage.
With each passing day--drip--and each new revelation--drip, drip--Robert Bentley sounds more and more like Richard Nixon.
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|Gov. Robert Bentley, with al.com mouthpiece Chuck Dean|
Bentley also has shown a tendency to blame others--especially citizen journalists (like me)--for his problems. Just more than three months ago, Bentley flashed anger toward "bloggers" who fueled the story of his extramarital affair with former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Does that explain press accounts that Bentley sought to use law-enforcement resources to discredit attorney Donald Watkins and me--for reporting the public now knows was accurate and has attracted national media attention in recent days?
As for Bentley's "lyin' eyes" (not to mention his tongue), consider this from al.com's Chuck Dean, published on December 27, 2015. Dean claims this was the first time Bentley had spoken publicly about "rumors" of an affair with a senior advisor (named Rebekah Caldwell Mason):
Throughout the ordeal Bentley, reluctant to talk about the deeply personal issue, would only say it was a personal, family matter.
And he never addressed the unfounded rumors of an affair.
"The rumors were not true," said Bentley.
Oops, looks like we caught the governor in a lie. Then, Bentley and his mouthpiece, Dean, lay it on thicker:
The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.
"There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.
Bentley said it's hard as a public official to address the kind of rumors that were being spread and he said he felt to directly address them would only serve in some cases to give them credibility.
Bentley said the rumors hurt many people.
"There were many people – my own family and there were a lot of other families – many people, people that I love, that I care about, they went through some difficult times because people were able to say whatever they wanted to say. They were just ridiculous. I don't know how anyone could ever believe them."
How does the governor act toward citizen journalists he thinks have "crossed the line," by reporting accurately on his sexual hijinks? Does he sic law enforcement on them? We hope to learn more about that in the near future.
As for Bentley's claim that people who "were able to say whatever they wanted to say" had hurt families and people that he "loves" . . . well, governor, it looks like you were the one who hurt those families. Perhaps Chuck Dean could ask Dianne Bentley about the governor's treatment of the people he supposedly loves.
By the way, the bloggers weren't so "ridiculous" after all, were they?
Bentley wonders how "anyone could ever believe them." But here is the bigger question for the people of Alabama: How could anyone ever again believe a word Robert Bentley says?
The statements shine new light on Garrison's lawsuit against Legal Schnauzer, alleging our reporting on her affair with Strange was false and defamatory. It also raises questions about a $3.5-million default judgment Garrison received primarily because my wife, Carol, and I had to leave Alabama when we lost our home of 25 years in a foreclosure that almost certainly was wrongful. We have shown that the judgment is void, as a matter of law, and it was based almost entirely on a mountain of fraud and perjury.
Public records show there was no trial in the Garrison matter, much less a jury trial as required by decades of First Amendment law. That means Garrison did not come close to meeting her burden of proof--and, by law, my reporting was neither false nor defamatory.
Barron, a Democrat from Fyffe, served in the Alabama Legislature for 28 years. His comments came in a recent interview with Marcus Echols at BlogTalk Radio on "Bringing Voices to Power." Strange brought an indictment against Barron in April 2013 on charges of campaign finance law violations, but the AG's office filed a motion to dismiss all charges in August 2014, and the court granted it.
Echols asked Barron about the current sex scandal involving Gov. Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, which includes revelations that Mason and her husband, Jon, have made roughly $1 million since Bentley took office in 2011. Barron was quick to compare it to the Strange/Garrison relationship:
[Mason] got $500,000 in his campaign . . .That's the same thing Luther Strange did; he paid his mistress, Ms. Garrison, $450,000 to $460,000 during his campaign. They were fussing at me paying my assistant a $50,000 bonus when my campaign was over . . . these people have done much worse . . . With the evidence out on Bentley now, it's pretty obvious what has been going on behind closed doors with him and the young lady they say is really the governor. . . . It's just sad.
Barron said he's seen evidence firsthand that the Garrison affair affects the way Strange does his job. During the trial in DeKalb County, Barron's lawyers filed a subpoena, seeking to have Strange testify about his relationship with Garrison and payments he had made to her. The judge in the case did not immediately rule on Barron's efforts to have Strange testify, and the issue still was on the table when the AG's office asked to have the case dismissed.
|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
Luther Strange is so compromised that he cannot go after the governor. What happened in my case . . . my attorney asked the judge to allow us to get Luther Strange to testify in my case. The judge left that open and didn't rule on it. Once the judge didn't rule on whether we could put Luther Strange on the stand, my case went away.
Luther Strange cannot stand to be deposed or be put on the stand because his shenanigans with Ms. Garrison would come out in the open. This whole bunch is compromised. You can't have clean government when you are dirty. Nothing is going to happen [in the Bentley case] with the attorney general's office. I'm shocked they've done anything about the speaker.
What does Barron expect to happen in the Bentley matter? He sees the governor in a tight spot:
I do not think Bentley will resign. After that disastrous divorce settlement, he's given away all his assets. He doesn't have another job. . . . He's getting older, and I'm not sure he could practice medicine anymore. What's he going to do to make a living? . . . He's ruined his history. I think [Ms. Mason] and her husband will milk this cow for all that's there; it's money for them. . . . Bentley is an old man getting his jollies off, but he got elected on Republican family values."
Barron traces many of Alabama's current problems to the public's tendency to vote based on perceived religious values:
Running for political office based on who is the most religious. . . . Ted Cruz is another example; it just came out that he's had five or six affairs. These are corrupt people hiding behind God. We are electing scummy, crummy people. The people who voted for Bentley and Luther Strange need to look in the mirror and say, "I'm responsible for this foolishness, and I'm going to be better informed voter in next election.
"There is nothing Christian about any of our current leadership. The speaker is indicted on 23 felony counts. Luther Strange carried on an infamous relationship with Jessica Garrison, and he's still in office. It goes on and on.
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason|
Meanwhile, State Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) today outlined articles of impeachment against Bentley. Henry said he hopes to have a vote on his resolution next week.
As fort he federal investigation, other members of the Bentley administration and campaign team could face charges, attorney Donald Watkins reports on his Facebook page, but the probe is expected to focus on the governor and his advisor/mistress. The investigation is under the direction of the U.S. Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, based in Washington, D.C., Watkins reports:
Our Facebook news team has confirmed this afternoon that federal prosecutors in Washington are expected to bring public corruption charges against Governor Robert Bentley and his mistress/political consultant, Rebekah Mason. Other gubernatorial and campaign staffers may be charged as well.
The focus of the federal probe is on Bentley and Mason, and it is intense. Mason’s involvement in the corruption scheme was more extensive than what has been publicly reported.
As for Bentley's efforts to sic law enforcement on Watkins and me in retaliation for our accurate reporting about his affair with Mason, that also was more extensive than has been publicly reported. Writes Watkins:
In violation of federal laws, the governor also ordered state law enforcement officials to use the federal National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS), as well as data banks of other state and federal regulatory agencies, to find any incriminating evidence that might be used against Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Alan Shuler and me. Accessing the national criminal databases for the purpose of retaliating against the governor’s critics and political adversaries is a federal offense.
Earlier reports indicated former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) chief Spencer Collier refused to carry out Bentley's order to seek dirt via the NCIC and LETS. But Watkins reports that Bentley went beyond seeking criminal data, and that raises this question: Did Bentley find someone to carry out his unlawful mission against Watkins and me, and if so, who was it?
Prosecutors apparently do not expect the Bentley/Mason case to be particularly challenging. Writes Watkins:
Prosecutors have determined that they do not need the assistance or cooperation of Rebekah Mason in bringing the expected criminal charges. They have determined that the Bentley-Mason public corruption was widespread, ingrained, and fairly open. Staffers who tried to reign in this corruption were chastised by the governor and, in some cases, fired and later smeared.
Bentley appears to be in an unstable state of mind, and that could lead prosecutors to turn to an unusual tactic:
This morning, Bentley announced that he has asked God to forgive him. He again asked the people of Alabama to forgive him. Bentley did not specify why he needed forgiveness. Federal prosecutors, however, are not expected to forgive the governor.
Despite a mountain of evidence that Bentley personally directed or approved specific acts of public corruption, the governor has refused to resign. Individuals with close contact with the governor say that Bentley is erratic, delusional, and paranoid at this juncture. For this reason, federal prosecutors are considering expediting the initiation of the criminal justice process by filing of a prosecutor’s “complaint,” as opposed to using the longer and more standard criminal indictment process.
Our news team was not able to confirm when the criminal charges against Bentley and Mason will be filed.
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
Specifically, what if Bentley and/or Mason were involved in a scheme to have us unlawfully evicted last summer in our new (and we hope temporary) "home" of Springfield, Missouri--an event that led deputies to brutalize Carol and leave her with a shattered left arm?
A timeline of events--plus our observations since being forced to live like refugees in the city where I grew up but no longer have meaningful connections--suggests an Alabama-Missouri "game plan" was at the heart of our eviction. And it seems likely, to me, that Bentley and Mason were part of it.
I spoke about that possibility, and other topics, in an interview with San Francisco-based Peter B. Collins last week. A podcast of the full interview is available at the Collins Web site.
As for Bentley, let's consider the following timeline:
* August 31, 2015--I break the story at this blog of Bentley's affair with Mason and note the crippling effect it's had on Alabama government.
* August 31, 2015--Missouri court records show a judgment was entered against us in an eviction case styled Trent Cowherd v. Roger Shuler. A hearing was held in the case on August 27, but a judgment was not entered until four days later, just a few hours after I had posted the Bentley/Mason story at 6:07 a.m.
* August 31, 2015--On the same day I broke the Bentley/Mason story and the eviction judgment was entered against Carol and me, G Shuler Properties LLC was formed in Missouri. The organizer is my mother, Gondolyn "Gondy" Erma Shuler, and the registered agent is my lawyer brother David Shuler. To my knowledge, my mother has owned our original two-bedroom family home in Springfield--plus several parcels of family land near Osage, Arkansas, for many years. My guess is that all of them have a pretty modest value. So why, after all these years, did my mother need to form a company that apparently consolidates her property under one entity? What was my brother's purpose in doing this, and is it a mere coincidence that it took place as Carol and I were about to be victims of an unlawful eviction, a process with which David was involved.
* September 8, 2015--Carol and I file both a Motion to Quash Execution of the eviction, plus a Notice of Appeal. The Notice of Appeal, by Missouri law, puts an automatic stay on the eviction. I notified all attorneys in the case of the appeal notice and stay, including my brother, David Shuler, who was representing our mother, Gondy Shuler, because Trent Cowherd had included her as a defendant, without having any grounds for doing so.
|X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm:|
Did a doctor make this happen?
Are Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason evil enough to have helped orchestrate this fiasco? Given all the lies they've told the people of Alabama recently, a reasonable person could conclude the answer is yes. What kind of "physician" (Bentley is a dermatologist) participates in a scheme that inflicts serious injury on someone?
If Bentley and/or Mason were involved in the planning, who was their primary liaison in Missouri? That question is foremost in my mind at the moment because it points to criminal activity--and it has some possible answers that are extremely disturbing.
Amber Phillips, of The Washington Post, went even further in an article that included behind-the-scenes tidbits from al.com reporter Leada Gore. Wrote Phillips:
Anyone who has doubts about the importance of journalists in 2016 need be acquainted only with the reporting team at AL.com, the largest statewide news organization in Alabama. The group's reporters cracked open a scandal involving their governor's alleged infidelity last week and have been covering the unpredictable fallout aggressively ever since.
Does accuracy matter these days at MSNBC and WaPo? John Archibald did not break the Bentley story, and al.com did not crack it open. This blog, Legal Schnauzer, broke the story (and cracked it open) last August, while al.com mostly dithered, wrote a few articles that touched on the edges of the story, and seemingly hoped it would go away so one of its beloved Republicans would not be tarnished.
In fact, al.com spent much of its time attacking the reporter who actually broke the story--me.
It's all out there on the Web, so you would think Maddow's team and the WaPo staff could manage to find it. But they apparently did not bother to look. So we will show you the proof ourselves, with a few pithy comments of our own.
(1) Our first example comes from an article by the venerated John Archibald, published at 12:30 p.m. on August 31, 2015. I had broken the story that morning:
Several media outlets--bloggers and radio talkers--this morning cited "sources" as they reported that Gov. Robert Bentley has without question had an affair with a female staff member, a torrid love cuddle that caused the governor's wife of a half century, Dianne Bentley, to file for divorce and ask for everything the guy ever made.
All they offered was "sources." Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke.
Comment: The venerable Archibald and al.com seem to have major problems with journalists who use anonymous sources. Archibald gets downright huffy about it, asserting that any article based on anonymous sources has no "proof" or "fact" and amounts to nothing "more than smoke." Hmmm . . . hold that thought.
(2) Our second item comes from an article by Leada Gore, WaPo's inside source on all things brilliant and honorable about al.com, published on September 3, 2015. Gore notes, with dripping contempt, that Rebekah Caldwell Mason has been named, by me, as Bentley's mistress and the driving force behind the governor's divorce :
Bentley's tenure as governor has been virtually scandal free until last week when his wife of 50 years, Dianne Bentley, filed for divorce, citing "complete incompatibility of temperament." Since then, Mason's name has been dragged into the controversy, thanks in part to blog posts and radio commenters.
Comment: Gore seems almost put out that Mason's name got "dragged" into the scandal--and Gore blames mean old bloggers and radio commenters. Since radio commenters generally do little or no original journalism, it's likely they were borrowing from my blog posts. That means Gore's ire likely is directed at me. Is it possible that Mason dragged her own name into the quagmire, perhaps by allowing Bentley to get his jollies by cupping her breasts and exploring her nether regions? We now know that's the case, but Gore was having none of it last September.
(3) Example No. 3 comes from an article by Chuck Dean, published on September 4, 2015. Dean notes a couple of key events Bentley and advisor/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason had shared, and then writes:
And now they are sharing something else, something totally unwanted. A rumor about the two has been circulating in mostly political circles for many months. It exploded across the Internet and blogger world Friday when Bentley's wife of 50 years, Dianne, filed for divorce from her 72-year-old husband. Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact.
Comment: What is an "unsubstantial rumor"? I'm not sure, but Dean seems to have a problem getting his words straight here (which makes you wonder, after years of layoffs, if al.com even employs copy editors anymore). This much seems clear: Dean was including Legal Schnauzer among his "blogs of dubious credibility." Now, roughly seven months later, we know our credibility, and our sources, could not be much better. What about Chuck Dean's credibility? Well, it's not in such great shape. (On a side note, Dean claims to have been a journalist for some 30-plus years, but he is not aware that many divorce complaints use boilerplate language that does not include specific allegations of infidelity, abuse, etc.? That Dianne Bentley's brief complaint did not mention infidelity says nothing about whether she is alleging infidelity in the divorce. A reporter familiar with the strange workings of domestic-relations courts should know that.)
We live in an age where anybody with a computer and an internet connection can post anything, including one blogger who has written about Bentley and Mason. That blogger, by the way, has been sued for defamation and jailed on related contempt of court charges. A Jefferson County judge in April ruled against the blogger and awarded the woman he had defamed by writing she had had an affair with a state official $3.5 million. . . .
We can all do better who love the craft of journalism. And all of you who consume information every day from more sources than have ever existed must work to become better discerners of what you consume and maybe remember an old adage passed down from generation to generation:
Don't believe everything you read.
Comment: Wow, what has The Chuckster so exorcised here? For one, I had outed Dean as a paying customer of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, and that had come roughly two weeks earlier--so he probably still was butt-hurt about that. The blogger Dean disses here, of course, is me. The first reference is to a lawsuit brought by GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke. Dean, of course, doesn't bother to tell his audience that the case did not go to trial (or a jury trial, as required under First Amendment law), so Riley and Duke did not prove their case, and as a matter of law, my reporting was not false or defamatory. Dean also fails to state that First Amendment law dating to the Revolutionary War holds that a preliminary injunction is unlawful in a defamation case (it's called a "prior restraint," which you would expect a journalist to know about--but not our boy, Chuck). That means the contempt order against me, and the resulting incarceration, were profoundly unlawful, unconstitutional, and (as one Birmingham lawyer called it) "insane." Yet, neither Dean, nor anyone else from al.com, has bothered to explain that--even though the case received national and international news coverage. I would be glad to explain it to Dean, or any other al.com reporter, but they have not bothered to contact me on this issue. I guess it's easier to take cheap shots at me instead.
Dean's second reference is to the notorious Jessica Medeiros Garrison lawsuit. Like Riley and Duke, Garrison engaged in machinations that ensured she never would sit for questioning in any adversarial proceeding, much less a trial. Curiously, I could not defend myself because my wife and I were forced to flee Alabama after our home in Birmingham went into a foreclosure that would have to improve to be called "dubious." Was Jessica Garrison involved in a scheme to cheat us out of our home, so that she wouldn't have to answer questions, under oath, about her relationship with Attorney General Luther Strange? We will explore that question in upcoming posts, but for now we can say this with certainty: If you made a list of people who benefited from the likely wrongful foreclosure of our home, Jessica Garrison's name would be at, or near, the top.
(5) Finally, we have another Chuck Dean article, published on December 27, 2015, where our guy still is foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog. Dean focuses, in part, on the governor's divorce from Dianne Bentley, ending a 50-year marriage:
In her filing Dianne Bentley never alleged infidelity on the part of her husband. But once the filing became public on August 28, online blogs - some discredited in courts of law and others with dubious histories - were almost instantly filled with unsubstantiated rumors of an extramarital affair between Bentley and a senior advisor. . . .
If Bentley, most Alabamians and even Montgomery insiders were shocked by the news, a handful of bloggers didn't seem to be surprised. Within hours of the painful news, blogs rolled out posts featuring far-fetched stories with highly implausible details about the alleged affair.
What they did not roll out was any proof.
Comment: Dean's reference to a blog that has been "discredited in courts of law" obviously is a reference to Legal Schnauzer. Does Dean provide evidence that a court of law has issued any ruling that is correct under the facts and the law and "discredits" this blog? No, he does not. In other words, he doesn't "roll out any proof"--to borrow a phrase from Dean himself--and that's because no such proof exists. On the subject of proof, my post that broke the story was based on information from anonymous sources, the same kind al.com itself uses. As for Dean's tired "unsubstantiated rumors" line, which he has used at least three times (by my unofficial count) . . . well, that now just sounds like so much horse feces, doesn't it?
What about al.com's supposed aversion to the use of anonymous sources? Well, their own recent work shows the aversion only applies when another journalist uses such sources--especially when that journalist has kicked the mainstream media's ass on a story. When al.com relies on anonymous sources, it is A-OK.
As for Chuck Dean, he inspired us to come up with a new adage: "If you read something at Legal Schnauzer, you can take it to the bank because that blog's credibility has been proven to be top notch. Otherwise, don't believe everything you read--especially if Chuck Dean, or anyone else at al.com, has written it.
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