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- 04/12/16--09:18: _GOP guru Karl Rove ...
- 04/13/16--09:00: _Governor Robert Ben...
- 04/13/16--10:40: _Tab for Gov. Robert...
- 04/14/16--09:59: _AL Supreme Court's ...
- 04/15/16--11:15: _Robert Bentley's tr...
- 04/18/16--07:50: _My family's efforts...
- 04/18/16--10:19: _Photograph shows Go...
- 04/19/16--08:24: _How did notation ab...
- 04/20/16--08:55: _Will Jessica Medeir...
- 04/21/16--09:56: _Former Bentley lega...
- 04/22/16--11:17: _A health-care profe...
- 04/22/16--12:45: _"Tuscaloosa Trio," ...
- 04/25/16--10:14: _Plaintiffs suing As...
- 04/26/16--08:30: _Does divorce court ...
- 04/27/16--09:40: _Former Wall Street ...
- 04/28/16--11:15: _Judge Gary Pate doe...
- 05/02/16--09:05: _More sex tapes migh...
- 05/03/16--10:40: _Mike Hubbard has ac...
- 05/04/16--10:20: _Former Alabama Gov....
- 05/05/16--06:50: _Former Alabama prin...
Wayne Madsen reports today that Rove's reputation as a strategic wunderkind took a huge hit with the stillborn presidential campaign of Jeb Bush. Now. Bentley's sex scandal involving Rebekah Caldwell Mason has raised even more questions about Rove's judgment.
The Bentley revelations are part of an article titled "Rove backing Cruz and Hillary at same time." Sources tell Madsden that Rove is desperate to keep Donald Trump from getting the GOP nomination--or from becoming president.
With that in mind, Rove is backing Ted Cruz in an effort to generate a brokered convention and cost Trump the nomination. If that doesn't work, Rove reportedly is planning to offer advice to the Clinton campaign to help overcome Trump in the general election.
The Wayne Madsen Report is a subscription Web site, but we've received permission to run certain information at Legal Schnauzer. How did the Rove-Bentley connection develop? Here's how Madsen describes it:
The value of Rove's political acumen has plummeted in GOP circles since the collapse of the Jeb Bush campaign. Another political decision by Rove is also subject to ridicule. In the lead up to Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley's successful re-election campaign in 2014, Rove and his acolytes, who view Alabama as a personal political fiefdom, convinced Bentley that he would be a highly-sought-after vice presidential running mate in 2016.
To prepare for a spot on the national ticket, Bentley's chief adviser, and, as it turned out his reputed mistress, Rebekah Mason, a married mother of three, began acting as Bentley's fashion adviser. Among other makeovers, Mason advised Bentley, a former dermatologist, to ditch his trademark khaki trousers for Brooks Brothers suits.
Rove's plans for Bentley now lie in ruins as Bentley faces impeachment over his alleged affair with Mason. A leaked conversation in which the evangelical Bentley refers to Mason's breasts and buttocks has all but ended the governor's statewide political career, let alone any hope for national office.
Would anyone connected to Hillary Clinton be stupid enough to listen to Karl Rove. Madsen says someone might:
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason|
By backing Cruz, Rove hopes to generate a brokered Republican convention in Cleveland, one that will turn to a "fresh face" to challenge Mrs. Clinton in the general election. As an insurance policy against a Trump presidency, Rove, according to our sources, is also providing advice to the Clinton campaign via the auspices of Clinton loyalist and Democratic strategist James Carville, who has become a friend of Rove. Carville is married to GOP strategist and pundit Mary Matalin.
James Carville, one of the sharpest progressive minds of the past 25 years, has become friends with Rove? Good God, maybe being married to Mary Matalin will turn your brain to mush.
No one should be surprised that Rove is thinking of himself in all of this. Writes Madsen:
The political failures of Jeb Bush and Bentley mean that Rove's street value as a political adviser has plummeted sharply. However, Rove still has contacts at the highest echelons of the Republican Party and the Cruz campaign has found them helpful as it tries to wrest convention delegates away from Trump's column. The more delegates Cruz swings from Trump the greater the likelihood that Trump cannot reach the magic 1237 delegates required for nomination. In a brokered convention, Rove hopes to become a major broker for a "new face" candidate and thus ensure a restoration to prominence in GOP politics nationally and in Washington, DC
Will it work? Madsen seems to have doubts:
Rove earned the nickname "Turd Blossom" from George W. Bush for Rove's supposed knack for finding success in political adversity. However, Rove has recently become more "turd" than "blossom" in Republican circles.
|Robert Bentley cuts a ribbon at a North Alabama|
We've seen two examples in recent days. One involved a request for the state's stance on gambling issues from George Beck, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. The other involved an awkward encounter with the press, which insists on asking questions about the sex scandal that threatens to run the Bentley administration aground, while the governor is announcing new projects and engaging in ceremonial ribbon cuttings and such. The latest example came as Bentley was trying to tout the Alabama Robotics Technology Park near Tanner.
How did Bentley handle the situations? He told Beck that the state, based on multiple decisions by the Alabama Supreme Court, considers electronic-bingo machines to be illegal slot machines. But that conflicts with an executive order Bentley issued late last year, removing gambling oversight from the Attorney General's Office and placing it with local sheriffs and district attorneys.
Bentley went even farther than that, according to a report from the Montgomery Advertiser:
To Beck, Bentley wrote that he had charged local sheriffs with “interpreting and applying Alabama law as applicable to any form of gaming or gambling in their respective counties.”
In other words, Bentley borrowed language straight from the constitutional amendment that Macon County voters approved and made electronic bingo legal at VictoryLand--until former Governor Bob Riley and current Attorney General Luther Strange decided the success of Milton McGregor's facility was unwelcome among the Indian gaming interests who had supported them financially.
So we have Bentley telling George Beck that e-bingo machines are illegal in Alabama, but the governor also has said such determinations are in the hands of local sheriffs--just as the VictoryLand legislation states. Does Bentley realize his positions contradict each other, that his words make no sense?
It all leads to this question: What is George Beck up to, and why does he need people to interpret the law for him? There is no question that Amendment 744, approved by Macon County voters, gives the county sheriff power to regulate bingo, and he has determined that e-bingo machines at VictoryLand are legal. Gov. Bentley's own recent actions indicate he agrees with this.
Alabama law makes it clear that a constitutional amendment trumps a state statute, so Luther Strange's efforts to have the machines declared illegal gambling devices or slot machines under Alabama statutes never has had a legal leg to stand on. On top of that, Amendment 744 is not that hard to read, so why does George Beck need help interpreting it?
As for the robotics-park event, Bentley could not get away without pesky reporters asking him about the Mason sex scandal and the federal investigation it reportedly has sparked. Here's how Bentley responded to those queries:
Bentley also acknowledged that an investigation is ongoing, but that he is not the focus of it.
"There are things that are being investigated. Not me, but there are things that are being investigated as a part of this that will come out with time," he said. "We just can't talk about that right now because I know the things, but I just can't I can't talk about them because they're being investigated by the Attorney General on other subjects."
If the governor isn't the subject of the investigation, then who is--Al, the Crimson Tide's elephantine mascot? We've already shown that Bentley's capacity to lie regarding his relationship with Mason--and related sleaze--is gargantuan.
Is Bentley suggesting that AG Luther Strange is helping him try to scheme a way out of this mess? Does that suggest the state's top legal officer is part of the problem, not part of the solution? After all, Strange has his own history with extramarital relations, involving former campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison. You can ask former Alabama Senate president Lowell Barron about that.
Perhaps Strange and Bentley have bonded over their shared history of extramarital shenanigans.
One expert has suggested Bentley needs psychological help. I tend to think the expert is right.
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
How free was Bentley with public funds? He ordered a state helicopter to fly his forgotten wallet to the beach, according to a report today from a conservative news site.
Attorney Donald Watkins, writing at Facebook, said an analysis indicates Bentley stuck taxpayers, campaign donors, and "dark money" contributors with the tab of more than $1 million for his romance with Mason. Bentley's actions likely constitute federal crimes, and Justice Department investigators are expediting the case, with cooperation from Mason, Watkins reports.
The sex scandal, it appears, was about more than "T and A"--although audio recordings clearly show Bentley was interested in that. In criminal terms, the scandal is more about "D and C" (dollars and cents) and a grotesque abuse of public resources. Writes Watkins:
How can a governor of ordinary financial means romance his married lover like a billionaire? Bentley could only romance Rebekah in this high-end manner by using our tax dollars, campaign funds, and "dark money". In other words, Bentley stole our money to pay for his personal pleasures of the flesh. In doing so, Bentley deprived Alabamians of “honest government services,” which is a federal crime. He committed a plethora of other federal crimes as well, including wire and mail fraud, criminal conspiracy, money laundering, RICO, and the unauthorized use of federal criminal data systems.
Federal investigators are drilling down on what taxpayers, campaign donors, and “dark money” corporate entities and lobbyists unwittingly paid for in Bentley’s criminal scheme to use their money to sponsor his love affair with Rebekah. Bentley made these groups pick up the tab for a wide array of expenditures for his personal benefit,
Watkins provides an astonishing list of expenditures, including payments for scores of private jets to transport Mason for vacations, shopping trips, and rendezvous with the governor. These could be tracked, in part, via flightaware.com.
Is it a sweet gig to be a governor's mistress? Watkins provides a list of expensive perks that indicate the answer is a resounding yes:
1. Around-the-clock state trooper escort/chauffeur services for Rebekah and her children;
2. Hush money for Rebekah’s husband, Jonathan Mason, in the form of a $91,400 annual salary as head of Serve Alabama;
3. The cost of scores of leased private jet flights for Rebekah to rendezvous with the governor on road trips and for Rebekah to take her family on beach vacations and out-of-state shopping trips. Each private flight ranged from $10,000 to $20,000. [The love birds were unaware that all of Rebekah’s flights could be tracked through www.flightaware.com/ All you need is the tail number of the aircraft.];
4. The cost of Rebekah’s hotel rooms when the Bentley-Mason sexual rendezvous were in play;
5. High-end private “wining and dining” for the two love birds in exotic restaurants and ports of call;
6. “Burner” cell phones to hide the illicit affair from First Lady Dianne Bentley;
7. Rebekah’s consulting fees for providing her all-inclusive personal services to Bentley;
8. Renovations to the Winton Blount Mansion in Montgomery, which was the scene of many Bentley-Mason romantic escapades;
9. Renovations to the governor’s beach front mansion in Gulf Shores for what the couple anticipated would become a future “love nest”;
10. Legal fees for private lawyers who are desperately trying to keep Bentley from being charged for his crimes; and
11. Crisis managers who are frantically trying to mitigate the damage to Bentley’s already shattered “Christian” public image.
How freewheeling could Alabama's deeply Christian governor get with other people's money? A report today from Yellowhammer News gives a clue:
Multiple confidential sources inside of state government came forward to Yellowhammer this week with accusations that Alabama Governor Robert Bentley ordered a state helicopter to fly his wallet to him at the beach, after he accidentally left it behind in the wake of an argument with his then-wife. If true, the allegations call into question Gov. Bentley’s assertion that he did not misuse state resources during his affair with his then-senior advisor Rebekah Mason. . . .From the outset, the Bentley scandal has provided moments of comedy--and the "wallet caper" seems to fit into that category. But Watkins makes it clear this is a serious matter, with possible implications for a number of individuals tied to the administration:
In the summer of 2015, Gov. Bentley and his then-wife Dianne had an argument at the couple’s private residence in Tuscaloosa over Gov. Bentley’s refusal to sever ties with Mrs. Mason, his top political advisor-turned-mistress.
As a result of the argument, Gov. Bentley left the residence in his pickup truck and drove toward the couple’s beach house in Ft. Morgan, Alabama. According to the sources, this happened on multiple occasions, leaving the governor’s security detail to decide whether to chase after him, or let him go.
When the governor arrived at his beach house, he realized that in his rush to leave, he had forgotten his wallet.
At that point, he ordered one of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) helicopters to deliver it to him, which it did.
The sources each said that current ALEA head Stan Stabler was involved in facilitating the delivery.
Stabler succeeded Spencer Collier as head of ALEA after Bentley fired Collier, his longtime friend, last month.
It is estimated that Bentley has stuck taxpayers, campaign donors, and “dark money” contributors with a tab for his love affair with Rebekah that exceeds $1 million.
Furthermore, whoever paid Rebekah’s firm a “consulting fee” for a meeting with the governor was guaranteed a meeting with Bentley. The secret safe deposit box shared between the two lovers held cold, hard cash – kickback money for Bentley.
The details of the governor’s criminal scheme to defraud Alabama taxpayers and others will be outlined in the federal charges against Bentley and Mason. Bentley fleeced Alabamians, and he fleeced them good.
This is far beyond a sex scandal. This is a massive public corruption case.
|Milton McGregor announces that he intends to reopen|
VictoryLand, despite recent ruling against him
from the Alabama Supreme Court
Or should we call it the judicial sewer? This blog started in summer 2007 largely because of gross corruption my wife, Carol, and I experienced in state courts (Shelby County), thanks to our a criminally inclined neighbor, Mike McGarity. (McGarity apparently has covered up his criminal record to work for years at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama; BC/BS spokesperson Koko Mackin is quoted in the press about a number of topics, but I've never seen her address the company's tendency to hire criminals.) McGarity sued me when we resisted his efforts to take our property for his own use, and Judges Mike Joiner and Dan Reeves handled the matter so corruptly, to favor McGarity lawyer Bill Swatek, that it launched our 16-year battle for justice.
No matter how badly members of the executive and legislative branches might behave--and Bentley and Hubbard have proven they can behave pretty badly--I don't think those "public servants" ever will be able to top their brethren in the judiciary when it comes to sleaze.
I was reminded of that sad fact recently when the Alabama Supreme Court ruled against the VictoryLand casino in a civil-forfeiture proceeding. The Macon County facility, owned by Milton McGregor, argued that a 2013 raid under the direction of Attorney General Luther Strange was illegal--and the casino's electronic-bingo machines, servers, cash, and other equipment were due to be returned. Trial-court judge William Shashy had ruled in VictoryLand's favor on equal-protection grounds--and that finding seemed unassailable since evidence tended to show that Strange had targeted VictoryLand, while similar facilities in other counties were allowed to continue operating.
But the Alabama Supreme Court, which has consistently ruled in the state's favor since former Gov. Bob Riley launched a crusade against non-Indian gaming facilities in 2008, continued along its dubious path. That both Riley and Strange received significant campaign support from Indian gaming interests . . . well, the public is supposed to believe that, and the resulting raids against the tribes' privately held competitors, are coincidental.
The high court's ability to creatively ignore its own precedent--not to mention the language of voter-approved constitutional amendments making e-bingo legal in certain counties--never has ceased to amaze. But Roy Moore and the Gang--not to be confused with Kool and the Gang--outdid themselves this time.
By issuing an 83-page opinion, "Roy's Rogues" must have figured that everyone in Alabama quickly would become too glassy eyed to finish the whole thing. But your humble blogger finished the whole thing--and found it about as appetizing as trying to stuff a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast and a Burger King Double Whopper down your throat, at the same time.
The whole document--which if you dare to try, is available for full reading at the end of this post--might be the most brazen example of corruptness in Alabama history. And believe me, there is a lot of competition for that "honor." We won't try to explain everything that is unlawful about the ruling--that would take more than a week's worth of posts. But let's address a few key issues that will give you the general idea:
(1) A fruitless assault on equal protection
The high court cites some 10 cases in an effort to defeat the trial court's equal-protection argument. But none of the high court's cases is close to being "apposite" (to borrow a lawyerly term) with the issues in the VictoryLand matter.
One is a criminal case on the circumstances surrounding a plea bargain. One is from the World War II era, and involves confiscation of enemy property. Another is a civil case involving allegations that a city ordinance violated equal protection of mentally retarded residents at a group home. Another involves a businessman's failure to pay occupational tax.
And get this: One case, from Georgia, involves the discriminatory striking of blacks as prospective jurors. The case, Whitus v. Georgia, 385 U.S. 545 (1967) actually struck a blow for racial justice in the Deep South. But the Alabama Supreme Court, in 2016, cited it to help deny jobs to thousands of black Alabamians in Macon County.
What do these cases have in common with issues found in the VictoryLand case? Not a thing. But they helped the Alabama Supreme Court fill up 83 pages worth of rubbish.
(2) The prosecution of people vs. the prosecution of entities
Next, the high court presents a series of cases that purportedly provide guidance on application of equal-protection concepts. But they all involve issues related to the prosecution of individuals; they have nothing to do with a raid on an entity, and the resulting civil forfeiture of property.
Consider a case styled Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448 (1962) about a man who had been prosecuted as a habitual offender under a "three strikes" law in West Virginia. The petitioner argued that similarly situated individuals were not treated as habitual offenders. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, stating:
The allegations set out no more than a failure to prosecute others because of a lack of knowledge of their prior offenses. This does not deny equal protection due petitioners under the Fourteenth Amendment. . . .
Moreover, the conscious exercise of some selectivity in enforcement is not in itself a federal constitutional violation. Even though the statistics in this case might imply a policy of selective enforcement, it was not stated that the selection was deliberately based upon an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification.
The Alabama Supreme Court cites four more cases that repeat the "race, religion, or other arbitrary classifiction" standard. But that obviously cannot apply in the VictoryLand matter. How can a casino be the victim of purposeful discrimination based on race, religion, or other attributes that apply to people, not entities? It can't, although McGregor might have a solid argument that Strange discriminated against him because he is not of Indian heritage--and does not fit into the arbitrary classification of "Luther Strange campaign donor."
Most of the cases the Alabama Supreme Court cites are criminal in nature. But the VictoryLand matter, at best, might be called a "quasi criminal" matter. Luther Strange has not attempted to prosecute any individuals, he has charged no one with a crime. In the end, the case involves civil forfeiture, not crimes.
(3) What did the prosecutor know--and when did he know it?
Perhaps by accident, the Alabama Supreme Court provides some clarity when it cites Oyler for its holding that "a failure to prosecute others because of a lack of knowledge of their prior offenses" does not amount to an equal-protection violation.
So did the Attorney General's Office know that other gaming facilities were using machines similar to those at VictoryLand--and purposefully chose not to interfere with them?
The high court's ruling mentions witness statements and statements from the AG's own attorney that indicate the answer to that question is yes. According to the Supreme Court's own case citation, that represents an equal-protection violation. And it suggests Shashy's equal-protection order was correct and should not have been overturned.
(4) One side presents uncontroverted evidence--and still loses
The high court makes no attempt to appear fair in handling trial evidence. Its ruling indicates at least two witnesses for VictoryLand testified they attended Greenetrack in Greene County and played games similar to those in Macon County--and they received no interference from law enforcement. The ruling gives no indication that the state countered that evidence at trial, so VictoryLand clearly should have prevailed on its selective-prosecution argument.
Why did VictoryLand not prevail? It can only happen via court corruption.
The Supreme Court first admits that the trial court properly could consider multiple affidavits entered at a postjudgment hearing, showing that other casinos were operating machines similar to those that had been seized at VictoryLand. (See page 16 of ruling). One paragraph later, the court states--without citing any supporting law--that it can take notice of its own prior decisions (See page 17 of ruling).
These prior decisions were not entered as evidence at trial, and the high court repeatedly chastises Shashy for making findings that are not supported by evidence. The Alabama Supreme Court then does that very thing.
(5) Alabama law, contrary to the Supreme Court's finding, allows for consideration of legislative and voter intent
The high court cites a litany of federal cases from various circuits--none of which is binding law in Alabama state court--in an effort to show that it is improper for a court to consider legislative and voter intent when interpreting the constitution.
In fact, Alabama's own law says such consideration is both proper and encouraged. One such finding predates the 20th century. (See State v. Sayre, 24 So. 89, 1897.) This Alabama Supreme Court's own oft-cited finding in Barber v. Cornerstone Community Outreach, 42 So. 3d 65 (2009) cites Sayre, as follows:
The object of all construction is to ascertain and effectuate the intention of the people in the adoption of the constitution. The intention is collected from the words of the instrument, read and interpreted in the light of its history.
The court then goes on to state in Cornerstone:
It is a well-settled rule of interpretation, applicable to constitutions as well as statutes, that it is permissible in ascertaining their purpose and intent to look to the history of the times, the existing order of things, the state of the law when the instrument was adopted, and the conditions necessitating such adoption.
There you have it: The Alabama Supreme Court is so corrupt it can't even get its own recent, celebrated case right. Is it any wonder that a recent report about Milton McGregor's intentions to reopen VictoryLand, regardless of what the court says, contains the following?
Macon County Sheriff Andre Brunson, who believes voters in Macon County approved electronic bingo when they passed a 2003 constitutional amendment, said Monday his office was prepared to vet and approve electronic bingo machines for the facility.
“Since VictoryLand was illegally shut down, we won a ruling last year by Judge Shashy, who was appointed to hear our case by the Alabama Supreme Court," Brunson said. "Last week, the same justices chose not to uphold the ruling of the very judge they appointed. Everyone agrees this Supreme Court ruling is very flawed and dishonest. And so the legal process will move forward. At the end of the day, we will be successful. . . . "
Brunson’s attorney James Anderson also spoke at the event, calling the Supreme Court’s ruling “a flawed opinion,” and claimed that justices ignored more than 100 years of legal precedence basing rulings on the intent of those who voted to approve the constitutional amendment.
Over the next few months, quite a few Alabamians are likely to catch themselves saying something like "Boy, that Mike Hubbard was nothing but a con man and a grifter" or "Robert Bentley is even more embarrassing than the buffoonish governors we've had in the past." But remember this: Hubbard and Bentley might not be the worst sleazoids in the state. That "honor" likely belongs to the nine justices on the Alabama Supreme Court.
|Celine Dion, in Las Vegas|
(From caesar's .com)
The story, by columnist John Archibald, raises all kinds of questions about possible misuse of state or campaign funds--and we do not have clear answers to many of those questions at the moment. But this much seems clear: The Vegas trip adds to the mountain of evidence that Bentley has been lying for months about the nature of his relationship with Mason.
What was the trip to Vegas like? Archibald explains:
On Nov. 17 of last year (Editor's note: remember that date), Gov. Robert Bentley boarded a state airplane for Las Vegas, along with his former political adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, communications director Jennifer Ardis, Deputy Chief of Staff Jon Barganier and his security detail.
They went to attend the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference.
Oh. And to catch a show. They didn't have to think twice before going to the Colosseum at Caesar's Palace for an elaborate concert by Celine Dion.
Bentley went backstage and made Dion an honorary Alabamian. He posed for pictures with her, which he showed around the office – along with backstage passes for which he was ungubernatorially proud. Mason and Ardis posed for pictures, too. The concert was "amazing," Ardis said.
Bentley's staff claims all was proper with the trip, and public funds were not used. Archibald does not seem to be buying it:
Bentley's staff argues that there is no foul. Ardis said Bentley himself paid for all the Celine Dion tickets, and the Republican Governors Association reimbursed the Bentley campaign for the cost of the conference and the flight. The campaign reimbursed the state, and no taxpayer money was used, she said.
She did provide a copy of a deposit to the state of Alabama in the amount of $11,641.35. It was dated March 25 of this year. It came almost 19 weeks after the trip. And it came 3 days after former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency chief Spencer Collier went public with claims that Bentley and Mason had been engaged in an affair, and that Bentley had been warned that using state or campaign assets to carry out an affair could be illegal.
Ardis said the Republican Governors Association wired Bentley's campaign the reimbursement. She said she does not know why there was a delay or when the payments will appear on campaign finance reports.
For now, the most important questions about the trip might be personal, rather than financial. That's because evidence at the time suggested Bentley and Mason were in a romantic relationship--at least from the governor's perspective. Writes Archibald:
But the concert – and the money – are just part of the issue. Some who have been close to the governor claim Bentley boasted prior to the trip of wanting to use Las Vegas to get some personal time with Mason.
Collier, when asked about the trip, confirmed that Bentley tried to alter his security plan to get a little breathing room, and said Bentley made a concerted effort to keep his security detail away from the events at Caesar's.
So, we have this: On or about November 17, 2015, Gov. Bentley made a special effort to have "personal time" with Rebekah Mason--far from home, in Las Vegas. Roughly one month later--on December 27, 2015--al.com published an interview in which reporter Chuck Dean wrote the following about Bentley:
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.
Bentley goes on to blame his problems, for the most part, on bloggers. Considering that I was the blogger who broke the story of the Mason affair on August 31, 2015, it seems safe to say much of his vitriol is directed at me. It's also likely much of it is directed at attorney Donald Watkins, who has written extensively about the sex scandal at his Facebook page:
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."
By "crossing the line," Bentley apparently means that certain bloggers (Watkins and me) had reported accurately about the governor's sordid activities. Then we learned that Bentley, channeling his inner Richard Nixon, reportedly ordered the use of state and federal criminal databases in an effort to dig up dirt on Watkins and me.
How despicable is Bentley's behavior? Well, we know that on November 17 of last year, he was trying to rearrange his security detail so he could get "personal time" with Rebekah Caldwell Mason--in Las Vegas. Roughly five weeks later, the governor was telling the press "the rumors were untrue," and blaming others for the story getting out.
We now know the "rumors" were more than rumors. The posts that Watkins and I published were right on target--a classic example of citizen journalism serving the public good, unearthing a story that the mainstream press, at the time, seemingly did not want to touch.
We also know the Bentley/Mason coupling apparently went well beyond the borders of Alabama--with no expenses being spared in the process.
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Why did my family ask to have the case dismissed? I'm not sure, but the timing dovetails curiously with events in the Alabama sex scandal involving Gov. Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason. We already have seen signs of a possible Alabama connection to our unlawful eviction that left Carol with a shattered left arm. Dismissal of the incapacitation case, in my view, adds to the possibility of an Alabama connection to the abuse we've suffered in Missouri. (By the way, not a single member of my family has asked about Carol's well-being or expressed any sorrow/regret for what Greene County sheriff's deputies did to her. For that matter, they've expressed no concern about my well being either.)
The incapacitation petition, filed by my brother Paul, is filled with false information and deals with issues about which he has zero knowledge--given that he has spent about three hours with us over the past 24 years or so. In Paul's defense, he is a radiology technologist at Mercy Hospital in Springfield, and I feel certain my lawyer brother, David, was the driving force behind this con game. Paul, I guess, was a willing guinea pig, but I have no idea why someone felt the need to put his name on a document where he testified falsely under oath (under penalty of perjury) on matters he knew nothing about.
Dan Menzie, our court-appointed attorney, said Paul's lawyer (Linda K. Thomas) filed a Motion to Dismiss the case--and that was that. I occasionally have troll commenters here claim I've never won a legal case. Well, they can't say that anymore; I won this one, with the other party essentially throwing in the towel and admitting he never had a case. (See judgments at the end of this post.)
The court ordered that Menzie be paid $600 for his trouble, half from a court fund and half from Paul. When I last talked with Menzie, he had not received the money my brother owes him. And Paul thinks Carol and I have trouble keeping up with our finances? Sounds like he isn't so great at it either.
What about damages for Carol and me? We've essentially had our reputations trashed, with documents appearing both online and in printed form indicating (more or less) that we aren't capable of wiping drool off our chins. Those documents will remain in the public sphere forever, I guess, if we don't try to do something about it.
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
* "Lacks capacity to meet essential daily living requirements for food, clothing, shelter, safety or other care such that serious physical injury, illness or disease is likely to occur . . . "
* "Lacks ability to manage his financial resources without supervision . . . "
The petition also claims that I am homeless, although Carol and I never have been homeless. Yes, Carol and I have had our jobs, our careers, and our home of 25 years stolen from us. We've been diagnosed with PTSD, our living circumstances are not good, and we could use help in a number of areas. But we have not been homeless, and we've never shown any sign that we can't take care of ourselves.
This blog alone, which broke one of the biggest Alabama political stories of the past 10 years and has been named one of the top 50 law blogs in North America, is evidence that I'm hardly incapacitated--and neither is Carol.
Do we intend to seek damages for having our reputations smeared? We are considering that possibility.
What about that curious timing regarding the Bentley/Mason scandal in Alabama? Consider this timeline:
March 23, 2016--Audio surfaces that confirms the Bentley/Mason affair, which I broke last August here at Legal Schnauzer, just nine days before our eviction;
March 28, 2016--Reports surface that Bentley pressured law enforcement to use criminal databases in order to gather dirt on me and fellow citizen journalist (and lawyer) Donald Watkins;
March 28, 2016--Paul Shuler's attorney files a motion to dismiss the incapacitation case.
What was my family really hoping to achieve with this charade from the outset? Well, the petition was filed on September 29, 2015, exactly 20 days after Carol and I were unlawfully evicted from an apartment in Springfield, and a Greene County deputy brutalized Carol to the point that her left arm was shattered. I suspect the "incapacitation" lawsuit was some sort of lame response to the fact law enforcement, a landlord, and several lawyers screwed up big time in our eviction case.
On the positive side, the incapacitation case did turn up one piece of fascinating health-care information--and it produced irony that I doubt my family even is capable of comprehending. Both strongly suggest that they are more interested in harming Carol and me, than they are in helping.
More on that in an upcoming post.
Who is the happy couple in the photograph above? Why, it's Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, looking dapper during a formal ball at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The photo, which was taken in February 2016, comes courtesy of Birmingham attorney and citizen journalist Donald Watkins, who features it on his Facebook page.
Let's see . . . we know that Bentley stated in late December 2015 that "rumors" of an extramarital affair were "untrue." But this photo, taken roughly two months later, has the couple looking awfully cozy together. Writes Watkins, under the headline "High-flying Robert Bentley Balling With Rebekah Mason":
Governor Robert Bentley and his lover, Rebekah Mason, were balling in February 2016 at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, where Bentley was attending a meeting of governors. This power couple rocked the place, all courtesy of tax dollars and campaign funds. This is how a governor can live large on ota people's money.
The right-wing site Yellowhammer News (YH) provides insight into discomfort Bentley's family and friends felt as his affair with Mason unfolded:
As [Bentley] walked down the center aisle of the Old House Chamber after delivering the State of the State address, Mrs. Mason was by his side. When he was photographed at a swanky Washington, D.C., gala typically reserved for only governors and first ladies, she was his date. And when any meeting in the Capitol was concluded, she was always the last one left in the room with him.
On a side note, Yellowhammer publisher Cliff Sims could not resist taking a shot at the reporters--Watkins and me--who broke the Bentley/Mason story last summer. Get this from Sims:
Mrs. Mason expressed appreciation last year when Yellowhammer criticized other media outlets for publishing tabloid-style stories on the affair rumors, which at the time were unsubstantiated. I told her at the time that I thought the coverage by other outlets had been unethical. I still believe it was.
It's unethical to print articles, based on multiple solid sources, which prove to be absolutely true six months later? On what planet does Cliff Sims live? His criticism proved unfounded, didn't it? Has Cliff Sims issued a public apology? Oh, wait, he's a conservative, and Jesus doesn't require them to apologize for anything.
According to multiple reports, Planet Sims is a place where the YH publisher serves as a mouthpiece for GOP power brokers like House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) and "consultant" Dax Swatek. Given that Hubbard is under a 23-count indictment for alleged violations of state ethics law, is Cliff Sims in a position to be questioning anyone's ethics? Is Sims a journalist or a political hack?
Perhaps the best, and most entertaining, answers to those questions can be found at "Don't Get Yellowhammered (A Cliff Sims story)" at the Sweet Home Politics blog. From writer West Honeycutt:
Political insiders in Montgomery have long questioned Sims’ rise to success, his source of funding, his uncanny ability to receive news before it actually breaks and his political motive.
“It has been known for sometime and is beyond speculation that the Yellowhammer blog run by Cliff Sims is nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Speaker and those in his inner circle. And I don’t know anyone who would claim otherwise…,” said a Montgomery insider and lobbyist.
Yellowhammer deserves credit for contributing to the public's understanding of the Bentley affair. But Cliff Sims is tossing around "unethical" allegations toward those who first brought the story to public attention? He's in no position to be questioning anyone's ethics. Readers should know that Sims' reporting on the Bentley story likely is driven by political considerations.
During the course of the case to have Carol and me declared "disabled and incapacitated," the lawyer for my brother Paul asked for our medical records to be produced as part of the discovery process. Judge Carol Aiken--she's actually called a "probate commissioner" under Missouri law--allowed that to happen, even though Carol (my wife) never was served with the complaint/petition in the case. That means Carol never was subject to the court's jurisdiction, but it allowed production of her private medical records anyway. Did the court, my brother, and his attorney (Linda K. Thomas) commit a gross invasion of privacy? I don't know how you could call it anything but that.
As for me, I actually was served with the petition, so I was at least officially a part of the case--and I suppose the production of my medical records was lawful, although it apparently did not provide much of interest to my family.
It did, however, produce information of great interest to me. According to three sources (two lawyers and a nurse practitioner), my medical records include a notation about something called "delusional disorder." How did the notation get in there? The nurse practitioner, Matt Charles of Burrell Behavioral Health, apparently wrote it. Why did he write it, given that he never had mentioned such a condition to me? I don't know.
What is delusional disorder? Here is how Psychology Today describes it:
Delusional disorder refers to a condition associated with one or more nonbizarre delusions of thinking—such as expressing beliefs that occur in real life such as being poisoned, being stalked, being loved or deceived, or having an illness, provided no other symptoms of schizophrenia are exhibited.
Delusions may seem believable at face value, and patients may appear normal as long as an outsider does not touch upon their delusional themes. Mood episodes are relatively brief compared with the total duration of the delusional periods. Also, these delusions are not due to a medical condition or substance abuse.
How can the condition manifest itself? Here's more from Psychology Today?
Themes of delusions may fall into the following types: erotomanic type (patient believes that a person, usually of higher social standing, is in love with the individual); grandiose type (patient believes that he has some great but unrecognized talent or insight, a special identity, knowledge, power, self-worth, or special relationship with someone famous or with God); jealous type (patient believes his partner has been unfaithful); persecutory type (patient believes he is being cheated, spied on, drugged, followed, slandered, or somehow mistreated); somatic type (patient believes he is experiencing physical sensations or bodily dysfunctions—such as foul odors or insects crawling on or under the skin—or is suffering from a general medical condition or defect); mixed type (characteristics of more than one of the above types, but no one theme dominates); or unspecified type (patient's delusions do not fall in described categories).
Was I actually diagnosed with delusional disorder, or was this just a note that Matt Charles decided should be in my records? Is Matt Charles, as a nurse practitioner, qualified to make such a diagnosis? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I'm interested in learning more.
I should say this, however: I like Matt Charles--we both are graduates of Kickapoo High School in Springfield, MO, and we like to think we are the second and third most handsome guys ever to graduate from Kickapoo. (Brad Pitt, the actor, seems to have No. 1 locked up for a while.) Matt has treated me professionally and provided support during the most difficult two years or so of my life; I appreciate what he and Burrell have done for me.
But I don't understand this: If Matt thought I had delusional disorder, why didn't he tell me? I didn't find out it was on my record until our court-appointed lawyer, Dan Menzie, saw the records after they had been produced in discovery. Doesn't a health-care professional have an obligation to say something like, "Roger, a few of your statements make me think you have delusional disorder. Here's what that is, and here is what we are going to do to help you with it"?
I never heard that. When I asked Matt Charles what caused him to make the notation, he said some of the things I'd told him were "outside the norm." He didn't give any examples, but I had this thought: "Haven't almost all people with PTSD experienced something outside the norm? Isn't that why they have PTSD? Wouldn't being abducted in your own home by sheriff's deputies and hauled to jail for five months--with no legal justification--count as "outside the norm"? But that doesn't mean that episode was a product of my "delusions," does it? It's a matter of public record that really happened. In fact, I haven't made any factual statements to Matt Charles that weren't true.
In a few instances, he has asked my opinion about some event, and I've provided it--noting that this was an educated guess, not a statement of fact.
So, how could Matt Charles know I made any statement that represented a delusion? When I put that question to him, he more or less admitted that he couldn't. "I'd have to follow you around for a long time, and I haven't done that."
How did the notation wind up in my records then? I can think of only two possibilities: (1) Matt Charles just threw it in there on a whim; (2) Someone instructed him to put it in there--or someone else did it on his own.
I've visited Matt Charles roughly every six weeks for about two years, and he does not seem like the sort to act on a whim; I think he is too professional for that. Option No. 2 seems more likely to me. In fact, Matt Charles told me he would remove the notation, but I'm not sure if that has been done.
That takes us back to Alabama--home to numerous powerful types who don't much care for investigative journalists who accurately reveal their foibles and schemes. What better way to discredit such a journalist than to have the words "delusional disorder" placed in his medical records.
Why, if a journalist is "delusional," you can't trust anything he writes.
I'll be the first to say that I have PTSD and depression, and I've been receiving treatment for both. But I do not have anything approaching delusional disorder--and my primary health-care provider (Matt Charles) never told me that I did.
Did someone tamper with my medical records, perhaps making both me and Matt Charles look bad?
I don't know for sure, but I would not be surprised.
|Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange|
Is Garrison going to sue Barron and, for that matter, Echols? After all, that's what she did to me after I broke the story of the affair with Strange, for whom she served as campaign manager. Garrison received a $3.5-million default judgment against me, but that might only deepen her quandary regarding Barron. That's because Garrison's public statements indicate she does not put much value on her own default judgment.
History suggests that Garrison and her GOP allies (Bill Pryor, Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Rob Riley, etc.) don't necessarily stop at dubious lawsuits in their efforts to silence those who might air their dirty laundry. Is Garrison going to participate in a scheme to have Barron kidnapped and thrown in jail? Is she going to help have Barron's home wrongfully forced into foreclosure, placing him on the brink of homelessness?
My wife, Carol, and I experienced all of that not long after my reporting on the Garrison/Strange affair--plus Garrison's documented ties to organized crime. We do not know what, if any, role Garrison played in the abuse we suffered, but let's just say the timeline is interesting--and we intend to learn more.
Here is a sample of what we know for now:
* I break the story of Garrison's affair with Strange on July 17, 2013;
* I break the story of Garrison's ties to Erik Davis Harp, who was indicted for his role in a Panama-based gambling ring, on August 22, 2013;
* I break the story of the gambling ring's ties to the Genovese and Gambino crime families on August 26, 2013;
* I break the story of Garrison's apparent sweetheart deal on a $400,000 home in Mountain Brook on October 22, 2013.
The very next day--October 23, 2013--Shelby County officers enter our home, beat me up inside my own garage (without presenting a warrant, stating they had a warrant, or even stating their reason for being on the premises), essentially kidnapped me and hauled me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay that had zero support in fact or law.
You can see what I mean about an "interesting timeline" regarding my incarceration. And the curious events do not stop there.
When I was released from jail on March 26, 2014, Carol and I immediately were faced with threatened foreclosure on our home of 25 years. Under Alabama law, the sole purpose of a foreclosure is to collect an alleged debt. If it is conducted for any other reason--with an ulterior motive--it is a wrongful foreclosure, and that is illegal. [See Reeves Cedarhurst Development Corp. v. First American Fed Savings, 607 So. 2d 180 (Ala. Sup. Ct., 1992: "A mortgagor has a wrongful foreclosure action whenever a mortgagee uses the power of sale given under a mortgage for a purpose other than to secure the debt owed by the mortgagor."]
So, back to our question: Will Garrison sue Lowell Barron? We doubt it. For one, Barron's statements are true. For another, Barron has proven he has the resources to fight back against Strange and Garrison. Barron has shown that neither Strange nor Garrison can hold up to adversarial questioning under oath--and aggressive gathering of documents--about their relationship.
Finally, Garrison's own words indicate she knows her default judgment against me isn't worth much more than a plug nickel. Consider this from an article by Rob Holbert at Lagniappe Mobile after publication of Garrison's PR-attack piece at maireclaire.com.
Garrison said she is fighting to have Google remove searches that would take people to Shuler’s stories about her. With the defamation judgment against him, she hopes that will soon happen. As for collecting any of the $3.5 million award, Garrison laughed and said she hasn’t gotten a dime and never expects to since Shuler’s various run-ins with the law, loss of employment and foreclosure on his home have left him with little money.
“We told him if he would take the articles down and apologize to the people involved, he could satisfy the judgment for $1, but he wouldn’t do it,” Garrison said.
This might actually contain a kernel of truth, which would be unusual (in my experience) for Garrison or Holbert. Davy Hay, a Clanton-area lawyer who represented me briefly, stated via e-mail that Garrison lawyer Bill Baxley said the lawsuit could be resolved if I paid $1 and removed the offending posts. I never heard anything about an apology, and I never received anything in writing from the other side--so I did not consider it a legitimate settlement offer. Plus, I was not about to remove blog posts that I knew were true. Garrison essentially was using the same "extortion against journalist" strategy that Rob Riley used, with a bogus $3.5-million judgment substituting for a jail term as the extortionate mechanism.
(On a side note, Davy Hay was portrayed in various quarters as my "legal champion." [See here and here.] That did not turn out to be the case. "Legal chump" might have been a more accurate description. Hay did little, if anything, to help me fight the Garrison lawsuit, and he wound up bailing out and leaving me hanging, contrary to a written contract that we had. More on that experience in an upcoming post. I know many Alabamians have received similar treatment from lawyers who are supposed to be their "legal champions.")
Even if I had thought the $1 offer was legit, I was not about to accept such a proposal. As we've shown here on multiple occasions, the default judgment is void because (according to Hay's review of the file) I never received--or was even sent--notice of the default-judgment hearing. Also, the record shows there was no trial, no jury, no discovery, no adversarial proceeding of any kind--and, as a matter of law, that means my reporting was not false or defamatory.
How do I interpret Garrison's $1 offer? Here's what I think:
* It's essentially an admission that she never had a case--and she did not come close to proving her case;
* It's essentially an admission that the $3.5-million default judgment has no basis in fact or law, meaning members of the legal tribe schemed with Judge Don Blankenship to corruptly produce a bogus finding;
* She's not about to take on Lowell Barron. After being thrown in jail, and being forced from our home, I had almost no ability to fight the Garrison lawsuit. I suspect Barron has the resources not only to fight Garrison--but he would chew her up (along with Strange) and spit them both out. In the process, their political careers would be finished.
Jessica Garrison v. Lowell Barron? Don't make me laugh.
Chief among them might be Cooper Shattuck, the university's general counsel. As UA's top legal officer, Shattuck manages the work of 21 attorneys and 15 support-staff members. Before returning to his alma mater to take its top legal job, Shattuck served as chief legal advisor for . . . Gov. Bentley.
It's easy to see why Bentley might have considered Shattuck an attractive addition to his staff; the two men seem to have quite a bit in common. Both have connections of various kinds to Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who as Bentley's senior advisor and mistress, helped set the scandal aflame. Both seem to have played roles in the curious stream of funds that have been flowing to Mason and her husband, Jon Mason, partly through the University of Alabama. Both apparently consider themselves men of God, but sources tell Legal Schnauzer that Shattuck (like Bentley) has allowed issues of the flesh to influence his professional life.
According to multiple news reports yesterday, UA has paid Jon Mason's company almost $75,000 this year for services related to billboards in Dallas and Phoenix, before Crimson Tide football games in those cities for the 2015-16 national-championship season. Mason's company, however, did not design, create, or install the billboard ads. It appears Mason's firm, JRM Enterprises, did little more than act as a go-between for the company that rents out the billboards.
How is this for irony? Bentley named Shattuck and Rebekah Mason to his staff on the same day, January 13, 2011.
If Shattuck helped funnel money to Bentley's mistress, is it likely he was involved in schemes to funnel money to her husband? An ongoing federal investigation perhaps will provide clarity on that question.
Can you imagine UA's chief legal officer at the heart of a federal investigation into apparent slush funds for Gov. Bentley's mistress and her husband? That might be harder for the Crimson faithful to swallow than an Iron Bowl loss to Auburn.
It's not like Cooper Shattuck hasn't been involved in messy situations before. Within at least the past two years, our sources say he has engaged in an extramarital affair with Lisa Waldrop, who is assistant director of media and communication at Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.
A 2012 article about Shattuck's move from the Bentley administration to UA described him as "married with four daughters." He was divorced in 2014, and it's not clear if he is currently married. It also is not clear if the affair with Waldrop is ongoing, but the two have paid a professional price for it.
Shattuck also has played a curious role in championing the career of UA lawyer Katie Osburne. sources say. He reportedly hired Osburne to be his chief deputy at UA, even though there was no official posting for the job. Sources say Shattuck created the position specifically for Osburne, who has a relatively thin legal resume and was elevated over UA attorneys who have much more experience and stronger qualifications.
Published reports show that Osburne worked at Rosen Harwood, the same Tuscaloosa firm where Shattuck once worked. Published reports indicate Osburne graduated from law school in 2007. So, with less than 10 years of professional experience, she finds herself as the No. 2 legal officer for the three-campus UA System, which includes more than 63,000 students and almost 28,000 faculty and staff.
Is Katie Osburn qualified to hold that position--or is she the most qualified person on the UA legal staff to hold that position? Taxpayers, who fund her salary, might want to ask themselves that question.
We sought comment for this post from Shattuck, Waldrop, and Osburne, but they did not respond.
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She's been on the front line, both as a health-care professional and the victim of police abuse, of issues related to incidents where those who are sworn to "serve and protect" actually do harm. We thought her insights would shine considerable light on "delusional disorder" for our readers, so we are sharing them here.
A note: The woman makes several references to "Matt," and that refers to Matt Charles, the Missouri nurse practitioner who apparently made a notation about delusional disorder in my medical records. Just two days ago, Matt Charles confirmed to me that the notation had been removed, suggesting there never were factual or medical grounds for it to be there in the first place. I'm still not sure how, or why, it got there, but I appreciate Matt Charles' help in clearing it up. Meanwhile, here are some insights from a professional about delusional disorder:
I just read your husband's blog. I was a psychiatric nurse practitioner (PNP). I worked with people with delusional disorders. These patients believed things such as . . . following a car accident a woman believed she had glass in her stomach and refused to eat. A man who believed his neighborhood would be flooded and went into all their houses to shut off the water.
Schizophrenics suffer from delusions that are most often associated with the auditory hallucinations they experience. Alzheimer's patients become paranoid and often delusional about family members stealing their belongings or poisoning their food. Delusional disorder differs from these examples as the false and fixed belief is not a symptom of another psychiatric illness as was noted in the blog.
A PNP can diagnose and prescribe medications but these actions can only be done under the supervision of a board-certified psychiatrist. Delusional disorder is an inappropriate diagnosis in patients who have ANY type of evidence that supports their claims/ allegations. In many cases, confronting a patient about his delusions, only creates mistrust and hampers the therapist-client relationship. My questions about Matt evolve around what information he used to make the diagnosis...
Is Matt a certified psychiatric NP? Did the NP ever state that he believed Roger? Did Roger ever give him documents that supported his thoughts that he found credible? Did the NP use past medical records from AL that influenced his thinking? Did the NP use family reports regarding their perception of Roger's mental health? Was Roger treated for depression, severe enough to exhibit psychotic symptoms such as delusions or hallucinations? Did NP prescribe medications for Roger such as antidepressants or antipsychotics? Was there an entry in the MR indicating a positive response to these medications with a decrease in symptoms?
I was diagnosed with PTSD following the violent assault which I still struggle with today. I remain paranoid about the police but my thoughts are not deemed pathological/ delusional. I have spent years dealing with the many aspects of betrayal, from those are supposed to protect and serve to family members who thought I was on drugs (thanks to my ex- husband), to the elected government officials who chose to bury my case. If I ever felt my health care professionals doubted what I had been through, it would have been devastating.
I hope this information assists you in your search for answers. I also found several articles about PTSD and delusions. I will continue to help you in any way I can as we share the experience of police brutality and surviving police trying to kill us.
Like Bentley, Shattuck portrays himself as a man of God, but he has problems with issues of the flesh--not to mention apparent workplace favoritism. Our post mentions his relationships with Lisa Waldrop, media and communications director at Shelton State Community College, and UA deputy counsel Katie Osburne as examples.
Stories like this tend to generate much harrumphing, and we've seen this before. I broke the story of Bentley's extramarital affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason last August, and in recent weeks, the whole world has learned that our reporting was accurate. I faced defamation lawsuits after reporting on extramarital affairs involving Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke and Attorney General Luther Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--and I even was thrown in jail for five months for daring to report on such topics.
What did the lawsuits prove? Not a thing for the plaintiffs. For me, as a matter of law, they proved that my reporting was not false or defamatory.
Like key figures in the other stories, Shattuck and Co. were given an opportunity to respond to questions, but they chose not to. Here are questions I sent via e-mail to Cooper Shattuck, with copies to Ms. Waldrop and Ms. Osburne:
I am a journalist from Birmingham and publisher of the blog Legal Schnauzer, which covers justice issues in Alabama and beyond.
I have reported extensively on the affair between Gov. Bentley and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason and issues connected to that. In my research, your name has come up frequently. Therefore, I would like to ask that we schedule a time for a telephone interview. If that is not possible, I would like to give you an opportunity to comment on the following topics:
* I understand that you had (or are having) an extramarital affair with Lisa Waldrop, who is assistant director of media and communication at Shelton State. Are extramarital affairs common among current and former members of the Bentley administration? What does that say about the ethical standards of Alabama's governor and his associates?
* I understand that you were associate pastor at First United Methodist Church in Tuscaloosa, and Ms. Waldrop was the worship leader, when your affair started. I further understand that both of you have lost your church positions in the wake of revelations about the affair. Has the affair continued, and have you sought work in other churches?
* I understand that you hired Katie Osburne to be your chief deputy at UA. I also understand that there was no official posting for the job, that you created it specifically for Ms. Osburne. I further understand that Ms. Osburne has relatively little legal experience, but you elevated her over more qualified members of the UA staff. Why have you championed Ms. Osburne to such a degree?
* It has been reported that you set up the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (ACEGOV) as a nonprofit while still working for the Bentley administration. Where has money for ACEGOV come from and where has it gone? How much of the money has gone to Rebekah Caldwell Mason? Would you provide copies of documents that show the in-flow and out-flow of funds connected to ACEGOV?
Like most journalists, I work on deadline, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on March 4.
At least one Alabama law firm, Heninger Garrison Davis of Birmingham, is representing a number of plaintiffs in the case. Judge John Ross's ruling essentially dovetails with our reporting on the Ashley Madison (AM) story. We have been revealing the real names of AM customers for several months, focusing on high-level professional elites (lawyers, doctors, CEOs, wealth managers, etc.), who make up a significant percentage of users in Alabama and Missouri, the two states that have been our focus.
To our knowledge, we are the only U.S. Web site to reveal elite users of AM, providing key identifying information--real names; addresses; employers; names of spouses and children; and in some cases, account information (credit-card transactions, amount of money spent, etc.) Most reporting on the AM story has focused on technical, legal, and social issues related to the data breach itself, but we are the only news site--best we can tell--that consistently has provided information about users. We plan to continue that reporting soon, and you can see examples of our investigative work here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The technology news site Ars Technica, now owned by Conde Nast Digital, broke last week's story about the anonymity ruling, From the Ars Technica report:
We all remember last year's hype surrounding the Ashley Madison dating site's data breach. Hackers exposed identifying information about millions of users of the site that has the tagline, "Life is short. Have an affair."
Then came the lawyers smelling blood in the water—filing proposed class-action suits targeting the cheating site's not-so-perfect "Full Delete" option that was supposed to, and didn't, remove all identifying information from the service for a $19 fee per user. Then it surfaced that the site perhaps made phony profiles of women to attract more men to the site.
The massive litigation has been co-mingled in Missouri, and there are some interesting elements at play. For starters, the judge presiding over the case says that if you want to be a named plaintiff in the litigation, you can't use a pseudonym like "John Doe," and instead you have to use your real name. The judge, in agreeing with Ashley Madison's owners, ruled that only in extraordinary circumstances may civil litigation proceed under fake names, like in cases such as sex crimes and suits about juveniles.
Upon what did Judge Ross base his ruling? Ars Technica provides details, and the full ruling can be read at the end of this post:
"The disclosure of Plaintiffs' identities could expose their sensitive personal and financial information—information stolen from Avid when its computer systems were hacked—to public scrutiny and exacerbate the privacy violations underlying their lawsuit," US District Judge John Ross ruled . . . earlier this month. "At the same time, there is a compelling public interest in open court proceedings, particularly in the context of a class action, where a plaintiff seeks to represent a class of consumers who have a personal stake in the case and a heightened interest in knowing who purports to represent their interests in the litigation." Days ago, a "John Doe" plaintiff removed . . . himself from the case.
Ross has given unnamed plaintiffs until June 3 to lodge their official class-action complaint and to give them time to decide if they want to be named plaintiffs or dropped out. Another contentious issue is on the table, as Ars Technica describes:
There's also a big wrinkle that could affect the upcoming class-action filing. Attorneys want to use confidential communications between Ashley Madison executives and their attorneys as part of their lawsuit in a bid to establish that the company made fake female profiles to induce people to become one of the site's 39 million members. Obviously, Avid Life Media, the site's operator, is opposed. Plaintiffs' lawyers say the data is not protected by attorney-client privilege and can be part of the case because of the "crime-fraud" exception. That exception means that a client and their attorney's back-and-forth communications are not protected if the communications were made "with the intention of committing or covering up a crime or fraud." The plaintiffs' lawyers noted a story in Gizmodo citing the hacked data in which Avid Life attorneys are discussing "fictitious" profiles on the Ashley Madison site.
Judge Ross has not ruled on the request but is expected to do so before the June 3 filing deadline.
But that's not how it works when the husband is Alabama steel executive Bill Upton, described in court documents as a "multimillionaire." The Final Judgment of Divorce in Upton v. Upton, dated December 4, 2012, suggests private judge J. Gary Pate was more impressed with Bill Upton's status as president of Pelham-based Vulcan Steel Products than he was with any issues related to facts, law, or general fairness. (The Final Judgment of Divorce can be read at the end of this post.)
To a member of the middle class, it might appear that Linda Upton got a pretty good deal in the divorce. But considering that Bill Upton reportedly has a net worth in the $40 million to $60 million range--and that estimate might be low--one can see that Linda Upton got a raw deal of epic proportions.
Linda Upton helped get the business off the ground, working in the plant during the early years, and her parents helped manage the company for a number of years. She and her husband adopted or foster parented numerous special-needs children over the years, with Linda providing most of the hands-on care.
We've seen nothing in the court record that indicates Linda Upton was found to be an unfit mother, but Judge Pate awarded physical custody of the children to Bill Upton. Many of the children, according to court records, considered Gincie Walker, Bill Upton's mistress, to be their sister. How confusing must that have been to the younger children? One can only imagine. But here is how Judge Pate ruled on the custody issue in his final order:
3. (a) The Husband and Wife shall be awarded joint legal custody of the minor children of the parties, David Upton, born September 4, 1994; Brandon Upton, born April 4, 1997; and Polly Upton, born May 11, 2007 ("the children"). The Husband shall be awarded sole physical custody of the children.Is there anything in the record that supports an award of sole physical custody to Bill Upton? We have not found a single word to support that.
Bill Upton has since married Gincie Walker, who has been diagnosed with multiple-personality disorder. That means the younger children are in the control of a father who had little to do with their upbringing and a mother/sister who has a severe mental disorder.
How did Judge Pate come to this custody decision? The order provides no clues.
Linda Upton receives $4,350 a month in periodic alimony, but she received zero in gross alimony. She did not even receive the marital residence. From Pate's order:
11. (a) The parties jointly own a residence at 2870 Shook Hill Road, Birmingham, Alabama. It shall be placed on the market and sold. The Wife shall have exclusive possession pending sale unless she moves. . . .
Linda Upton wound up staying at the home, but only after she had paid Bill Upton for his share of the property. And this was a husband who admitted to conducting an extramarital affair, apparently under the marital roof.
|Gincie Walker Upton|
12. The Husband shall receive sole title to and ownership of the following, with Wife being divested of any interest therein:
a. First Commercial Bank checking account
b. Ohio National Life Insurance
c. National Copper
d. Vulcan Threaded Products
e. Peltown Realty (This company, by the way, appears to have a pretty cozy relationship with the City of Pelham.)
f. Wings LLC
g. Windwood Group
h. Windwood Farm
i. Vulcan Threaded Products--Husband's note receivable
j. Vulcan 401k Profit Sharing
k. His IRA
Item D particularly jumps out. Vulcan Threaded Products was the name of what is now Vulcan Steel Products, the family's primary business. It appears Linda Upton received little or no share in the company's proceeds--and the law is clear that she was entitled to an equitable share.
How can a divorce, which was precipitated by the husband's egregious marital misconduct, result in such a lopsided decree? It would be hard to fathom in a world where the law and facts mattered. But in postmodern Alabama, and I suspect in many other states, it happens quite often.
(To be continued)
|Ted Rollins during his halcyon|
days on Wall Street
Attacks from powerful forces can come in a variety of forms. I've been kidnapped by law enforcement and thrown in jail for five months, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law. My wife, Carol, and I lost our Birmingham home of 25 years to a foreclosure that reeks of likely unlawful activity. We were subjected to a flagrantly unlawful eviction at an apartment in our new "home" of Springfield, Missouri, and a Greene County deputy brutalized Carol to the point that she was left with a shattered left arm that never will be the same.
Evidence strongly suggests these events were retaliation for our reporting on a number of conservative rogues--Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Luther Strange, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Pryor, and more.
All of that has been reported here, and at other news sites, but less well known are the attacks on my reputation. And that is a timely subject, given recent reports that Gov. Robert Bentley tried to use law-enforcement resources to gather dirt on me and try to stop our reporting on his extramarital affair with former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
How ironic is this? I've twice been accused of, and been sued for, defamation--by Garrison and Riley/Duke--and in both cases, my reporting was found (as a matter of law) not to be false or defamatory. Less well known are the defamatory attacks against me--that I've been a repeated victim of the most vile defamation. I've yet to receive justice for any of the false information published about me--but that might change in the not-too-distant future.
The defamation against me has come from a variety of sources, but perhaps no one has been more blatant about it than Ted Rollins, the former CEO of Campus Crest Communities and the subject of numerous posts here about the cheat job administered in Shelby County against his ex wife (Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins) and their two daughters.
Rollins once was a darling of Wall Street, despite our reports here about his ties to domestic violence, child abuse, failure to pay child support, and other unpleasantness. Wall Street analysts, in fact, had direct knowledge of Rollins' abusive tendencies, but they chose to ignore it. Only when it appeared Rollins was about to drive Campus Crest Communities into the financial gutter, did the company's board give him the boot.
According to reports in the business press, Rollins has resurfaced as the founder of Valeo Groupe, which is focusing on student housing in places like Great Britain and Finland. He also is principal and chairman at Watercrest Group and Watercrest Holdings, which focus on senior housing.
How long will it be before investors, employees, or customers become aware of Rollins' background and his tendency to run companies into the ditch? Who knows, but the CEO's primary talent seems to be producing defamatory Web sites--with yours truly as the target.
Rollins is the "genius" behind Legal Schnauzer Exposed, an attack site that seems to have disappeared from the Web in recent days--hmmm, wonder why that is--but still can be found in archive form. It seems clear that Rollins, or someone connected to him, was behind the uber classy rogershuler.com, which has mostly disappeared, but a search still produces an entry that refers to me as "Satan's Earthly Emmissary" (sic). If my memory is correct, the site intimates that I have sex with animals and that I am a racist and a homophobe.
Finally, we discovered legalschnauzer.info, which suggests I have "psychological issues," based largely on the words of highly informed right-wing blogger Stacy McCain. (All of us who have brains have "psychological issues," right? That doesn't mean we have psychological problems, I presume. The only way not to have psychological issues is to be dead. You can see the nonsensical form of writing that tends to appear on these sites.)
We also know that Zac Parrish, Rollins former stepson and Sherry Rollins' biological son, set up an attack site, cleverly called mountschnauzer.com.Parrish got outed here for his handiwork before mountschnauzer.com could get off the ground, and the site died a quick death. What a loss for the literary world.
You will notice that the words "mount schnauzer" form a clear reference to anal, or doggy style, sex. Talk about Freudian, given that North Carolina social services investigated Ted Rollins for possible child sexual abuse, based on the complaint of a citizen who apparently had observed his interactions with Zac Parrish. On top of that, it's a matter of public record that Ted Rollins was convicted of assaulting Zac Parrish when the latter was about 16 years old and roughly half his stepfather's size.
Rollins has saved some of his finest "craftsmanship" for tedrollinstruth.com, of which he must be quite proud because he provides a link on his LinkedIn page. Most people use LinkedIn as a resource to show that they are competent professionals. Not Ted Rollins. He uses it to show he is a lying, defaming, bullying thug. Just the kind of guy I would want to run a company with my investments.
The Truth About Ted Rollins." Here we go, for starters:
In the fall of 2010, Mr. Ted Rollins came under attack by the Legal Schnauzer,a known and convicted cyber bully by the name of Roger Shuler. Mr. Shuler collaborated with Mr. Rollins’ ex-wife to spread untruths in the wake of her divorce from Mr. Rollins. This was an attempt to discredit Mr. Rollins after their divorce and also to extort additional money from him beyond what was provided by the divorce.
The only source that Mr. Shuler has ever had is Mr. Rollins’ ex-wife, who has used false information and Mr. Shuler’s lack of integrity to try and advance this ill-intentioned outcome. There are countless negative stories circulating on the web about Mr. Rollins and his family, all written by the Mr. Shuler aka the Legal Schnauzer blog. These stories are based on the untruths told by Mr. Rollins’ ex-wife and embellished further by the Mr. Shuler.
Exhibit A is an affidavit from Mr. Rollins’ ex wife that clearly states Mr. Schnauzer misrepresents the truth.
Let's see if we have this straight: Ted Rollins claims his ex wife, Sherry Rollins, tells "untruths" about him. But then he has Ms. Rollins sign an affidavit claiming I misrepresent the truth. If Sherry Rollins is a congenital liar, as Mr. Rollins claims, why should anyone believe a word she says in an affidavit about me? If she lies about Ted Rollins, she can lie about me, right?
Here is the real story behind Sherry Rollins goofy, and utterly untruthful affidavit. Ted Rollins was threatening to have her utilities shut off at the Birmingham rental house where she lives with their two daughters. She felt she had no choice but to sign the bogus affidavit Ted Rollins wanted her to sign.
Ted Rollins still is using such threats. According to Ms. Rollins, he has vowed to stop paying court-ordered alimony and child support in May 2016--when youngest daughter Emma graduates from Mountain Brook High School--and have daughters and ex wife kicked out of their rental home. What a guy, that Ted Rollins.
How nutty is tedrollinstruth.com? He claims the only source I've had on the case is Sherry Rollins? I guess that doesn't count the dozens of court documents upon which I've based my reporting.
Let's check out more from Ted Rollins Truth, which might be the most ironically named site in the history of the Web:
About Roger Shuler – The “Legal Schnauzer”
Below is a summary of Mr. Shuler aka the Legal Schnauzer Blogger.
▪ The Legal Schnauzer aka Roger Shuler is a one-man blogger who claims to be a journalist, but is not. Furthermore, he does not bother to follow practices of a professional journalist. Rather, he plays fast and loose with some facts, fabricates most of his content and uses unreliable sources to create a tabloid-type blog that produces false information.
▪ He is known in Alabama as a negative blogger for hire that writes destructive innuendo to harass his victims.
▪ The Legal Schnauzerhas been incarcerated twice for slandering various parties in Alabama. (FYI: Ted Rollins was convicted for assault on his teen-aged stepson in North Carolina. Ted Rollins "Truth"makes no mention of that.)
▪ From 1989 until 2008 Mr. Shuler was a content editor for the University of Alabama at Birmingham until he was terminated for inappropriate behavior. At the time Mr. Shuler also threatened the then President of the University.
▪ Mr. Shuler has been unemployed since 2008 and uses his blog as a means for extorting money from people by posting negative blog comments and trying to evoke a response from his subjects. He does this by writing his main post on his blog, The Legal Schnauzer and then by linking this post to other sites such as Daily Kos.(FYI: Mr. Rollins here falsely accuses me of a crime--extortion. Under the law, it's not a good idea to falsely accuse someone of a crime; it's called "defamation per se.")
▪ Mr. Shuler cannot pay his bills and has a very uncertain employment history. He lives on unemployment, welfare and disability and has not been employed since he was terminated from the University of Alabama, Birmingham where he threatened the life of some school officials. (FYI: Ted Rollins failed to pay court-ordered child-support for almost three years. Records indicate much of the money owed to Rollins' daughters never has been paid. In other words, Ted Rollins is a deadbeat dad. Ted Rollins "Truth" does not want you to know that. Again, Ted Rollins falsely accuses me of threatening to kill certain UAB officials. That's known as "defamation per se.")
▪ Mr. Shuler’s credit reports indicate that he routinely defaults on his debts and litigates as a strategy to avoid payment. (FYI: Court records show that Ted Rollins still owes child support to his children and that he failed to make court-ordered payments on mortgage and insurance to ensure his wife and children had a place to live during divorce proceedings. No word from Ted Rollins "Truth"about that. And by the way, how does Ted Rollins know anything about the contents of my credit reports? Does he have any lawful grounds for obtaining that information? I can't think of one.)
▪ Mr. Shuler was arrested and convicted in 2014 for failure to follow a judge’s order regarding the removal of defamatory and untrue statements regarding one of his targets. (FYI: A South Carolina court issued a bench warrant for contempt of court [failure to pay child support] and ordered Ted Rollins' arrest. That warrant was in place for more than two years, and records show Rollins never paid the full amount he owed, so he was a fugitive from justice. South Carolina law enforcement apparently did not bother to execute the arrest warrant, which apparently is one of the benefits Ted Rollins receives from being born into one of the nation's wealthiest families. On a final note, none of my reporting ever has been found to be false or defamatory, as a matter of law.)
▪ A default judgment was entered against Mr. Shuler in the amount of $3.5 million. (Editor's note: No lawful default judgment ever has been entered against Mr. Shuler.)
▪ Mr. Shuler is currently believed to be in hiding to avoid answering the default judgment, but continues to publish his blog. (In hiding? My contact information is available in multiple places on this blog. Plus, I've already answered the default judgment and proven that it is void, as a matter of law. Why "answer" it again?)
▪ More information can be found about Roger Schuler (sic) on http://www.legalschnauzers.com,
To borrow a phrase from the late Ann Richards, it looks like Ted Rollins was "born with a silver foot in his mouth."
How many ways has Ted Rollins defamed me here? Well, I'm not sure I have enough fingers to count that high. But the highlighted sections above show some of the biggest doozies. For fun, we suggest you click on the legalschnauzers.com link and see what you get. It was active just a few weeks ago.
Why hasn't the author of Ted Rollins' posts put his name to them? Shouldn't he be proud of such "work product"? Here are a few reasons the author might wish to remain anonymous:
(1) He has falsely accused me of crimes (extortion, terroristic threats)--not a good idea under defamation law;
(2) He falsely claims I've been incarcerated twice;
(3) He falsely claims I've been incarcerated for "slandering" someone. I've never been accused of slandering anyone, and slander is a tort (not a crime), which means you can't be arrested for it;
(4) He falsely claims I was fired at UAB for "inappropriate behavior" and that I threatened university president Carol Garrison and other university officials;
(5) He falsely claims I cannot pay my bills and I live on "welfare and disability";
(6) He falsely claims I was "convicted" of failing to follow a judge's order in a civil case.
I could go on, but you get the idea. There is very little truth to be found at Ted Rollins "Truth." And these kinds of bogus attacks are what you can expect from a CEO whose sense of entitlement apparently dwarfs his intelligence.
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Plaintiff Bill Upton, the multimillionaire president of Vulcan Steel Products, admitted in court documents to carrying on an extramarital affair with Gincie Walker, a young woman he and his wife had raised as their daughter, Court records indicate the affair was the driving event behind the breakup of Bill's marriage of more than 30 years to Linda Upton. Alabama law holds that a court may make an allowance to the spouse who was the victim of marital misconduct.
But Pate's Final Judgment of Divorce reads as if Bill Upton never admitted to having sex with a young woman who was essentially his daughter--and it apparently happened, for the most part, at the marital residence. (See Final Judgment of Divorce at the end of this post.)
On top of that, Linda Upton's attorney, MaryLee Abele, filed a Motion to Alter or Amend that states "The Husband openly admits his infidelity with a mental patient/former sibling to the minor children." (The term "mental patient" is a reference to Gincie Walker, who has been diagnosed with multiple-personality disorder. She reportedly has been found to have roughly 30 distinct personalities.) (See Motion to Alter or Amend at the end of this post.)
Did George R. Fernambucq, Bill Upton's attorney, address the infidelity issue in his response to the motion to amend? No, he did not. Like Pate, Fernambucq acted as if the Bill Upton/Gincie Walker affair never happened--even though information about it came directly from Bill Upton's deposition. (See Upton's response to Motion to Alter or Amend at the end of this post.)
Fernambucq also tried to ignore the fact that Linda Upton received nothing approaching an equitable share of the marital assets, to which she is entitled under the law. Consider this sleight of hand from Fernambucq's response to the motion to amend:
That the allegations in Paragraph six (6) suggesting that the Court only awarded the Defendant her inherited property and "most of the marital property to the Husband" is absolutely incorrect. This allegation overlooks the fact that the Defendant was awarded substantial marital property, some of which included a note payable to the Defendant from the Plaintiff's business with a value of approximately $1.4 million, a beach house that has no debt and a value of approximately $3.6 million, a one-half interest in the residence in Birmingham which has a value of $3.6 million, and an I.R.A. which was funded entirely by the Plaintiff for the Defendant's benefit with a value of approximately $120,000.
Fernambucq, of course, conveniently confuses the issue: the issue is not whether Linda Upton received "substantial marital property," in his opinion. It's whether she received an "equitable share" of the property, based on the record and Bill Upton's admitted misconduct. The record strongly suggests that she did not--and it isn't even a close call.
|Gincie Walker Upton|
Section 30-2-52 permits a trial court, upon a finding of misconduct by one spouse, to make an allowance to the other spouse out of the estate of the offending spouse, as the circumstances may justify, provided "that any property acquired prior to the marriage of the parties or by inheritance or gift may not be considered in determining the amount."
Was misconduct present in Shirley? The trial court determined the answer was yes, and the Alabama Supreme Court agreed:
The record reveals that the parties' marriage was beset with extreme unpleasantness. In the pleadings and at trial, each party placed blame for the breakup of the marriage on the other. The husband claimed that the wife was verbally abusive, argumentative, and vindictive and that she interfered with the operation of his business both during the marriage and after the parties' separation. The wife claimed that the husband had a violent temper, had been physically abusive during the marriage, had been dishonest in his handling of the parties' finances, and had engaged in numerous extramarital affairs. At trial she specifically alleged that the husband had, without her consent, misapplied a number of her real estate commission checks for his personal use and had attempted to misappropriate certain life insurance proceeds of which she was the sole intended beneficiary. The husband denies that he has ever been dishonest in handling the wife's money or that he has engaged in adultery, although he admits to having engaged in sexual activity with a woman not his wife on three occasions.
The trial court made no specific finding of adultery, granting the divorce on . . . grounds of incompatibility of temperament and irretrievable breakdown. However, in the judgment of divorce the court recognized the husband's sexual infidelities and made specific findings of his marital misconduct and financial dishonesty toward the wife and other parties. We have thoroughly reviewed the record and conclude that there is ample evidence to support the trial court's finding of marital misconduct by the husband. . . .
What impact should such misconduct have on the outcome of a divorce case? From Shirley:
Where one spouse is guilty of misconduct toward the other spouse, the trial court's award may be as liberal as the estate of the offending spouse will permit under the circumstances of the case.Isom v. Isom, 273 Ala. 599, 143 So. 2d 455 (1962).
In other words, Bill Upton could have, and should have, taken a major financial hit for engaging in misconduct that a reasonable person might decide was way worse than that present in Shirley. But Upton's attorney did his best to cover up the issue, and the judge made no mention of it.
Did Linda Upton get the due process and equal protection of the law guaranteed her under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution? Not even close.
(To be continued)
|Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
When might the new tapes be made public? We don't have an answer to that question, but Watkins reports (via his Facebook page) that federal subpoenas are being issued in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa, seeking documents related to Bentley, Mason, and her husband, Jon Mason.
On top of that, we have a not-so-subtle political extortion scheme from Alvin Holmes, a black Democrat, to punish legislators who might support impeachment of Bentley, a white Republican. How weird is that? Well, it gets even more strange when you consider that Holmes' punishment would come in the form of outing legislators who are engaging in extramarital activities of their own.
It looks like this story could heat up before it cools down. And who knows how many powerful Alabamians will have tumbled--perhaps into federal prison--before it's all over. Watkins says he does not expect Holmes' scheme to succeed. More on that in a moment.
As for the new, so far non-public, sex tapes, Watkins reports:
Finally, we are reporting today that more Robert Bentley-Rebekah Mason sex tapes exist. According to my sources, these tapes are much more graphic than the ones that have already been made public. And "yes", they prove once again that Bentley has lied to Alabamians about the nature and scope of his relationship with Rebekah.
Meanwhile, Watkins says the federal investigation is marching forward:
Federal grand jury subpoenas are being delivered in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa requiring the submission of various records relating to Governor Robert Bentley, Rebekah Mason, Jonathan Mason and others. This investigation is headed in the right direction.
What explains Alvin Holmes bizarre and brazen effort to protect Bentley? Here is Watkins' answer to that question. He says the scheme has its genesis with Joe Reed, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Conference:
Yesterday, State Representative Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) threatened to expose the extramarital affairs of his fellow legislators if they vote to impeach Governor Robert Bentley. Holmes is one of many "human shield" legislators defending Bentley. Holmes' threat, which seemed to be extremely bizarre for an African-American Democratic legislator, has angered voters in Holmes' House district and has infuriated advocates for ethical government around the state.
Our Facebook news team has solved the Alvin Holmes-Robert Bentley human shield mystery. Holmes is a longtime political "puppet" of Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Joe L. Reed and deceased Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Paul Hubbert. Reed and Hubbert teamed up to help Bentley defeat Bradley Byrne in the 2010 Republican primary elections. Reed also privately supported Bentley in 2014 election against Democratic gubernatorial nominee Parker Griffin. As a result, Bentley and Reed have developed a close personal friendship.
In the matters relating to Bentley's "sex for power" scandal with lover Rebekah Mason, Holmes is Reed's public voice. This is why Holmes has not condemned the scandal. Rather, Holmes has threatened the legislators who're moving to impeach Bentley. This political threat or "drone strike" was called in by Reed.
The Reed-Holmes scheme appears to be foundering after 23 representatives signed on to support Rep. Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) and his plan to impeach Bentley. That gave Henry more than the 21 signatures required to introduce an impeachment resolution.
Where is this headed? Polls show, Watkins reports, that Alabamians overwhelmingly want Bentley gone--and they are likely to punish any legislator who tries to protect the governor. Writes Watkins:
Following the lead of State Representative Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) and Senate President Del Marsh (R-Anniston), all of the legislators and senators in this seemingly pro-Bentley group have banned together, essentially forming a protective “human shield” around Bentley. Holmes has even gone so far as to threaten lawmakers with exposure of their marital cheating if any member of this group breaks ranks. Holmes’ extortion threat has been effective, even with Del Marsh.
Those "human shield" legislators who are not controlled by Holmes by virtue of his extortion threat are under the direct control and dominion of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who is awaiting trial this month on 23 felony counts of public corruption charges.
According to a poll by AL.com in March, nine out of ten Alabamians want Bentley gone. Every major newspaper in the state has demanded Bentley’s resignation. No corporate leader is publicly supporting Bentley, and many have told me privately that Bentley is a total disaster as governor. Yet, only twenty-three of 105 House members co-sponsored the impeachment resolution. None of the thirty-five senators have publicly supported Bentley’s removal or demanded his resignation.
Holmes, Marsh and their fellow "human shield" legislators have figuratively given Alabama voters the "middle finger" with respect to family values, transparency, accountability, and integrity in government. Holmes is not expected to run for re-election in 2018. Del Marsh wants to become Alabama’s next governor, yet he is refusing to stand for integrity in government when it matters the most. The “human shield” legislators who intend to run for re-election and who are following Holmes' lead are running the very real risk of ending their political careers and irreparably damaging their personal reputations. So be it.
The first report surfaced yesterday at The Meck, a Dothan-based blog published by David Meckley. Attorney Donald Watkins confirmed last night on his Facebook page that the deal had been finalized. What are details of the deal? Watkins has answers:
Hubbard will: (a) resign from public office; (b) plead guilty to public corruption charges; (c) agree to an 18-month sentence, 12 months of which will be served in the Lee County jail and 6 months of which will be suspended; and (d) be allowed to register as a lobbyist after serving his sentence. As part of his deal, Hubbard will cooperate with state and federal prosecutors investigating allegations of public corruption by Governor Robert Bentley, former governor Bob Riley, and Senate President Del Marsh.
Our Facebook news team first reported on April 17, 2016, that early "street" reports of the deal had been confirmed, including the 18-month sentence. TheMeck.blogspot.com reported additional details of Hubbard's deal in its story.
The Hubbard deal will be publicly announced after the legislature adjourns. The plea deal will be announced in open court on or before the start of Hubbard's scheduled May 16, 2016, criminal trial.
State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) might have stepped in "doo doo" by issuing a threat last week to legislators who might consider supporting an effort to impeach Bentley. I have wondered publicly if Holmes stepped over the line into criminal extortion with his threat. (See comments at link.) Investigators apparently have the same concern. Writes Watkins:
Investigators are also looking into threatening statements made by State Representative Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) to fellow legislators last week to determine whether these statements rose to the level of criminal "extortion" under state law. Holmes threatened to "out" legislators who are engaging in extra-marital affairs if they voted in favor of the House's impeachment resolution against Bentley. Investigators believe Holmes may have crossed the line with his threat.
Breaking reports tend to answer some questions, while raising others. Perhaps the major question raised here is: Why are federal investigators checking into Del Marsh and Bob Riley, what information can Hubbard give them, and will that bring even more prominent Alabama politicos into the fray? Here is an even better question: Will unlawful actions of Indian gaming interests be unearthed, and will that help explain much of the corruption Alabama has experienced over the past 20 years? Come to think of it, could this create a trail that leads to national political figures who have turned Alabama into a legal and political sewer (hello, Karl Rove!)?
Sorry, but once you start thinking about all of the questions this raises, it's hard to stop. It's also hard to wipe the smile off your face at the thought of certain conservative crooks winding up in the orange jumpsuits they so richly deserve.
For now, we know for sure that the Web press has led the way in breaking this story and following its various leads. Writes Watkins:
David Meckley d/b/a TheMeck.blogspot.com, Yellowhammer News, the Alabama Political Reporter, Roger Alan Shuler d/b/a Legal Schnauzer.blogspot.com, and other online journalists continue to lead the state's news media by breaking all of the leading news stories relating to Alabama's high-profile public corruption scandals.
One note of caution: Plea deals, by their nature, are shaky--and this one has plenty of time to fall apart. Writes Watkins:
Hubbard has the legal right to walk away from his plea deal at any time prior to its acceptance by the Court. If he does, his trial will go forward as scheduled.
Siegelman was sent to solitary confinement last week after he was quoted extensively in a Washington Post (WaPo) article about the case of former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell, whose 2014 conviction on public-corruption charges was reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) last Wednesday. The nation's high court twice has declined to hear Siegelman's case, even though it presents issues that are almost identical to those in the McDonnell case.
Many of the issues raised in the McDonnell case could have been resolved in 2010, or maybe even earlier, if SCOTUS had heard the Siegelman case. That the high court is hearing the case of McDonnell (a Republican) while ignoring the case of Siegelman (a Democrat) raises all kinds of ugly questions.
Those issues get even uglier when you consider that Siegelman wound up in solitary confinement just days after discussing the McDonnell case with Washington Post reporter Robert Barnes. Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) claimed Siegelman was punished mainly for selling a shirt to raise funds for a documentary, called Atticus v. the Architect, about his case.
I'm not sure anyone, especially Siegleman, is buying that. Here is what he said in a letter to supporters about his return to the general prison population:
For unsaid reasons, I was directed to go back to the camp. Just had dinner with a group of guys, have a new bed assignment. I should be getting my personal property back from the "Special Housing Unit" tomorrow.
I'll keep you posted on any new developments
What prompted BOP officials to make such a stupid move in the first place, so closely aligned with the Washington Post interview? Here is Siegelman's best guess:
I suspect the BOP figured out that my donating a T-shirt to raise money for the International Documentary Association, to help produce a documentary on "The Political Assassination of Don Siegelman," was protected by the First Amendment. . . .
All is well for the moment. . . .
Court records show that McDonnell, his wife, and family received $177,000 in luxury items from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr., but McDonnell supporters say evidence shows the former governor never took official action on Williams' behalf. The gifts were legal under Virginia law.
That factual scenario is quite different from the one in Siegelman, but the cases still raise similar legal issues. Writes WaPo's Barnes:
“Quid pro quo” translates from the Latin to “something for something.” McDonnell’s attorneys acknowledge the governor got something — Virginia’s laws did not forbid the gifts — but said he gave nothing.
Siegelman’s case is the reverse. He gave Alabama health-care executive Richard Scrushy a new term on an important industry regulatory board. But Scrushy’s offering was a $500,000 campaign contribution to push a referendum measure for a lottery that would benefit the state’s underfunded school system. (Note: This information from The Washington Post is inaccurate, and it has been widely misreported at numerous news outlets. Please see Editor's Note at the end of this post for explanation.)
“The Siegelman case was different from all others,” Siegelman said, in the detached tone of the Georgetown Law graduate that he is. “There was no personal benefit, not a penny of any financial gain. There wasn’t any self-enrichment scheme. There was no testimony of a quid pro quo, much less an explicit or express quid pro quo. And the contribution was not even to me but to a ballot initiative.”
Andrew P. Miller, a former Virginia attorney general, agrees with Siegelman, a Democrat, and McDonnell, a Republican. Miller helped drum up support for both men as they presented their cases to the Supreme Court.
“I’m bipartisan in my concern about this,” he said.
Experts who have followed both cases say they see similarities--and differences. Writes Barnes:
The similarity [Milller] sees is that both men were rising stars in their respective parties brought down by prosecutors appointed by the president of the opposite party.
Grant Woods, a former Republican attorney general from Arizona, said that, if anything, Siegelman had the bigger complaint.
“The Siegelman case to me is a complete travesty of justice from start to finish,” Woods said. The McDonnell case, on the other hand, “is just more of an interesting legal question.”
Editor's note: The information from The Washington Post regarding Scrushy's alleged $500,000 donation to Siegelman's lottery campaign is inaccurate. That figure has been misreported numerous times at multiple news outlets, including ours. We attempted to set the record straight in an April 8, 2013, post titled "Richard Scrushy: Convictions in the Siegelman case are grouded in former aide's flawed testimony."
Scrushy says prosecutors repeatedly told the press during the 2006 trial that he gave Siegelman $500,000 to support the then-governor's education lottery campaign. The story obviously has legs because 10 years later--just last week, in fact--The Washington Post was repeating it. Scrushy, however, has said multiple times--in 2013 and again this week--that it is not true.
We will provide details on the actual events in an upcoming post, but here is the gist of it:
* Scrushy gave $250,000, via HealthSouth, to help the Alabama Democratic Party pay down debt from the lottery initiative, which already had been defeated. Scrushy gave no money to support the lottery campaign.
* A Maryland company, Integrated Health Services (IHS), gave $250,000 for the lottery campaign, but Scrushy said he was not involved with that.
* Scrushy only agreed to help pay down the Alabama Democratic Party's debt after former Alabama Power CEO Elmer Harris asked him to. And Siegelman, Scrushy said, played no role in that effort.
|Catherine Armstrong Bell|
The good news is that Catherine Armstrong Bell appears to have a technical avenue by which she could get her record cleared. The bad news is that should have happened already--and would have, except for mind-boggling incompetence in Alabama's "justice" apparatus. Given that the case originated in notoriously corrupt Shelby County--where the legal nightmare for my wife, Carol, and me originated--it's possible Bell has been intentionally cheated.
Bell was arrested and charged in 2013 with three counts of being a school employee engaging in sexual intercourse with a student younger than 19 and one count of being a school employee engaging in sexual contact involving touching of a student. In late 2014, the case was dismissed after the student recanted and stopped cooperating with prosecutors.
Bell, 35, maintained her innocence all along, and the case received international attention via the UK Daily Mail, which reported that DNA and electronic evidence came back negative. The paper also reported that Bell has struggled to find work since the charges were made public.
Expungement of her record would have been a first step toward helping Bell get her life back. But Alabama "justice" officials have botched that process in astounding ways. Let's examine the actions of several dunderheads who have wrongfully kept Bell's record from being cleared. Our analysis is driven largely by review of an Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals ruling released last Friday. A copy of the ruling is embedded at the end of this post.
How gross is the corruption and incompetence in Alabama's "justice" system? The following "cavalcade of con artists" in the Bell case should give you an idea: (Note: Explaining this case involves a number of citations to the Code of Alabama, and that involves a lot of numbers that can be confusing. But please hang in there with us. The Bell case is a classic example of how Alabama courts cheat every-day people.)
(1) Shelby County prosecutors, "led" by District Attorney Jill Lee -- Prosecutors started the screw job in the Bell case by citing Code of Alabama 12-25-32(14) to support their claim that expungement should be denied because three of the charges against Bell involved allegations of "nonconsenual sex" and the fourth was "particularly reprehensible."
At first glance, the prosecutors appear to be on the right track because the Alabama Expungement Statute (under Sec. 15-27-2) states as follows:
(a) A person who has been charged with a felony offense, except a violent offense as defined in Section 12-25-32(14), may file a petition in the criminal division of the circuit court in the county in which the charges were filed, to expunge records relating to the charge . . .
That seems reasonable enough--until you realize what sub-section (14) actually says. Here it is:
(14) VIOLENT OFFENDER. A violent offender is an offender who has been convicted of a violent offense, or who is determined by the trial court judge or a release authority to have demonstrated a propensity for violence, aggression, or weapons related behavior based on the criminal history or behavior of the offender while under supervision of any criminal justice system agency or entity.
Our research has turned up nothing that indicates Bell has a "propensity for violence, aggression or weapons-related behavior based on the criminal history . . . of the offender." In fact, we've seen no sign that Bell has a criminal history at all.
Prosecutors found the language about "nonconsensual sex" and offenses that are "particularly reprehensible" in sub-section 15. But the statute clearly states that only sub-section 14 is to be used for determining if an individual is a violent offender who might not be subject to having records expunged. The rest of Section 12-25-32 applies to the Alabama Sentencing Commission and has nothing to do with expungement.
Were prosecutors grasping at anything they could find in an effort to punish an individual who had been falsely accused of a crime? Sure looks like it. Why would prosecutors care if a wrongfully accused party has her record expunged? If they see their role as making sure that justice is done, they should want that to happen, right? So why were these cretins in Shelby County opposing it.
(2) Shelby County Circuit Judge Dan Reeves -- Thankfully, this doofus retired from the bench in March 2016. But he still had time to show his utter incompetence in the Bell case. Carol and I have seen Reeves up close on several occasions, and he has shown that he is both a political hack as a judge and an utterly miserable human being.
Reeves denied Bell's petition because he found the charges were excluded by the provisions of Code of Alabama 15-27-2(a). That foolishness apparently left even the justices on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals scratching their heads. Here is what they wrote in Footnote No. 4 on page 3 of their opinion:
FN4 -- By citing § 15-27-2(a), the circuit court apparently found that Bell's felony charges were "violent offenses" as defined in § 12-25-32(14), Ala. Code 1975.
As noted above, sub-section 14--for purposes of the Bell case--would apply only if she had been CONVICTED of a violent offense. But she wasn't convicted of anything; her accuser recanted and essentially told prosecutors to take a hike.
Reeves denied Bell's petition because he found the charges against her were excluded by Code of Alabama 15-27-2(a). That's because the charges are not included on the list of violent offenses. And Bell was not convicted of either offense, so the section Reeves cited didn't apply anyway.
Bottom line? Reeves, by law, had to grant Bell's petition on multiple grounds--but he still could not get it right.
(3) Court of Criminal Appeals -- The geniuses on this court found there is no statutory provision for direct appeal to them on denial of a petition for expungement. Rather, the trial court's ruling in such a matter is subject to review only by certiorari.
That is correct, meaning the appellant must petition to the Alabama Supreme Court. But get this: The Court of Criminal Appeals ruling states that Bell already had petitioned to the Supreme Court. Here it is:
Bell appealed the denials to the Alabama Supreme Court and that Court transferred the appeal to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals, rescinded the transfer, and then transferred the case to this Court.
Yes, you read that correctly. Bell and her lawyers (Jonathan Lyerly and Charles Cleveland) did exactly what they were supposed to do--and after all three Alabama appellate courts played hot potato with it--the petition still wound up in the wrong court. We hope you will remember that next time Alabama judges whine that the system needs more money. Fact: Judges tend to grossly mismanage the money they already have.
(4) Alabama Supreme Court -- Roy Moore and Co. apparently are so busy trying to cheat VictoryLand that they can't be bothered to actually read the Alabama Expungement Statute. It specifically says that the only avenue for review is via a certiorari petition to . . . THEM. But when they get such a petition, they send it to the wrong court--not once, but twice. (Sigh!)
(5) The Alabama Legislature -- This Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight screwed up on a couple of items:
(a) Why is certiorari review required? Why does a person who has been falsely accused of a crime not have a right to direct appeal? Certiorari review can be denied, with zero explanation. This provision makes zero sense;
(b) Legislators seem to have problems with simple arithmetic. As noted above, the legislation says the key provision regarding "violent offenses" is found in sub-section (14). But the list of violent offenses, to which the statute apparently refers, is in sub-section (15).
No wonder we are confused. The Alabama Expungement Statute appears to be horribly screwed up, and when you put it in the hands of corrupt judges like Dan Reeves, well, abominations like the Bell case ensue.
As for possible good news, but the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals gives Bell a possible avenue toward justice. It says she should seek an "extraordinary writ" under Rule 21 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure.
Perhaps that would give the appellate court an opportunity to tell the trial judges in Shelby County to pull their heads out of their asses--so that Catherine Armstrong Bell can start rebuilding her life after being the victim of horrendous injustice.
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