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

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    Donald Trump, in his "stalking" pose, with Hillary Clinton
    (From washingtonpost.com)
    Many Americans probably tuned into last night's presidential debate expecting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to engage in a spirited discussion of Trump's crude comments about women, from a videotape unearthed last week. They did, in fact, discuss the topic early in the debate, with Trump dismissing it as "locker room talk." (Note: I've been in a bunch of locker rooms in my day, and I've never heard talk like that.) But Trump's tales of grabbing p---y and striving to f--k a married woman hardly were the most newsworthy moment in the debate.

    That came when Trump informed Clinton that, if elected, he would seek to have her prosecuted and thrown in the slammer. Why? That wasn't real clear, at least to me, but it apparently was over the Clinton e-mail controversy. In essence, Trump said he intended to turn the United States into a banana republic, with him playing the role of Idi Amin, or some other unsavory character with dictatorish tendencies.

    This should have been a horrifying moment for all Americans; Trump already has admitted to engaging in federal bribery, and now he was announcing plans to practice political prosecutions. But it should have been especially terrifying in Alabama, where we have experienced our fill of dubious prosecutions during the George W. Bush era, including perhaps the most notorious political prosecution in American history -- the one involving former Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.

    How big a moment was this in last night's debate. Consider these Twitter words from Princeton economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman:

    Let's be clear: a candidate for president promised to put his opponent in jail if he wins. Everything else is secondary.

    Author Greg Mitchell added this perspective at his blog:

    I flipped continually between CNN and MSNBC and it was astounding how little attention was paid, for many minutes, to Trump's jaw-dropping promise to prosecute and jail Hillary (in a Nixon-like abuse of power) as they continued to give him high marks in the debate. I was watching what seemed to be turning points at both cable channels when Van Jones and James Carville finally went ballistic on this. Almost in shame, some of the others starting talking about it. Or perhaps they had checked their Twitter feeds and saw what so many others were saying about this. . . . This morning the Trump display of fascism made the top of newspaper front pages all over Europe. Yet most of our own TV commentators shrugged it off for too long.

    Why was this likely the most stunning statement ever made in a U.S. presidential debate? It's not that it was news; Trump has made similar statements dating at least to February 2016. But to hear a candidate say he has zero respect for the rule of law, and zero understanding of presidential powers . . . well, it makes you wonder how he got this far -- and it sure makes you hope he does not get any farther.

    As CNN commentator Paul Begala tried to explain, the president appoints an attorney general, as the leader of the U.S. Department of Justice. But the AG, in our democracy, does not "serve at the president's pleasure." Rather, there is an "arm's length" relationship with the White House. The AG does not take instructions from the president on what cases to pursue or not pursue. He is, as many have said before me, "the people's lawyer," who could be subject to investigating and prosecuting the president himself.  It's kind of a "separation of powers" thing, which appears to be way beyond Trump's understanding. Consider this from Zack Beauchamp at Vox:

    There is no way to sugarcoat this: At Sunday night’s presidential debate, Donald Trump threatened to throw Hillary Clinton in jail if he wins the presidency. This — threatening to jail one’s political opponents — is how democratic norms die.

    The exchange happened during a discussion of the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Trump began by decrying Clinton’s conduct — which, according to the FBI, was quite bad but not illegal. He then proposed appointing a special prosecutor to investigate her, and warned Clinton that, if he were president now, “you’d be in jail. . . . ”

    In democracies, we respect people’s rights to disagree with each other. When one candidate wins a presidential election, the loser returns to private life or another government position. In some cases, former rivals become close friends. George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, who defeated Bush in the 1992 election, travel together and have spent decades jointly raising money to aid the victims of natural disasters.

    They don’t get sent to jail, because we believe that political disagreement should be legal.

    Donald Trump doesn’t seem to care about all that.

    Here is more perspective from Ari Melber, of NBC News, showing that Trump truly is Nixonian:

    Donald Trump's pledge Sunday night that he would order his attorney general to investigate Hillary Clinton, and his quip that she should "be in jail," is a direct breach of the tradition of nonpartisan rule of law. . . .

    A president is not typically authorized to order specific criminal investigations of individuals, let alone a public pledge to investigate a political opponent. Former Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted that President Richard Nixon's attorney general "courageously resigned" after being asked to fire a special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.

    When Attorney General Elliot Richardson refused, Nixon went on to fire several members of his cabinet in what became known as the "Saturday Night Massacre. . . . "

    The FBI and Department of Justice have formally closed the inquiry into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state. So the notion of a new president seeking to force the re-opening of the case, because a new party is in office, is essentially unprecedented.

    Trump is not the first person of "presidential timber" to run afoul of this notion. Barack Obama also screwed it up, although with a different twist. He made it clear that the DOJ, ironically under Eric Holder, was NOT to pursue apparent crimes of the George W. Bush administration. Krugman, appropriately, took Obama to task in a January 2009 article titled "Forgive and Forget." From that piece:

    Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

    Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

    And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.

    Krugman nailed it back then: Obama had no authority to block an investigation, and a President Trump would have no authority to order an investigation.

    So, where does that leave us now? Trump's statements about women were nauseating, and they should have disqualified him as a presidential candidate among those who have not let race- and class-based fears cloud their better judgment. But his words on the stage last night in St. Louis were much worse than his videotaped statements from roughly a decade ago. Anyone who would consider voting for this "fascist of the future" should remove himself from the voters' rolls. Hillary Clinton is not the perfect presidential candidate, but she is not likely to turn the United States into a country we do not recognize. Donald Trump has made it clear he intends to do exactly that.

    We had better be paying attention.


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    Scott and Linda Gill Sink
    (From Facebook)
    The senior executive vice president at the nation's fifth largest insurance brokerage firm (sixth largest worldwide) is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Webs site, records show.

    Scott G. Sink, senior EVP at McGriff Seibels Williams, appears to have a demanding position, and you might think he has his hands full. After all, he helps manage a company with $1.7 billion in combined revenues, providing services in numerous insurance categories -- energy and marine, transportation, construction risk, employee benefits, health care, and more.

    With what appears to be a full plate, records show that Sink still has found time to fool around on Ashley Madison. That probably is news to his wife, Linda Gill Sink, who shares his home (valued at roughly $800,000) at 4967 Reynolds Cove in Vestavia Hills. According to zillow.com, the house has eight bedrooms, five baths and almost 3,800 square feet. The couple has two children, Taylor and Brittany Sink.

    Scott Sink is a prominent alum of the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. He is a member of the college's alumni board. And in 2012, he was named the college's Risk Management Alumnus of the Year. From an article about the award:

    Insurance executive Scott G. Sink was named the 2012 Risk Management Alumnus of the Year at the Insurance Society Banquet hosted by the University of Georgia Terry College of Business’ Risk Management and Insurance program in Athens on April 3. Sink is the 20th recipient of the UGA RMI award that was established in 1992.

    “Scott‘s career achievements have distinguished him in his field and he is well deserving of this recognition,” said Rob Hoyt, Head of the Risk Management and Insurance Program at the Terry College.

    Linda and Scott Sink (right), with children
    Taylor and Brittany
    (From Facebook)
    Sink is the senior executive vice president of McGriff, Seibels and Williams Inc., the fifth largest insurance-brokerage firm in the United States. Sink serves as the practice leader for the energy/utility group in Birmingham, Alabama, He specializes in providing risk management consulting and insurance brokerage services to large electric, gas and integrated energy companies. Since joining McGriff in 1994, he has been instrumental in developing one of the largest energy/utility practice groups in the country.
    Sink received his BBA in Risk Management and Insurance from the University of Georgia in 1984 and began his career with Virginia Power in Richmond, Va. From 1987-1994, Sink served in several capacities for Alexander and Alexander in its Baltimore and Washington, D.C. offices.

    We sought comment from Sink for this article, but he has not responded to our queries.

    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

    (3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

    (4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

    (5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)


    (9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

    (10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

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    From juxlaw.com
    (Updated at 11:15 a.m., 10/12/16, to include extended version of e-mail between Roger Shuler and his brother, Missouri lawyer David Shuler.)

    What does it mean when your landlord tries to force you out of property by turning off the utilities? It means you have a really sleazy landlord because such forms of "constructive eviction" are unlawful in all 50 states.

    What does it mean when your brother, who happens to be a lawyer and a landlord, tries to convince you it's perfectly fine for landlords to turn off utilities in order to get tenants out? It probably means you have a pretty crappy brother.

    My wife, Carol, and I experienced both of these scenarios in the process of losing our home in Birmingham, Alabama, to what now appears to be a wrongful foreclosure. To say the experience was unpleasant would be a Bunyanesque understatement. When it happened, I had just been released from being unlawfully incarcerated for five months -- and if forced to make a choice, I would gladly go back to jail for another five months over going through another foreclosure.

    Who was the landlord that illegally shut off our utilities? That would be Spartan Value Investors, a Birmingham company headed by a fellow named Clayton Mobley, which apparently was the winning bidder for our house in a courthouse auction. Once Spartan bought our house -- assuming it was done lawfully, and that's a big if -- we became "tenants at sufferance" and they became our landlords. That means they could use the normal eviction process, if necessary, to get us out of the house. But they could not turn off our utilities. Someone apparently forgot to tell the creepy capitalists at Spartan about that little quirk of the law.

    What about the lawyer/landlord who tried to convince me that it would be fine for Spartan to shut off our utilities? That would be my brother -- attorney David N. Shuler of Springfield, Missouri.

    Hmmm . . . whose side was David Shuler really on here?

    First, let's consider the actions of Spartan Value Investors. As one of their employees, Lindsay Jackson Davis, periodically stopped by to post threatening notices on our door, we received word from Alabama Power and Birmingham Water Works that our accounts had been taken out of our names and placed with Spartan.

    This was strange for several reasons. In most landlord-tenant agreements I'm aware of, the tenant pays for utilities, so the landlord wants them in the tenant's name. Here was Spartan doing just the opposite -- putting the accounts in their name, even though it was our responsibility to pay them as long as we were there. Even more troubling, both utilities swapped the accounts over before ever contacting us. They apparently just took Spartan's word that the property belonged to them and did not check with us before making the change. I'm not a lawyer, but it seems Spartan came real close to tortiously interfering with our business relationships with the utility companies. (Note: After Carol had several conversations with them, Alabama Power apparently came to its senses and put the account back in our name -- we timely paid it, and our power never was shut off.)

    With my brain fried from having been kidnapped and thrown in jail, I tried to consult my lawyer brother about all of this. Here's what he said, via an e-mail dated May 28, 2014:

    I don't handle real estate matters and I certainly do not know the law in Alabama. I do know that here in Missouri, they do start turning off utilities one by one to try to get people to leave the house voluntarily as opposed to being removed by force. I know there are some rules about turning off the heat if it is extremely cold outside, but otherwise, I think the new owner can turn off the utilities as they see fit. Again, that is just my understanding but I certainly do not know the law on that issue.

    That paragraph includes enough qualifiers to sink the Lusitania, but the gist of it this: According to David Shuler, Esq., it's common practice for landlords to turn off utilities, one by one, on tenants. And get this . . . such tactics are designed to get the tenant to leave "voluntarily." Who knew? (Note: A reader suggested I run the full e-mail exchange, and I think that's a good idea. I've added an extended version of the e-mail at the end of this post.)

    My brother and Spartan Value Investors apparently were on the same wavelength. (Imagine that!). A "friend" from my college days visited us in Birmingham and convinced me to go back to Springfield with him for a few days, while Carol held down the fort in Birmingham. While I was gone, I got a frantic call from Carol, saying that our water had been turned off. My memory was that it was off for several hours before, via multiple calls to Birmingham Water Works, she was able to get it back on.

    Was any of this lawful -- and did my attorney brother have a clue what he was talking about? First, let's consider the law in Alabama, where this happened and where Spartan Value Investors operates. This is from Code of Alabama 35-9A-427:

    Section 35-9A-427

    Recovery of possession limited.

    A landlord may not recover or take possession of the dwelling unit by action or otherwise, including willful diminution of services to the tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of heat, running water, hot water, electric, gas, or other essential service to the tenant, except in case of abandonment, surrender, or as permitted in this chapter.

    OK, it's real clear: Landlords cannot shut off utilities in Alabama. What about the law in Missouri --where David Shuler, being both a lawyer and a landlord, might be expected to know a little something about such matters. This is from Missouri Statute 441.233:

    Any landlord or its agent who willfully diminishes services to a tenant by interrupting or causing the interruption of essential services, including but not limited to electric, gas, water, or sewer service, to the tenant or to the premises shall be deemed guilty of forcible entry and detaineras described in chapter 534; provided however, this section shall not be applicable if a landlord or its agent takes such action for health or safety reasons.

    That is as clear as the law in Alabama, maybe clearer; a landlord who shuts off utilities to a tenant is violating the law. How could David Shuler, who is both a lawyer and a landlord, not know that?

    Is David Shuler a bad lawyer, a bad landlord, a bad brother -- or maybe all three? Or maybe, like so many other members of his profession, he instinctively turns into a con man when it serves his purposes -- or the purposes of other con artists who have sought his assistance.

    That leaves us with this question: Whose purposes is David Shuler serving, and does it involve stabbing his brother and sister-in-law in the back?




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    Donald Trump
    (From npr.org)
    For roughly the past year, this blog has covered the Ashley Madison (AM) hacking story like no other Web site. We have reported on more than a dozen high-level professional men in two states (Alabama and Missouri) who are paying customers at the site that is notorious for its one purpose -- to promote and facilitate extramarital affairs. We've even provided summaries that show payment histories, GPS locations at the time of sign-up, sexual preferences, and more. (See example at the end of this post.)

    Our reporting has met with a fair amount of resistance, with a number of readers complaining that we are focusing on private individuals whose unsavory acts are not newsworthy. I've countered by noting that these "private individuals" hold positions of public trust, managing vast sums of money and/or wielding power and notoriety in ways that give them significant influence. How these people treat those who are less powerful -- their wives, children; other people's wives and children; women and minorities in general -- matters, I've argued. And it is, in fact, newsworthy.

    Now we know that very issue -- abuse by the powerful/influential of those who hold less power and influence -- likely will decide the 2016 presidential race.

    That became clear last night as stories flooded the Web and mainstream news outlets about GOP candidate Donald Trump and his rampant abuse of women. The New York Times reported on two women who said Trump had groped and kissed them in ways that were unwanted and violated their space. A former People Magazine reporter said Trump had forcibly kissed her while she was in Florida to report on his first year of marriage to Melania Trump; a People headline called the incident an "attack." The Palm Beach Postreported on a 36-year-old woman who said Trump had grabbed her butt.

    Before these news accounts, Democrat Hillary Clinton enjoyed a healthy lead and likely was going to win the presidential race anyway. But now, the Trump campaign is in free-fall mode, and the election could turn into one of the most one-sided in history. Perhaps worst of all for Trump, more reports of boorish and creepy behavior could be on the way.

    I would argue that the Ashley Madison and Trump stories have much in common. Both are about behavior that is dishonest, disgusting, disloyal, and dehumanizing. Both involve powerful men (mostly white) showing utter disregard for the women and children around them. We have little doubt that Democratic males are capable of being louts. But in these two stories, it appears the bad actors are overwhelmingly Republican, supporters of the party that tends to flaunt its "family values."

    In my view, the Trump tale helps show that we took the correct position on the Ashley Madison case, that our determination to pursue the story was based in sound news judgment. At the risk of patting ourselves on the back -- OK, we admit we are patting ourselves on the back -- we saw an alarming societal trend before many others did, and we understood the damage it could do to society. Now, it has snaked its way into the presidential race and has shown we have been close to putting a predator in the White House.

    The Trump story is not over, and neither is the Ashley Madison story. Dozens of AM lawsuits from around the country are being litigated at a federal court in St. Louis, Missouri. And we have dozens, maybe hundreds, of profiles to publish on AM customers -- men who might not have Donald Trump's notoriety, but who have a mindset that is a whole like his.


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    Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott
    The Missouri sheriff's deputy who brutalized my wife, Carol, and broke her arm during an unlawful eviction roughly one year ago (on September 9, 2015), was required to engage in counseling and visit a hospital for tests. Did such counseling and tests actually take place, and what did they reveal? Did they show that the deputy suffered any injuries, given that Sheriff Jim Arnott was on the scene and caused Carol to be arrested and imprisoned after pointing at her and stating, "She assaulted a police officer"?

    Those are two of many questions raised by the Greene County Sheriff's Office Policy and Procedure Manual, which spells out a lengthy and detailed set of steps that must be completed to determine if a deputy involved in a "critical incident" acted reasonably and is fit to return to duty.

    The manual calls for parallel criminal and administrative investigations to be conducted of any "critical incident" (use of force, involving any sheriff's department employee, resulting in serious bodily injury or death to any person.) Policy calls for a thorough examination of an involved officer's physical and emotional status. Consider the following required step (see page 113 of manual):

    Involved Deputy will remain close to the scene with their Support Deputy until the Administrative Investigator directs them to the hospital for the required exams.

    This also is from page 113:

    Involved Deputies shall receive a mandated counseling from a GCSO appointed mental health professional. Additional counseling may be provided by the Sheriff or his designee.

    According to the manual, any critical incident should produce a significant paper trail. Here are some of the required steps in the administrative process (see pages 110-119 of manual):

    * Involved Deputies shall provide a brief Public Safety statement about the actions of the suspect(s) that shall aid investigators in the criminal prosecution of suspect(s);

    * Involved Deputies will write an incident report to aid investigators in the criminal prosecution of the suspect(s). This incident report will be completed at a time mandated by the Involved Deputy’s Division Command, usually after two full sleep cycles;

    * Involved Deputies will prepare a Subject Resistance and Control Report;

    * Involved Deputies will be required to give a statement to the Administrative Investigator;

    * Involved Deputies will submit to any/or all of the following: blood, urine, breath or other chemical test as requested by the Administrative Investigator;

    * Involved Deputies shall submit to a polygraph examination if requested by the Administrative Investigator;

    * Prior to returning to duty the Involved Deputy will be required to take a Fit for Duty Exam at the expense of the employer;

    * The Criminal Investigator shall ensure the scene is properly documented, photographed and diagrammed;

    * The Criminal Investigator shall ensure that all evidence is properly processed and collected, including any equipment or weapon belonging to the Involved Deputy that is needed as part of the investigation;

    * The Criminal Investigator shall ensure interviews of witnesses, victims, Involved Deputy(s), and when applicable suspect(s), including providing Miranda warnings, even to the Involved Deputy.


    By our unofficial count, that's at least 10 documents, statements, or objects (or groups of objects) that should be gathered in the investigation. But the Criminal Investigator's duties still are not completed. (And that does not include duties of the Administrative Investigator, which are spelled out on page 117.) As for the Criminal Investigator, the manual states that he . . .

    * Shall review and ensure all involved/responding deputy(s) reports are accurate, correct and approved;

    * Shall provide any and all material to the Administrative Investigator from the criminal investigation and will not expose themselves to the statements and evidence obtained during the administrative investigation;

    * Shall assemble and prepare a case file for CID Supervisor, Major(s), and Sheriff’s review and approval;

    * Upon the appropriate internal review and approval, shall contact and provide the Greene County Prosecutor a copy of the case file, with original probable cause statements where applicable.

    Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson
    As you can see, there should be a nice, neat case file for key officials in the sheriff's office, with a copy for the Greene County prosecutor.

    It appears the county prosecutor receives a copy for purposes of bringing charges against the suspect (in this case, Carol). But the sheriff's own actions--releasing her from jail, upon learning she had a serious bodily injury; giving no indication since then that she committed any offense--suggest the county prosecutor has no role involving Carol.

    But what about the officer's brutality against Carol? What about Arnott's decision to falsely claim she had assaulted an officer, causing her wrongful arrest and imprisonment? Those generally are considered civil-rights issues to be handled by federal law-enforcement.

    Has the county prosecutor, a fellow named Dan Patterson, referred the matter for possible federal prosecutions against the deputy and Arnott? That appears to be what the facts and the law call for. Do facts and the law mean anything in Springfield, Missouri -- any more than they do in Birmingham, Alabama?


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    Russell and Stephanie Byrne
    (From facebook.com
    (In the previous installment in our Ashley Madison series, about Birmingham insurance executive Scott Sink, I inadvertently deleted two comments from Anonymous @5:16. I found the deleted comments and have replaced them at the bottom of the comment list on the post. @5:16 identified herself as a female commenter, and that is all I know about her, but her comments were insightful, and I wanted to make sure they were published if I could correct my mistake. In fact, @5:16 raised a number of points I would like to talk with her about. If @5:16 sees this message and feels comfortable doing so, please call me at 205-381-5673. I promise to protect your confidentiality; in fact, you don't even have to give me your name if you don't want to. Thanks, and I apologize to all readers for the mistake.)

    The vice president for information systems at perhaps Alabama's best-known jewelry and giftware store is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

    Russell Byrne, a high-ranking executive at Bromberg's, is part of the family that has owned and operated the high-end jeweler since 1836. Byrne is the grandson of the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Hurter Bromberg, of Birmingham.

    Byrne's wife, Stephanie Hembree Byrne, is a graduate of the University of Alabama (as is her husband), where she had interests in television production, theater, and the UA Young Entrepreneurial Society. She now works as an agent at RealtySouth.

    Based on Stephanie Hembree Byrne's Facebook page, the couple appears to have two children, and they live on Dexter Avenue in Mountain Brook, in a home valued at more than $400,000. Russell Byrne also has a Facebook page, and he appears to be heavily into outdoor activities.

    Thomas Russell Byrne (his full name) appears to have a lot going for him. In fact, he was born with a significant leg up on most members of society. But he still found the need to fool around on Ashley Madison.

    We don't know why because Mr. Byrne has failed to respond to our queries.


    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

    (3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

    (4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

    (5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)


    (9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

    (10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

    (11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

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    Gov. Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    (From nytimes.com)
    (Updated at 9:57 a.m. on 10/18/16, to include 61-page portion of report regarding allegations against former ALEA chief Spencer Collier.)

    The Robert Bentley administration has released a second document dump to a legislative committee overseeing possible impeachment proceedings -- and the material includes false information about alleged efforts to delete or alter visitor log-in sheets at the Governor's mansion, according to a new post from Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

    At the heart of the scheme, according to APR, is Bentley's advisor and mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason, who announced her resignation in late March, but reportedly remains very much a part of the governor's inner circle. Mason's plan was designed to smear former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) chief Spencer Collier, who has sued Bentley, Mason and others over his termination earlier this year.

    How did the latest Bentley/Mason scam take shape? Reports APR's Bill Britt:

    The latest round of accusations shows Collier supposedly asking Bentley’s then-body-man Ray Lewis to delete or alter log-in sheets at the Governor’s mansion. Sign-in/sign-out logs are kept at the Governor’s mansion, as well as at the Blount Estate and beach property, as one of the security protocol’s to ensure the Governor’s safety.

    Out of over 10,000 pages Bentley’s office say were turned over to the committee, at least 61 pages were secreted away in a scheme staffer’s link to the Governor’s alleged mistress, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

    The 61-page portion of the report can be viewed at the end of this post. It originally was published at WAAY TV.

    Dianne Bentley, who divorced the governor roughly one year ago, raised concerns about visitor logs, not Collier, according to APR sources:

    According to a former law enforcement agent, the questions about sign-in logs arose from Mrs. Bentley’s suspicions that her husband of 50 years was continuing a romantic relation with the married Mason, even after he had assured her it was over.

    “In late 2014, Bentley convinced his wife he was no longer involved romantically with Mrs. Mason,” said the former trooper, “but she checked the records and had him dead to rights.”

    According to these sources, Mrs. Bentley confided to Lewis that she had concerns about logs being altered or destroyed, in an attempt to cover the Governor’s sordid liaison with Mason. Lewis, out of his concern for Mrs. Bentley, inquired about the situation and found that inquiries about the logs were related to ALEA’s paperless security technology initiative and nothing more.

    How ugly could all of this get? The answer appears to be: "Pretty darned ugly." Writes Britt:

    When confronted about the sign-in logs, Bentley became furious and demanded the security protocol be stopped immediately. However, it was continued under Collier’s term despite Bentley’s order.

    Current and former ALEA staff see this latest “data dump” as a continuation of the previous smears by Bentley and Mason.

    One current Bentley staffer, speaking anonymously (for fear of retaliation) said, “Rebekah is vindictive and petty, but the Governor lets her do as she pleases and we have to fall in line or be fired,” adding, “I need this job, but I am terrified of what comes next.”

    What comes next may be the result of a special grand jury impaneled in Montgomery County.


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    Donald Trump
    (From alreporter.com)
    Count me among the liberals who long have suspected the whole "family values" plank of the Republican platform was a fraud, one designed to con church-goers into voting for a party whose policies consistently cause them to lose economic ground.

    Now, the head of a GOP women's group in Alabama has helped prove that our suspicions were correct. Frances Taylor, president of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women (AFRW) explains in an op-ed piece "Why I Strongly Support Trump." It's possible Trump's circus-act of a campaign will kill, once and for all, the whole "family values" canard. If that happens, he will have done us all a favor.

    Without getting too harsh on Ms. Taylor, her column is pure claptrap. It's a regurgitation of the usual right-wing talking points on jobs, ISIS, border security, Obamacare, and regulation. Then it dives into a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible statements and actions that have been attributed to GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in recent days. These include, of course, his recorded comments about trying to f--k a married a woman and grabbing women by the p---y. Writes Taylor:

    Do we like the words that he used in the recording? No. Plain and simple, no. Do we believe in today’s society and today’s culture that the words are shocking? No. Does anyone expect us to be apoplectic over a braggadocios conversation among two men who are private citizens more than ten years ago? No.

    He apologized – we accept the imperfections of others, we find forgiveness, we look at the context of the conversation and can move on. Yes, other questions linger. Why isn’t there fury at the pay for play scheme she had going as Secretary of State with the Clinton Foundation? Why isn’t there fury at the gifts from countries who suppress women’s rights and promote terrorism? Why wasn’t there this level of fury when the Democrat nominee finally – and I do mean finally – apologized for using a private server that put our national security at risk and put people in harm’s way?

    You can see where this is going. It's called "When you can't defend your guy, blame the other guy (or gal)." It's also called "your guy must be 'forgiven,' no matter how grotesque his sins, while the other guy (or gal) must never be forgiven, even if it isn't clear she's done anything wrong."

    How nutty is it? Johnny Norris, a Birmingham attorney and writer of the Blue Southerner blog, responded with a piece titled "Women Voting for Trump Is Like Jews Voting for Hitler." Writes Norris:

    A major party presidential candidate bragging about using his authority and his fame to get away with criminal sexual assaults on women is beyond shocking. It is unprecedented. It is outrageous. And it is a sickening affront to humanity in general and the victimized women in particular.

    Shame on you, Frances Taylor. Your desire to put a sexual predator in the White House makes you a traitor to your gender. Your position bears some similarity to that of a German Jew who had read Mein Kampf voting for Hitler in 1933. The difference is that Hitler promised in his terrible book to exterminate the Jewish people, and Trump just wants to grab all the pussies he can get away with.

    Taylor's words become even more disturbing when you pay a visit to the AFRW Web site. If you click on the "About AFRW" section, you will find this:

    The Alabama Federation of Republican Women is a partner with all Americans who believe in family values, individual initiative, limited government, low taxes, free enterprise, fiscal responsibility, and honest and accountable government. Our goal is to foster the principles of America’s founding fathers and to elect Republicans that share our values and goals.

    Did I see "family values" listed as the No. 1 principle GOP women hold dear? Did I see that the AFRW is committed to electing Republicans who share such "values"?

    Frances Taylor
    (From afrw.org)
    Are the GOP women unaware that Trump is twice divorced and working on wife No. 3, and he has bragged on an open mic about trying to cheat on her? This is the man with the kind of "family values" they can support? Surely, you can't be serious. (And yes, I need to stop calling you Shirley.)

    If you click on the "Why I'm a Republican" link at the AFRW site, you will find President Taylor's welcoming message, which states in part:
    We are a group of women over 1,500 strong who believe in the principles of smaller government, lower taxes and the exercise of our God-given rights to freedom and liberty.

    How are women supposed to exercise their God-given right to freedom and liberty when men like Donald Trump are holding them back by shoving tongues down their throats, grabbing their butts, groping their breasts, and grabbing their p-----s? Are Republican women driven by the desires of the "Fondling Fathers," or the principles of the Founding Fathers?

    Frances Taylor doesn't look like a ding-a-ling, so we can only assume she knows her little group is about electing Republicans, no matter how vile and vulgar they may be. She seems to be admitting that whole "family values" spin game means no more to her than it does to us.


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    Jason Kander
    (From pitch.com)
    A candidate in one of the nation's most-watched 2016 U.S. Senate races engaged in fund-raising fraud, theft by deceit of more than $2 million, and other campaign violations, according to documents that an anonymous citizens' group has compiled.

    Democrat Jason Kander is on the verge of what one newspaper calls an "astonishing upset" of Republican incumbent Roy Blunt in the race for a U.S. Senate seat from Missouri. The outcome of the race could help decide which party controls the Senate, beginning in January 2017.

    A 127-page document called The Kander Memo, dated September 20 and distributed by a group of Missouri citizens to at least seven government oversight bodies, provides extensive evidence that Kander and his wife, Diana Kagan Kander, have violated multiple federal and state criminal laws. (The full Kander Memo is embedded at the end of this post.)

    Less than one week ago, Kansas City Star columnist Steve Kraske, wrote that Kander stood "on the brink of an astonishing upset" of Blunt, who has held the Senate seat for six years and represented Missouri's 7th Congressional District for 14 years prior to that. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com,now projects Kander to win the race, with an almost 60 percent likelihood of victory.

    Andrew Kreig, writing at the Justice-Integrity Project, puts the allegations against the Kanders into perspective:

    A Kander victory in the Missouri Senate race over incumbent first-term Republican Sen. Roy Blunt has the potential to help deliver Senate control to Democrats, who now trail Republicans 46-54 (counting independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont in support of the Democratic caucus.

    Therefore, the many serious new allegations against Kander and his wife . . . have both state and national importance.

    Kreig notes that authors of The Kander Memo have "called on authorities and lawyers nationwide to investigate lawbreaking — and file class-action lawsuits to reimburse alleged fraud victims in every state from the actions described in the documents." Kreig sought comment from Jason and Diana Kander, and his campaign officials, but they did not respond to queries.

    How serious could The Kander Memo prove to be? It raises questions about the ethical underpinnings of a campaign in perhaps the nation's most important Congressional race. The heavily sourced memo, which includes an appendix of more than 30 pages, focuses on two primary fund-raising efforts that it calls "ostensibly criminal schemes":

    Fraud and The New York Times Bestseller List

    Beginning in spring 2014, evidence shows the Kanders operated an Internet "crowdfunding" effort to raise online charitable donations. But the memo alleges the Kanders used the money, more than $31,000, to buy new-author Diana Kander's way onto The New York Times bestseller list. In fact, amazon.com promotes Ms. Kander's book, All In Startup: Launching a New Idea When Everything Is On the Line, as part of the prestigious New York Times lists, and the book is promoted as such at the author's Web site, dianakander.com.

    How did this benefit the Kanders and Jason Kander's U.S. Senate campaign. From The Kander Memo:

    The success of the Kander scheme has: (1) Provided the Kanders with a ruse to represent to the American public and Missouri voters that Diana Kander is "a New York Times Bestselling Author," when the truth is the Kanders used a deceptive scheme to raise money from the public in order to help Diana Kander buy her way onto those prestigious bestseller lists; (2) Empowered Diana Kander to break into the lucrative U.S. "Public-Speakers Circuit" so she can now pocket substantial speaker fees as a purported "New York Times Bestselling Author"; and (3) Enabled the Kanders to use the public contributions they collected from their Internet "crowdfunding" campaign in order to make the Kanders look . . .  more prestigious and more accomplished, and to help Jason Kander win election to the United States Senate. 

    The plan, according to The Kander Memo, is built on inside knowledge about the publishing industry:

    In 2014, when the Kanders embarked on this scheme, they calculated that if the wife of a U.S. Senate candidate was a "New York Times Bestselling Author," then this prestige could boost her husband's political campaign and help him win a U.S. Senate seat. It is a "dirty little secret" in the U.S. book-publishing industry that a new author can buy his or her way onto America's most prestigious bestseller lists. It is a scheme that costs between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on certain circumstances. The money is used to buy the author's new book in strategic, large-bulk units -- bulk purchases timed shortly after the new book is officially released.

    Some people think if you spend your own money to buy your way onto a bestseller list, then it is not illegal. That's incorrect, but it's beside the point. By seeking to fund their scheme by soliciting online public donations via their "crowdsourcing" campaign, the Kanders scheme of 2014 clearly crosses the criminal line -- in fact, several criminal lines.

    According to The Kander Memo, the book effort likely violated solicitation-registration and felony anti-fraud statutes in every U.S. jurisdiction -- federal and state.  It also likely violated statutes in all 50 states that make it a crime to commit, or attempt to commit, theft by deceit. From the memo:

    [This] is not only an audacious and shameless scheme, it is a patently criminal scheme . . . a "50-state crime spree."

    Raise Your Hands For Kids? 

    Since fall 2014, according to the memo, Jason Kander has controlled a Missouri nonprofit corporation called "Raise Your Hands for Kids" (RYH4K). Kander and close accomplices directed this "kids" organization to serve as an advocacy group to promote a ballot initiative in Missouri also called Raise Your Hands for Kids. Kander and Co. collected more than $5 million in corporate and individual contributions -- including more than $2 million from individual Missourians.

    What does this mean? The memo explains:

    Because RYH4K is, in fact, a "candidate controlled" ballot measure committee (CCBMC) . . . , this allowed U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander, and accomplices, to treat [RYH4K] as candidate Kander's $5-million political "slush fund," to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy and personal ambition . . . .  

    This touches on issues that have concerned election experts for years. From The Kander Memo:

    By controlling RYH4K, candidate Kander has contrived a scheme to solicit and collect corporate and individual donations . . . for a Missouri "public service" organization. Kander then converts those charitable donations into money used to help him win a U.S. Senate election -- in essence, transforming those charitable . . . donations into political donations. . . . This confirms the worst fears of several nonprofit experts who have, for two decades now, warned that political candidates have increasingly used, abused, and exploited nonprofit and charitable organizations for their own personal and political benefits.

    What is the potential fallout from this? According to the memo, Kander's actions violate the Federal Election Campaign Act, 52 U.S. Code 30101 But the plot takes even more twists and turns. Authors of The Kander Memo allege that the candidate's associates are funneling donations from RYH4K into another nonprofit called "Alliance for Childhood Education" (ACE), which allegedly is controlled by a Kander ally in Johnson City, Kansas. It appears that RYH4K essentially has become a fund-raising arm of ACE.

    Diana Kander
    (From bizjournals.com)
    That could help turn political affiliation on its head. In this case, it appears that a Democrat is duping Republican donors. But the reverse could be true in other cases. From the memo:

    Imagine all those Republicans in Missouri who donated their charitable dollars to RYH4K, only to later find out that their donations were transmorgrified into support for candidate Jason Kander's political campaign and efforts to defeat the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate.  

    The Kander-Blunt race figures to remain in the spotlight right up until election day. But The Kander Memo suggests a darker story, maybe a more important story, is running beneath the surface.


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    Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton
    (From businessinsider.com)
    Lost amid discussion about Donald Trump's failure at last night's presidential debate to promise he would accept 2016 election results is this: Trump, though he surely did not realize it, actually had a point.

    Trump's statement that he would keep us in "suspense" on the election-results issue caused many pundits' heads to spin, but it should not have been a surprise. It grew from Trump's pre-debate claims that the race is "rigged" in Hillary Clinton's favor.

    The Trump claim is nonsensical on at least two levels; (1) We've seen zero evidence that this particular election is rigged; (2) When events are rigged in the United States, they almost never harm rich, white, conservative guys like Trump; they tend to be the riggers, not the riggees.

    Despite that, Trump has provided a public service, in a roundabout way, by raising the "r word." That's because parts of American officialdom are rigged, especially in our so-called justice system. My wife, Carol, and I have seen it firsthand. So have many of the people I've reported about on this blog -- women like Sherry Rollins, Linda Upton, and Bonnie Cahalane in divorce cases; a man like Dr. Mark Hayden in a business/estate case; a man like VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor in a string of gaming-related cases; even a former governor, Don Siegelman of Alabama, in perhaps the most grotesque political prosecution in American history.

    (Speaking of Siegelman, do you think he believes American elections can be stolen -- in other words, rigged -- after votes for him disappeared overnight in the 2002 race against Bob Riley? What about Sonny Hornsby, the Alabama chief justice candidate in 1994 who perhaps was the first victim of an election that was manipulated by Karl Rove? What about Al Gore supporters in 2000 and John Kerry supporters in 2004, who likely saw results in single states -- Florida and Ohio, respectively -- lead to the calamitous George W. Bush presidency? Bottom line: Donald Trump almost certainly has no grounds to believe the 2016 election is rigged against him -- his own missteps have been plenty to make him a loser -- but American election results should not be seen as sacrosanct; they can be subject to tampering.)

    What about those instances when a rigged system has worked against Carol and me? I could write a multi-volume book on that, but let's focus on one element, of one case, in our legal odyssey.

    In a letter dated October 31, 2013, eight days after I was arrested for writing this blog and thrown in the Shelby County Jail, Birmingham attorney David Gespass revealed stunning information. GOP political operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke had -- contrary to law -- asked for the case file to be sealed. That meant Carol and I largely were in the dark about a case that caused Alabama deputies to barge into our home and essentially kidnap me -- I use that term because the cops showed no warrant, did not mention a warrant, and did not even state their purpose for being on our property before beating me up and dousing me with pepper spray.

    Gespass -- who visited me twice in jail, although he never offered any strategies for addressing the injustice I had experienced -- apparently managed to review the file. (I assume by contacting Rob Riley or his lawyers, members of Riley's firm.) Consider just one sentence from the third paragraph of Gespass' letter: (The full letter is embedded at the end of this post.)

    First of all, both the temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (the latter is now in effect, but both say the same things) appear to have been issued before service was effected. . . . 

    Let's briefly deal with two preliminary matters before addressing our main point:

    (1) More than 200 years of First Amendment law hold that both a TRO and preliminary injunction are unlawful in a case of alleged defamation;

    (2) A TRO lawfully can be issued prior to notice or service to the defendant. But that simply cannot happen with a preliminary injunction, in any kind of legal case. In fact, Alabama law holds that a preliminary injunction cannot be considered, much less issued, if the opposing party has had no opportunity to submit evidence, call witnesses -- all the elements we know as due process in the United States. (See Southern Homes v. Bermuda Lakes.)

    Now, back to our main point, and the mind-blowing words from Gespass' letter. According to Gespass, a preliminary injunction had been issued against Carol and me BEFORE SERVICE WAS EFFECTED.

    David Gespass
    Those aren't my claims; those are from an attorney -- one I do not like, and for whom, I have zero respect -- based on his review of the court's own hidden files. Gespass' words show that the court took action against Carol and me when we had not been served -- and without service, the court had no authority over us.

    A legal case can't get much more "rigged" than that. It was decided in favor of one party before the other party even was given notice of the lawsuit, before the case had even started.

    And get this: David Gespass, to my knowledge, has not done or said one thing to expose such an outrage -- even though Gespass has a duty under the ethical guidelines of his profession to report wrongdoing by his fellow members of the bar. Like most lawyers, it appears, Gespass is more interested in covering up injustice than exposing it.

    As for Donald Trump, he seriously thinks he knows what it's like to face a system that is rigged against you? Carol and I really know what that's like -- and so do many of the people I've written about on this blog.





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    Skyline Steel
    The Birmingham-based district manager for an international steel company is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, records show.

    Rob Waudby Jr. heads the South district for Skyline Steel, with an office at 4908 Cahaba River Road, Suite 200, in Birmingham.

    Skyline Steel is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nucor Corporation, the largest producer of steel in the United States. Skyline serves markets in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and Colombia. It has 20 sales offices in North America, and Waudby heads the one based in Birmingham.

    Waudby is married to Gretchen Waudby, and they live at 2764 Cherokee Road in Mountain Brook. According to public records, the assessed value of their home is roughly $400,000. Our guess is that the sales price, if the house were on the market, would be much higher than that.

    Is Skyline Steel involved in some major projects? Consider this item from the news page at their Web site:

    Gretchen Waudby (right)
    (From facebook.com)
    Working with Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group, Skyline Steel is providing steel for the largest design-build civil works project in the history of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Inner Harbor Navigation Canal Surge Reduction -- as it's officially named -- is a $695-million wall barrier designed to protect New Orleans from storm surges similar to that generated by Hurricane Katrina.
    Skyline Steel is furnishing almost 18,000 tons of steel pipe (36" OD x .750 wall) to Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Group for this massive two-mile long project. When the production and fabrication are complete, the steel pipe will be loaded on barges and transferred to a Shaw subsidiary in Delcambre, LA.

    Skyline Steel is proud to be the steel supplier for such an elaborate, and important project that has the potential of impacting millions of people as well as the environment in a positive manner.

    Can you imagine how much 18,000 tons of steel pipe cost? The figure probably would boggle the mind -- at least this mind.

    As for Rob Waudby's activities at Ashley Madison, we sought comment from him for this story, but he had nothing to say for the record.

    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

    (3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

    (4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

    (5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)


    (9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

    (10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

    (11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

    (12) Russell Byrne -- VP for information systems, Bromberg's, Birmingham (10/17/16)


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    Robert Bentley
    In the aftermath of last week's announcement that an Alabama grand jury refused to file charges against former law-enforcement chief Spencer Collier, multiple reports said the news indicated "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley and chief advisor "Freaky Becky" Caldwell Mason were edging closer to the abyss. After all, Bentley, Mason and Co. had concocted charges of alleged wrongdoing against Collier, apparently to support their dubious decision to terminate him, and a grand jury -- which are famous for having such a low bar that they will "indict a ham sandwich" -- said, in essence, "There is no 'here' here."

    The Bentley-Mason crowd appear to be next in line, and the decision on Collier suggests the grand jury might not look so favorably on the guv and his inamorata. Collier said Bentley used law enforcement as a "political tool"; perhaps the more accurate term would be "political weapon." John Archibald, columnist at al.com, said "Bentley's goose is cooked." Attorney Donald Watkins, writing at his Facebook page, agreed, calling Bentley "an evil man who uses political appointees and state resources to carry out personal vendettas against those who opposed and/or exposed his lawlessness."

    That last part includes me, because I broke the story about the Bentley-Mason affair -- and Watkins and I did the heavy lifting on the scandal for months before the mainstream media arose from its stupor to realize our reporting was on target. In fact, multiple news accounts have Bentley and Mason making unlawful use of law-enforcement resources to target Watkins and me, in retaliation for having the audacity to practice journalism.

    I had reasons to see the Bentley collapse coming, but like many others, I was conned by his grandfatherly demeanor and claims to be a heavy-duty Christian. In fact, I now must admit that I voted for Bentley -- the first Republican to get my vote in roughly 20 years, and hopefully the last one I ever will support. My wife, Carol, and I did not actually "support" Bentley. But we were among a sizable number of Democrats who crossed over in the primary to vote for Bentley in hopes of blocking Riley Inc. lackey Bradley Byrne -- and it worked.

    We now know that Bentley's professorial exterior hides a dark and ugly soul. And I suspect its roots are in his hometown of Columbiana, the seat of Shelby County government and the place where I've spent a number of dismal and interminable days being cheated by various judges at the courthouse.

    Corruption in Columbiana is so commonplace and deep-seated that I suspect it's impossible to grow up there -- or live there for any length of time -- without becoming warped, at least if you are among the town's elite. It's a place where everyone with white skin is expected to think alike, where the federally guaranteed rights to due process and equal protection are beaten, thrashed, and locked in the basement like unruly orphans. The people of Columbiana are like a tribe, the kind you find in a dysfunctional nation like Iraq. ("The Kurds today built a wall to protect their homeland of Columbiana from government forces. While they were at it, the Kurds helped kick the guts out of the Voting Rights Act. 'Negroes don't need to vote anymore,' the Kurds said in a prepared statement.") They march to their own Columbiana-made rules, while ignoring the laws of the land, which govern those of us outside the city limits. In blunt terms, they are un-American, among the most unpatriotic individuals you will find anywhere outside of Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

    Downtown Columbiana, Alaama
    Why should I have seen Bentley's ethical problems coming? Because we lived for 25 years in Shelby County, and any legal problem meant you had to take the roughly 50-mile round trip from the civilized part of Shelby County (closest to Birmingham) to the little hellhole of Columbiana, way to the South. Inevitably, a Shelby County judge (all Republicans in a town where everyone of the "Caucasian persuasion" is expected to think alike) would cheat us. It took us a while to realize how badly we were being cheated, but once we did, that gave rise to this blog, which has come to be rated among the top 50 law blogs in North America. (Notice how I like to drop that ranking into posts on a regular basis?)

    Corruption is so entrenched in Robert Bentley's hometown that it can take on laughable forms. Consider two examples that Carol and I have experienced:

    (1) Admit you are guilty of a crime and get found "not guilty"

    Our legal woes started when we had the misfortune of having a career criminal named Mike McGarity move in next door to us. Our charming neighbor apparently hid his ugly past during the job screening process at his employer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. (In blunt terms, he likely lied on his job application, and the lax process at BC/BS let him get away with it.)

    McGarity, his kids, and guests -- having already sassed us when we asked him to keep his barking coon hound under control ("You just need to get earplugs") -- proceeded to trespass on our property on an almost daily basis. When we called to let McGarity know his presence was not welcome on our yard, McGarity replied, "I'm going to sue you for harassment" and "we're going to keep on coming,"

    When we asked a Birmingham lawyer named Bill Lewis to write a letter, explaining the law to this dunderhead, it seemed to have no effect. The trespassing continued, and the last line of Lewis' letter was, "You will receive no more warnings."

    With all that in mind, we felt we had no choice but to pursue a case against McGarity for criminal trespassing, third degree. The alternative was to wait until someone got hurt on our property, have them sue us, and watch our homeowners-insurance premiums go through the roof. (Allowing trespassers to freely roam your property is a bad idea, for a lot of reasons, perhaps the biggest one is financial.)

    District Judge Ron Jackson had encouraged both parties to work out a settlement, but McGarity refused to discuss it. That meant the case went to trial, and a transcript shows that McGarity confessed to the crime as charged. How do we know? Well, the elements of criminal trespassing, third degree, are about as straightforward and simple as law gets. Here they are, straight from Code of Alabama 13A-7-4:

    (1) "A person commits the crime of trespass in the third degree when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises."

    (2) "A person enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises when he is not licensed, invited or privileged to do so."

    Our research indicates "licensed" refers to someone who has a professional reason to enter property, such as a meter reader. "Privileged" refers to someone who tries to address an unexpected occurrence. For example, if your hat flies off your head and lands in my yard, you have a right to retrieve it. "Invited," as it sounds, refers to someone who who has a good relationship with the owner and has reason to believe he is welcome to enter.

    The transcript shows that McGarity admitted to entering our property, he made no claim to being licensed or privileged, and he made no claim that he was welcome. In fact, he admitted we had verbally warned him multiple times to stay off our property, along with others entering from his yard. Translation: McGarity admitted to the crime of criminal trespass, third degree.

    Judge Jackson, however, found that -- in this instance -- we had to give McGarity written warning. We did that, of course, in the form of Bill Lewis' letter. But a woman from Lewis' office testified that she could not find the certifield-mail receipt that proved when McGarity received the letter. McGarity claimed he had not received the written warning prior to trespassing, and Jackson found that created enough reasonable doubt to acquit -- even though the judge essentially read McGarity the proverbial "riot act" from the bench about the dire consequences of any future trespassing.

    We later discovered that Jackson got the law laughably wrong -- except it's not funny when you are the victim of a judge's corrupt rulings. Here is the actual law from a case styled Chambers v. City of Opelika, 698 So. 2d 792 (Ala. Crim. App., 1996):

    The appellant has cited no authority for his position that to be guilty of criminal trespass the intruder must be aware that he or she had no license or privilege to enter or to remain on the premises. There is authority, however, that states that when those premises are private and not open to the public, there is no requirement that the prosecution prove that a prior written or verbal warning was given to the intruder.

    In other words, we had no obligation to warn McGarity at all. We certainly did not have to warn him in writing, as Jackson found. The same holds true for any homeowner -- or renter, for that matter. It is the would-be intruder's duty to make sure he has lawful grounds to enter. McGarity never did that, and Jackson turned the law on its head in order to reach an "acquittal."

    This is the kind of thing that happens with regularity in Robert Bentley's hometown.


    (2) Present no evidence to support your case and still get a favorable result

    Because of the acquittal, McGarity had minimal grounds to sue us for malicious prosecution, which means the underlying criminal case against him was brought with a complete absence of probable cause. In fact, McGarity had no legitimate grounds for a lawsuit because we had not only probable cause, but actual cause -- he admitted to trespassing, as charged.

    Bill Swatek, McGarity's lawyer who has been disciplined by the Alabama State Bar at least three teams (including one suspension of his license) brought the case anyway. We hired Jesse P. Evans III and Michael Odom, then from the law firm Lange Simpson (now at Rumberger Kirk and Caldwell) and paid them more than $12,000 to represent us.

    Evans and Odom prepared a Motion for Summary Judgment, complete with material evidence in the form of evidence from Carol, Bill Lewis, and me. McGarity was required by law to present an opposing motion, supported with material evidence, at least two days prior to the summary-judgment hearing. He presented no evidence, which means the Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner was required by law to grant summary judgment and dismiss McGarity's case on the day of the hearing.

    Mike McGarity
    McGarity presented a late affidavit, without seeking leave of court as required by law, and nothing in it was material to the case. The key point in such an affidavit should have been "I did not trespass on the Shuler's property." McGarity could not say that, of course, because he had admitted to trespassing in the criminal case, and we had a copy of the transcript. That was the second time Joiner was required to grant summary judgment, but he didn't do it.

    We filed a second summary-judgment motion, focusing on new issues and evidence, and McGarity presented no response of any kind. The law is real clear in such situations, as expressed in a case styled Voyager Guar. Ins. Co., Inc. v. Brown 631 So. 2d 848 (Ala., 1993):

    When a party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment offers no evidence to contradict that presented by the movant, the trial court MUST consider the movant's evidence uncontroverted, with no genuine issue of material fact existing."

    Three times, the law required Joiner to consider our evidence uncontroverted and that there was no genuine issue of material fact existing, meaning he had to grant summary judgment. He failed to follow the law three times, forcing us to go to a trial that could not be held and causing us to spend thousands in additional dollars on a case that already had been decided under the law.

    Again, this is what serves as "justice" in Robert Bentley's hometown. Is it any wonder that he grew up to be, in the words of Donald Watkins, "an evil man who uses political appointees and state resources to carry out personal vendettas against those who opposed and/or exposed his lawlessness."

    Speaking of political appointees, guess one of Bentley's first actions upon taking office in January 2011? He appointed J. Michael Joiner to a seat on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, where he still sits and played a prominent role in the removal of Chief Justice Roy Moore from the Alabama Supreme Court. (Note: If Roy Moore and his supporters could afford a good private investigator, they probably could come up with evidence of Joiner in any number of compromising positions.)

    Did Bentley make the appointment because of Joiner's superior legal skills? Don't make me laugh. Joiner is one of the worst judges in the Southeast; he's unfit to judge pigs at a county fair. Bentley's action was the worst kind of cronyism. He appointed Joiner for no reason other than the two are from the same hometown, grew up in the same sheltered and dysfunctional culture, and spout the same phony beliefs in a religion that most real Christians would not recognize.

    With Bentley and Joiner in statewide positions, they have helped spread the Curse of Columbiana to every corner of Alabama. Bentley's removal from office cannot happen fast enough -- and a semi-competent investigation would show that Joiner needs to be right behind him.


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    Liberty Duke
    My wife, Carol, and I have filed two federal lawsuits in Alabama, seeking justice for the police beating and wrongful arrest that caused me to spend five months in jail -- and for the wrongful foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham.

    The first case is styled Shuler, et al v. Liberty Duke, et al (Case No.: 2:16-cv-00501-RDP), and it was filed on March 26, 2016, in the Northern District of Alabama. Defendants in that case include lobbyist Liberty Duke, lawyers Rob Riley and Christina Crow, former Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and three of his deputies, and former Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins.

    Another defendant is U.S. Circuit Judge William H. "Bill" Pryor, so it should be a surprise to no one that we already have seen signs of judicial corruption in the case -- and service has not even been completed. (More on the actions of U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor in upcoming posts.) The complaint alleges violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments -- plus false arrest and imprisonment, excessive force, defamation, abuse of process, assault and battery, and more.

    The second case is styled Shuler, et al v. Jessica Medeiros Garrison, et al (Case No. 2:;16-cv-00695-RDP), and it was filed on April 29, 2016, in the Northern District of Alabama. Defendants include attorneys Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Bill Baxley, and Robert Wermuth (and Huntsville law firm Stephens Millirons); Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange; Spartan Value Investors; JAG Investment Strategies; JPMorgan Chase Bank; Marie Claire magazine and Hearst Corporation; Yellowhammer News;al.com and Alabama Media Group; and more. The complaint alleges violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth amendments; wrongful foreclosure; tortious interference; defamation; civil conspiracy; and more.

    We filed both cases in forma pauperis, which refers to indigent status for which we quality, largely because of the actions alleged in these lawsuits -- and because of actions apparently taken by members of Riley Inc. to cheat us out of our jobs, at UAB and Infinity Insurance, respectively.

    Signs of corruption are connected to our in forma pauperis status in the first case and are driven by multiple unlawful rulings -- and we are talking about rulings that are not even close to being correct -- by District Judge R. David Proctor. Again, details on that are coming soon.

    The two complaints can be read below. (Note: The complaints seen here are identical to those filed in court, except they do not include a time stamp or our signatures. That's because we now live in Missouri and were not able to get time-stamped copies as we normally do when we file matters in person at the Hugo Black Courthouse in Birmingham. The time-stamped and signed versions can be viewed at PACER, which charges fees for viewing documents.)










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    Protective building in Birmingham
    (From cargocollective.com
    One of the youngest vice presidents in the history of Protective Life is among paying customers at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

    Public records also show that Paul Wells went through a divorce in 2015. Did Amy Scotch Wells seek divorce because of her husband's activities on Ashley Madison? The answer to that is not clear, but Mr. Wells clearly is going through a period of upheaval.

    Paul Wells has been vice president and division chief financial officer at Protective since 2007, when he was 33 years old. Here is how Jones described his career path in a 2013 interview with Birmingham Business Journal (BBJ):

    After finishing graduate school, I worked in the audit practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers for five years. Spent four years in the finance department of Compass Bank and at Protective Life Corp. now for 6 years.

    What does Wells find appealing about his profession?

    I like being able to leverage my technical financial skills while also being involved in the various aspects of running our Life and Annuity business. Continually being exposed to dynamics outside my technical expertise keeps things interesting.

    Amy Scotch Wells
    (From facebook.com)
    Wells has two children, Cody and Hayley, and images from his family life can be found at his ex-wife's Facebook page. (Amy Scotch Wells is a graduate of Briarwood Christian School and Samford University, and her family has helped develop a number of neighborhoods in north Shelby County.)

    Did Ashley Madison provide the tools to tear apart the Wells family? We sought comment from Paul Wells for this post, but he has not responded.


    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

    (3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

    (4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

    (5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)


    (9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

    (10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

    (11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

    (12) Russell Byrne -- VP for information systems, Bromberg's, Birmingham (10/17/16)

    (13) Rob Waudby -- district manager, Skyline Steel, Birmingham (10/24/16)


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    Cora Faith Walker
    (From washingtonpost.com)
    A Missouri special prosecutor yesterday declined to bring criminal charges in the case of an incoming state representative who claimed one of her future colleagues raped her. Evidence suggests the rape allegations are connected to an evolving scandal surrounding Democrat Jason Kander, who is attempting to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in one of the nation's most closely watched U.S. Senate races.

    We reported last week on The Kander Memo, which outlines a number of campaign-finance irregularities -- plus possible criminal acts such as theft by deceit and fraud -- against the candidate and his wife, Diana Kagan Kander. How explosive could The Kander Memo become? The rape allegations involving two up-and-coming politicians from the St. Louis area seem to provide insight.

    Cora Faith Walker, 31, won the Democratic primary and is running unopposed in the general election for a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives from the Ferguson area. Steven Roberts Jr. also is running unopposed to become a Democratic representative from a metro St. Louis district. Both are expected to take office in January 2017.

    But their relationship already has become the subject of national news. In a letter dated September 30 to Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson (R-Poplar Bluff) and other legislative leaders, Walker accused Roberts of raping her. She said in the letter that she had filed a police report earlier that week against Roberts.

    The story generated headlines well beyond Missouri over the past three weeks or so, but prosecutor Tim Lohmar announced yesterday that he could find no grounds to bring a case against Roberts. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    St. Charles County Prosecutor Tim Lohmar, who serves as a special prosecutor in the case, said, “We’re not going to file charges against Mr. Roberts. There simply wasn’t enough credible evidence that sexual relations between these two people were anything but consensual.”

    How does the Kander scandal enter the picture? Walker is one of three officers in Raise Your Hands for Kids (RYH4K), a Missouri nonprofit that Kander controls. It has raised approximately $5 million to, it appears, push for a ballot initiative and constitutional amendment that would raise tobacco taxes to help boost early-childhood education in Missouri.

    That sounds like a noble cause. But Big Tobacco, specifically RJ Reynolds, has contributed $3 million, and fine print in the ballot measure shows it would protect and likely increase Big Tobacco's market share, in part by imposing a particularly heavy tax on Reynolds' chief competitors -- cheap "discount brand" cigarettes.

    Is that the only unseemly business behind the RYH4K scheme? Nope. According to The Kander Memo, RYH4K violates the Federal Campaign Act and operates as "a $5-million political slush fund, to use as Kander deems best to further his political candidacy and personal ambition . . . ."

    The Kander Memo, which is embedded at the end of this post, was released to at least seven government-oversight bodies on September 20. At the heart of the memo is this question: What happened to the $5 million raised for RYH4K, and who are the individuals with a fiduciary duty to make sure the money was spent lawfully?

    Steven Roberts Jr.
    (From nydailynews.com)
    That question points squarely in the direction of Cora Faith Walker. As an officer in RYH4K, Walker was one of three individuals with such a fiduciary duty -- and the stark language in The Kander Memo, outlining numerous possible criminal violations -- clearly posed a threat to her career as a lawyer and a politician.

    Did Walker develop flimsy rape allegations against Stephen Roberts Jr. as a way to divert attention from the ugly questions The Kander Memo raises -- questions that could send state and federal investigators her way?

    This much we know for sure. The Kander Memo became public on September 20, and 10 days later, Walker came forward with rape allegations against Roberts. She filed a police report several days prior to that. We also now know that a prosecutor has found the allegations were too thin to support a criminal case.

    The Kander-Blunt contest has been portrayed as the race that could decide which political party controls the U.S. Senate beginning in January 2017. But details in the 127-page Kander Memo, plus Cora Walker's rape allegations that now have fallen apart, suggest something deeper and more sinister might be going on.





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    Brian Shulman
    (From princetoncapitalpartners.com)
    The founder and CEO of a Birmingham-based company that purports to advance education by using concepts from sports is a paying customer of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair site, records show.

    Brian Shulman, a former punter at Auburn University during the Pat Dye football era and a long-time associate of convicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard, is head of LTS Education Systems (Learning Through Sports), which he started in 2001.  Shulman has written a book, The Death of Sportsmanship, published in 2007, and he is a managing partner in the investment firm Princeton Capital Partners, which has offices in Boston, Dallas, Nashville, and Palm Beach.

    Shulman and LTS have been close to several controversies over the years, perhaps because of his ties to Hubbard. Public documents and reports suggest LTS has been highly lucrative for Shulman, with the company receiving a major infusion of cash from public sources.

    Now, we learn that Shulman, who is married to Lisa Shulman and has three children, has participated in a Web site that is notorious for its specific purpose of facilitating extramarital affairs.

    This is from Shulman's bio at the LTS Web site's page about its executive team:

    Mr. Shulman founded LTS in 2001 after recognizing the need to reach at-risk youth in a new and engaging format using a motivating gaming to learn approach that includes peer competitions. Brian guides the LTS team by the basic tenet that great solutions are a process, not a destination. Through relentless creativity and innovation, LTS was one of the first to deliver their solutions in an exclusive cloud-based manner over 12 years ago.

    What about controversy surrounding Shulman and LTS? That surfaced in April 2011, with a report from veteran Huntsville Times reporter Bob Lowry. (Curiously, Lowry subsequently was forced out of his job, at the height of Mike Hubbard's powers, and now is retired.) From the Lowry article:

    A politically-connected group has received more than $13 million from the Alabama Department of Education to contract for educational software since 2008 without the knowledge or approval of the state school board.

    The money, part of an "at risk fund" controlled by Dr. Joe Morton, state superintendent, was paid to the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS), which hired a Birmingham software company to provide an after-school learning program based on video games called Kids College.

    The software company, Learning Through Sports Inc., was formerly a partnership between Brian Shulman, a former Auburn football player, and Auburn Network Inc., a multimedia company owned by House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn.

    Hubbard, president of Auburn Network, sold his interest in Learning Through Sports in 2005 to Shulman, according to a letter on file at the Alabama Ethics Commission. Hubbard declined to be interviewed for this story. But he said in a statement that he trusts Morton's judgment in the matter.

    Bill Britt, publisher of Alabama Political Reporter,picked up on the issue in February 2013. From the Britt article:

    If politics is about who gets what and how, then the state legislative leadership is already loading up the armored cars for their buddies. In fact, it very well may be that charter schools will be the next growth industry for those in power at the State House.

    One needs to look no further than a multi-million dollar venture called “Learning Through Sports” to see how investments by legislators can lead to lucrative deals for themselves and their cronies, while tapping the insufficient resource of the state’s Education Trust Fund.

    Speaker Mike Hubbard’s ties to Learning Through Sports LLC, and how Learning Through Sports obtained more than $13 million from Department of Education via payments to the politically connected Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) organization, is such an example of deal making.

    In the early days, Learning Through Sports LLC was a partnership between a Hubbard and friend and former Auburn football player Brian Shulman. Hubbard owned his share of the computer games and educational software company owned through Hubbard’s sports media company, Auburn Network Inc.

    Things started getting murky about four years later. Writes Britt:

    In a June 9, 2005, “Extraordinary Filing” letter to Ethics Commission director Jim Sumner, Hubbard informed Sumner that he planned to sell his interest in Learning Through Sports.

    What is most interesting is that Hubbard never previously found it necessary to disclose on his ethic forms that he was an owner in the company. So what changed? According to Hubbard, he suddenly felt it appropriate that June day to announce he was “divesting” from Learning Through Sports because the company was on the verge of major contract with Alabama schools.

    According to Hubbard, Shulman had began negotiating a deal in April 2005 with the Department of Education to bring Learning Through Sports software to Alabama schools.

    The timing of Hubbard’s disclosure most certainly raises some questions into his actions.

    Hubbard stated in the June 2005 letter to the Ethics Commission, that Shulman had informed him two months earlier that Learning Through Sports “had approached the Alabama Department of Education about utilizing its software program  . . ."

    Why did Hubbard feel it necessary to defend his actions in such a way?

    If he never used his influence why did he not disclose the information earlier?

    Hubbard also told the Ethics Commission that he sold all of his shares in the company at the then-current valuation of 55 cents per share, effective June 15, 2005.

    One month later, the company sent out a press release announcing that it had launched deals that ultimately would mean millions of dollars for the company funded by Hubbard.

    Brian and Lisa Shulman certainly appear to have benefited from the machinations surrounding LTS. Shelby County Property records show they took out a $1.143 mortgage for property in Greystone, via First Commercial Bank. Records in the Shelby County Reporter show that in 2015 they sold a lot in Greystone 1 sector, phase VII for $1.650 million, to Barry and Monica Farris.

    Lisa Hill Shulman
    (right), with ,
    Claudean Hill
    (From facebook.com)
    Here is a link to the Facebook page for Lisa Hill Shulman.  Is she blissfully unaware of her husband's marital indiscretions, or attempted indiscretions? Is Brian Shulman genuinely interested in innovative education techniques, or is he just another conservative con man with a greedy streak -- one who feeds at the public trough, while engaging in efforts to undermine public education?

    Perhaps insight can be found at the author's bio for his book, "The Death of Sportsmanship," at amazon.com:

    A former football star and team captain at Auburn University, where coaches were his strongest influences, Brian Shulman has observed a shameful decrease in good sportsmanship, from youth leagues to the professional ranks in every major sport. "In our increasingly combative society," he says, "sports seem to be dividing us more than uniting us. As the games take on intimidating intensity, more and more children opt out, retreating to activities that offer no opportunity to build individual and team skills. If young athletes are to learn and practice sportsmanship, it must be taught, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic; and coaches and parents are the ones who must learn it and teach it." After years of research, he offers practical solutions that work and will revitalize athletics in your community's schools, ensuring that sports remain an integral part of our nation's fabric.

    One of the fundamentals of sportsmanship is a sense of fair play, that you don't try to cheat the other side -- or anyone else. So how ironic is it that Brian Shulman portrays himself as an expert on sportsmanship, when substantial evidence suggests he has cheated Alabama taxpayers? How ironic is it that Brian Shulman's name appears at a Web site designed to help cheat on his wife? We sought comment from Shulman for this post, but he has not responded to our queries.


    Previously:

    (1) Edgar C. Gentle III -- attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

    (2) Stewart Springer -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

    (3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell -- attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

    (4) Robert M.N. Palmer -- attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

    (5) Thomas Plouff -- attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)


    (9) Randy Bates -- executive VP and member of board of directors, Golden Flake (10/5/16)

    (10) Reid Carpenter -- attorney, Lightfoot Franklin White, Birmingham (10/6/16)

    (11) Scott Sink -- exec. VP, McGriff Seibels Williams, Birmingham (10/11/16)

    (12) Russell Byrne -- VP for information systems, Bromberg's, Birmingham (10/17/16)

    (13) Rob Waudby -- district manager, Skyline Steel, Birmingham (10/24/16)

    (14) Paul Wells -- VP, Protective Life, Birmingham (10/25/16)


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    U.S. Judge R. David Proctor
    The incompetence and corruption in Alabama's federal courts never ceases to amaze -- and that's a shame because our state has produced Hugo Black and Frank Johnson, two of the most courageous and impactful federal jurists in American history. In fact, the U.S. Courthouse in downtown Birmingham is named for Hugo Black, but he likely would be embarrassed, chagrined, even outraged by what passes for "justice" in that building these days.

    Our little blog, in a sense, has been a travelogue of dysfunction in Alabama's federal courtrooms. We have helped unmask: (1) Mark Fuller, who butchered the Don Siegelman/Richard Scrushy case in the Middle District, and eventually was forced off the bench for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room; (2) William H. "Bill" Pryor, who posed nude for gay-porn photos that wound up at badpuppy.com in the late 1990s (and likely lied about it during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearings, which would be a crime; (3) William M. Acker Jr., a Reagan appointee who is getting close to 90 and granted summary judgment for the University of Alabama Board of Trustees in my employment-discrimination/First Amendment case -- without allowing any discovery in the case. That, of course, simply cannot be done, under the law; it's like declaring a winner in a baseball game without allowing either side to bat.

    That doesn't even include Abdul Kallon, the dreadful Obama appointee my wife, Carol, and I have seen screw up three cases in which we were involved -- each time with rulings that run contrary to black-letter law. Now we can add a new name -- R. David Proctor -- to Alabama's Hall of Judicial Infamy.

    A 2003 nominee by (you guessed it) George W. Bush, Proctor has wound up hearing both of the federal lawsuits we've filed in recent months -- one involving my unlawful beating, arrest, and five-month incarceration in Shelby County; the other involving the glorified theft of our home, where we lived for 25 years, via a wrongful foreclosure. (The complaints are embedded at the end of this post.)

    What are the chances that both of our cases would wind up with the same judge, in a system where assignments supposedly are made by "random selection." I would say it's close to zero, which suggests Proctor was assigned to our cases intentionally, not randomly, likely with the assignment of producing a certain desired outcome for legal elites. After all, Pryor (whose "duty station" is the Hugo Black Courthouse, meaning he more or less is Proctor's boss) is a defendant in one case. GOP operative Rob Riley, who is close to Pryor and such right-wing luminaries as Karl Rove, is a defendant in both cases -- as is Attorney General Luther Strange and his campaign manager/mistress Jessica Medeiros Garrison, both staunch Pryor/Riley allies.

    Has Proctor been unlawfully assigned to protect all the Bushies who have abused us over the past eight years or so (it's 16 years if you go all the way to the beginning of our legal woes, which include lawyer William E. Swatek, the father of Riley acolyte Dax Swatek)? That's certainly the way it looks from here.

    We've already seen signs that Proctor is, in fact, cheating us. I will go into details, with citations to law and such, in upcoming posts. But for now, here is a brief, by the numbers, look at Proctor's chicanery:

    (1) It's undisputed that we qualify to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), a fancy term for indigent, in both cases. U.S. Magistrate T. Michael Putnam, who originally had what we call "the house case," granted IFP status before Proctor somehow took over that matter; Proctor himself granted IFP status in what we call "the jail case." That means, under the law, we are entitled to proceed without paying filing fees -- and the court is obligated to issue summonses and conduct service on our behalf.

    (2) We fulfilled all of our obligations -- providing an affidavit with detailed financial information, sending names and addresses of defendants to the clerk's office, and even having an employee named Angela Day tell us that the court would handle service, as prescribed by law. Anyone with access to Pacer can check the court record and see Putnam granted us IFP status. Service went smoothly with "the house case," and a number of parties have filed Motions to Dismiss, which are pending. (Under the law, they cannot be granted, but we will see how that goes, with Proctor on the case.)

    (3) The record shows that Proctor granted IFP status in "the jail case," but he put a twist on it -- one that is not supported by law. Proctor required us to make a partial payment of fees ($200), which we timely paid, and is lawful. The theory is that such partial payments discourage IFP parties from filing frivolous cases. Once we made the payment, we were entitled to have the court issue summonses and complete service, with defendants receiving notice to respond within a time frame allowed by law. Statutory law says the court (clerk's office) not only has an obligation, but a duty, to conduct service on our behalf. And case law says that, once IFP status has been granted and the case has been determined not to be frivolous (a bar we apparently crossed with ease, in both cases), the judge is to stay out of things until defendants respond. After all, the judge has no authority over defendants until service has been completed.

    (4) Sounds relatively straightforward, right? Well, not with Proctor. He claimed we had "partial IFP status," and the law does not require the court to conduct service for such parties. He used that rationale to order the court not to conduct service in our "jail case," even though the law says he has no authority to take any action until defendants have been served and responded.

    (5) There is a slight problem with Proctor's approach: It isn't lawful. Our research indicates there is no such thing as "partial IFP status," under the law. You either are IFP and do not have to pay fees or you are IFP and are required to pay partial fees; but you cannot be "partial IFP." Whether you are required to pay a partial fee or not, the law says you are entitled to have the court issue summonses and serve defendants. That memo apparently did not reach Proctor; in truth, Proctor probably knows the law but is choosing to act corruptly anyway.

    (6) We had fulfilled all of our duties to the clerk's office and even checked with Ms. Day to make sure they had our material, and everything was a go. We thought service had been completed, until we got an order indicating Proctor had intervened, claiming we were "partial IFP" litigants and were not entitled to have the court conduct service. Proctor gave us a small window to conduct service ourselves, and stated if we failed to do so, the "jail case" would be dismissed. (I forget the amount of time he allowed, and I don't have immediate access to the document, but I think it was roughly two to three weeks.) In our living quarters at what we've come to call "The Shiftless Drifters Fleabag Motel," mail did not come directly to us (and as pro se litigants, we did not have access to the electronic filing that lawyers can use). Our mail was delivered to a central office about a block from where we lived, and we generally picked it up once a week. By the time we finally got Proctor's order, about 10 days of our allotted time had elapsed.

    (7) The loss of time should have been irrelevant because the bigger issue was this: Proctor's order was wildly contrary to law, which says the court had a "duty" to conduct service on our behalf. We argued that point, among others, in a response to Proctor's order. But we quickly received another order, which apparently crossed in the mail with our response, claiming we had failed to prosecute our case and it was being dismissed without prejudice (meaning the claims have not been heard on their merits and can be refiled).

    (8) We have two options -- (a) Appeal Proctor's bogus order to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit; (b) Refile the "jail case." We have chosen the first option and now are filing the paperwork to have the matter heard on appeal. In addition to being a gross injustice and time waster for us, it is a waste of judicial resources -- your tax dollars at work, thanks for R. David Proctor.

    Sadly, we've seen this kind of thing happen over and over in Alabama Federal Courts. Hopefully the Eleventh Circuit will follow its own clear precedent, make the correct ruling, and let us move on with a case that involves profoundly important matters -- law enforcement's deprivation of a citizen's freedom for the "crime" of blogging. That issue was important enough to attract national and international news attention in 2013-14 -- from The New York Times, Al-Jazeera, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and many other outlets.

    We are determined to seek justice, partly for us and partly to help ensure (we hope) that something like this never happens to another journalist (or regular citizen, for that matter, who could be thrown in jail, under Shelby County "law," simply for writing a negative review about a business on a Web forum, such as Yelp).

    Judge R. David Proctor, who either is incompetent or corrupt, has thrown up unlawful hurdles. But we have some arrows in our quiver that we did not have when other cheat jobs were taking place.

    Proctor would be wise to remember his oath, to uphold the law, and act accordingly.

    (To be continued)







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    Steven Roberts Jr.
    An incoming Missouri legislator has filed a defamation lawsuit against a future colleague who accused him of rape. The civil case could unlock secrets about the evolving scandal surrounding Jason Kander, the Democrat who is trying to unseat GOP incumbent Roy Blunt in one of the nation's most closely watched U.S. Senate races.

    Steven Roberts Jr. yesterday filed a lawsuit against Cora Faith Walker, accusing her of defamation, malicious prosecution, and infliction of emotional distress. The lawsuit comes two days after a special prosecutor announced he would not bring criminal charges against Roberts, based on Walker's rape complaint.

    Walker serves as one of three officers for Raise Your Hands for Kids (RYH4K), a Kander-controlled nonprofit that has raised about $5 million for a ballot initiative and constitutional amendment that would raise tobacco taxes supposedly to boost early-childhood education in Missouri. According to a document called The Kander Memo, however, $3 million for RYH4K came from RJ Reynolds, the tobacco conglomerate that likely would benefit from enhanced market share and increased taxes on products from its discount competitors.

    As an officer of RYH4K, Walker holds a fiduciary duty to ensure that $5 million in donations, $2 million of which came from individual contributors, is handled lawfully and actually goes to programs for children. The anonymous authors of The Kander Memo say the funds have been tainted with fraud and theft by deceit, serving partly as a political slush fund for Kander.

    Walker, a lawyer, brought her rape allegations against Roberts less than 10 days after The Kander Memo was released to seven government oversight bodies. The 127-page memo repeatedly points to irregularities and alleged criminal conduct that could threaten Walker's legal and political careers. Evidence suggests she might have developed the rape allegations against Roberts as a way to deflect attention from The Kander Memo.


    Cora Faith Walker
    Could discovery in the Roberts lawsuit reveal information about Walker's motivations and her connections to RYH4K and the Kander campaign? The answer appears to be yes.

    This much is certain: Roberts' lawsuit provides intimate details about his relationship with Walker, which he says was consensual. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

    Roberts’ civil suit claims the two actually had their first sexual contact at a political conference in Kansas City on Aug. 25, the day before Walker alleges she was raped.

    Roberts claims that Walker, who is married, initiated the contact in Kansas City by asking to keep her purse in Roberts’ hotel room while she attended an evening social function. The suit claims that once in Roberts’ room, Walker asked to use his shower and then undressed in front of him. Roberts said Walker posed for a nude photo and then the two had sexual contact. Walker left Roberts’ room about 2.a.m., the suit claims.

    The following night, after returning to St. Louis from the conference in Kansas City, the two met up for drinks, according to the suit.

    Walker texted Roberts from a jazz bar and he went to meet her, the suit says. On leaving the bar about 10 p.m., Roberts said Walker turned down his invitation to go to another bar, but accepted his offer to go to his apartment. They stopped to pick up food and wine on the way to his apartment, the suit says.

    While there, from about 10:30 p.m. to the early morning, Roberts claims, they had sex three times and then fell asleep.

    Roberts said Walker woke up about 6 a.m. when her cellphone rang, and she became agitated. When Roberts asked if everything was all right, Roberts said Walker stated that it was, except that she was supposed to have gone home the night before.

    He says they exchanged cordial texts later in the day.

    The Walker-Roberts story already has made national headlines, and the lawsuit figures to grab even more attention. Meanwhile, the Kander-Blunt race could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate beginning in 2017.

    The lawsuit and The Kander Memo, combined, might eventually expose a side of politics that is as ugly as it gets.

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    R. David Proctor
    How is this for irony? My wife, Carol, and I qualify for indigent status (in forma pauperis or IFP) in federal court because lawyers and judges essentially have stolen almost everything we once owned, including my freedom (for five months) and our home of 25 years. Now that we clearly qualify for IFP status -- two judges have ruled that we do -- one of those judges is trying to take it away. Gee, I can't imagine why I've described Alabama courts as a dysfunctional sewer. The judges, themselves, prove that my assessment is, if anything, too kind.

    Why does the IFP issue matter? Well, if you qualify for it, you either pay no filing fees (which can be in the neighborhood of $500) or a partial fee. Also, the court itself, via the clerk's office has an obligation to issue summonses and complete service of defendants on your behalf. All of this simply makes common sense. Like filing fees, service costs can be steep -- depending on how many defendants are involved -- and law holds that litigants are not to be denied access courts simply because they are poor. After all, some litigants, like us, are poor only because of corrupt courts.

    As posted here last week, we have filed two federal lawsuits in the Northern District of Alabama, seeking justice for the abuse we've experienced at the hands of lawyers, law enforcement, mortgage political operatives, bankers, house flippers, and so on. In one case that we call "The House Case" (Shuler, et al v. Garrison, et al) we allege wrongful foreclosure, defamation, and other torts against more than a dozen defendants -- and our IFP situation has gone smoothly. U.S. Magistrate T. Michael Putnam granted IFP status, the clerk's office promptly started fulfilling its duty to effect service on our behalf, and a number of defendants have responded with various motions that are awaiting court action. In other words, The House Case is rocking along, as it should be.

    The one we call "The Jail Case" (Shuler, et al v. Duke, et al), about police brutality, false arrest and imprisonment, etc., actually was filed first and should be even further along. U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor granted what he called "partial IFP status." and required us to pay a reduced filing fee of $200. We timely paid that fee, sent defendants' names and addresses to the clerk's office, contacted a woman named Angela Day who told us the clerk's office would conduct service on both cases, and waited for the real legal action to commence.

    Instead, we got an order from Proctor claiming our "partial IFP status" did not entitle us to service-by-court and gave us a small window (two or three weeks, I think) to complete service on our own. We knew Proctor was wrong about the law, so we challenged his order (as we are entitled to do), and he ruled that his small window had closed and dismissed our case without prejudice (meaning it can be refiled), claiming we had failed to prosecute. In fact, we had prosecuted it exactly as we had with The House Case, so Proctor's refusal to follow the law indicates he is incompetent, corrupt, or both.

    Proctor's actions are a classic example of chicanery we have seen in both state and federal courts time and again. A lawyer or judge will make a citation to law, giving the impression he has conducted actual research, probably thinking no one will check on it. When you read the case, you find its holding is nowhere close to what the judge or lawyer says. It's as if every law school offers a course titled How to Cheat The Other Side 101. If so, Proctor clearly took the course, and he must have aced it. We are guessing he didn't do quite so well on any legal-ethics course that might have been required.

    We have filed an appeal of Proctor's ruling with the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. That appeal is pending, and it clearly represents a waste of judicial resources and taxpayer dollars -- not to mention our time. If Proctor simply had followed the law, The Jail Case would be even further along than The House Case.

    Here is an explanation of the straightforward law that guides this area of law. The statute in question is  28 U.S. Code 1915, and 1915(d) could not be more clear:

    (d) The officers of the court shall issue and serve all process, and perform all duties in such cases. Witnesses shall attend as in other cases, and the same remedies shall be available as are provided for by law in other cases.

    The highlighted section plainly states that "officers of the court" SHALL issue and serve all process . . . " That seems to be written in clear English, and the word "shall" indicates the officers have a duty to prepare and serve all process -- it is not a discretionary matter.

    So, what does Proctor come up with? He claims Sec. 1915(d) applies only to "full status"IFP litigants. He also claims that a case styled Bryan v. Johnson, 821 F. 2d 455 (7th Cir., 1987) holds that courts are not obligated to conduct service for "partial IFP" litigants.

    Proctor could not be more wrong. I've published all of 1915(d) above, and it says nothing about "partial IFP" status. Neither does Bryan v. Johnson; in fact, here is the key holding in that case:

    A district judge should deny leave to proceed in forma pauperis if an action is frivolous or malicious. If the motion is granted and the complaint filed, the matter cannot be dismissed until summons has issued.”

    The record shows that Proctor did, in fact, grant our "pauperis" motion and allowed the complaint to be filed, which means he did not find it to be "frivolous or malicious." Under those circumstances, the matter cannot be dismissed until summonses have issued. But Proctor dismissed our Jail Case and blocked the clerk's office from issuing summonses and completing service, forcing us to seek corrective action from the Eleventh Circuit. In blunt terms, Proctor butchered the law he took an oath to uphold.


    Bryan goes on to hold as follows, providing more specifics:

    If the court had considered the complaint to be frivolous it should have at that point dismissed the matter pursuant to § 1915(d) instead of ordering Bryan to pay a partial filing fee. Moreover, Bryan himself thought his claim was meritorious because he devoted a significant share of his assets to prosecuting his claim. Thus, instead of dismissing the complaint, the court should have permitted a summons to issue and allow the defendants to respond.”

    When Proctor ordered us to pay a partial filing fee, it was the equivalent of a finding that our case was not frivolous. It also meant that Proctor was obligated to permit process to be completed and allow defendants to respond. He has not allowed either to happen in The Jail Case. Is that because U.S. Circuit Judge William H. Pryor, whose duty station is the Hugo Black Courthouse in Birmingham (making him, sort of, Proctor's boss ), is a defendant in the Jail Case? After all, my arrest came just a few weeks after I reported on nude photos of Pryor that appeared at the gay-porn site badpuppy.com in the late 1990s. I would say Proctor is, in fact, trying to protect Pryor and perhaps other right-wing luminaries among the defendants. (Proctor seems to wear his conservatism on his sleeve, attending the staunchly right-wing and political Briarwood Presbyterian Church.)

    One problem with Proctor's rulings is that he  bases them largely on Bryan, which is from the Seventh Circuit and is not controlling law in the Eleventh Circuit. But we have found Eleventh Circuit law that is controlling -- it borrows from Bryan -- and reaches the same conclusion.

    At this point, Proctor is violating law from two circuits -- the Seventh and the Eleventh. And he is showing utter contempt for the rights of taxpayers to have their dollars used wisely and lawfully.

    (Note: Below is one of two documents we have filed to counter Proctor's rulings. Our documents do not include our signatures and a time stamp because we are out of state and cannot submit documents in person at the Hugo Black Courthouse, as we have done in the past. We must file documents by U.S. Mail, so the signed and time-stamped versions can be seen in the official court file. Unable to show that we are wrong and unwilling to follow the actual law, Proctor has twisted himself into a pretzel trying to come up with some way to justify his rulings and deny us justice.

    (So far, he has only succeeded in digging his legal hole deeper. We hope to publish copies to Proctor's rulings here. But we currently have them only in paper form, and our scanner was stolen in our unlawful eviction here in Missouri, so we do not have the capacity to digitize the paper rulings and publish them here. Anyone with a PACER account, which is a subscription service that charges fairly steep fees, can check the full docket in both of our cases. Meanwhile, we hope to figure out a way to scan and embed Proctor's rulings, and other documents, here.)


    (To be continued)






    0 0


    James Comey
    FBI director James Comey's decision last week to notify Congress and the public about his decision to reopen the Hillary Clinton e-mail case illustrates the disregard for rules and laws that undergird our democracy. It also represents the kind of abusive actions that provided us with almost 10 years' worth of material about corruption -- in Alabama and beyond -- here at Legal Schnauzer.

    Much still is not known about Comey's motivations, but we do know the following, based on multiple news reports about the case:

    * The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a longstanding policy against discussing specifics of a pending investigation. Comey violated that policy.

    * DOJ policy forbids taking actions that could influence an election. Comey violated that policy.

    * The FBI's decision to expand its investigation of Anthony Weiner's e-mails to target Hillary Clinton's e-mails likely went beyond the boundaries of the bureau's warrant and could represent a violation of the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable (and unlawful) searches. In other words, powerful evidence suggests Comey violated constitutional protections.

    * The Hatch Act bars the use of an official position to influence an election. A former Bush-administration already has filed a Hatch Act complaint against the FBI with the Office of Special Counsel.

    In many ways, Legal Schnauzer has presaged dubious acts such as the ones Comey took late last week. Here are a few examples of similar acts at lower levels of government:

    * In the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, the matter had been litigated for three years in South Carolina, where the family lived when Sherry Rollins initiated divorce proceedings. Ted Rollins failed to make court-ordered house payments, so Ms. Rollins and the couple's two daughters were forced to flee to Shelby County, Alabama, where family members lived. Ted Rollins then sued Sherry Rollins for divorce in Alabama, but a case styled Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953 (Ala. Civ. App., 1993) shows Rollins v. Rollins could not be heard here once jurisdiction had been established elsewhere. Shelby County Circuit Judge Al Crowson heard the case anyway and heaped a monstrous cheat job on Sherry Rollins.

    * When I was placed on administrative leave at UAB, the matter was governed by the university's Acceptable Use Policy (AUP). After all, the university alleged I had used my work computer to write this blog. The AUP clearly states that, if improper use of a computer is suspected, it should be handled via progressive discipline -- starting with oral warning, written warning, and termination (if the first two steps don't work). UAB never issued an oral or written warning regarding my use of the work computer. That's probably because they had asked an IT employee to monitor my computer usage for one month, and he later testified at my grievance hearing that I had not touched the first keystroke on my blog while at work. UAB fired me anyway, its own policies be damned.

    * When we brought a criminal trespassing (third degree) complaint against our neighbor Mike McGarity (the one with the extensive criminal record), Shelby County District Judge Ron Jackson acquitted based on his notion that we were required to give written warning -- and there was reasonable doubt as to whether McGarity had received our written warning prior to trespassing. The actual law on such issues is cited in Chambers v. City of Opelika, 698 So. 2d 792 (Ala. Crim. App., 1996), and here it is:

    The appellant has cited no authority for his position that to be guilty of criminal trespass the intruder must be aware that he or she had no license or privilege to enter or to remain on the premises. There is authority, however, that states that when those premises are private and not open to the public, there is no requirement that the prosecution prove that a prior written or verbal warning was given to the intruder.

    Under the law, we did not have to warn McGarity at all -- in writing, or otherwise. But Judge Jackson refused to follow black-letter law, and the acquittal allowed McGarity to file a bogus malicious-prosecution lawsuit against us. We've spent 16 years fighting the fallout from that baseless lawsuit, which never would have happened without Jackson's unlawful ruling.

    We've seen disregard for law and policies in Alabama for years. Now James Comey has shown that the FBI is infested with a similar mindset, and it could wind up putting the presidency in the hands of Donald Trump, who likely is the most unqualified individual ever to run for the office.


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