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

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    Bill Baxley
    (From alchetron.com)
    Bill Baxley, one of the attorneys for Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), says reports that a plea-bargain deal has been reached in the speaker's criminal case are false. Does that mean the trial on 23 felony ethics charges will begin, as scheduled, on May 16 in Lee County? Not necessarily.

    Several reports last week made it seem Baxley's statements had put the matter to bed. The headline on one read: "Breaking: Hubbard's Attorney Confirms Plea Deal Report is False." Another claimed Baxley had "totally shut down" the Hubbard plea deal "rumors."

    It's true that, even if a plea deal has been reached, Hubbard can back out until the court accepts it. That means, no matter the status of any plea deal at the moment, a trial still could take place.

    According to multiple reports on the Web, the plea deal would call for Hubbard to plead guilty and receive an 18-month prison sentence (six months suspended) in exchange for cooperating with state and federal officials in investigations of Gov. Robert Bentley, Senate President Del Marsh, and former Gov. Bob Riley.

    Baxley has called such reports "preposterous," claiming there is "not one grain of truth" to any of them.

    We can think of at least two reasons that Baxley's statement should not be taken as the final word on the subject:

    (1) Baxley might not know what he's talking about -- The plea-deal reports originated with attorney Donald Watkins, who has provided insightful coverage on a number of Alabama scandals at his Facebook page.

    A veteran of numerous high-profile criminal cases, Watkins is well acquainted with the behind-the-scenes process leading to a trial date. Here is what he said about the usual plea-deal process:

    Plea deal talks occur in every criminal case. Hubbard’s case is no exception. In high-profile cases, these discussions are usually initiated, in the first instance, through behind-the-scenes intermediaries, rather than direct talks between the trial attorneys. This approach affords prosecutors and defense counsel “plausible deniability” in the event a plea deal is reached in principle and becomes public, or falls through the cracks, before the defendant formally enters his/her guilty plea in court. This approach also allows prosecutors and defense counsel to truthfully say to inquiring reporters that there is “no plea deal” until such time as a deal has been presented in court.

    Watkins notes that a guilty verdict on any one of the 23 counts could put Hubbard in prison for two to 20 years. With convictions on roughly half of the counts, the speaker could be looking at a virtual life sentence--although we suspect even a high sentence would be reduced at some point for such a high-profile (white?) defendant.

    A trial is extremely risky for Hubbard. Meanwhile, the plea deal described publicly would require him to spend only one year behind bars and give him a chance to pick up the pieces of his life. Writes Watkins:

    Again, my sources stand by their account of a plea deal. Hubbard is not bound by any tentative deal reached by intermediaries unless and until he announces it in open court and Judge Walker accepts it. Lawyers in high-profile cases handle plea deals in this fashion in order to avoid the appearance of weakness in their PR spin and trial positions in the event their client elects to proceed with a trial and take his/her chances with a jury verdict.

    The deal . . . is an incredibly attractive one for Hubbard and prosecutors. It allows both sides to declare victory.

    (2) Baxley might not be telling the truth -- I've seen Bill Baxley in action--up close and personal, you might say. He represented GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison in her defamation lawsuit against me. I saw numerous signs that Baxley and the truth are distant acquaintances, at best. Here are several examples of Baxley engaging in dubious actions in my case:

    Donald Watkins
    (From ajc.com)
    (a) He accused me of criminal behavior toward his client -- In a letter to me dated August 16, 2013, Baxley stated that my efforts via e-mail to request an interview or seek comment from Garrison constituted the crime of harassing communications. In a post about two weeks later, I showed that Baxley's assertions were way out of line with the actual law. Does Bill Baxley have a habit of making untruthful statements for dramatic or threatening effects? In my experience, the answer is yes.

    (b) He accused me a second time of criminal behavior toward his client -- Not content to accuse me of harassment, Baxley sent a second letter that accused me of stalking. Again, I showed in a post that Baxley had careened wildly off the legal tracks. More untruths, used for purposes of drama or threats? I would say yes.

    (c) He attacked my credibility via another blogger -- In August 2013, Dothan blogger Rickey Stokes posted an attack piece against Legal Schnauzer, claiming that my reports about Jessica Garrison's extramarital affair with Attorney General Luther Strange were "highly questionable." Stokes said he came to that conclusion after conversations with two unnamed sources, one of whom Stokes said he "would trust with my life in his hands."

    Well, I certainly can be fooled, but I wasn't fooled by this. What is Bill Baxley's hometown? Dothan. His brother, Wade (who died in March 2015) was a prominent lawyer there, and his nephew, Hamp, still practices law there. I promptly wrote a post noting that Stokes' sources likely were from the Baxley family. More importantly, I noted that the sources probably did not tell Stokes that a member of the Baxley family represented Jessica Garrison.

    A little more than a month later, Stokes admitted in a public forum that Bill Baxley had hoodwinked him; Baxley had been his source, without admitting that he had a vested interest in getting a hit piece printed about me.

    Here is part of what Rickey Stokes wrote in the forum:

    As to the Dothan Baxley family contacting me about the article, the answer is NO. As to Bill Baxley and I having a telephone conversation over this matter, yes. My entire adult life I have known Bill and Wade Baxley. . . .

    That relationship is what resulted in the phone call. And yes, after a conversation with Bill explaining some things to me, not that he was filing a lawsuit against anyone, but answering some questions, resulted in my article.

    Translation: Bill Baxley conned Rickey Stokes into writing an attack piece, filled with false information, against me. That raises this question: If Jessica Garrison's defamation case was so strong, why did Baxley feel the need to con a blogger into trying to discredit me? Answer: Garrison's case was not strong, and as a matter of law, court proceedings showed that my reporting was neither false nor defamatory.

    Here is one other thing to keep in mind about Bill Baxley and the Hubbard case. For some reason, Baxley (who was a Democrat in his political days) has jumped in bed with some of the sleaziest Republicans Alabama has to offer. We're talking Jessica Garrison, Luther Strange, and others connected to what should be called the Riley Raw Sewage Company. (Motto: "If you don't smell like s--t already, you will when we get through with you.")

    Both Baxley and Rob Riley have represented Hubbard at various times in the pre-trial process. Evidence suggests Baxley, Bob Riley, and Rob Riley were involved in various schemes to obstruct the Lee County grand jury. Baxley denounced the plea-deal reports via a May 3 interview with Leland Whaley at radio station WYDE in Birmingham. This is from Whaley's bio at the WYDE Web site:

    Leland has worked in public service as a District Director for then US Congressman Bob Riley. Leland was a key campaign manager for Bob Riley’s successful 2002 race for Governor. Leland served in the Riley Administration as Assistant Director in the Alabama Development office overseeing the effort to preserve and recruit military jobs in the Base Realignment and Closure Process. Leland also directed the Alabama Film Office for ADO. Leland has advised dozens of conservative organizations, causes and candidates and has lectured on communication strategy throughout the state of Alabama.

    When Baxley wanted to get his message out about the plea deal, he turned to a true-blue Riley-bot. Why might the crusty old lawyer have done that? According to Donald Watkins, a plea deal could result in Hubbard unearthing everything he knows to investigators about Bob Riley--and possibly son, Rob Riley, and daughter, Minda Riley Campbell.

    Mike Hubbard
    Such a thought probably makes several Riley sphincters tighten. Perhaps Baxley wants a trial--in which evidence suggests Hubbard is likely to be found guilty--in order to save several Riley butts.

    If Baxley has a trace of decency about him--and that has not become apparent to me--perhaps he knows Hubbard's life could be in danger, and he is trying to protect the speaker.

    It's also possible Baxley knows reports that Hubbard already has admitted guilt could taint a jury pool if a trial does take place.

    Finally, I see three ways Hubbard can get off on these charges, even though it's hard to imagine he has a legit defense on any of them:

    (1) Luther Strange's office can screw up the prosecution (a real possibility);

    (2) Someone could slip cash to the judge, a prosecutor, or two-three jurors, especially the foreman, to buy a not-guilty verdict (a real possibility). If you think such stuff doesn't happen in America's "justice" system, you are kidding yourself;

    (3) White, conservative jurors ignore the evidence and law, and refuse to convict one of their own--especially one with a cute blonde wife, a couple of white  kids (including one with the adorable name of "Riley"), and extensive ties to the area's economic and cultural Colossus, Auburn University.

    Was Baxley's conversation with Donald Watkins another con game intended to protect his new-found friends in the GOP? Will Donald Watkins fall for it, as did Rickey Stokes?

    I doubt it. I suspect Watkins is way too smart for that. Watkins wrote with great deference about Baxley, but I imagine he can see right through a con man.

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    Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    Alabama Governor Robert Bentley might have unlawfully accessed the medical records of at least one critic, according to an article yesterday at the Alabama Political Reporter (APR). The article, by publisher Bill Britt, focused on former state law-enforcement chief Spencer Collier, and it hints that Bentley's interference with private records might be a relatively recent occurrence. But we've seen evidence that Bentley's snooping might date at least to September 2015.

    Britt already has reported that Bentley improperly accessed federal and state criminal databases to seek damaging evidence about two citizen journalists--attorney Donald Watkins and me--who first brought the governor's extramarital affair with former senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason to public attention. Britt's article yesterday states that Bentley used his status as a physician to access a prescription-drug database.

    If that proves to be the case, it might not be the first time Bentley, or someone associated with him, tampered with medical records.

    My first experience with odd events related to my medical history came last September 29 and 30 when my brother, Paul Shuler (almost certainly with the help of my lawyer brother, David Shuler), filed a petition seeking to have my wife, Carol, and me declared "incapacitated and disabled," essentially trying to make us wards of the state. This came just three weeks after we had been unlawfully evicted from an apartment in Springfield, Missouri (my hometown), a process that included sheriff's deputies brandishing at least one assault rifle and multiple handguns in our direction--with one deputy assaulting Carol and shattering her left arm.

    During the course of the "INP and DIS" case, which was nutty from the outset, my brother's attorney ordered copies of our medical records. Carol had never been served, so she was not an official party to the case--and I remain baffled that her medical records could be produced. (Can we say "invasion of privacy"?) I had been served, so I was a party to the case, but I'm still not sure it was proper to have my medical records produced when the other side had not come close to even making a "prima facie" showing that they had a case. For example, they could have deposed my health-care provider, who told me he would have testified that he had seen no signs we could not take care of our personal or financial affairs.

    We still have never seen the records, but Dan Menzie, our court-appointed lawyer, said mine included a notation about "delusional disorder."  The nurse practitioner I've been seeing for more than a year had never said a word to me about delusional disorder. When I asked if he actually had diagnosed me with a serious disorder, without telling me, he hummed and hawed and said it was just a notation he had made in the file. He also admitted that he would have to follow me around for an extended period of time to know if events I had spoken about were real or not, and he had not done that, so he had no grounds for making such a diagnosis. Given that, I said there was no reason to believe the notation was accurate, and that it was unfair (and potentially damaging) for me to have such information in my medical records. The nurse practitioner agreed and recently told me it had been removed.

    Did Dr. Robert Bentley, someone associated with him, or someone else from Alabama play a role in getting false information placed into my medical records? What better way to discredit a journalist--the one who broke the story of the extramarital affair that threatens to bring down your administration--than to have him declared "delusional"--with zero facts to back that up?

    It remains unclear what, if any, role Bentley played in the placement of curious notations in my medical records. But my brother recently asked the Missouri court to dismiss his "INP and DIS" case, and it's worth considering the following 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 does this tell you? It tells me that once audio surfaced confirming the Bentley/Mason affair, my brothers lost interest in the incapacitation case. Perhaps they said, in unison, "Damn, Roger was right all along."

    News flash to siblings: Roger has been right about a lot of things all along.

    As for signs that Bentley is messing with Spencer Collier's medical records, this is from Bill Britt's article:
    Former members of Gov. Robert Bentley’s administration say the Governor is obsessed with his authority as Chief Magistrate. Bentley has been accused of ordering law enforcement agents to target critics, especially those who have exposed his relationship with former senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. And now, it is believed, that there is at least one instance of a former associate’s medical records being violated, in order to launch a whisper campaign against that individual.

    There is suspicion that Bentley, who still holds an active medical license, may have accessed or ordered others to search the State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database to find information that could be used against Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

    Several former associates close to Bentley are fearful that he is accessing their most private information, in an effort to destroy their lives and reputations as well.

    Bentley has shown signs of having the kind of paranoia that drove Richard Nixon from the White House. Writes Britt:

    In late March, this publication found that according to high-ranking officers and staff, Bentley pressured law enforcement officers to use federal and state resources to target those critical of his relationship with Mason.

    In an effort to find potentially damaging information on those who spoke out against the couple, Bentley instructed top law enforcement agents to investigate private citizens, in direct conflict with the law, said those close to the matter.

    (All of these individuals spoke on background to alreporter.com, because of a criminal investigation surrounding this and other matters.)

    Two individuals with detailed knowledge of the incidents say Bentley ordered the use of the National Crime Information Center, (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find any incriminating evidence that might be used against attorney Donald V. Watkins and Legal Schnauzer blogger, Roger Shuler.

    Is the same being done with the controlled substance database?

    If the answer proves to be yes, Bentley might have stepped in some serious "doo doo""

    According to Alabama code Section 20-2-214-3: “A licensed physician approved by the department who has authority to prescribe, dispense, or administer controlled substances may designate up to two employees who may access the [PDMP] database on the physician’s behalf.”

    When asked if he thought Bentley or his surrogates had accessed his medical records, Collier declined to give a direct answer saying only, “It is a matter best left to law enforcement.”

    Speaking on background, a Birmingham physician said any doctor could easily enter the database to determine what controlled substance medications an individual had been prescribed, but without the person’s consent, it would be a crime.

    Under Section 20-2-216: “Any person or entity who intentionally obtains unauthorized access to or who alters or destroys information contained in the controlled substances prescription database shall be guilty of a Class C felony.”

    What if Bentley or his associates tampered with medical records in Missouri, where he apparently is not licensed to practice medicine? What if Rebekah Mason directed the tampering on the governor's behalf. What if individuals in Missouri knowingly participated in such a scheme?

    The ramifications, given use of the word "felony" above, could be serious.

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    Erik Davis Harp
    A man who was indicted as a ringleader in a Panama-based sports gambling ring--and once was a business associate of Alabama GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison, was arrested recently in Florida.

    Erik Davis Harp, 43, was arrested on March 15 near Panama City Beach, Florida, for carrying a concealed weapon (firearm). Harp has extensive ties to the University of Alabama.

    Officers from the Bay County Sheriff's Office made the arrest, but it is not clear how they became aware that Harp was carrying a concealed gun. Our experience has shown that concealed-weapons charges often come after a traffic stop, with the weapon found when officers determine they have grounds to search the vehicle.

    We do not yet have details on events leading to Harp's arrest. Aside from the circumstances, an obvious question or two hangs out there: Why would a man, who once helped lead a gambling ring that generated more than $20 million a month, be carrying a concealed weapon? Is this arrest a sign that Harp still is involved with activities connected to major crime families, with familiar names like Gambino and Genovese?

    Harp has been a somewhat shadowy figure since coming to our attention in August 2013 after being among 30 people indicted in an investigation of illegal offshore sports gaming. Along the way, we learned that Harp and Jessica Garrison had been partners in Margaritaville LLC, which involves rental of a condominium in Orange Beach, Alabama. Harp spent a number of years in Tuscaloosa and is a graduate of the University of Alabama, where he met Garrison and her ex husband, Tuscaloosa City School Board president Lee Garrison.

    What has Harp been up to since smoke from the gambling case died down? That's hard to say. (The Queen's, New York, district attorney prosecuted the gambling case, and it remains unclear what, if any, punishment Harp received). Records from the weapons arrest show his address as 4000 Marriott Drive, Panama City Beach, Florida. That is home to the Marriott Legend's Edge at Bay Point.

    So, Erik Harp lives full time at a Marriott Resort? That could be, but our Web research indicates he has, or did have, a number of far-flung business interests. They include:

    (1) Colorado Gold and Precious Metals -- Harp is listed as the company's agent, and his address on the records is 1016 THOMAS DR. #177, Panama City Beach, FL, which is a UPS Store. The corporation appears to be affiliated with a company called Gold Rush Denver, which is at 1664 S. Broadway in the Mile High City. According to its Web site, Gold Rush has six locations in Colorado.

    (2) Granite Peak Energy LLC (Dupont, WA) -- Scott Carino is listed as agent, with an address in Tacoma, Washington, and Harp is listed as manager. Records from the Washington Secretary of State show Harp's address as the UPS store in Panama City Beach. Carino also is affiliated with a family real-estate development firm called Carino and Associates.

    (3) TAGG Holdings LLC -- Harp is listed as manager, with an address of the UPS store in Panama City Beach. The company started in February 2016, and Maudie Harp also is listed as a principal.

    (4) Cani Investments LLC-- Harp is listed as registered agent, along with Elvia Harp. Like TAGG Holdings, this company formed in February 2016.

    Speaking of investments, Harp has contributed financially to an entity that he apparently holds dear, and it's quite familiar to people across Alabama. More on that in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    (From nytimes.com)
    Governor Robert Bentley showed signs of being corrupt when he was less than one month into his first term, but it's likely few Alabamians noticed. Even those who did notice, including me, did not grasp what it might foretell roughly six years down the road.

    Bentley is under state and federal investigations in a scandal that ignited from an extramarital affair with former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason and shows signs of becoming a conflagration involving abuse of public trust and resources. Few probably saw that coming, given that Bentley appears to be a kindly, aging dermatologist, who never had an impure thought.

    But let's go back to February 7, 2011, less than three weeks after Bentley took office. On that date, Bentley appointed Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner to a vacant seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals. Why Joiner? It almost certainly was because Bentley grew up in Columbiana, and the Joiner family is so prevalent in the town that it includes an area called Joinertown.

    So, Bentley showed early on that he's a true believer in Good Ole' Boy politics--make appointments based on who knows who, not on qualifications (and certainly not on integrity). But it gets much darker from there.

    Mike Joiner is the No. 1 driving force behind the legal travails that have haunted my wife, Carol, and me for roughly 16 years. And we hardly are the only targets of his abuse. If you were to survey a cross-section of lawyers in the counties surrounding Shelby, quite a few would tell you the Columbiana courthouse is famous for its "home cooking." In other words, Shelby County is where the rule of law goes to die, with cases cooked to favor lawyers who are based in Shelby--no matter how crooked they might be. And Joiner, at the time Bentley promoted him, was presiding judge of the Shelby circuit.

    Here, in an earlier post, is how I explained our personal experiences with Joiner:

    How bad a judge is Joiner? I've written more than a dozen posts about our experiences with him, but here is a section from one that best describes how he butchered a bogus lawsuit that was filed against me by Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor--with the help of his ethically challenged attorney, William E. Swatek: (Editor's note, Swatek has a record of unethical behavior dating back some 35 years, but he is based in Pelham, which means he is a "favored son" to Joiner and other Shelby County judges.)

    Joiner, by my conservative estimate, made 20 to 30 unlawful rulings in my case, all favoring Bill Swatek and his client, Mike McGarity. But I tend to focus on summary judgment because that's the most important issue, the one that would have brought the case to a lawful conclusion. And the indisputable record shows this:

    The case had to be dismissed on so many grounds--eight to 10, at least--that I filed three motions for summary judgment (MSJ), each raising distinct issues of fact and law. On the first MSJ, McGarity filed a response, but he filed no timely evidence as required by law. He did file an affidavit--which did not dispute the fundamental facts and law at hand--but it was 10 days late and had to be stricken as a matter of law. Joiner denied summary judgment anyway.

    On the second and third MSJs, McGarity filed no response at all--no affidavit, no evidence, nothing. That meant the evidence I filed, which was different from the evidence in the first MSJ, was uncontroverted. In such circumstances, Alabama law is clear: Summary judgment must be granted and the case dismissed. In fact, the law in all jurisdictions is clear: Such an MSJ simply cannot be denied, and it's a "nondiscretionary" ruling. It's about as clear and universal as law can get, like "three strikes and you're out" in baseball.

    But Joiner could not get it right, and he denied all three MSJs.

    The law in the McGarity lawsuit was the equivalent of 2 + 2 = 4. Here's how easy it was:

    "When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing."Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993).

    I've seen lowland gorillas at the Birmingham Zoo who could have gotten that ruling right. But Joiner and Swatek have been golf buddies for years, scratching each other on the back (and God knows where else), and so . . . Carol and I learned that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (you know, the one about "equal protection" and "due process" and all that junk) means absolutely zero in Shelby County, Alabama. Doing favors for crooked lawyers like Bill Swatek--who probably have done unspeakable favors for you--is the guiding principle for judges like J. Michael Joiner.

    Judge J. Michael Joiner
    (From ratherexposethem.blogspot.com)
    In February 2011, Gov. Bentley had every reason to know Mike Joiner was crooked. If the governor didn't know that, he could have assigned someone to contact a few lawyers in Jefferson County, and they would have told plenty of stories about Joiner in action.

    But Bentley didn't care. The appointment wasn't about finding the best candidate for the job--or even a modestly qualified candidate for the job. It was about taking the easy route--appointing someone that Bentley knew thought like him, talked a phony religious game like him, and has "values" like his.

    One of those values, we now know, involves skirting the law when it seems expedient. It's all about serving the interests of one's "tribe," whether it benefits Alabama or not.

    Speaking of "values," the Joiner appointment was the second time in less than a month as governor that Bentley had shown a skewed, narrow world view. The first came on Inauguration Day, when he told an audience that those who had not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior were not his "brothers and sisters,"

    The "brothers and sisters" comment drew national and international news coverage. The Joiner appointment received very little attention, even in Alabama. Here, from a post dated Feb. 8, 2011, is our take on the two subjects:

    Bentley has said that he intends to be governor for everyone in Alabama. But this is the second time in his brief reign that Bentley has made statements or taken actions that indicate he is captive to his own narrow world view. On his inauguration day, Bentley generated national news when he said that those who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior are not his "brothers and sisters." Bentley later admitted that he was speaking in the language of his personal faith, apparently oblivious to the fact that not everyone subscribes to his particular form of Christianity.

    The Joiner appointment is not likely to generate much news, but it is much more important than the "brothers and sisters" story in terms of what it says about Bentley. This appointment is an example of "homerism," of provincial thinking at its worst. Bentley is from the Shelby County town of Columbiana, which serves as the county seat and has been Joiner's base of operations since he became a judge in 1992. Joiner is a lifelong resident of Shelby County, and his family roots are planted all around the Columbiana area. In fact, he has so many relatives there that one section is called Joinertown. . . .

    Joiner became a judge, and keeps easily getting re-elected, because half of south Shelby County is related to him. It certainly is not because of his qualifications or performance.

    Bentley appointed Joiner simply because he is well known in the governor's hometown. It's a classic example of small-minded thinking, exactly the kind of thing that Alabama does not need.

    What should we learn from this? Well, it tells me that Robert Bentley didn't suddenly become corrupt when he first espied Rebekah Mason, her butt swishing and her boobs swaying.

    Nope, Robert Bentley was corrupt long before that.

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    A federal judge in Missouri has ruled that plaintiffs cannot use hacked data to build their case against the extramarital cheating site Ashley Madison and its parent company, Avid Life Media. The ruling comes roughly three weeks after U.S. District Judge John A. Ross found plaintiffs must proceed under their own names, that they will not be able to use pseudonyms.

    Last summer's hack of Ashley Madison data produced a flurry of federal lawsuits, including several brought by Birmingham law firm Heninger Garrison Davis. The class-action complaints have been consolidated at U.S. District Court in St. Louis, with Ross (who was nominated to the bench by President Barack Obama in 2010) overseeing the case.

    So far, Ross has ruled in Ashley Madison's favor on a couple of key issues. Writes Kristen V. Brown, a reporter at Fusion:

    A Missouri judge is making it very hard to sue Ashley Madison over last year’s massive data breach. First, the U.S. district court judge ruled that breach victims couldn’t sue the company anonymously, meaning that their names will go into the public record as users of the infidelity dating website. Now, that same judge has ruled that plaintiffs cannot use hacked data to build their case against the company. So Ashley Madison is legally protected, for now, from the secrets exposed in the hack of its client records and corporate email.

    Ashley Madison’s parent company Avid Life Media faced a rush of John Doe lawsuits after the hack that exposed the identity of millions of its users. In the Missouri suit, 42 plaintiffs filed under pseudonyms alleging that Ashley Madison failed to “adequately secure” users’ personal and financial information. When a hacking group named “Impact Team” leaked the identities of users last summer, it revealed that the site had been lax on security and had retained records of users who had paid the company for a permanent deletion of their accounts.

    Avid Life Media asked that its leaked documents be kept under wraps during court proceedings because they had been criminally obtained. U.S. District Judge John A. Ross sided with the company, even though the wide distribution of those documents online is the very thing users argue turned their lives to turmoil.

    What was Ross' reasoning? Writes Brown:

    “The fact that the content of some of Avid’s internal documents … has been to some extent placed on the internet and reported in news articles does not change the nature of the documents. They remain stolen documents,” the judge wrote in an April 29 ruling.

    The plaintiffs had argued that the documents were no longer confidential, because they are widely distributed on the internet. This was the same argument Google used when fighting for the right to use emails exposed in the Sony Pictures hack in a legal battle with the MPAA—and while Google was barred from using the hacked documents themselves in the case, which is ongoing, the company has cited press articles that reference the documents in their filings

    Ross went on to find that lawyers and journalists have very different obligations in how they handle the case:

    In the Ashley Madison decision, the judge found that even news articles referencing the leak were off limits. While journalists were protected under the First Amendment in publishing the stolen information online, he wrote, attorneys involved in private litigation had differing ethical responsibilities.

    Judge John A. Ross
     “The fact that plaintiffs intend to use only news articles quoting from the original documents as opposed to the original documents themselves is, in the court’s view, a distinction without a difference,” Judge Ross wrote. “The quality and nature of the information remains the same. It is stolen information and cannot form the basis for a good faith belief of evidentiary support for a pleading.”

    It's not all bad news for plaintiffs in the case, as Brown notes:

    The silver lining to this cloud is that the documents revealed in the hack could come out during the case’s discovery process. “Regardless of whether some of the documents at issue may be ultimately discoverable, Avid has, and has always had, the right to keep its own documents until met with proper discovery requests or ordered to disclose them by the court,” wrote the judge.

    So to get the hacked documents admitted in court, the plaintiffs will need to ask Ashley Madison to produce them. Luckily, the plaintiffs have a very good idea of the smoking gun documents it should request.

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
    Your IP : - Country : - City:
    Your ISP TRACKS Your Online Activity! Hide your IP ADDRESS with a VPN!
    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    Mike Hubbard
    The criminal trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) begins today in Lee County, so it's an appropriate time to examine the grim reality of far too many Alabama courtrooms, state and federal.

    Jury selection in the Hubbard case is expected to take most of this week, with opening statements set for May 24. If recent history is a guide, all kinds of courtroom corruption could take place behind the scenes. Considerable evidence points to the following happening in the Land of Atticus Finch:

    Two jurors having improper communications during a high-profile trial, apparently trying to steer other jurors toward a guilty verdict--with assistance from the judge? The married judge in the same case having an extramarital affair with his married courtroom deputy, who interacts frequently with jurors? An FBI agent in another high-profile case, having an affair with the federal court reporter who recorded and transcribed secret grand-jury testimony in the case? The FBI agent giving information to the governor, a long-time political opponent of a key defendant? The judge in the second case learning that the FBI agent had an affair with the courtroom deputy in the first case?

    All of this is part of the recent sordid history in Alabama's "justice" system. And these were high-profile cases, with extensive press coverage. God only knows what happens in thousands of low-profile cases that take place in out-of-the-way courthouses around the state every year.

    How do we know about this sleaze? Well, we've reported on much of it since Legal Schnauzer began in June 2007. On top of that, attorney Donald Watkins provided a captivating guided tour last week on his Facebook page. It's likely that few people on the planet have more insights about the real world of Alabama "justice" than Donald Watkins.

    "There is no other system like it in America," Watkins writes, and then provides evidence to back up that statement--which I'm pretty sure he did not mean as a compliment. Let's take a closer look at some of the highlights (or lowlights, depending on your perspective) of Watkins' tour through a system that is riddled with dysfunction. If you have hip boots, put them on because this is a little like wading through raw sewage:

    U.S. v. Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy

    Evidence suggests jurors Sam Hendrix and Katie Langer engaged in improper e-mail communications, trying to push other jurors toward guilty verdicts. This episode never has been properly investigated, and that might be because Judge Mark Fuller was helping Hendrix and Langer. Writes Watkins:

    One of the many issues raised in this case was whether two jurors – jury foreman Sam Hendrix and juror Katie Langer – engaged in improper communications with each other and with fellow jurors during the trial and deliberations by the jury. An alleged email exchanged between Hendrix and Langer indicated that Fuller and these two jurors were steering the jury towards a conviction of Siegelman and Scrushy. One of the emails Langer allegedly sent to Hendrix stated:

    “gov & pastor [i.e. defendant Richard Scrushy] up s—t creek. good thing no one likes them anyway. all public officials r scum; especially this 1. pastor is reall a piece of work...they missed before, but we won’t...also, keep working on [juror number] 30...

    will update u on other meeting….Katie”.

    Another alleged Langer email stated:

    Judge really helping with jurors still having difficulties with #30 ...any ideas??? Keep pushing on ur side. Did not understand your thoughts on statute But received links….Katie”.

    A federal judge working with rogue jurors to cook a case? It blows the mind, but Watkins adds another element to the scheme:

    Katie Langer
    What the public and defendants did not know at the time was that Fuller, who was married, was having an extramarital affair with his married courtroom deputy – the very courtroom official who interacted with trial jurors on behalf of the court. Fuller later married this courtroom deputy.

    In 2015, Fuller was forced to resign his judgeship after a Court of Appeals judicial panel probing his 2014 arrest in Atlanta for beating his second wife confirmed our 2014 exclusive Facebook investigative reports that detailed Fuller’s serial martial cheating, out-of-control wife-beating episodes, and perjury to judicial officers.

    Yep, Mark Fuller . . . a classic example of the kind of fair-minded jurist that George W. Bush (and Karl Rove) wanted on the federal bench.

    U.S. v. Milton McGregor, et al

    This was the Alabama bingo case, which involved two trials, and produced zero convictions. That outcome might be embarrassing enough for the feds. But when you add the conduct of FBI agent Keith Baker . . . well, it becomes a candidate for the Sleaze Hall of Fame. Baker, it seems has epic "zipper problems,"and evidence suggests he provided information to Governor Bob Riley, a prime political enemy of defendant Milton McGregor. Did Baker, and Riley, commit criminal acts? Writes Watkins:

    Local FBI agent Keith Baker was one of the case agents who worked on the Siegelman-Scrushy bribery case. Baker later became the lead FBI case agent in the 2010 federal bribery case against VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, Dothan casino developer Ronnie Gilley, several state legislators, and two lobbyists. McGregor and Gilley were accused of bribing the defendant legislators. What the public and defendants did not know at the time was this: Baker, who was married, was having a secret extramarital affair with Mallory Johnson, a married federal court reporter who recorded and transcribed secret grand jury testimony in this case. Mallory leaked this testimony to Baker, who appears to have given this evidence to then-Governor Bob Riley, a longtime political foe of McGregor.

    When this matter was brought to the attention of trial judge Myron Thompson, he conducted a closed hearing to get to the bottom of this matter. Baker and Johnson confirmed their secret love affair and the grand jury leaks. Text messages between the two lovers seemed to bring Riley directly into the mix.

    That was not the only surprise awaiting Judge Thompson:

    When Baker received a defense request for 8,000 text messages on his phone during the time period of his investigation, they went missing. A check on the FBI servers revealed the copies of the text messages were also missing for that period of time. No other text messages on the server were missing.

    Thompson also learned that Baker had a secret inappropriate relationship with an unnamed "female courtroom deputy” during Siegelman’s trial. Fuller only had one such deputy – the woman he married. An upset Judge Thompson thereafter banned Baker from his courtroom during the trial proceedings.

    Missing text messages, multiple extramarital affairs across multiple trials, spoonfeeding grand-jury information to the governor, rogue jurors trying to force a guilty verdict? It all sounds off-the-charts crazy. But who knows what skulduggery will take place--or already has taken place--in the Hubbard case. (BTW, did Baker's messages go missing because he was texting then Governor Bob Riley? Again, if proven, was this criminal activity? Is someone in the U.S. Department of Justice trying to protect Riley?)

    Keith Baker (far right)
    If you believe Alabama's justice system could not possibly be that crooked, consider this: You might think Keith Baker and Katie Langer -- assuming they aren't in prison (and they are not) --would have been shipped to legal purgatory, as punishment for dishonorable actions in a system that is supposed to be based on honor--and the rule of law.

    But you would be wrong. After the Siegelman trial, Langer (who had been a gymnastics teacher) completed law school and earned a bar card. (How did that happen? Did she receive help in exchange for her actions in the Siegelman case?) Keith Baker exited the federal branch, but he remains in law enforcement.

    Yes, Katie Langer and Keith Baker both now work for Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange. And that's the office that, beginning today, takes Mike Hubbard to trial.

    Sources tell us that both Langer and Baker are working on the Hubbard case.

    God help us all.

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    Mike Hubbard
    (From newrepublic.com)
    A national magazine article published yesterday carries this glaring headline: "Is Mike Hubbard the most corrupt politician in America?" My immediate response, as a journalist who has blogged about legal and political issues in the Deep South for almost nine years, was: "Heck I'm not sure Hubbard is even the most corrupt politician in Alabama." After all, there is stiff competition for that title.

    The New Republic (TNR) reporter Joe Miller makes a compelling case that Hubbard, whose criminal trial starts with jury selection this week, is the scoundrel of all scoundrels--a lowlife whose abuse of the public trust deserves national condemnation. Consider this from Miller's article:

    The story of Mike Hubbard sounds like an only-in-Alabama joke: A politician runs a statewide campaign against corruption, wins big, quickly passes some of the toughest ethics laws in the nation, then gets skewered by those very laws. But the case against Hubbard, the Speaker of the Alabama House, is no laughing matter. Even in a place where political corruption is as much a part of the landscape as kudzu, the extensiveness and brazenness of his alleged crimes have stunned even longtime followers of politics in the state.

    “Mike Hubbard has been the overlord of an orgy of greed and corruption like we have never seen,” Bill Britt, host of Alabama’s weekly political talk show, The V, declared in a recent episode. “He is the Caligula of Alabama. Just a tyrant, and a mean and perverse guy.”

    I can't quarrel with a word Miller has written, or Britt has spoken, above. But I can think of at least four Alabama political figures--current governor Robert Bentley, former governor Bob Riley, attorney general Luther Strange (who is prosecuting Hubbard), and GOP operative and former "first son" Rob Riley--who I think might leave Hubbard in the dust when it comes to corruption. If you include state and federal judges as political figures--and they are either elected or appointed in a political process--Hubbard might not even make Alabama's "Top 40."

    Miller does a splendid job of portraying Hubbard as an overgrown sewer rat who wears nice ties. From the TNR piece:

    From the beginning there were signs that Hubbard’s self-portrayal as a warrior for good government was an act. Hubbard’s hometown paper, Opelika-Auburn News, reported that he’d spent party money on services from one of his own businesses, Craftmaster Printers. Hubbard told the small-town reporter it was much ado about nothing. “Out of about 80 candidates, you have only two using Craftmaster,” he said. “Is this really a story?”

    But his successor as chair of the state party had the accounts audited and found that Hubbard had bought more than $1 million worth of printing from Craftmaster with campaign funds that he controlled. Much of it came through a deal with Marketing Solutions of Florida, a political direct mail vendor that’s worked for Republican campaigns across the country, including Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid for president. The company is run by Brett Buerck, who fled Ohio in the early 2000s in the wake of a scandal that cost Larry Householder his position as Speaker of the House.

    Then the Montgomery Advertiser reported that Hubbard had used the national Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) to launder gambling money from the Poarch Creek Indians to the state GOP. With three casinos in the state, the Poarch Creek had a monopoly, and Hubbard and his colleagues reached out to them to support their candidates, who opposed an expansion of gambling in the state that would create new competitors for the Poarch Creek. The money was funneled through the RSLC to hide donations that would be politically toxic to conservative values voters in the Alabama GOP’s base. (Politico later obtained an internal RSLC document that candidly confirmed that Hubbard and the committee had consciously broken the law.)

    When an investigation of Hubbard started, he responded with one of the most disingenuous statements ever made in public:

    “What happens when conservatives stand up to Barack Obama?” he asked. “They get attacked. . . . ”

    Two months before Election Day 2014, the grand jury came back with 23 indictments against Hubbard. Again Hubbard blamed Obama, calling the case against him a “political witch hunt.”

    How big  a pile of rubbish is this? Hubbard is being prosecuted by Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, a fellow Republican. It is a state case, guided by state law. There is no indication that Obama or the federal justice department has played a role in the case. If anything, Obama has taken a hands-off approach to Republican scoundrels like Hubbard (and Karl Rove and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzalez and . . . ) since taking office in 2009.

    Could Hubbard be the poster child for political opportunists--the kind who use public office for private gain? Absolutely. Is Hubbard guilty of the charges against him? It's hard to see how a rational being could respond with any answer but "yes."

    But there is a flip side. It has been widely reported that Strange sees Hubbard as a prime competitor for a 2018 run at the governorship--and the prosecution is designed to leave Hubbard's political future in tatters. If that is true, Mike Hubbard is the victim of a political prosecution, very much like the one that took down former Democratic governor Don Siegelman. If a political prosecution is proven, any convictions against Hubbard could be overturned, as a matter of law.

    Here is something else to keep in mind. Hubbard is charged with violating state ethics laws--and that is a serious matter--but we've seen evidence in recent days that suggests major Alabama political figures have violated federal bribery laws. If such charges are brought and proven, they could dwarf the Hubbard case in scope and seriousness.

    Who are some of Hubbard's prime contenders for the title of "Alabama's Most Corrupt Politician"? We will examine that question in an upcoming post.

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    Erik Davis Harp
    Erik Davis Harp, a one-time gambling kingpin and business partner to former Luther Strange campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, was arrested in March for carrying a concealed firearm into a government building. Specifically, Harp is charged with taking a concealed Walther 9mm handgun into the Bay County Courthouse in Panama City Beach, Florida. (See documents about the charges at the end of this post.)

    Trying to sneak a gun into courthouse? That raises the seriousness of this story by several levels.

    Harp was indicted several years ago in Queen's, New York, as one of two ringleaders in an offshore sports-gambling ring, based in Panama, that brought in more than $20 million a month, Despite his connections to massive wealth, Harp applied for indigent status, which the Florida court denied. He hired Kevin D. Barr, of the Panama City Beach law firm Bryant Higby, who entered a not-guilty plea on his client's behalf.

    A pre-trial conference is set for 1:30 p.m. on June 9 before Judge Brantley Clark Jr. Here are specifics of the charges against Harp, per Jennifer Hawkins, an assistant state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit in Florida:

    Erik D. Harp, on or about March 15, 2016, in the County of BAY and the State of FLORIDA, did knowingly carry a Walther 9mm handgun, a firearm, concealed on or about his person, contrary to Florida Statute 790.01(2). 

    Under Florida law, Harp is charged with a third-degree felony that is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

    According to charges from prosecutors, Harp "knowingly" took a gun into a courthouse. That suggests it was not an accident, and that raises a number of troubling questions:

    (1) Did Harp have legitimate courthouse business on that date? If so, what was it? Was he present because of a criminal case, a civil case, or some other business usually conducted at the courthouse?

    (2) If Harp had no business at the courthouse, why was he "knowingly" trying to enter with a handgun? Did he plan to shoot someone? If so, who was it, and why?

    (3) If Harp intended to shoot someone, was he essentially on a suicide mission? Isn't a lone gunman likely to be way outnumbered in a courthouse, where multiple armed security types are likely to be on duty?

    (4) Will investigators look into Erik Harp's communication records--e-mails, phone messages, texts, etc.--in an effort to determine the intentions behind his trip to a courthouse, with a gun?

    Here are several key documents from the Harp case. (A hat tip to helpful readers who played a major role in preparation of this post.):

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    Bill Pryor
    (From badpuppy.com)

    Those who think Donald Trump is not a serious presidential candidate received new ammunition yesterday with the release of a list of individuals Trump considers possible nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court. Included on the list is an Alabama judge who posed nude during his college days for a series of photographs that wound up at the badpuppy.com gay-pornography Web site in the late '90s.

    William H. "Bill" Pryor's foray into gay porn probably is more substantive than anything he's done as a judge. President George W. Bush nominated the virulently homophobic Pryor to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003, even though the Alabama attorney general had zero experience as a judge--not even in municipal or traffic court.

    What were Pryor's credentials? Well, he was a passionate member of the Federalist Society, and he launched a state investigation of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman before the Democrat's fanny had barely hit the seat in his new office. That state probe led to a federal prosecution that landed Siegelman at Oakdale (LA) Federal Correctional Institution, where he still resides today. It is widely believed that Karl Rove, "Bush's Brain," orchestrated the Siegelman prosecution and rewarded Pryor for his key role with a nomination to the 11th Circuit.

    That was long before Pryor's ties to gay porn became widely known when we broke the story in fall 2013. What's the story behind the nude photos of a college student who, despite his painfully thin resume, grew up to be a federal judge? Here's how we described it in a post dated Sept. 17, 2013: (Warning: If you click on this link and scroll to the bottom of the post, you will find the original Pryor photo, unedited. If you are squeamish about full-frontal male nudity, we advise caution if you choose to click on the link.)

    Nude photographs of federal judge Bill Pryor appeared in the 1990s on a gay pornography Web site, a Legal Schnauzer investigation shows.

    The photos appeared in 1997 on badpuppy.com, which was in its online infancy, having debuted in mid 1995. Based in Cocoa, Florida, the site has morphed into one of the largest gay porn sites on the Web.

    Images obtained by Legal Schnauzer show Pryor posing completely nude, staring into the camera and sporting a noticeable erection. We see no indication that the photos were taken surreptitiously, without Pryor's knowledge. Sources say Pryor was college age when the photos were taken.

    Is there doubt about the photographs' authenticity? Well, a major Republican political figure in Alabama was shown the pictures in the late '90s and immediately exclaimed, "Holy Cow, That's Bill Pryor!" A former female political journalist at a Birmingham news outlet was shown the photos and reportedly guffawed and semi-fainted at the same time. Did either of those insiders express any doubt that it was Bill Pryor in the photo? Nope.

    Judge Bill Pryor
    (From nbcnews.com)
    It should be noted that the young man in the nude photos clearly has a condition called strabismus, which is a crossing of the eyes. The condition is apparent in recent photos of Pryor, although it appears he's had treatment (likely surgery) to improve the condition. Sources who have seen Pryor in person recently say the strabismus remains noticeable. We asked for an interview with Pryor about the strabismus issue and asked if he would turn over his medical records for inspection. He did not respond.

    Here's more about the photographs' history:

    Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the photos at badpuppy.com in 1997, not long before Governor Fob James appointed Pryor attorney general. An investigation ensued, and multiple officials familiar with that process have told Legal Schnauzer that the photos are, in fact, of the Bill Pryor who now sits on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Sources say the photos were taken while Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe) from 1980 to 1984.

    Legal Schnauzer contacted Judge Pryor last Friday via e-mail, seeking an interview about the photographs and their possible implications for his role on the federal bench. Pryor responded as follows:

    I have nothing to say to you except that these accusations are totally false. Do not contact me again. Bill Pryor.

    I replied by reminding Pryor that these were not "accusations"; they were photographs where multiple sources had identified him as the subject.  Pryor still was not willing to grant an interview on the subject:

    This is the last time I will respond to you. Those photos are not of me. Do not contact me again. Bill Pryor

    If the photos were not of Pryor, wouldn't it be easy for the judge to invite an inquisitive reporter to his office at the Hugo Black Courthouse in downtown Birmingham, lay out several family photos of himself from the undergrad days, show that he didn't look then like the young man in the photo (with a noticeable erection), and put the story to bed? That would seem like an easy way to handle it. But Pryor never has done that.

    Instead, the story was picked up by Above the Law, the nation's No. 1 legal blog, plus dozens of other blogs and news sites. When other journalists sent queries to Pryor, he responded by having a former law clerk send out a canned statement.

    Perhaps most troubling of all is reports that the secrets in Pryor's past actually helped his judicial career--that he was nominated to the bench so he would be vulnerable to blackmail, ensuring that he would steer cases to outcomes favorable to conservative interests. Here's how we described it in a December 2014 post:

    In fact, our sources say conservative forces pushed George W. Bush to make the appointment not because of any legal expertise on Pryor's part, but because his secrets make him controllable. [Journalist Wayne] Madsen calls Pryor a "gatekeeper" for Republican interests. Others have called him a "fixer," that he protects Karl Rove's agenda on the bench. Rove once served as Pryor's campaign manager in a race for Alabama attorney general.

    Either way, Pryor appears to be a judge of dubious integrity.

    Is this a sensitive topic in Alabama conservative circles? Well, roughly one week after I broke the Pryor/gay porn story, Shelby County deputies started showing up on our property (two and three at a time, in multiple vehicles), banging on doors and looking in our windows, even shining lights in our windows at dark. Less than one month after that, deputies broke into our basement garage as I was pulling our car in, assaulted me, doused me with pepper spray (while never showing a warrant, stating they had a warrant, or stating their reasons for being there) and hauled me to jail for a five-month stay. I probably would still be in jail (or dead) if my wife, Carol, had not managed to avoid being abducted (they were trying to arrest her, too) and was able to get word out about my arrest to the press.

    WizardBoy photo gallery,
    including Bill Pryor
    (From badpuppy.com)
    My incarceration received national and international news coverage. Substantial evidence suggests a group of right-wing bloggers, led by Ali Akbar and largely funded by GOP mega-donor Foster Friess, played a role in my arrest, which really was a state-sanctioned kidnapping.

    As for Trump, this is not the first time he has floated Pryor's name as a possible SCOTUS nominee. He did it back in February, after Super Tuesday primaries. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who is Pryor's mentor and No. 1 political backer, became a Trump supporter early on and is considered a possible VP pick. Sessions likely has been whispering sweet nothings about Pryor in Trump's ear.

    Is Trump completely ignorant of Pryor's past? It looks that way. Don Siegelman is one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet about Pryor, and his reaction to Trump's words in February were, well . . . rather harsh. Siegelman called Pryor "evil and pernicious," and that was just for starters. Here's more:

    Pryor's background: Slipped in as a recess appointment of Bush. A protege and political client of Karl Rove, a state attorney general linked to Karl Rove's tobacco clients and large corporate interests refused to join in the national suit against Big Tobacco. His reasoning: "Poor people who smoke die faster, so they cost Alabama's Medicaid less money." Republican Arizona Attorney General, Grant Woods, later Co-Chair McCain for President, responded publicly saying: "Alabama would be better off with comedian Richard Pryor rather than Bill Pryor as its attorney general."

    I've sought to interview Pryor at least three times about the gay-porn photos--and other issues. Each time, he has refused to take questions or even issue a substantive comment. In fact, he simply has not responded. I gave him another opportunity yesterday, via the following e-mail:

    Roger Shuler

    to: william_h_pryor_jr@ca11.uscourts.gov

    date: Wed, May 18, 2016 at 4:15 PM

    subject: Inquiry about Donald Trump, U.S. Supreme Court, and your appearance at badpuppy.com

    mailed-by: gmail.com

    Judge Pryor:

    As I'm sure you know, Donald Trump yesterday mentioned you as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. I would like to request an interview or a comment on this topic, especially in light of my fall 2013 reports about nude photos of you that appeared at the badpuppy.com gay pornography Web site.

    I have requested interviews on this subject multiple times in the past, and you never have granted one. I repeat that request today and ask that the interview be done in the next 24-48 hours because this is a national, breaking story.

    A few questions that quickly come to mind:

    * Have you disclosed to the Trump campaign your appearance at badpuppy.com?

    * Did you disclose this information to the U.S. Senate during your confirmation hearings after being nominated to the federal bench?

    * Would it be appropriate for you to consider a SCOTUS nomination, given the gay-porn photos in your background--and your public statements indicating you oppose gay rights. Multiple sources say you were confronted about the photographs in roughly 1997, long before your nomination to the federal bench.

    * What does the presence of such photographs say about your judgment and your suitability for a position on the federal bench, much less SCOTUS?

    * Were you asked about these photographs--or other potentially embarrassing and/or corrupting background information--during the confirmation process for your position on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals? If so, did you answer truthfully? If you failed to disclose this information, what does that say about your suitability for a role on the federal bench? Did you effectively lie to Congress?

    Trump's comments represent a breaking story, so I ask that you respond to this e-mail by 5 p.m. on 5/20/16 (Friday).

    Any chance Pryor will respond by 5 p.m. tomorrow? We will keep you posted.

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    From Metro Weekly

    One of last week's biggest stories was the release of Donald Trump's list of possible nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court. One of the names on the list was Alabama-based federal judge Bill Pryor, who posed nude for photographs that wound up at the gay-porn Web site badpuppy.com in the late 1990s. Trump might be worth billions, but he apparently can't afford to hire a researcher who might have learned about Bill Pryor's background with a simple Google search. After all, we broke the story in fall 2013--including a photo of a young Bill Pryor in the full-frontal altogether--and it garnered significant attention in the Web press.

    Perhaps the story hasn't gone viral, but that might change--if the gay press has it's way. It already has generated some Web images for the ages. (See images at the beginning and end of this post.)

    Metro Weekly, the largest and longest-running LGBT publication in the Washington, D.C., area, seemed to take special delight in covering the Trump/Pryor connection:

    Pryor, who is notorious for his homophobic views, apparently appeared nude in a print publication in the ’80s — his photos were then obtained by badpuppy.com, a gay pornography website, in 1997. Legal Schnauzer broke the story in 2013, obtaining the images which are claimed to show Pryor baring all for the camera.

    An unnamed Alabama Republican reportedly saw the photos and exclaimed: “Holy cow, that’s Bill Pryor!”

    While Metro Weekly obviously had fun with the story--as evidenced by the hilarious image it produced at the top of this post--it also addressed the serious implications:

    Pryor, who is married with two children, denies that it is him in the photos. If that assertion is false, it makes his previous comments on LGBT rights deeply hypocritical. According to Lambda Legal, Pryor has “repeatedly shown clear hostility to the rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV.”

    “William Pryor is the most demonstrably antigay judicial nominee in recent memory. It’s clear from his record that William Pryor does not belong on the federal appeals court,” said former Executive Director Kevin Cathcart in 2005, when Pryor was being vetted for his current position.

    Pryor has previously drawn comparisons between the rights of gay people and “prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia,” in a brief submitted during Lawrence v. Texas, which led to the state’s anti-sodomy law being struck down.

    The blog Unicorn Booty, which must have an enormous readership based on the traffic we've received from there over the weekend, took a snarky approach to the Trump/Pryor story:

    This week, human buttplug Donald Trump’s named his dream-team picks for the U.S. Supreme Court (we say “dream team” because a Trump presidency would be a fucking nightmare). Among his picks was William H. “Bill” Pryor Jr., a grown-up twink who thinks gay people should be jailed for having sex. The delicious twist: the homophobe might have appeared in gay porn during his 20s.

    In 2013, the blog Legal Schnauzer unearthed some nude images that look a lot like Pryor and then showed them to an anonymous Alabama Republican who reportedly exclaimed, “Holy cow, that’s Bill Pryor!” Legal Schnauzer thinks that the images were taken during Pryor’s years at Northeast Louisiana University in the early ’80s and they re-emerged on the web during the ’90s in a file of pics labeled “Bill Pryor”. Pryor has understandably denied the allegations.

    The gay news site Queerty, which also must have a huge audience, laid on an additional layer of snark:

    You will no doubt be shocked to hear that a crazily homophobic federal judge has been tied to a gay sex scandal. But here’s the fun twist this time: Donald Trump is thinking about nominating him to the Supreme Court.

    The man in question is William Holcombe “Bill” Pryor Jr., an eleventh-circuit judge and former Attorney General of Alabama. He’s married (to a woman), has two daughters, and he really really really hates queers. He’s said that queer people should be arrested for having consensual sex in their homes; that being gay is harmful; and he voted to keep kids in orphanages rather than allow them to go to supportive same-sex adoptive parents. Trump says he’d consider Pryor for the Supreme Court.

    What a bunch of jerks.

    He is also, allegedly, featured in nude photographs that floated around on BadPuppy in the 90s. It sure looks like him! The man in the picture is looking glumly at the camera, on full display, and is identified as “Bill Pryor.” Various unnamed officials have identified the photo as authentic; but then again, it’s easy to claim all kinds of things anonymously.

    For his part, Pryor says it’s not him, just like every other Republican asshole caught doing something sexual.

    For now, Trump hasn’t said anything about Pryor’s potentially-naked past. But lots of other legitimate legal observers have heard the rumors, and are only too happy to spread them. Maybe that’s the silver lining to Trump’s impending presidency: it’ll force some truly shocking secrets out into the open.

    Finally, The Sword, adds to the hilarity. (See image at the end of this post.) But it also takes a serious look at the politics involved:

    The fact that virulently anti-gay Justice Bill Pryor allegedly appeared on a gay porn site is a big deal. But now that he’s appeared on the Donald’s SCOTUS list, it’s a huge deal.

    Worst case scenario would be having to endure Trump/Palin for eight years. But if they get to pick a SCOTUS judge, America will have to live with that appointment for a lifetime. Justice Pryor would let states jail LGBT people for having sex in their homes. Have I got your attention now?

    Within the law, of course, what Judge Pryor or anyone may have done with their penis as a college student, i.e. posing for gay porn pictures, should have no bearing on their judicial aptitude. This is about what he has done and potentially will do with his gavel. . . .
    Regardless of how your candidate fairs in the primary, don’t let sour grapes sour our future. Come Election Day; it’s more crucial than ever to vote for the Democratic nominee and elect a Democratic House and Senate that will advance their agenda and confirm their SCOTUS picks.

    Donald Trump is right about one thing: this could be huge.

    From The Sword

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
    Your IP : - Country : - City:
    Your ISP TRACKS Your Online Activity! Hide your IP ADDRESS with a VPN!
    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    Mike Hubbard
    (From The New Republic)
    Birmingham attorney and GOP operative Rob Riley is desperately trying to build a defense fund for House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), according to a new report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Why would Riley, the son of former governor Bob Riley, be doing that? The evidence points to what we think is a pretty clear answer.

    Hubbard's trial on 23 counts of state ethics-law violations is set to begin with opening statements tomorrow in Lee County. Hubbard perhaps is the ultimate Riley Inc. insider--long stating that Bob Riley is his political mentor and hero. So it's possible Rob Riley simply is trying to help out a family friend. But we suspect much more is going on.

    What's happening on the surface? Here is how APR publisher Bill Britt put it in a post out this morning:

    Yet, with all of his failings, and now, having to face trial, the Riley’s are sticking with their guy. Just last week, Rob Riley was making phone calls pleading with wealthy republican donors to contribute to Hubbard’s legal defense fund.

    Hubbard’s attorney Bill Baxley is believed to have demanded his money up front, after Hubbard stiffed his original criminal lawyer, J. Mark White for over a million dollars.

    So, what’s ol’ Rob up to?

    As for Baxley, sources tell us that right wingers have enough dirt on him that he is likely to do whatever they say; reportedly, Baxley is in no position to make demands. There is a reason, we are told, that Baxley suddenly has become the go-to lawyer for GOP operatives in trouble, such as Hubbard, Barry Moore, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

    But what about Britt's key question: What's ol' Rob up to? I think that is a pretty easy question to answer.

    Attorney Donald Watkins has reported that Hubbard and prosecutors had reached a plea deal, which would call for Hubbard to serve one year in prison in exchange for his cooperation in investigations of  Bob Riley, current governor Robert Bentley, and Senate President Del Marsh. Watkins noted that Hubbard can walk away from a plea deal at any time before it is accepted by the court.

    Rob Riley
    If that happens, he goes to trial--and that surely is what the Riley family is hoping for. If Mike Hubbard were to spill the goods on Bob Riley, his family members, and associates . . . the Rileys might eventually learn what is meant by the phrase "orange is the new black."

    It clearly is in the Rileys' best interests for Hubbard to go to trial. Yes, Bob Riley and daughter Minda Riley Campbell might have to take the stand, which probably would not be pleasant. But it likely would be much more pleasant than having federal and state investigators taking a close look at family affairs, with Mike Hubbard providing a guided tour.

    Here is how Bill Britt describes the various factors that seem to be in play:

    Many thought the Riley clan would have been wise to establish a “prison trust fund” for their boy. And given the many high profile businessman who will be called to give testimony, surely a few million could have been put aside for Hubbard to just take the rap and save them further embarrassment. Almost no one thought Papa Riley would ever take the stand. Even now, there are those who believe Riley might suddenly feel a need for an extended motorcycle trip to Alaska.

    There is still time for Hubbard to plea, but is he so delusional that even the Riley’s can’t reach him? Hubbard, like others, never believed he would be indicted, and he certainly never thought he would stand trial in Lee County.

    A plea agreement can be reached at anytime, even during the trial, so that is still a possibility, but it is looking doubtful. The State has already presented the defense with over 1.500 exhibits it plans to introduce, and a list of over 135 witness has been listed on Alacourt.

    Is Hubbard really the Riley's "boy" at this point? We doubt it. He's probably the guy they gladly would see risk going to prison for 20 to 50 years (or more) if it would help save their necks.

    So again, what is ol' Rob up to? He probably is desperate to make sure Hubbard has the resources to fund a trial defense. Without such funds, Hubbard might be more likely to strike a plea deal.

    And we suspect that's the last thing Rob Riley wants to see happen.

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    Franklin Haney
    (From timesfreepress.com)
    A national magazine recently asked, "Is Mike Hubbard the most corrupt politician in America?" My initial reaction was, "Heck, I'm not sure Mike Hubbard is even the most corrupt politician in Alabama."

    As Hubbard's criminal trial gets set to take flight today in Lee County, it might be time to reconsider that question. That's especially true in light of new evidence that indicates perhaps the two most corrupt politicians in Alabama history have been charged with . . . well, nothing--and they aren't Mike Hubbard.

    Will these two alley cats finally get the law-enforcement attention they so richly deserve? Will they both testify in the Hubbard trial and be, at least partially, unmasked? Well, they have proven slippery so far.

    We are talking about current governor, Robert Bentley, and his predecessor, Bob Riley. In an article that (surprise!) proves al.com actually is capable of producing meaningful journalism, reporters Kyle Whitmire and John Archibald show that a Tennessee real-estate mogul has a history of dumping money on Riley and Bentley and then receiving favorable treatment.

    The interactions between Franklin Haney, of Chattanooga, and the Alabama governors--as described by al.com--smell an awful lot like the kind of quid pro quo ("something for something" deal) that constitutes federal bribery--and certainly could trump the state ethics charges Hubbard faces.

    The Haney Cash Caravan started with Bob Riley, who after receiving lots of Tennessee dough, suddenly started pushing for a deal regarding the old Social Security Building in Birmingham--a deal that proved awfully sweet for Mr. Haney (not to be confused with the lovable greaseball character from Green Acres).

    Archibald spelled it out in a February 2014 article, which I missed the first time around because, by golly, I was in jail--thanks to Bob Riley's son, the unlovable greaseball Rob Riley. Come to think of it, substantial evidence suggests Attorney General Luther Strange and his paramour/campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, played a major role in my incarceration, the wrongful foreclosure on the house my wife, Carol, and I had owned for 25 years--or both.

    That helps explain, in part, my tendency to think Bentley, Riley/Riley, and Strange/Garrison all are more corrupt than Mike Hubbard. Without question, though, it's a close call.

    Back to the Archibald piece of two years ago, which introduced Alabamians to Franklin Haney and his cozy relationship with our state's governors:

    Let's start with former Gov. Bob Riley.

    Haney, a big Democratic donor over the years who in the last election gave $2 million to the Obama re-election campaign, put a load of cash into Alabama Republican politics in 2006, and Riley got a bunch of it.

    Haney, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's office, passed at least $130,000 to Riley through PACs run by noted PACman Clark Richardson, much like he did last year with the Birmingham City Council. . . .

    Riley, later, would become a big advocate for Haney and the Birmingham building.

    One of his last acts as governor was to sign a lease that would consolidate Jefferson County's Department of Human Resources and move that agency into 290,000 square feet of Haney's building. Annual rent on that building began at $1.2 million a year, according to the lease, but rises this year to $5 million for the remainder of the term, plus possible extra costs for operational expenses.

    That's higher than any of the 63 state tenants in any of David Bronner's newer and shinier RSA buildings, according to state records. It appears to be the highest rental rate for any state agency.

    Riley not only signed the lease as he left office, he lobbied for Haney in Birmingham.

    Haney has resurfaced under the Bentley regime. This time, Haney dumped cash on Bentley--possibly even helping support a slush fund to pay Bentley's mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason--and wound up getting support for a project involving a partially built nuclear reactor in northeast Alabama. Haney also got more support for his office building. Write Whitmire and Archibald, in an article dated May 13, 2016:

    Just the traceable donations from Haney's businesses to Bentley's last campaigns total about $300,000, much of which moved into Bentley's campaign account after the last election was over. Again, that's only what's easily traceable. That campaign account subsequently paid the salary of Rebekah Caldwell Mason, the governor's senior political advisor with whom he is accused of having an affair.

    Meanwhile, the governor has helped Haney, too, finalizing a state lease in Haney's Birmingham office building which costs the state $5 million a year.

    And more recently, the governor threw his support publicly behind the sale of a partially built nuclear power plant currently owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority north of Scottsboro.

    Haney's name reportedly is familiar to investigators examining money funneled into a non-profit organization that helped pay Mason. Haney, however, does not seem anxious to discuss the situation. Reports al.com:

    In the most recent election cycle, Bentley's re-election campaign received at least $200,000 through such transactions — $75,000 of which moved to Bentley after the election, when the governor was raising the money he'd later use to pay Mason's salary during his second term.

    Haney's name has popped up repeatedly in recent months as investigators and lawmakers have sought to learn more about the money paid into ACEgov, a shadowy 501(c)4 that also was used to supplement the pay of Mason.

    Asked this week if he contributed to ACEgov, Haney referred questions to his lawyer.

    "You'd have to ask Roger Bates," he said. "I don't do political contributions."

    Attempts to reach Bates, a lawyer at Hand Arendall and a lobbyist for the Alabama two-year college system, failed.

    Could Haney wind up as a central character in the scandal that is engulfing the Bentley administration? It's probably too soon to say, but al.com provides insight into the scope of the investigation:

    Whether Haney's money has gone to pay Mason's salary remains to be seen. Currently, Bentley is under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, United States Attorneys, U.S. Postal Inspectors, the Internal Revenue Service and the Alabama Ethics Commission. Some questioned by investigators say Haney's name came up in those conversations.

    Haney said he has not received a subpoena nor heard of any inquiries into his activities.

    The Mike Hubbard trial might prove to be the warm-up act for a corruption case that carries an overwhelming stench. If such a case includes Robert Bentley, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Luther Strange, Jessica Garrison--or any and all of the above--you can bet it will have a foul smell.

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    Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    The investigation of Governor Robert Bentley now is directed by a federal prosecutor from Georgia after the recusal of George Beck, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.

    John A. Horn, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, now is in charge of the probe, according to a report from Alabama Political Reporter (APR). The Public Integrity Section (PIN), of the U.S. Department of Justice, remains involved with the case. From APR's Bill Britt:

    Horn, a career prosecutor, was appointed by the Obama administration in 2015, for the district that runs from the mountains of northern Georgia to the Atlanta suburbs in the south, and from the western border of Alabama to the two Carolinas in the east. The primary office is located in the US courthouse in Atlanta.

    Bentley continues to claim he has done nothing unethical, or illegal. He recently reminded voters that God had chosen him to lead the State, and that he would finish that mission.

    It appears Bentley is not taking the situation seriously. But Britt indicates the governor would be wise to change his mindset:

    A task force from the FBI, the Postmaster General, and the IRS is conducting the investigation into allegations of obstruction of justice, fraudulent use of campaign contributions, improper use of State resources, and other potential criminal acts, according to former Bentley confidants, and staffers, who are cooperating with the investigators. The most serious scrutiny surrounds Bentley’s involvement with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his former senior advisor, and alleged paramour.

    Mason’s husband, Jon is also a topic of inquiry, as well as current Bentley staffers, and former insiders, who have been interviewed (All speaking on background, as to not compromise their role in the criminal investigation).

    The probe is going well beyond, Bentley and the Masons, Britt reports:

    Current staffers whose names have been mentioned in interviews are, Aide-de-camp Jake Jacobs, Director of Federal and Local Government Affairs Zach Lee, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Jon Barganier, according to two prominent sources. While there are no allegations of wrongdoing, by those individuals at this time there are serious questions being asked about a potential cover-up within the administration. Those who are believed to be under the greatest threat are ALEA Chief, Stan Stabler, and SBI Director, Gene Wiggins. Stabler has publicly made several statements and taken official actions in his roll as “Top Cop,” which has lead to his prominence as a suspect in a cover-up within ALEA and in the Bentley camp.

    John A. Horn
    (From cbslocal.com)
     Stabler has denied closing a case involving State Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City), as well as other criminal investigations. He has also stated that former ALEA Chief, Spencer Collier and others, were under investigation for misuse of State funds/resources.

    While the federal probe into Bentley has taken on new life, the investigation by agents from the Alabama ethics commission has similarly entered a new phase, with another round of subpoenas being issued last week, according to those close to the investigation.

    Why did Beck recuse himself from the case? It likely goes back to his days as a lawyer with the Montgomery firm Capell and Howard, which is known as Karl Rove's headquarters when he visits our fine state. Writes Britt:

    The investigation into Governor Robert Bentley has taken a new turn, with the recusal of US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, George Beck. Those with knowledge of the investigation believe that Beck’s recusal is due to his long association with donor’s, consultants, and advisors, who have been been involved in various capacities with the Bentley administration.

    Beck's exit almost certainly is not good news for Bentley and Co. Beck apparently has been acting like a retiree on the job. John A. Horn probably does not approach his work that way.

    With Beck’s recusal, and the introduction of a host of outside players, Bentley, Mason, and others may face an uncertain future, as the weight of justice closes in on this beleaguered administration.

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    Tim Howe
    (From al.com)
    No one could have known it at the time, but when Legal Schnauzer started in June 2007, it essentially presaged the opening day of the Mike Hubbard trial.

    Quite a few of our early posts documented the corruption that had been swirling around Pelham attorney Bill Swatek for years. Swatek filed a bogus lawsuit against me on behalf of our criminally inclined neighbor, Mike McGarity, and the unlawful rulings of Shelby County judges in that case prompted me to start this blog. It also drove my wife, Carol, and me into an ugly conservative world populated by GOP dirt bags like Karl Rove, Bill Canary, and Bob and Rob Riley.

    What does this have to do with the Hubbard case? Well, the only two witnesses called as the trial opened yesterday were Tim Howe and John Ross, both partners in the Montgomery-based consulting/lobbying firm Swatek Howe and Ross. The chief partner, Dax Swatek, has not testified, but he is on the state's extensive witness list.

    This is a story of apples not falling far from the tree.

    Speaking of trees, Dax Swatek comes from a decidedly unwholesome family tree. His father is Bill Swatek, whose record of sleaze in the legal profession dates back some 35 years. (See here, here, and here.) His late brother, Chace Swatek, was a lawyer whose body was found beside a Pelham highway after he reportedly had died from huffing. His sister, Barret Swatek, could be called a fading Hollywood actress, but she never had much of a star to begin with. Perhaps her most significant claim to fame is having dated producer Mike De Luca, who is known for engaging in fist fights, drunken driving and public blow jobs. Barret Swatek puts her conservative family values on display by dating guys like that.

    As for the Hubbard trial, it started with two witnesses who have strong ties to the dysfunctional Swatek clan. Not surprisingly, the witnesses testified to acts that were so corrupt that they were almost comical. What do you know . . . Bill Swatek's law career is filled with corrupt acts that are downright comical.

    Bill Swatek
    Tim Howe took the stand yesterday and promptly admitted to using a pass-through company to funnel money to Hubbard--but ol' Tim made the unilateral decision to skim five percent off the top. How very Swatekian of him.

    John Ross testified about a meeting designed to create a favorable position for his client, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI). How favorable was the proposed legislation to be for APCI? It would give the company a monopoly on Medicaid prescription in Alabama. That's pretty favorable.

    When Ross learned from a lobbyist that Hubbard was taking boatloads of cash from APCI, he was angry because of the obvious ethics problems that presented. Was Ross concerned that he had rigged the Medicaid system to benefit one company, his client? Was Ross concerned this might be a bad deal for Alabamians. Based on news reports of yesterday's proceedings, the answer appears to be no. Ross, it seems, was concerned because Hubbard's actions had increased the chances of someone getting caught. Again, how very Swatekian.

    How bad is Bill Swatek, who could be called the "Father of All Corruption Described So Far in the Hubbard Trial"? I've written dozens of posts on that subject, but here is my favorite story.

    In the late 1970s, Swatek represented a Pelham policeman named Johnny Bailey in an employment case. During depositions, Swatek allowed opposing counsel to use his office for what they thought was a private meeting. But Swatek surreptitiously tape recorded them. The opposing attorneys found the running tape recorder and confronted Swatek with it. He eventually told multiple bar committees that he knew nothing about the recorder, it had been his client's idea to use it. Swatek was charged with perjury, and somehow was acquitted at trial, even though the following section from the audiotape was presented to the jury:

    William E. Swatek and Johnny Bailey on cassette tape taken by Paul G. Smith from Swatek's office on May 30, 1979:

    Swatek: "Testing . . . one . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . "

    Bailey: ". . . 'cause that's the one probably to use, or do you want to use that one?"

    Swatek: "I'd rather use this one, 'cause you can't hear it at all, and I can stick it down under the desk and . . . "

    Swatek obviously knew about the tape recording. He decided which recorder to use, where to place it, and he tested it. He clearly lied under oath to the bar committees about it. But still a jury--which almost had to somehow be tainted--found him not guilty.

    No wonder partners in the Swatek Howe Rowe firm think they can get away with anything. No wonder Mike Hubbard thinks he can be found not guilty.

    Below is a portion of the transcript from Bill Swatek's 1981 trial. Don't be surprised if something just as nutty emerges from the Hubbard trial.

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    Robert Bentley
    The investigation of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason has been turned over to a federal grand jury, according to a report yesterday at al.com. That has special resonance here at Legal Schnauzer because, based on multiple news reports, the Bentley administration likely has taken illegal actions against citizen journalists--attorney Donald Watkins and me.

    For some good news, Watkins reports on his Facebook page this morning that Bentley's "House of Fraud is Collapsing," that the governor and some of his top aides are toast.

    On the bad-news side, my little family unit is suffering, physically and emotionally, forced to live like refugees in a hostile environment. If justice ever comes, I'm not sure we will survive to see it.

    The illegal use of government resources to retaliate against journalists might go beyond Watkins and me--to include, in my case, a spouse and a furry loved one. My wife, Carol, and I, since being forced to move to our current (and hopefully temporary) location in Springfield, Missouri, have seen evidence that suggests Alabama and Missouri forces have engaged in a coordinated effort to steal many of our personal belongings, force us to the edge of homelessness, terrorize us with handguns and at least one assault weapon, and force us to live in a week-by-week flea-bag motel whose charms include bed-bug infestations and meth dealers around the corner.

    In fact, one member of our family is suffering from physical symptoms that we think might be caused by an allergic reaction to bed bugs and the nasty residue they leave behind. But we don't have the resources to seek treatment. At the moment, we are not sure we can pay next week's rent, which means the roof over our heads might soon disappear.

    In short, some of the same bad actors present in the Mike Hubbard trial--Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Luther Strange, Bill Baxley, perhaps Hubbard himself, and likely others--have tried to ruin us. And they might be pretty close to achieving that objective.

    This is the real-world price a journalist can pay for daring to report accurately about the conservative-based corruption that has taken over our state at least since 1995, when Karl Rove helped Republican Perry Hooper become chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court--in an uber close election that featured the kind of skulduggery we would see again in the 2000 Gore-Bush presidential race and the 2002 Siegelman-Riley gubernatorial race in Alabama.

    Do you notice a trend here? Vote totals that once favor the Democrat, suddenly favor the Republican; ballots are either lost, not counted, or sealed; recounts that favor the Republican are held, but those that might favor the Democrat are denied or conducted in slipshod fashion. End result: The Rove/Republican candidate always wins.

    Where do Bentley and Mason fit into this? Well, they entered into "public service" with a clear sense of entitlement. And why shouldn't they? The previous 15 years had taught them that Republicans--if they were white, conservative, and claimed Jesus as their guide--could get away with anything. Mike Hubbard decided to jump on that train, and he's now in Day 3 of a criminal trial on 23 counts of ethics-law violations.

    Bentley and Mason also went for a wild ride on the "Sleaze Train," and they now face grand-jury scrutiny. This is from al.com's John Archibald:

    The investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley, and the fallout of his relationship with former adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, is apparently moving to the grand jury.

    A letter sent by a federal prosecutor to lawyers of people who have been questioned by the FBI in the Bentley affair, explains that George Beck, U.S. Attorney in Alabama's Middle District, recused himself from the investigation. He has been replaced on the case by a U.S. Attorney from Georgia.

    Jonathan Ross, assistant U.S. Attorney in the Middle District, wrote the letter under the subject "Grand Jury Investigation." The note is the first evidence that Bentley's relationship with Mason or his attempts to hide that relationship is being examined by a grand jury.

    It has already been made clear that investigators from the FBI, the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service and state agencies have begun asking questions of former Bentley staffers, executive security officers and others who were at one time close to the governor.

    Meanwhile, Watkins indicates federal investigators are moving forward in a hurry, and the Bentley ship is about to sink:

    Federal investigators are closing in on Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and his widespread criminal racketeering enterprise. This enterprise operates straight out of the governor’s office. . . .  
    The end of Bentley’s criminal enterprise is rapidly approaching. His “House of Fraud” is collapsing. Bentley will be indicted and tried on federal racketeering and public corruption charges.

    Earlier this month, Bentley lost a protective law enforcement shield that was provided to him by Montgomery U.S. Attorney George Beck, Jr., a staunch Bentley ally. Beck’s entire office has been removed from the ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) in Washington, acting in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta. Beck’s coziness with the Bentley Administration disappointed the public, infuriated his staff, and was eventually too much for the DOJ to bear.

    What else points to rough sledding ahead for the governor? Watkins spells it out, making reference to the governor's retaliatory efforts against the two journalists who broke the Bentley/Mason sex scandal. Al.com, perhaps sniffing a Pulitizer Prize in the future, has taken a serious interest in the story since audiotapes surfaced of Bentley talking of caressing Mason's breasts and happily exploring her nether regions.

    But the story likely never would have gotten that far without the reporting Watkins and I did last August and September. In fact, al.com spent much of its time last fall attacking the reporter, me, who first reported on the sex scandal and mentioned Mason by name. The mainstream press mostly tried to ignore Watkins, even though he's proven to have spot-on inside information.

    Writes Watkins in today's Facebook post:

    In March 2016, the Alabama Council for Excellent Government (“ACEGov”), Bentley’s 501(c)(4) slush fund for channeling “dark money” to Rebekah Mason, essentially shut down. Federal investigators have subpoenaed the financial records of this “girlfriend” fund. In 2015, Mason received payments from ACEGov without the knowledge or approval of its board of directors.

    In March 2016, Bentley fired Spencer Collier, the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, for refusing the governor’s direct order to lie to state prosecutors in House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s criminal case and for refusing to use federal criminal databases to harass and retaliate against online journalists Roger Alan Shuler and me. Collier is cooperating with federal investigators.

    Chief of staff Seth Hammett, executive assistant Wanda Kelly, chief of executive security Wendell Ray Lewis, communications director Jennifer Ardis, and a host of other staffers have also departed the governor’s office in what can only be described as an orderly exodus. Remaining staffers are quietly looking for other jobs. They all think the governor is erratic, delusional, and paranoid. Bentley, who is a known habitual liar, has already started blaming some of the departing staff members for his misdeeds.

    If it's proven that Bentley participated in the trauma our family unit has experienced in Missouri--not to mention my bogus incarceration and the likely theft of our house in Alabama--I hope the feds nail him on the tallest cross they can find. And if there is an especially warm corner of Hell, I hope Robert Bentley, Rebekah Mason, and their fellow pieces of pond scum roast there for eternity.

    I only hope there is another warm corner reserved for Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Bill Baxley, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Swatek and many others who have tried to run our lives--all because we vowed not to sit back and quietly take gross courtroom corruption.

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    Erik Davis Harp
    Erik Davis Harp did not just carry a concealed handgun into a Florida courthouse; he also had ammunition, court documents show. Also, Harp is facing a single charge of carrying a concealed firearm into a government building (the Bay County Courthouse). But court records indicate Harp also violated a Florida statute that prohibits taking a gun, with or without a permit, into a courthouse. Why is Harp not facing at least one additional charge?

    According to court documents, Harp did not get very far at the courthouse when he was arrested in mid March. Here is part of an affidavit from the arresting officer: (See full document at the end of this post.)

    On March 15, 2016, at approximately 0930 am, the suspect in this case, Erik D. Harp, did possess a firearm and ammunition in a concealed manner while entering the Bay County Courthouse X-ray screening area. Affiant states that the suspect, Harp, stated he did not have a lawful concealed carry permit for the State of Florida or any reciprocal state.
    This tells us that Erik Harp's gun was loaded, or he possessed ammunition to load it. In other words, officers' ability to detect the weapon at the screening area might have prevented a nightmarish scene.

    Ironically, the officer's affidavit seems to downplay the seriousness of the offense. Our research indicates it was irrelevant that Harp did not have a permit. Florida Statute 790.06(12)(a) states:

    (12)(a) A license issued under this section does not authorize any person to openly carry a handgun or carry a concealed weapon or firearm into: 
    1. Any place of nuisance as defined in s. 823.05;

    2. Any police, sheriff, or highway patrol station;

    3. Any detention facility, prison, or jail;

    4. Any courthouse;

    Even with a permit, Erik Harp could not lawfully carry a firearm into a courthouse.  So why isn't he being charged with a violation of 790.06(12)(a)?

    Here is the kind of irony that can happen with the law in a gun-crazy state (in the South, Midwest, Great Plains, or elsewhere.) A rational citizen might say, "Trying to carry a concealed handgun and ammunition into a courthouse seems like a much more serious offense than carrying a concealed weapon, without a permit, in a regular public place--say, a park or a grocery store."

    Bay County (Florida) Courthouse
    Such a rational citizen would be wrong when it comes to Florida law. Carrying a gun into a courthouse, violating Florida Statute 790.061(12)(a), is a second-degree misdemeanor. It carries a maximum penalty of 60 days imprisonment.

    In contrast, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

    Under Florida law, which appears to be goofy, Harp is being charged with the more serious of two offenses. But it seems clear that he also violated state law that prohibits taking a gun into a courthouse, with or without a permit.

    In fact, it seems prosecutors are trying to take the courthouse element out of the equation. It's as if Harp was caught with a concealed weapon while walking down a sidewalk. But that is not what happened, and public records suggest Harp was planning actions that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.

    Is Erik Davis Harp being undercharged in this case? If so, why?

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    Rob Riley
    Testimony in Week One of the Mike Hubbard trial suggests someone tampered with a witness. The No. 1 suspect is Birmingham attorney Rob Riley, son of former GOP governor Bob Riley, according to a report yesterday from Bill Britt, publisher of Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

    The issue surfaced last Thursday with the testimony of Dr. Don Williamson, former state health officer and now president of the Alabama Hospital Association. A series of witnesses had made it clear that Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, was directly involved with placing language into the General Fund Budget that would give his client, American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), a monopoly on the state's lucrative Medicaid prescriptions.

    In pre-trial interviews with prosecutors, Williamson apparently agreed with other witnesses that Hubbard played a central role in having the APCI language placed in the budget. But on the stand last week, Williamson said others had placed the language in the budget, and Hubbard played a key role in removing it.

    The statement so shocked prosecutor Matt Hart that he turned quickly on his heels and asked Williamson, "Have you been threatened?" Sources told Britt that they knew Williamson's altered testimony was coming:

    By all indications from the prosecution, Williamson’s testimony had significantly changed from what he had previously told them. Reliable sources say they learned Williamson’s testimony had been compromised. The two sources, who asked to remain anonymous, have informed APR that they knew Williamson was going to “walk back” his testimony 24 hours before he took the stand.

    Who would pull such a stunt, the kind that tramples any notion of fairness in our justice system? Britt was quick to point a finger at Rob Riley, calling the trial "covert warfare between Justice and Riley Inc., with consigliere Rob Riley as mastermind of the behind-the-scenes, mob-style tactics."

    Britt, in so many words, accuses Rob Riley and his associates of engaging in organized crime. I've been raising that point for quite some time, particularly since Riley used a bogus defamation lawsuit to have law enforcement kidnap me and throw me in jail for five months, with clear evidence that the mafia-style plans included kidnapping my wife, Carol, too. We strongly suspect that if Carol had been abducted and thrown in jail, too, we both likely would have been killed, along with our pets.

    Is it any wonder Matt Hart asked if Dr. Don Williamson had been threatened. And God only knows the nature of any threats directed at Williamson. Why does Britt view Riley as "Public Animal No. 9" (to borrow a phrase from Alice Cooper, one that certainly seems to fit Rob Riley)? Here is more from yesterday's article at APR:

    Rob, the son of former Gov. Bob Riley, is believed to have directed Hubbard’s defense from the outset. It is also believed it was Rob who chose J. Mark White for the public relations phase of the defense, and Rob who schemed out the interlocking legal strategy that would lead to Baxley. It is Rob who has twisted arms to raise money for Hubbard’s defense, according to several sources, and it is Rob who is thought to be behind witnesses “softening” their testimony, and in some cases, change it, as did Williamson.

    Britt goes on to describe Riley as a man "whose world view is colored by the privilege of power, situational ethics and a family dynamic that demands loyalty, even to crooks like Hubbard." Britt is being much too kind here, in my view. I don't think Riley has any ethics, situational or otherwise. Having seen Riley a time or two in person, I could not help notice that he has a distinct reptilian quality. He is pure molten evil, a man so warped by his family dynamic that I don't think there is any chance of him ever being reformed.

    Rob Riley's debased nature apparently rubs off on those around him. Writes Britt:

    Rob sat in court the first two days of the trial taking notes and consulting Baxley during breaks in the proceedings. He was accompanied by his younger associate, Jeremiah Mosley, a tall, thin, boy-man with an overly aggressive handshake and a need to impress.

    After Williamson shocked the prosecution with his altered testimony, Mosley asked this reporter, “How did you like that?” With this, Mosley broke an unwritten law in cheating: “Never gloat.” But like any amateur, with an oversized opinion of his own self-worth, the baby-faced Mosley couldn’t resist the need to have someone recognize his brilliance.

    Mosley's law-firm bio states that he and his wife, and two daughters, are active members of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Cahaba Heights. That appears to be a common Riley Inc. strategy, engaging in church activities to appear righteous while applying underhanded legal and political tactics that should make any genuine Christian wretch. Rob Riley reportedly was a deacon at Dawson Memorial Baptist Church in Homewood.

    Jeremiah Mosley
    Mosley, by the way, was involved in the case where I essentially was kidnapped--becoming the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and apparently the only one in U.S. history to be jailed because of a preliminary injunction that has been prohibited in defamation cases under First Amendment law for more than 200 years.

    One could conclude that Rob Riley is among the sleaziest attorneys ever to practice in the United States. He thought of a way to cheat an opposing party that no other U.S. lawyer ever had come up with. Now, that is some kind of achievement!

    Lesson: Never underestimate how far Rob Riley might go to achieve his objectives, no matter how warped they might be.

    Is witness tampering likely to be a "one off" at the Hubbard trial, involving Dr. Don Williamson, but no other witnesses. Doesn't look like it. Writes Britt:

    Rumors abound that Riley Inc. has convinced others to “soften” or alter their testimony. Ferrell Patrick, lobbyist for American Pharmacy Cooperative Inc. (APCI), has been mentioned as one of the witness who may flip, as is former Rep. Greg Wren. According to those close to the Rileys, the plan is to blame Wren for placing the 23 words in the Medicaid portion of the General Fund Budget that would have given Hubbard’s client, APCI, a monopoly over the multi-million Medicaid pharmacy program. . . .

    Patrick and Wren are the State’s star witnesses regarding Hubbard’s involvement in placing language in the budget to give his paying client a monopoly over the Medicaid pharmacy program.

    Most court observers believe that Hubbard’s role in the pharmacy monopoly scheme was perhaps the easiest to prove and the most damning. Those close to the Rileys say Rob believes if he can kill this charge, then the others will be much easier to defeat. Perhaps this is why Mosley couldn’t help taking credit for punking the jury.

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    Baxter (left) and his big sister, Chloe
    We hope our readers had a meaningful and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend. But it proved to be an immensely sad time in the Schnauzer household.

    Baxter, our little boy Tonkinese kitty kat who had done so much to keep us more or less sane since we adopted him and his sister Chloe in summer 2004, died at about 2:30 a.m. on Friday.

    We knew he hadn't been acting quite right for about a month, but we didn't think it was serious. It wasn't until last Thursday morning that Baxter started looking unsteady on his feet, and we made plans to schedule a vet appointment for him, even though we knew our depleted resources were going to make that a challenge.

    Unfortunately, our "little feller" didn't make it through the night, He was curled next to me when I heard him let out a soft cough. That's not unusual for kitty kats, so I didn't think too much of it for a few seconds. But then I noticed he was laying on his side (unusual), with his head in a peculiar position. I called out to Carol, and she scooped him up to love on him, but we could tell from the vacant look in his eyes that he was gone.

    Our eyes started filling with tears, and we both felt a numb sensation. As a human, you know you are likely to outlive your pets. But it seems like we never are prepared to lose them. The minute we realized Baxter was gone, our room at what we call The Shiftless Drifters Motel in Missouri, seemed to shrink and lose whatever luster it had. Baxter had given our spartan quarters a sense of life and joy, and we could feel that being sucked away.

    I made a reference in last Thursday's post to our concern about Baxter. In fact, we were struggling in several areas, but Baxter's health was our No. 1 concern. In the post, I noted the apparent efforts of Gov. Robert Bentley to unlawfully use state and federal resources to target attorney Donald Watkins and me for breaking the story about Bentley's affair with former advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Then I tried to show that such abusive tactics, and many others we've faced over the past two years, have consequences for their targets. From that post.:

    On the bad-news side, my little family unit is suffering, physically and emotionally, forced to live like refugees in a hostile environment. If justice ever comes, I'm not sure we will survive to see it.

    The illegal use of government resources to retaliate against journalists might go beyond Watkins and me--to include, in my case, a spouse and a furry loved one. My wife, Carol, and I, since being forced to move to our current (and hopefully temporary) location in Springfield, Missouri, have seen evidence that suggests Alabama and Missouri forces have engaged in a coordinated effort to steal many of our personal belongings, force us to the edge of homelessness, terrorize us with handguns and at least one assault weapon, and force us to live in a week-by-week flea-bag motel whose charms include bed-bug infestations and meth dealers around the corner.

    In fact, one member of our family is suffering from physical symptoms that we think might be caused by an allergic reaction to bed bugs and the nasty residue they leave behind. But we don't have the resources to seek treatment. At the moment, we are not sure we can pay next week's rent, which means the roof over our heads might soon disappear.

    The sentence in yellow refers to Baxter. My reference was oblique because pets are not allowed at our current living quarters. But I should have remembered that, some time ago, Carol's physician here in Springfield designated Baxter as a service animal, so I guess that made him legal all the way. And to be sure, he did provide invaluable services to Carol and me. To see his beautiful blue eyes, to love on him and curl up with him, to take in his wonderful smell, to laugh at his inquisitive nature and peculiar habits. . . well, all of that did an incalculable amount of good for our mental health.

    A reader asked in a comment about Baxter, and I added this:

    Anonymous said... I assume the one not doing well is your little furry guy, Baxter?
    May 26, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    legalschnauzer said...
    Yes, you are correct, @1:22. We're not sure exactly what's wrong, but he hasn't eaten normally in 2-3 days, and that's always a concern. He hasn't been drinking much today. He's had some "inappropriate elimination" (peeing outside his box) in recent days, which can be a sign of several things, including a urinary tract infection. Also, he has asthma, and we now are having to deal with bed bug residue--plus, a number of smokers now live around us, and it wafts through our unit. He's not used to smoke, and we're concerned that, or some other environmental factor, is causing problems with his asthma. We're extremely concerned, and we don't have the resources to take him to the vet. Treatment might be as simple as a steroid shot, but we just don't know. Thanks for asking. May 26, 2016 at 1:28 PM

    Baxter was a "special needs" kitty kat, and somehow, that endeared him to us even more than usual. He was diagnosed with asthma and high blood pressure (who knew a cat could have high blood pressure?) not long after joining our family unit. Our vet prescribed a human HBP medicine for him, and we always got a kick out of seeing a prescription for "Baxter Cat Shuler" at our nearby Walgreens in Birmingham.

    We discovered Baxter's health needs one day when he started walking sort of sideways and eventually fell over in our foyer. I was talking with someone on the phone when I saw him collapse. I immediately explained the situation, hung up, freaked out, and summoned Carol for a quick trip to the vet. The HBP apparently had caused Baxter's loss of balance, and it probably would have killed him if Carol had not become an expert at giving him his half a pill almost every night. Those of you who've ever tried to get a cat to swallow a pill know how big a challenge that can be.

    What caused Baxter's death? We probably will never know for sure, but a tech at an emergency pet hospital where we took him in the middle of the night said he'd had a good long life (13 years), especially for a cat with two life-threatening health conditions. We took that to mean Baxter likely died from organ failure brought on by asthma and HBP. We don't know if exposure to bed-bug residue and smoke had anything to do with it.

    We do know that cats are creatures of habit, that they like a steady environment and are not fond of change. Baxter went through two moves, both under traumatic circumstances (Chloe went through one of the moves). They both seemed to adjust well to the upheaval, but who knows how it all affected them? I can't help but ask this question: Would we still have both of our beloved kitty kats if we had not been forced out of our home in Birmingham?

    The emergency vet hospital is handling Baxter's cremation, and we now will have three urns--for Murphy, our miniature schnauzer; Chloe; and Baxter. Those urns are among the few possessions that have not been stolen from us over the past two years or so. Except for a seven-month period in 2004--after Murphy's death and before the kitty kats' arrival--we now are without a pet for the first time in 23 years.

    While we never will know for sure why we lost Baxter, we'll be eternally grateful that we found him--and his big sister. (Chloe died in July 2015, apparently from gastrointestinal cancer; I call her Baxter's "big sister," because she was a beautiful, fluffy girl--quite a bit bigger than him. But they were the same age, born in the same litter.)

    Baxter was the only male pet we've had, and as you might expect, he could be a bit of a pistol. (In fact, "Pistol Pete" was one of many nicknames we bestowed upon him.) Most of the time, he was a little gentleman and a delight to have a around. But when Chloe was alive, he occasionally found the need to "goose" his big sister in some way. Here's how we described all three of our pets in our post about Chloe's death:

    We have a tendency to create "personas" for our pets. Murphy, the miniature schnauzer for whom this blog is named, was a feisty, playful sort, who was an utter joy but could be a bit overprotective of her family unit. She reveled in her "humans," but she probably didn't come across as overly friendly to people she didn't know.

    Baxter, Chloe's brother (from the same litter), is our court jester and clown. He's got the typical curiosity of a cat and tends to get into things and occasionally causes messes. We think of him as this "dude" kind of fellow, who likes to go to the gym with his guy friends--where they swim, play racquetball, tell off-color jokes, and snap each other in the butt with towels when showering in the locker room. Baxter tends to be right under our feet, but he can turn into a "fraidy cat" when strangers enter the house. (Baxter, by the way, is doing fine, although he seems puzzled by his sister's absence.)

    As for Chloe, it's like she never met a stranger. It's not that she would be all over them with affection. But she seemed to say, "Hey, come on in, there's tea in the fridge, snacks in the cabinet, and I'll be around listening to music if you need me. Hopefully, you won't need me, but make yourself at home anyway."

    Baxter had this "Dennis the Menace" quality that usually manifested itself when he sunk his teeth into the nape of his sister's neck, as if he was going to bring her down and turn her into a meal on some imaginary Serengheti. Chloe was a good sport about it, and you could almost see he eyes rolling, calmly waiting for Baxter to get done with his tough-guy routine.

    But at least twice, Chloe's patience ran out, and things didn't end so well for our "little feller"-- although it provided moments of hilarity that we will always cherish.

    On one occasion, I was going down to our kitchen in Birmingham to make a snack, Baxter and Chloe following close behind. At some point, they got in front of me, and Baxter decided to pull his "George of the Jungle" routine, jumping on Chloe and grabbing her neck in a way that looked more vigorous than usual. "You'd better be careful, feller, she's bigger than you are," I said and went on the other side of our work island to make a sandwich.

    I then heard a loud "Eeeeeek" that was so high-pitched I thought our windows were going to break. I looked on the other side of the work island to see Baxter on his back, with Chloe plopped on top of him. Baxter's eyes were big, and he had this look on his face like, "Don't hurt me, don't hurt me."

    Chloe let him up, and a few minutes later, they were curled up together in a chair. But that remains the loudest and funniest "Eeeeeek" I've ever heard.

    On another occasion, we were in Missouri--in the apartment where we were unlawfully evicted--and (as usual) I was the first one to bed. Usually, Baxter was second, followed by Carol. Chloe would sleep with us in bed sometimes, but she had a heavy coat, and if it was fairly warm, she would curl up in a chair or on the couch for the night.

    I wasn't quite asleep when I felt a light plop on the bed, and I figured it was Baxter. With a sliver of light coming from the hallway, I could see a big, fluffy figure; it was Chloe. A few minutes later, I heard another plop, and this time it was Baxter--and he apparently was none too pleased that Chloe had beaten him to bed, and perhaps taken his spot. With just enough light to make out their shadows, I saw Baxter launch into his neck-chomping routine. But this time, he was not just lightly chomping down on an area of loose skin; he was pulling on Chloe's neck, and I saw her skin stretched out in a way that had to be more than a little uncomfortable.

    I had a feeling this wasn't going to end well for our little boy. But I had always taken a hands-off approach to their antics, so I decided to wait a moment to see what happened. Suddenly, Chloe lowered her head, lifted her rump and then raised up with all her might.

    With a loud "Aaaaacck!" Baxter went flying through the air, off the bed, heading toward our chest of drawers. "Oh, my God, he must be hurt" was my immediate thought. But it turns out that old adage about kitty kats landing on their feet proved to be true, at least in this instance. I saw Baxter sitting on the floor, on his haunches, seemingly no worse for wear. He appeared to have a slight look of satisfaction on his face. Before I knew it, Baxter was back on the bed, curled up with his sister.

    When we had our house in Birmingham, Carol and I often would be reading or otherwise chilling out--with everything quiet, on all fronts. Then we would hear this rumbling that quickly grew to sound like a herd of water buffalo coming down the stairs. We would look to see Chloe flying around the corner, with Baxter hot on her tail.

    These wild sessions usually would last 12-15 seconds. When the chase was over, they would look at each other, and plop down to take a nap. Baxter was always the chaser, and Chloe was the chasee.

    As I write this, I would give anything to hear our "water buffalo" flying down the steps again. In recent days, we've gone several places and returned to what serves as our "home," expecting to find Baxter there to greet us. It breaks our hearts when we realize he isn't there. We so much want to kiss his head, massage his ears, pat his sides, and rub his pads.

    For now, the sadness seems overwhelming. But someday, we hope to look back on those moments when Baxter and Chloe were so very close--and realize they are some of the fondest memories of our lives.

    In recent days, for some strange reason, I've been thinking about Ball Four, by Jim Bouton, which almost certainly is the greatest sports book ever written--and one of the funniest books of any genre. Like many great works of comedy, the book is filled with thoughtful truths. Here is the book's classic last line:

    You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.

    I'll never think of that line again without thinking of Baxter . . . and Chloe . . . and Murphy--because you spend a good bit of your life caring for pets you love, and in the end, it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.

    Here is a video where we introduced Baxter and Chloe to Legal Schnauzer readers several years ago:

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    Richard Scrushy
    Imagine serving six years in a federal prison for a "crime" that: (a) You did not commit; and (b) Isn't a crime, as defined by case law, anyway. Imagine that now, roughly four years after your release and a major effort to piece your life back together, the media continues to incorrectly report about key facts of the case that turned your life upside down.

    Richard Scrushy, former CEO of Birmingham-based HealthSouth, finds himself in that position. His codefendant, former Governor Don Siegelman, recently made national news when he was interviewed about the corruption conviction of former Virginia Govenor Robert McDonnell--with Siegelman landing in solitary confinement at Oakdale (LA) Correctional Facility, not long after the story came out in The Washington Post.

    Siegelman quickly was returned to the general prison population after his punishment became known to the public. For Scrushy, the episode served as a reminder that the public largely still does not know the truth about his role in perhaps the most blatant political prosecution in American history.

    The public generally has been told that Scrushy: (1) Gave Siegelman $500,000; and (2) It was to help promote the governor's education lottery.

    Neither is true, Scrushy says.

    Scrushy did arrange for HealthSouth to give $250,000. But the money did not go to Siegelman; it was given to the Alabama Democratic Party, to help pay down debt after voters had rejected the lottery plan.

    Why the confusion? Scrushy points to stories prosecutors repeatedly told the press during the 2006 trial in Montgomery. Prosecutors somehow convinced jurors that Scrushy was responsible for the entire $500,000.

    In fact, a Maryland company called Integrated Medical Solutions gave the other $250,000, and that donation came before the lottery referendum--but Scrushy had nothing to do with that transaction, he says.

    Prosecutors' theory, repeated often to the press, was that Scrushy gave the entire $500,000, in exchange for an appointment to the Certificate of Need (CON) Board, which regulates Alabama hospitals. In fact, Scrushy says, he gave half that amount, he gave it as he already was stepping down from the CON, and he gave it toward the Alabama Democratic Party's effort to pay down debt on the lottery campaign--at the request of former Alabama Power CEO Elmer Harris, not Don Siegelman.

    Also, Scrushy had served on the board under three other governors. In other words, Scrushy was a CON veteran long before Siegelman was elected.

    We have been among the media outlets to incorrectly report about the $500,000 figure. But in April 2013, roughly one year after Scrushy's release from prison, we ran a post designed to correct the record. Unfortunately, it hasn't always worked. Here is part of what The Washington Post reported in its recent articles about Siegelman:

    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.

    That, however, is not how it happened. "We weren't going to be a health-care company, operating in the Bible Belt, and look like we supported a form of gambling," Scrushy said. "It was too big a risk, and that's why we did not give prior to the referendum.

    "After the vote, I said I would help--as a favor to Elmer Harris and to the Alabama Democratic Party, We felt there was nothing wrong with a company being friends with the Alabama Democratic Party. And a number of prominent businessmen had their names on the note, so I felt it would be good for me to have my name on there, too."

    Little did Scrushy know that a relatively straightforward transaction could be so badly twisted--and it's still happening almost 10 years after the trial.

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    Erik Davis Harp
    (From Bay County, Florida,
     Sheriff's Office)
    How many criminal charges do you need to become a member in good standing of the University of Alabama's Crimson Tide Foundation? In the case of Erik Davis Harp, one-time business partner of former Luther Strange campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, the answer appears to be two.

    Harp recently was arrested near Panama City Beach, Florida, on a charge of carrying a concealed weapon (firearm) into a government building. That comes on top of his 2009 indictment in Queens, New York, as one of two alleged ringleaders in an illegal offshore sports gambling operation. The ring, which had an offshore "wire room" in Panama, reportedly generated more than $20 million a month. For another perspective, the ring took in $567 million in a 28-month period leading to arrests.

    It's not clear what, if any. punishment Harp received in the gambling case, but published reports indicate those arrested faced possible prison sentences of up to 25 years. For good measure, Harp's LinkedIn page (which misspells his first name as "Eric") lists him as an "independent gambling and casinos professional."

    Is this the kind of guy the University of Alabama wants supporting Crimson Tide athletics, especially Nick Saban's vaunted football team? The answer appears to be yes.

    The Web site for the Crimson Tide Foundation lists Harp as a donor. And he's not just any donor; he's a member of the Lifetime Giving Society. He's in the Crimson Circle, for folks who have given $50,000 to $99,000.

    For most of us, that's pretty serious cash. And given Erik Harp's sketchy background, not to mention the scary mugshot above, it raises these questions:

    Where did that money come from?

    If Harp can afford to give serious cash to UA athletics, why did he seek criminal indigent status in the Florida case? (See document at the end of this post.) How did Harp claim he had no income or assets, even though he declared on his application that he lives at a swanky Marriott resort near Panama City Beach? Did Harp lie under oath on his application to be declared insolvent? Is it common for a prominent Bama booster to flaunt the law and file an application for indigent status that appears to be highly dubious?

    Does anyone at the Crimson Tide Foundation care?

    A pre-trial hearing in the Harp case is set for June 9, one week from today.

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