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- 02/14/17--11:16: _U.S. Sen. Luther St...
- 02/15/17--04:45: _U.S. Judge R. David...
- 02/15/17--09:58: _Trump AG Jeff Sessi...
- 02/16/17--04:45: _Missouri thugs viol...
- 02/16/17--09:30: _Ashley Madison reco...
- 02/20/17--04:30: _When GOP operative ...
- 02/21/17--04:45: _Why did Missouri la...
- 02/21/17--09:40: _Ashley Madison cust...
- 02/22/17--04:30: _Bentley crony Coope...
- 02/23/17--04:30: _Our reports on Ashl...
- 02/23/17--10:38: _Alan Colmes of Fox ...
- 02/27/17--04:35: _Luther Strange and ...
- 02/28/17--04:30: _As a three-time vic...
- 03/01/17--04:25: _Federal judge R. Da...
- 03/02/17--04:45: _Jake Proctor, son o...
- 03/03/17--04:30: _Trump AG Jeff Sessi...
- 03/06/17--04:30: _Some of the nation'...
- 03/06/17--12:45: _As U.S. senator, Lu...
- 03/07/17--04:35: _Eviction proceeding...
- 03/07/17--10:35: _Russia scandal and ...
|Luther Strange's campaign team, with Kevin Turner in|
the middle and Jessica Medeiros Garrison to his left.
(From Alabama Political Reporter)
Strange has appointed Kevin Turner, his former chief deputy in the Alabama attorney general's office, to be his chief of staff in D.C., according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). Turner, once an attorney at the Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant, abruptly left the AG's office after reports that he was interfering with the Mike Hubbard investigation by trying to have chief prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case.
Turner landed at the Venable LLP law firm in Washington, but his bio already has disappeared from the firm's Web site, and his LinkedIn page already shows him as Luther Strange's chief of staff. Boy, that happened in a hurry.
How did it happen? Well, blackmail -- or fear of blackmail -- might have played a big role. Consider these words from an August 2014 Legal Schnauzer post, that drew heavily on a report by Bill Britt at APR. The title of our post was "Top Aide To AG Luther Strange Might Be Using "Secret" To Derail Alabama Corruption Probe." How underhanded can Kevin Turner be? The following provides an idea:
The chief of staff to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is trying to derail a corruption probe of House Speaker Mike Hubbard, former Governor Bob Riley and his children, and more, according to a new report at the Alabama Political Reporter.
Bill Britt reports that Chief of Staff Kevin Turner is leading an in-house plot to have chief prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case. Turner, who used to be at the Bradley Arant law firm in Birmingham, is holding a secret over Strange's head as leverage to get Hart off the case, Britt reports.
Turner was holding a secret over Strange's head? That sounds like serious stuff, with criminal implications. Here is more from the post:
Inside the Attorney General’s Office, the effort to sabotage the Grand Jury, by eliminating Hart, is thought to be the work of Strange’s closest ally, Turner.
The seemingly unbreakable bond between Strange and Turner is rumored to be based on more scandalous motives, and not mere loyalty. As Strange’s driver and body man during the 2010 campaign for AG, there is speculation that Turner holds a dirty secret over his boss' head. Whatever the reason may be for Strange’s particular loyalty to Turner, there are more than a few questions raised by Turner’s recent actions against Hart.
What secret could Turner have acquired while serving as Strange's "driver and body man" during the 2010 campaign? Well, we broke the story of Strange's extramarital affair with 2010 campaign manager Jessica Medeiros Garrison, whose divorce from Tuscaloosa City School Board president Lee Garrison dovetails with her activities on the Strange campaign. We addressed that issue in an October 2014 post titled "Could Jessica Medeiros Garrison's sealed divorce file help shine light on "secrets" in State House probe?" From the post:
Where does Jessica Medeiros Garrison fit into this picture? She managed Luther Strange's 2010 campaign, which would have more or less made her Kevin Turner's supervisor at the time. Any "dirty secret" that Kevin Turner has on Luther Strange, probably would be known to Garrison.
What's the nature of this secret? Is it personal, professional, political, financial--a combination of all the above? We don't know, but Garrison's divorce case ended in October 2009, and a related child-custody case went into 2011--all in the general time frame of the 2010 campaign for attorney general.
Could the sealed Garrison divorce file include information about the secret? It certainly could, and if so, that means it's relevant to the Lee County investigation--and Kevin Turner's actions that appear to be unethical (at best) and maybe criminal (at worst).
How likely is it that Kevin Turner's "secret" involves Luther Strange's affair with Jessica Garrison? The evidence suggests it is very likely. How likely is it that Turner is a mediocre attorney, and his career at Venable was going nowhere fast -- and when Strange was appointed to fill Jeff Sessions' U.S. Senate seat, Turner made a quick play for the chief of staff post, and Strange had little choice but to go along with it. After all, published reports indicate Strange would be wise to keep Turner's heart happy and his mouth shut.
Based on all the intel we've received, Luther Strange, as AG, ran a wildly dysfunctional office in Montgomery. It looks like he is heading down the same path in D.C.
|Judge R. David Proctor and|
his wife, Teresa
Let's start by reviewing "Act 1." Proctor reveals himself to be a con man right off the bat, and he continues in that vein throughout. For now, we will focus on two major issues as the curtain rises on our "diabolical play."
A corrupt judge cannot get even the basics right
Reciting the standard of review on a Motion to Dismiss is the first order of business, and Proctor gets it wrong -- and continues to get it wrong on almost every page of his 45-page memorandum opinion. (Proctor's opinion and our Motion to Alter are embedded at the end of this post.)
Proctor cites the two U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) cases -- Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (known, jointly, as "Twombly and Iqbal") -- that have caused mass confusion in federal courts. At their core, Twombly and Iqbal require a complaint to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Plaintiffs now must “nudge their claims across the line from conceivable to plausible,”
That's fine and dandy, but no one seems to know what it means, least of all Judge R. David Proctor. How does something go from conceivable to plausible? Most people of average to high intelligence would shrug their shoulders. Many judges, like Proctor, just wing it. If they are conservative and favor defendants (such as corporations, institutions, moneyed interests), they are likely to use Twombly/Iqbal as an excuse to kick out complaints that likely have merit. If they are liberals, they probably ignore Twombly/Iqbal.
Either way, the public probably is left with the impression that judges don't have a clue what they are doing. And the public would be right. If you skim the 45 pages of Proctor's opinion, you will find repeated use of words such as "conclusory" and "formulaic." That is the language of Twombly/Iqbal -- many people have no idea what those words mean either -- and the law does not make it clear.
It is clear that many observers -- from law-review authors and editors to lawmakers, even judges -- want to get out of this mess. Several measures have been introduced in Congress to overturn Twombly/Iqbal. But with conservatives in the majority, and their corporate backers pushing for easy dismissal of valid lawsuits, nothing has gained traction yet.
In a rare show of forward thinking, courts are moving away from Twombly/Iqbal on their own. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals -- which covers Alabama, Georgia, and Florida, and governs our case -- has interpreted Iqbal to mean that a "heightened pleading standard" no longer exists. From a case styled Randall v. Scott, 610 F. 3d 701 (11th Cir., 2010):
We conclude that the district court erred in applying a heightened pleading standard to Randall's complaint. After Iqbal it is clear that there is no "heightened pleading standard"as it relates to cases governed by Rule 8(a)(2), including civil rights complaints.
First, ours is a civil-rights case. Second, Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) has determined the bar that plaintiffs must clear to survive a Motion to Dismiss -- and it has applied since the federal rules were adopted in 1938. Rule 8 holds that a plaintiff must provide:
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief."
Our complaint easily meets the Rule 8 standard, and Proctor acknowledges, on page 7 of his opinion, that Rule 8 governs the case. He also acknowledges the 11th Circuit's finding in Randall. If anything, our complaint provides too many factual allegations and details.
Even SCOTUS is moving away from Twombly/Iqbal, and it did so in a Deep South case, originating in Mississippi. From a case styled Johnson v. City of Shelby, 135 S. Ct. 346 (2014):
We summarily reverse. Federal pleading rules call for a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 8(a)(2); they do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted. . . . [The rules] "are designed to discourage battles over mere form of statement. . . . Rule 8(a)(2) indicates that a basic objective of the rules is to avoid civil cases turning on "technicalities."
SCOTUS gets even more emphatic in Johnson:
Petitioners stated simply, concisely, and directly events that, they alleged, entitled them to damages from the city. Having informed the city of the factual basis for their complaint, they were required to do no more to stave off dismissal for want of an adequate statement of their claim.
No one who reads our complaint can seriously claim we did not inform defendants of the factual basis for our lawsuit, and in the words of the nation's highest court, we "were required to do no more to stave off dismissal."
Johnson did not specifically overturn Twombly/Iqbal, but it clearly rejected the pleading standard set out in those two cases. And we are talking about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling here.
Bottom line: Proctor got the pleading standard wrong, both at the Eleventh Circuit level and at the national level, via SCOTUS. You can't get much more wrong than that.
Proctor ignores a simple standard that he took an oath to uphold
A simple rule in reviewing a Motion to Dismiss -- the equivalent of "three strikes and you're out" in baseball -- is this:
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), all factual allegations are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party.
We are the nonmoving party here. The Motions to Dismiss were filed by defendants. Proctor must, by law, view factual allegations in a light most favorable to us. He fails to follow this straightforward and longstanding principle over and over.
We will point out examples in upcoming posts. But for now, we've established that Proctor acts corruptly in the early stages of his opinion. And things don't get any better as they move along.
(To be continued)
(From UK Independent and Getty Images)
Sessions, of course, was a long-time Republican U.S. Senator from Alabama. Could that bring the Flynn scandal to The Heart of Dixie, with Sessions having already brought Alabamians into the Trump administration? According to a report today in the UK Independent, some Alabamians might soon be wishing they never had ties to Sessions. The former senator might soon be toxic for reasons other than his well-known racist statements and actions of yesteryear.
In an article titled "Jeff Sessions faces scrutiny over Michael Flynn’s calls to Russia," the Independent notes that the AG was sitting on the same national security council as Flynn when the latter sought to reassure the Russians that sanctions would be overturned.
The issues with Sessions actually go deeper than that. In March 2016, Trump appointed Sessions to head his campaign's National Security Advisory Committee. Let that sink in: Sessions was Trump's chief on national-security issues DURING THE CAMPAIGN, at a time when we now know from U.S. intelligence reports that Russian interests were trying to undermine the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Guess who served on that campaign committee with Sessions? Why it was none other than Michael Flynn. From a Trump campaign press release, dated October 7, 2016:
Today, Donald J. Trump announced the appointment of several key members to his national security advisory council following a roundtable meeting in New York. Mr. Trump’s national security team is comprised of some of the brightest minds in foreign policy, nuclear non-proliferation, combating ISIS and rebuilding our national defense. . . .
New members of the national security advisory council include: KT McFarland, Congressman Mike McCaul, Senator Tom Cotton, Senator Richard Burr, Jim Woolsey, Tom Barrack, Congressman Darrell Issa, Senator Bob Corker, Senator Jim Inhofe, Charlie Glazer and John Ashcroft.
These new members will add to the already strong team comprised of Senator Jeff Sessions, General Mike Flynn, Tom Stewart, Bert Mizusawa, Bob McEwan, Chuck Kubic, Jay Garner, Keith Kellogg, Gary Harrell, Bob Magnus, Jim Hoskins and Rudy Giuliani.
Creating a safe America is important to every American and Donald Trump’s plan will make the U.S. safe again.
In the wake of Flynn's resignation, every member of that committee soon should be under investigation, including its chair, Jeff Sessions. Notice some of the conservative stalwarts serving with Sessions and Flynn on that campaign committee -- Rudy Giuliani, John Ashcroft, Tom Cotton, Bob Corker. What did they know, and when did they know it?
Here's more from today's UK Independent report:
Jeff Sessions is once again in the spotlight after it was revealed he sat on the same Trump campaign national security council as Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who was forced to resign after admitting he called the Russian ambassador to reassure them that sanctions would be overturned.
The Attorney General, who was sworn in last week despite opposition from Democrats and civil rights activists, is now being asked to recuse himself from his role at the nation’s highest office after speculation is swirling that he may also have been involved in the Russia-related scandal.
That is despite revelations that Mr Sessions would lead the investigation against Mr Flynn.
Speculation is swirling that Sessions was involved in the Russia scandal? Gulp. That sound you hear is Jeff Sessions and his cronies stepping in a big pile of doo-doo. And the doo-doo might be much deeper than we now can imagine.
As David Corn, of Mother Jones, reported yesterday, Flynn's communications with Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak go way beyond the ones after Trump was elected:
Flynn's departure should not end the demands for an investigation. One tantalizing and somewhat overlooked aspect of the Post story that did him in was the fact that Flynn hobnobbed with Kislyak during the campaign. The paper reported that the Flynn-Kislyak conversations "were part of a series of contacts between Flynn and Kislyak that began before the November 8 election and continued during the transition, officials said." And the paper noted, "Kislyak said that he had been in contact with Flynn since before the election, but declined to answer questions about the subjects they discussed."
This is the mystery that now needs an answer: What was Flynn talking about with the Russians during the campaign?
Who was Flynn's director chairman/supervisor during his talks with Kislyak? That would be Jeff Sessions. And the white-hot light is starting to turn on him.
|Carol Tovich Shuler|
If I have a say about it, someone is going to pay dearly for this abuse of Carol's constitutional rights. It's bad enough that the charges against Carol -- assault on a law enforcement officer and trespass -- are bogus and not supported by probable cause, as we will show in upcoming posts. But as a simple procedural matter, her arrest runs contrary to Missouri law.
How do we know? Please follow us for a brief explanation of the law that governs such issues.
It might seem strange to you, as it does to me, that courts could be allowed to send a summons -- for which you are subject to arrest if you fail to appear -- via first-class mail. You might think that a document that carries with it the potential loss of freedom would require some form of personal service, via certified mail, a process service, or a "peace officer." But you (and I) would be wrong. Missouri allows service of a summons via first-class mail, per Mo. Sup. Ct. Rule 21.08. Here's how it reads, in pertinent part:
A summons may be served by:
(a) The clerk mailing it to defendant's last known address by first class mail; or
(b) An officer in the manner provided in Rule 54.13 or Rule 54.14.
If the defendant fails to appear in response to a summons and upon a finding of probable cause that the defendant has committed a misdemeanor, the court may issue an arrest warrant.
Rules 54.13 and 54.14 refer to personal service in the state and outside the state, respectively. The highlighted section notes that an individual is subject to arrest if she "fails to appear in response to a summons." But Carol did not fail to appear "in response to a summons." The court's own records, as found at case.net (Case number 1631-CR07731), show she did not receive a summons. Last time I checked, it's hard to respond to something you did not receive, especially when you have no reason to believe it even exists.
To summarize, a summons in Missouri may be served by first-class mail or personal service. But if the court opts to serve by first-class mail, that comes with an extra burden: It must receive acknowledgement that the summons actually was received. If that doesn't happen, the court must turn to one of the other methods allowed by law, and that means some form of personal service.
In other words, a subject who does not acknowledge receipt of a summons -- and in Carol's case, she did not acknowledge because she did not receive the summons -- cannot be subject to arrest. The court must try again, via personal service, to make sure the summons actually is received. The relevant law can be found at Mo. Sup. Ct. Rule 54.16, which reads in pertinent part:
Acknowledgment of Service By Mail
Service of the summons and petition upon a resident or nonresident defendant of any class referred to in Rule 54.13(b)(1)(2) or (3) may be made by mailing a copy of the summons and petition by first class mail, postage prepaid, to the person to be served, together with two copies of a notice and acknowledgment conforming substantially to Civil Procedure Form 4B or Civil Procedure Form 4C and a return envelope, postage prepaid addressed to the sender. If no acknowledgment of service under this Rule 54.16 is completed and returned to the sender, service of the summons and petition shall be made as otherwise provided by statute or rule. Unless good cause is shown for not doing so, the court shall order the payment of costs of service on the person served if such person does not complete and return within thirty days after mailing, the notice and acknowledgment of receipt of summons.
We call your attention to the highlighted section above, which states in real clear English that if the subject does not return acknowledgement, the court cannot haul off and arrest her; it must attempt a form of personal service that is allowed by law.
What does this tell us? Carol was the victim of a wrongful arrest and imprisonment. Her constitutional rights were trampled. And it adds to the evidence that charges were brought against her for an unlawful reason -- probably in retaliation for my reporting about Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions and his status as a closeted homosexual.
Who ordered Carol's unlawful arrest? We aren't certain at the moment, but we have a real strong suspect, maybe more than one. I'm more than a little fed up with the abuse we've received from courts and law enforcement, and I am determined to see that the responsible person (or persons) is held accountable for this one.
|Thomas and Judy Mancuso|
Thomas Mancuso, of Montgomery, is married to Judy Mancuso, but that hasn't kept him from seeking more than a little adventure on the side.
Records show that Mancuso signed up for AM at 3:51 p.m. on March 3, 2014, using a computer with an outbound IP address of 184.108.40.206, located on or near State Dock Road, Montgomery, AL 36104. His Ashley Madison account number is 24474963. (The full summary is embedded at the end of this post.)
What is Mancuso looking for in a partner? Well, he is quite explicit. From his AM profile description:
don't be too shy . . . say or show what you like . . . be aggressive if you like . . . or tell me to take control and seduce you . . . if you want to be licked, then lead me there . . . want to be taken from behind . . . then flip to your stomach . . . I will figure it out . . . want to play with me in your mouth . . . then do it . . . want to scream when you cum . . . that makes me nuts.Mancuso then puts his slightly kinky side on display, and in perhaps his most impressive move, he points to his wallet:
want me to pull your hair . . . sure . . . your butt spanked softly . . . love to do it . . . and best of all, I am first class, have money, no nut case but very adventuresome, don't need you to go dutch, etc., etc.
We sought comment from Mancuso for this post, but so far, he has not responded to our queries.
Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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|Jessica Medeiros Garris|
Garrison, as one might expect from a good Republican operative, sounds crazy about cash. So let's consider some of the other jumbo numbers from her testimony. (A transcript of testimony from Garrison and Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange is embedded at the end of this post.)
Our gal Jessica endures $25 million worth of "suffering"
Jessica Garrison claims under oath, in so many words, that our reporting about her extramarital affair with Luther Strange has caused her $25 million of damages. We're not making this up; you can read it on pages 65-67 at the transcript below. And this is from reporting that, as a matter of law, has never been found to be false or defamatory. God only knows how much she would be damaged if someone actually defamed her.
Here is part of the exchange between Garrison and her attorney, Bill Baxley:
Q. (MR. BAXLEY:) Jessica, if somebody offered you $25 million to let them do this to you publicly, what has been done, would you say it would be worth it?
A. No, sir.
Q. Have you had expenses that you've had to go through with us representing you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And have you had expenses with trying to get Mr. Shuler served -
A. Yes, sir.
Q. -- over and over again?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. That's run up in the many thousands of dollars, hasn't it?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you can't quantify what it's done to -- the dollar amount as far as the amount of mental anguish and suffering and angst this caused you, can you?
A. No, sir.
Q. But you say you wouldn't let somebody do this for $25 million for you?
A. Huh-uh (no).
Q. You need to speak up.
A. No, sir.
Q. So you would not let them do that for any amount of money, would you?
A. No. You couldn't pay me to go through this voluntarily.
Was any actual evidence presented that goes to the expenses Garrison concurred? Maybe canceled checks, invoices, etc.? Nope. Before the exchange above begins, something curious happens. It can be found on page 65 of the transcript:
MR. BAXLEY: Your Honor, I think that's all.
THE COURT: Is that all?
MR. BAXLEY: Yes, sir, I think so.
THE COURT: Approach, Mr. Baxley.
(A sidebar discussion was had off the record.)
Q. (MR. BAXLEY:) Jessica, if somebody offered you $25 million . . .
During the sidebar, one can almost imagine Judge Don Blankenship leaning toward Baxley and whispering:
Judge: Uh, Bill we're supposed to be establishing an extremely high figure for damages here; it's part of our plan to terrorize Mr. Shuler. But you haven't done that. You have to ask your client a leading question that establishes some outlandish figure for damages.
Baxley: Oh, that's right, Your Honor, I forgot about that. Haven't had my Jack Daniels yet today . . . heh, heh.
Judge: Will you please get some nutty figure in the record . . . and do it quickly, or I'm going to need some Jack Daniels.
Baxley: You got it, Donnie Boy. Comin' right up -- the nutty figure, that is. I don't share my JD.
Our gal Jessica is paid serious bucks for managing Luther Strange's campaign
On page 40 of the transcript, Garrison lets it be known that she is no regular working girl. She gets paid serious bucks -- $10,000 a month -- for her services:
Q. (MR. BAXLEY:) I'll show you what's been marked Plaintiff's Exhibit Number 10 and I'll ask you what that is.
A. That's my contract to serve as campaign manager for Luther's 2010 attorney general's race.
Q. And what did it call for you to be paid?
A. Ten thousand dollars a month plus expenses.
Q. And what else?
A. Oh, and they provided an iPhone, our computer -- our computer was a Mac. It was a portable computer -- and reimbursement of healthcare insurance premiums.
I don't claim to be a political insider, but $10,000 a month, plus expenses and various goodies (iPhone, Mac computer, etc.) for running an AG campaign in Alabama? Seems a bit high to me, especially for someone who had an 0-1 record at the time as a campaign manager.
Jessica doesn't just make big bucks, she pays big bucks -- and not very intelligently
On page 67 of the transcript, we learned that Garrison has paid Baxley and his firm more than $50,000 to bring the lawsuit against me:
Q. Has the amount you've had to pay for service and our services up to this point exceeded $50,000?As a party to the case, I have a pretty good idea of how much work Mr. Baxley and his firm put in. Here are the items I can recall:
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have you had travel expenses having to come back to court when Mr. Shuler wouldn't show up?
A. Yes, sir.
* Baxley wrote me a couple of threatening letters, making outlandish misstatements of law;
* Someone wrote a complaint, which was filled with misstatements of fact and law.
* Baxley attended a couple of hearings where I was present, and probably 1-2 others where I was not present because I did not receive notice, making Garrison's $3.5-million judgment void.
* Someone printed out a bunch of blog posts and news articles, and it's not clear if any of them had to do with the matter being argued at the time -- whether Garrison's default judgment should be upheld or not. In essence, this was a "document dump," of little or no value.
There might have been a few other things Baxley and Co. did, but that's all I can think of right now. This much is certain: The Baxley lawyers did not engage in any discovery, there was no trial or trial preparation . . . so, how does Jessica Garrison wind up paying them more than $50,000? Were they charging her $10,000 an hour?
Was there any sign in the transcript that Garrison produced invoices or canceled checks to show she had been charged, and paid, $50,000? The answer is no.
If that amount was paid, did Garrison do it on her own, or did she have help? Did she walk "bravely" into filing a baseless lawsuit because someone was helping her with expenses? Did Baxley charge an outrageous amount because he knew Garrison's benefactors -- whoever they might be -- could afford it?
I know this: If Jessica Garrison paid Bill Baxley $50,000 for the puny and sorry work he did, she's the biggest dolt ever to land on planet Earth.
|The Stamps General Store in Osage, Arkansas,|
which was in my family from 1912 to 1990.
Here is another question: Why was my family willing to make it appear that Carol and I were homeless -- when we haven't been, and my family owns property that Carol and I could use temporarily, making sure we don't become homeless? Was I raised by people who are so thoughtless and devious that they would have to improve to be compared to pack of wolves?
We've presented indisputable evidence that my brother actively has been trying to harm Carol and me -- it's not just a matter of "not helping" -- so a reasonable person could wonder about the motives behind this LLC.
We'll return to the questions above in a moment, But for now, why did my lawyer brother, David Shuler, find it necessary at that time to form G Shuler Properties LLC? (My mother's name is Gondylyn, "Gondy" for short.) My mother is 87 years old, and as I understand it, David is her trustee -- and she pretty much lets him handle all of her affairs. In fact, it seems most of my immediate relatives take advice from the "family lawyer," which might explain why our family has descended into a state of embarrassing dysfunction. David is the only member of my family, that I know of, who has demonstrably dubious ethics. No wonder he was attracted to the legal "profession."
It's not like my mother is a "land baron." Her holdings -- at least the ones I know of -- are modest, by most standards. She and my father owned two properties in Springfield, Missouri -- and when my father died in 2008, she became sole owner. According to Greene County records those properties are:
* 1123 W. University--This is our original two-bedroom family home, the one I arrived at after being born in 1956 at Springfield Baptist Hospital, which now is Lakeland Behavioral Health System, which specializes in psychiatric care for children and adolescents, plus adults over 60. Records show this house has 780 square feet (God, no wonder it felt crowded), with a current appraised valuation of $45,800. My parents have rented this home to a number of individuals and families since we moved to larger quarters in 1966.
* 3427 VanOwen--This was my home from fifth grade through the end of college, until I moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to seek "fortune" in the journalism business. My mother still lives here. Records show this house has 2,212 square feet (God, no wonder I felt like I could breathe there), with a current appraised valuation of $100,400. My memory is that my parents paid $18,000 for it in 1966; I might be overstating that figure. (Times have changed.) It sits on 1.1033 acres of land and was a great place to grow up, especially in a family with four active kids -- one of whom (me) tended to being playing some sort of ball almost all the time. My brother, Paul, also was a pretty fair athlete and might have been able to pitch at the college level if he had not hurt his rotator cuff.
My mother had three siblings, who all are deceased. They shared ownership of the family plot in Carroll County, Arkansas (near the tiny hamlet of Osage) for years, but my mother, as far as I know, now is sole owner.
As recently as February 2013, records showed my mother owned three properties in Carroll County, with a total value (if my memory is correct) of about $70,000. (Osage, Ark., is not a hot spot for development. That valuation, however, might be way less than what the land would bring on the market.)
The historic Stamps General Store was in my mother's family for decades -- her maiden name is Stamps -- and it now has its own Wikipedia page. It was in our family until about 1990, and now is home to a pottery shop.)
Records currently show no properties in Carroll County under my mother's name. What happened? Were the properties sold? Were they placed under some other entity, such as G Shuler Properties LLC? If so, why was that done?
My family doesn't clue me in on such decisions, so I don't have answers to those questions -- although I'm getting close to finding answers. But I do know this: G. Shuler Properties LLC was formed at a curious time, nine days before Carol and I would be victims of an unlawful eviction. (See the LLC's Articles of Organization below.) And my lawyer brother knew the unlawful eviction was coming, and chose to do nothing about it. In other words, he has clear liability, and it's likely my mother does, too.
I also know this: My family could have allowed Carol and me to live temporarily at my mother's rental home. My sister and her husband lived there, rent free as far as I know, for a year or two after they got married. One of my nephews lived there until he trashed the place so badly that he moved out, and his parents were stuck with fixing it. (Was he charged rent? Maybe, but I doubt it.)
On top of that, my lawyer brother is proprietor of Old Ivy Properties LLC, which seems to deal with rental properties, so he is in the landlord business, too. Is that how he came up with the idea for G Shuler Properties LLC, and if so, what is the new company's purpose?
As for Carol and me, we are living in a pay-by-the-week motel, and the roof over our head is a day-by-day proposition.
In essence, Carol and I have been treated differently from everyone else in the family -- and we've been the target of such contempt pretty much from the day we got married. That's why we had avoided Springfield, Missouri, for roughly 22 years -- until I got kidnapped and thrown in jail, and our house in Birmingham was stolen from us, and we were staring homelessness in the face.
We moved here mainly because it was somewhat familiar, and it was our only real choice. But has my family been more of a help or a hindrance? I hope to find the full answer to that question someday. For now, I know that Carol and I remain close to homelessness -- and I've seen no signs that my family cares one iota.
It did, however, care about starting G Shuler Properties LLC, for some unknown reason.
(Note: I have discovered that several documents related to David Shuler and Trent Cowherd, our former Missouri landlord, seem to be missing from our computer. Did someone hack our computer and steal the documents? I'm not sure, but I intend to find out. If the answer proves to be yes, someone might be facing criminal charges.)
You might think that Nicholas Arciniegas, with his interest in legal work that involves high-level secrecy and discreetness, would be smart enough to stay away from a site like Ashley Madison. But you would be wrong.
Arciniegas appears to be a child of privilege who thinks he can build an impressive resume while getting away with immature and risky actions in his personal life. He certainly appears to come from an accomplished family.
Arciniegas has not responded to our questions, so his roots are a bit uncertain. But a check of public records indicates the following: His father is Joaquin Arciniegas, M.D., a physician with Alabama Cardiovascular Group, an affiliate of Grandview Health. His brother, Daniel Eduardo Arciniegas, is an attorney with Wiggins Childs Pantazis Fisher and Goldfarb, the largest employment-discrimination and civil-rights law firm in Alabama.
Nicholas Arciniegas graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2009 and completed a degree at Samford's Cumberland School of Law in 2013. He worked briefly in the clerk's office at Wiggins Childs and served as a law clerk in the Alabama Attorney General's Office, under Luther Strange. While in college, Arciniegas served as an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives for Spencer Bachus.
Arciniegas has earned certificates related to intelligence and homeland security from a number of institutions, including Johns Hopkins, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the London School of Economics.
As a lawyer, Arciniegas has worked for LDiscovery LLC, Tower Legal Solutions, and the D.C. firm of Rodriguez and Sanabria. before working three months at World Bank Group. He now appears to have his own solo practice, focusing primarily on immigration law.
Arciniegas' account at Ashley Madison has the address of 4924 Old Leeds Road in Mountain Brook, which is the address for Dr. Joaquin Arciniegas. Was Nicholas Arciniegas trying to disguise his identity or was he living at home at the time? It's not clear and, and he has not responded to our queries for this article.
Based on public records available to us, Nicholas Arciniegas' marital status is unclear; he appears to be single.
Perhaps the biggest question is this: How could an ambitious young lawyer, building a career in intelligence and national security, compromise himself by signing up for Ashley Madison? Has that information become known in the D.C. legal community and already had a negative impact on the trajectory of his career.
Building a snazzy resume seems to be Nicholas Arciniegas' primary accomplishment so far, and that probably isn't hard to do when money is no object, and you were born with a silver foot in your mouth.
As for genuine accomplishment, it's hard to find any -- other than making the dubious choice to join Ashley Madison.
Article with links to 1-20 in Ashley Madison series
(21) Craig Oliver, attorney, Springfield, MO (1/24/17)
(22) Craig Lowell, attorney, Wiggins Childs, Birmingham (1/26/17)
(23) Thomas Mancuso, tax attorney, Montgomery, AL (2/16/17)
(From Alabama Political Reporter)
Cooper Shattuck, who resigned as chief counsel at the University of Alabama last December, is billing at $195 per hour for legal work, according to the subscription Inside Alabama Politics (IAP) Web site. Shattuck served as Bentley's legal adviser before taking the UA job and established the ACEGOV nonprofit, which has been described as a slush fund for Bentley mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
Shattuck resigned at UA eight days after being named in a lawsuit filed by former Bentley security chief Wendell Ray Lewis. ACEGOV is a defendant, with Shattuck prominently mentioned in the lawsuit. Shattuck might be out of a full-time job, but he won't be hurting for money anytime soon. From the IAP report:
According to a State contract review for February, Shattuck will pull down $325,000 in legal work for the state between now and January 2019. One contract is for legal work related to the Deepwater Horizon matters and issues with the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project, a State-run hotel and convention center that will compete with private businesses along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Billing at $195/hour this contract is good for $250,000 of state money from DWH funds until January 2019. A second contract for Shattuck (again at $195/hour) is related directly to the governor’s office dealing with Bentley’s possible impeachment. The contract states that the nature of the work is to provide “advice, counsel and other related legal services on all matters involving the Governor’s Office…on an as-needed basis.” Bentley’s friend will be paid $75,000 for this work through September 2018.
What about Caldwell Mason? Well, she apparently considers herself bulletproof. From IAP:
Speaking of Rebekah Mason, according to several sources she has once again become a permanent fixture around the Governor’s office. One insider tells IAP“she is conducting meetings as if she were the boss.” Another source has reported Mason now occupies office space in the RSA Union building and possibly working on another project with Shattuck.
Shattuck, by the way, is not the only lawyer gorging himself at the public trough:
Also mentioned in February’s contract review included $285,000 for legal work by Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis. If that name sounds familiar, it may be because Governor Bentley paid the firm $50,000 for ‘administrative’ work, presumably since there is no category on campaign finance forms for paying legal fees. Bentley reported the expenditure in January on the same report where he paid his legal bills as well as those for his fondling partner Mason.
How many reports about the seemingly dry topic of state contracts would include a reference to the governor's "fondling partner"? Only in Alabama.
|David Haight (right), the "swinging general"|
I suspect quite a few of the comments come from people who are on the Ashley Madison (AM) list or know someone who is on the list. In other words, they want to discourage my reporting out of fear they will be outed. I've also seen evidence that some of the comments come from individuals associated with Ashley Madison itself. The company is based in Toronto Canada, and my blog statistics show quite a few comments coming from a server at "Bank of Canada, Ottawa Ontario." We're not sure why the traffic would be routed through a bank, but we do know the Ashley Madison "enterprise" is built on deceit, so it's possible many of our negative comments come from individuals who are paid to harass the only journalist in North America (or anywhere else) to look closely at AM's customer base.
On the assumption that at least a few of the comments are from people who genuinely disagree with our editorial pursuits . . . well, I offer them the U.S. Army. I also offer them the U.S. Air Force.
According to recent reports, the Army is so concerned about sexual misconduct among senior officers that it appointed a three-star officer to investigate the matter. Why? Because sexual misconduct among leaders has hurt the organization and threatens to cause even more damage -- much the way behavior linked to Ashley Madison has, or could, hurt organizations in the private sector.
That is especially true when you consider that our reporting has focused on professional elites -- lawyers, physicians, bankers, engineers, wealth managers, IT executives, etc. While one could label them private figures, they also make decisions every day that affect the public. Their missteps certainly can fracture individual families, but they also have the potential to harm all of us, by causing dysfunction in large organizations that serve the public.
The U.S. Army has learned that lesson, and it's trying to do something about it. From a report at USA Today:
The Army has named a three-star officer to review its burgeoning problem of sexual misconduct among senior officers and the shocking suicide [last] summer of a top general, Army Secretary Eric Fanning told USA TODAY.
The Army also instituted a new procedure that prompts the review of the security clearances of top brass to be triggered by investigations of misconduct, Fanning said Friday. The new approach to clearances, which grant troops and civilians access to national security secrets, stems from a USA TODAY report on a senior officer fired from his job last spring but allowed to retain his clearance for several months.
Lt. Gen. Edward Carbon will examine the recent spate of top officers felled by misdeeds, and, one, Maj. Gen. John Rossi, who killed himself, Fanning said.
“This has hit the general officer corps pretty hard,” Fanning said of the suicide.
How deep, or wide, is the Army's problems. For now, it's described as an "uptick," but the Army is trying to make sure it does not go beyond that:
Fanning stressed that the overall number of complaints lodged against the Army’s top officers and senior civilians has remained relatively low, and dipped in the most recent reporting period, fiscal year 2016, which ended on Sept. 30. The vast majority of that group of about 560 senior officials perform their duties honorably, he said.
Data do, however, show what Fanning referred to as “an uptick” in extramarital affairs and other misbehavior. An internal Army report found that “most concerning is that seven allegations of sexual misconduct, inappropriate relationships and sexual harassment were substantiated in FY16. This constituted a significant increase from the two allegations involving sexual misconduct that were substantiated in FY15. These types of cases have a significant negative impact on the Army and its image.”
The Army has been rocked by several high-profile cases of top officers felled by extramarital affairs, carousing and suicide. Among the findings of investigators: Maj. Gen. David Haight, the “swinging general,” had an 11-year affair and led a “swinger lifestyle”; Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, who had been the three-star adviser to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, frequented strip clubs, got drunk in public and had improper interactions with women; Rossi took his own life in July, just days before he was to be become a three-star general.
On February 8, the Army announced that Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis will be demoted to one star and retired. From a report at USA Today:
One of the Army’s most promising generals will be demoted to one star and retired following a scandal that involved sex clubs in Seoul and Rome, high-priced booze and indiscretions with young female troops, the Army announced Thursday.
Ron Lewis, who had been a three-star general and top aide to the then-Defense secretary Ash Carter, will also lose about $10,000 a year in pension payments due to the demotion.
The Pentagon Inspector General "substantiated allegations that Maj. Gen. Lewis misused his government travel charge card for personal expenses, made false official statements regarding his (credit card) misuse, and engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman on multiple occasions," Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman, said in a statement.
The Army, it seems, is not trying to "shame" anyone; it is trying to protect its culture and its effectiveness:
Fanning speculated that the multiple combat tours over the last 15 years of soldiers like Haight, and their long absences from their families, may have contributed to their misconduct.
“We want to have a better understanding of the impact that has on our senior officers, and look for ways that we can mitigate any causes or linkages that we see,” Fanning said
The problem does not appear to be widespread, he said, but continual combat stress may be a common thread for those who violate military rules and laws.
“I don’t think there’s a problem because I don’t think the numbers bear that out,” Fanning said. “But if you look at that small subset of the general officer larger population, we want to understand why. My guess is there’s something systemic in there. We want to get at it and be preemptive about it.”
As for the Air Force, it stripped a retired four-star general of two ranks earlier this month and docked him $60,000 a year in pension payments after he was found to have had coerced sex with a subordinate officer. From a report at USA Today:
The rare move means that retired Gen. Arthur Lichte, who had led the Air Mobility Command until 2009, will be demoted to major general and see his retirement pay dip from about $216,000 per year to $156,000. His case is the latest in a string of general officers to be sacked or demoted in the last year for sex scandals.
Lichte's actions drew an extraordinary, stinging rebuke in a letter of reprimand in December from then-Air Force secretary Deborah James. James blasted Lichte for putting the officer “in a position in which she could have believed that she had no choice but to engage in these sex acts given your far superior grade, position, and significant ability to affect her career.”
James suggested Lichte, who is married, would have been court-martialed but that the statute of limitations of five years had lapsed. Lichte retired in 2010, but the Air Force began conducting an investigation in 2016 after it had received a complaint from the woman.
“You are hereby reprimanded!” James wrote, exclamation point hers, in the letter of Dec. 6, 2016. “Your conduct is disgraceful and, but for the statute of limitations bar to prosecution, would be more appropriately addressed through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”
The military surely is wise to get a grip on the problem before it gets worse. The public would be wise to understand that sexual-misconduct is serious business -- the kind that can harm organizations, big and small.
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But our appreciation for Colmes was personal. That's because he was one of the first national journalists to report on the blow back I was facing for reporting on GOP corruption in Alabama. In fact, I think Colmes played a significant role in getting me released from my unlawful five-month incarceration from October 23, 2013, to March 26, 2014.
I was the only journalist to be jailed in the western hemisphere in 2013, the first to be incarcerated since 2006 and likely the only one in U.S. history to be jailed because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case, which has been unlawful under First Amendment law for only 200-plus years. Colmes recognized it as an important story, and while it received national and international attention, Colmes was one of the first (and certainly the best known) reporters to cover it.
At his LiberalLand blog (alan.com), Colmes was one of the first mainstream journalists to pick up on our reports about anti-LGBT federal judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography via badpuppy.com. He also was among the first to report on law-enforcement intimidation we experienced in the days and weeks after our Pryor reports. (See "Is A Whistleblowing Alabama Blogger Being Harassed By Law Enforcement?") When GOP operatives Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed a bogus defamation lawsuit in apparent retaliation for my reports about their "relationship" (and the Pryor story), Colmes was there to inform the public.
When I finally was released from jail, Colmes provided solid coverage. And just one week prior to my release, Colmes conducted a jailhouse interview with me via telephone.
Was it a coincidence that my release came so soon after the Colmes interview? I don't think so. Many of my friends and readers don't think so either. One said. "When Fox News started focusing on your incarceration, I think the Alabama crooks knew they had problems."
Once I was released, Colmes and Peter B. Collins were the first journalists to interview me. (Colmes' jailhouse and post-release interviews can be heard via links at the end of this post.)
Alan Colmes did not have to pay attention to my story. There were plenty of stories from the White House or Congress that he could have talked or written about. But he was a person of genuine depth and courage. He truly was willing to go where many other journalists would not go. And he treated my plight with seriousness, showing how it threatened the constitutional protections that keep our far-flung society knitted together.
Colmes also recognized that news is not just generated on America's east and west coasts. He knew real issues confronted real Americans in that "vast wasteland" between LA and New York. He knew a story of profound importance was brewing in a little hellhole called Columbiana, Alabama, and he did not hesitate to dive in and find out what was going on.
This I will always remember about Alan Colmes: I am, unquestionably, a "real journalist," with more than 30 years of professional experience and and a degree from one of the nation's foremost J-schools (University of Missouri, Class of 1978 -- "Mizzou-rah, Mizzou-rah, Mizzou-rah Tigers!) Still, as a "blogger," I find that many of my fellow journalists treat me (and other bloggers) with scorn or indifference -- as second- or third-class citizens.
I'm sure many journalists ignored my incarceration because, "Well, it was just a blogger in jail." And the so-called "progressive legal community" was useless, probably because, "Oh well, he's just a blogger."
Alan Colmes never offered up that garbage. He treated me (and my wife, Carol) with respect, never looking down on us because we lived in Alabama or because we were affiliated with Legal Schnauzer and not The New York Times.
Colmes' touch has been apparent on Legal Schnauzer in recent years. He invited me to take part in an advertising network to promote liberal blogs. I don't remember the other blogs involved, but I think Little Green Footballs was one. We hardly made any money off the ad network; I think we might have raked in $25 over several years, and that wasn't Alan's fault. The reality of blog advertising is that it's often not a moneymaking proposition, particularly for a liberal blog in a conservative country, with a blog that unmasks corrupt elites who can threaten advertisers in various ways.
Even though the ad network was not profitable, I chose to hang in there with it. I knew Alan Colmes was a class act, and I liked being affiliated with him -- even though few people knew I was affiliated with him.
Who are the people you remember in life? Is it the ones who reach out with a genuine touch, with a good heart, in your darkest hour of need?
The answer, for me, is yes. And for that reason, I will always be grateful to have crossed paths with Alan Colmes.
He never will be forgotten here at Legal Schnauzer. I hope folks around the nation understand what a genuinely caring, thoughtful person he was. I was fortunate to see that first-hand.
Alan Colmes' jailhouse interview
Alan Colmes' post-release interview with Legal Schnauzer
|Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison|
One memorable moment is of the "hah, hah" comedy variety. The other is what might be called "black comedy." Both are worth noting because they say a lot about the people involved:
Jessica Garrison thinks Legal Schnauzer has investigative super powers
In an almost terror-stricken tone, Garrison says she can't imagine how I obtained her address in Crestline because she is unlisted, almost "underground," one might think. She suggests that I've gone to extraordinary lengths to get her address, hinting that I have all sorts of devious plots in mind. Naturally, there is a very simple explanation for how I, or anyone else, could get her address, but Garrison (who is a licensed attorney) apparently can't figure what that might be.
This is from a transcript of her interaction with attorney Bill Baxley on the subject. (The full transcript is embedded at the end of this post.), From page 67:
Q: Do you think in the future you still might have things like bad dreams and lay awake at night and things of that matter because of some of these allegations?
A. Sure, and the fact that he published a photo of my house and my street address. I'm not listed. I'm not listed anywhere. But it made me incredibly nervous when he's posted my address and my home for the world to see, so I've added a security alarm. I was paranoid that my house was either -- I was paranoid people were watching me.
Do I really have investigative superpowers, with plans to use them to torture Garrison and her young son? Not exactly. As we explained in several posts, including this one, her address at the time (119 Main Street in the Crestline section of Mountain Brook) was a matter of public record. It was in her divorce/child custody case, as plainly can be seen below:
The parties were divorced . . . on October 21, 2009 . . . [and] the parties have joint legal and physical custody of their minor child. . . . The Plaintiff (hereinafter "Mother") initially petitioned this court on December 9, 2010, for full custody of the minor child due to a material change in circumstances, and included in her petition notification of an anticipated relocation. The Defendant (hereinafter "Father") responded, objecting to the proposed relocation, and counter-petitioned for a modification of custody. The Mother was able to secure alternate employment that did not require her to move more than sixty (60) miles from the residence of the Father, and she amended her Petition for Modification of Custody accordingly. The Mother's new address is 119 Main Street, Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Father's address remains 1609 Alaca Place, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
That's how I found Jessica Garrison's address, by looking up a record that could not be more public. Anyone else on the planet could do the same thing by walking in the Jefferson County Courthouse, going to the clerk's office on the fifth floor (or third, I can't remember which) and asking to see the Lee Garrison/Jessica Garrison child-custody case out of Tuscaloosa County. So much for my investigative superpowers, but I guess Garrison wanted to have a moment of hysteria on the stand. That a lawyer could not figure out her address was available on her recent divorce/custody case . . . well, it blows the mind.
Luther Strange tells a tall tale that hides Bill Baxley's underhanded tactics
Strange addresses Dothan blogger Rickey Stokes and his coverage of the Strange/Garrison affair, noting that Stokes had pursued the story aggressively before apparently backing off. Strange doesn't say why Stokes backed off, but the reason has been obvious for quite some time -- especially for those who read this blog.
From page 17 of the transcript, as Baxley questions Strange:
Q. Okay. Now, let me ask you this: Did Ricky Stokes write something in his blog adversely to you on that occasion, the first occasion?
A. On the first occasion, he had repeated -- and I don't have the exact chronology, but he had repeated the allegations that the Legal Schnauzer had made.
Q. So he repeated something that Mr. Shuler had written?
A. That's correct.
Q. Subsequent to that, after that did Ricky Stokes later publicly in his blog apologize to you and say he didn't believe what he had written?
A. He did subsequently publish something that said these allegations I believe are highly questionable and backed off of his previous reporting.
We've reported on all of this here at Legal Schnauzer, and we know exactly what happened. We also know that Strange and Baxley pull some con artistry here on the court. Follow us briefly on this timeline of relevant events:
* July 31, 2013 -- We publish a post about Strange's refusal to answer Rickey Stokes' questions regarding the then-attorney general's extramarital affair with Jessica Garrison. That's the first Stokes article Strange references in his testimony above.
* August 21, 2013 -- We publish a post about Stokes' reversal, where he claims my reporting is "highly questionable as to truth and accuracy." This is the second Stokes article Strange references in his testimony. Stokes says his reversal is based on a conversation with a source he "would trust with my life in his hands." We note that the source likely is someone connected to the Baxley family, which is from Stokes' home base of Dothan. And we note that the source probably did not disclose that Bill Baxley was representing Jessica Garrison in her lawsuit, giving him a vested interest in trying to discredit me. We suggest that Rickey Stokes and his readers have been conned.
* September 30, 2013 -- We publish a post in which Stokes admits Bill Baxley conned him into writing the post that claimed my reporting was "questionable." From our post about Rickey Stokes and his public confession that Bill Baxley conned him:
In a comment posted to wiregrasslive.com at 1:48 p.m. on September 1, Stokes confirms that our suspicions were right on target: Bill Baxley was the source of his post claiming our reporting was "highly questionable"-- and Baxley did not disclose his personal stake in the matter, via his threatened lawsuit on Jessica Garrison's behalf. . . .
Translation: Bill Baxley blew copious amounts of smoke up Rickey Stokes' anal cavity -- and Stokes fell for it.
Perhaps I have a warped sense of humor, but I found both of these pieces of testimony amusing, especially when you know their backstories -- as I do, and as I've outlined here. To be sure, however, these are serious matters.
Consider a few questions:
* Was Luther Strange, Alabama's chief law-enforcement officer and now a U.S. senator, involved in Bill Baxley's con job on Rickey Stokes? Did Strange come up with the idea, or did he at least know it was going to happen, to help make sure Stokes no longer would confront him with uncomfortable questions in public places? If so, is that the kind of man Alabamians want representing them in the U.S. Senate?
* If Jessica Garrison had such a strong defamation case against me, why did Baxley (and maybe Strange) resort to chicanery involving Rickey Stokes? Why did Baxley, Strange, and Garrison take all sorts of underhanded steps to ensure they would not have to engage in discovery, go to trial, or testify under oath before a jury?
Humor aside, the testimony highlighted above adds to the evidence that Jessica Garrison never had a legitimate defamation case -- and she, or someone close to her -- made sure my wife, Carol, and I were subjected to a wrongful foreclosure, ensuring that I would be in Missouri and not in Birmingham to defend myself.
As a victim of police violence three times in less than four years -- and in each case, I committed no crime and engaged in no misconduct of any kind -- I have a perspective on this that might be different from many. In fact, I will admit that perhaps my view is skewed by my personal experience. But the bottom line is this: I've seen, up close, how some police officers can act like thugs, beasts, and outlaws. And I wonder if it might be time for the public to adopt extreme measures to protect ourselves.
One state already has adopted an extreme measure. In 2012, Indiana passed a law that allows citizens to use deadly force against any public servant they believe is unlawfully entering their home, vehicle, or real property. The term "public servant" includes law-enforcement officers.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) pushed for the law, and normally, I don't agree with the NRA on much of anything. But let's consider what has happened to my wife, Carol, and me since fall 2013:
* From roughly September 23 to October 30, 2013,Alabama deputies made about a dozen visits to our property, for no apparent lawful reason, shortly after my reports about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography. They even came at night, shining lights in our windows and banging on the doors. We later learned the cops supposedly were trying to serve court papers in a lawsuit filed by GOP thug Rob "Uday" Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, (Some of the visits were apparent efforts to arrest Carol, in the week after I had been thrown in jail.) A lawyer who later reviewed the sealed file said it showed no summons had been issued during the apparent service attempts. That means the service attempts were unlawful and suggests the officers were trying to unlawfully arrest us all along. The Indiana law states, in part:
(i) A person is justified in using reasonable force against a public servant if the person reasonably believes the force is necessary to:
(3) prevent or terminate the public servant’s unlawful trespass on or criminal interference with property lawfully in the person’s possession, lawfully in possession of a member of the person’s immediate family, or belonging to a person whose property the person has authority to protect.
Under the Indiana law, Carol and I could have shot each officer as he/she stepped onto our property. Is that a result we would have wanted? No. Are extreme measures needed in an era where law-enforcement officers seem to think they can violate civil rights with impunity? Maybe.
* On September 29, 2013,Alabama deputy Mike DeHart blocked our vehicle as Carol and I pulled into a parking space at the North Shelby County Library. DeHart claimed I had rolled through a stop sign, wrote me a warning, and then handed me court papers in a lawsuit filed by GOP thug Rob "Uday" Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, saying, "Mr. Shuler, you've been served." When it became clear the purpose of the stop was to give me court papers -- and I had not committed a traffic violation -- I realized DeHart had committed a blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment. After I sent a few choice words in his direction -- calling him a "fraud," with perhaps a few qualifying adjectives -- he yanked on our open car door, grabbed my arm, and tried to pull me out of the vehicle. Carol let out a shriek that hinted she was about to jump his ass, right there with parents and children walking about. That apparently shocked some sense into DeHart, and he retreated to his vehicle, moved it, and we drove off.
Under Indiana law, Carol or I could have shot DeHart when he attempted to enter our vehicle. Is that a desirable outcome? No. What other options does a citizen have against cops who knowingly go rogue, especially when judges clearly favor cops in civil-rights lawsuits?
* On October 23, 2013,Alabama Deputy Chris Blevins drove his squad car down our driveway as I was trying to pull into the garage, nearly hitting both our car and our house. I was startled when he honked his horn, but I managed to raise the door and pull the car in. When I got out of the car, Blevins was standing inside our garage, near our car's rear bumper. He asked me to step outside, without showing a warrant, saying he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being there. I told him to get out of our basement/garage, which was part of our home. Next thing I knew, Blevins was pushing and shoving me, knocking me to a concrete floor three times and dousing me with pepper spray.
Under Indiana law, I could have shot Blevins the minute he set foot in our garage, maybe earlier.
* On September 9, 2015,more than a half dozen Greene County deputies burst into our duplex apartment in Springfield, Missouri, for an eviction that, by law, was stayed because we had timely filed a notice of appeal. Every lawyer involved in the case had been notified of the appeal and resulting stay, but the landlord and deputies decided to evict us anyway. Carol and I had assault rifles and multiple pistols pointed at us, and a deputy slammed Carol to the ground and yanked on her arms so viciously that it broke her left arm. The damage was so severe it required repair by a trauma surgeon, and Carol is expected to regain only 75 percent or so usage.
Under Indiana law, Carol or I could have shot each officer as he (or she) burst through our front door.
Do I like the contents of Indiana's law? Well, I'm not sure that I do. I would prefer to live in a country where law-enforcement officers behave honorably, respecting the law and the rights of citizens. But we don't have that. And the latest statistics indicate officers have not learned from all the horrific mistakes they have made in recent years.
So, what do we do? My experience suggests we are more likely to need protection from cops, instead of protection by cops. Experience also teaches that cops are likely to lie about and cover up their misdeeds -- and judges are likely to favor cops over citizens who have been abused, even on camera.
The Indiana law does not allow citizens to just start firing away at cops. It says a citizen must "(a) reasonably believe the public servant is attempting to enter their home illegally; and (b) use no more force than is reasonably necessary to dispel the threat to their lives or property." Given that cops tend to be heavily armed, it seems reasonable force against them would almost always include use of a firearm.
A number of downsides to the Indiana law quickly come to mind:
* No matter how much weaponry a private citizen owns, a cop will usually be more heavily armed. The citizen is at a disadvantage;
* No matter how well trained a citizen is in the use of weaponry, a cop almost always will be better trained. The citizen is at a disadvantage;
* An untrained citizen with a firearm can be a dangerous thing. An individual, intending to shoot a rogue cop, might be more likely to shoot himself, a family member, a pet, or a neighbor. Flying bullets don't always go where they are supposed to go.
What about possible upsides? I can think of a couple:
* In a nation that is dysfunctional enough to "elect" Donald Trump, and watch him anoint Jeff Sessions as attorney general, maybe we all should be prepared to protect ourselves. Our justice system has been decaying for years -- heck, that's the whole reason this blog exists -- but it's painful to imagine how badly our constitutional rights could be trampled under Trump. Maybe we need to adopt a "Wild West" ethos and say, "Screw the justice system. It's not going to protect you, so you had better be prepared to protect yourself -- even against cops."
* Consider this question: Would the cops who abused Carol and me in the three violent instances described above have given it a second thought if they had known we might fight back, lawfully, with deadly force? Would they have been less likely to enter our property, our homes, and try to enter our vehicle, if they knew they might pay with their lives?
I suspect the answer to both questions is yes. I've learned that a lot of cops are stupid, but I don't think they are so stupid that they can't grasp the concept of self-preservation. A lot of police misconduct probably is driven by arrogance -- the knowledge that the firepower, and the courts, are on their side, even when they are acting contrary to law.
Would some of that arrogance drain away if more states adopted laws like the one in Indiana? It probably would. And that's why, while I'm not wild about the Indiana law, I'm not ready to write it off, either.
|Judge Dave Proctor and wife, Teresa, with children Jake,|
Shelly, Luke, and daughter-in-law Dana.
In a stunning turn of events, the federal judge who repeatedly made unlawful rulings in our "House Case," has stepped down in the matter. In an event that was not stunning, the judge was utterly dishonest in stating his reasons for stepping down -- and his absence, so far, has done nothing to promote the cause of justice. That's because the judge who replaced him already has proven to be as bad, if not worse.
Judge R. David Proctor stepped down in an order, dated February 23, that might be the most duplicitous piece of legal "reasoning" I've encountered -- and that is saying something. My wife, Carol, and I had moved for Proctor's recusal on February 9, based mainly on his crooked ties to former U.S. Senator and current Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Our motion to recuse and Proctor's order in response to it are embedded at the end of this post.)
How sleazy a pair are Proctor and Sessions? It's a matter of public record that, while in private practice, Proctor helped get former U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon (the first black federal judge in Alabama history) removed from a 1990s case in which Sessions was a defendant, as Alabama's attorney general. The Proctor-Sessions scheme, described in one court opinion as "unethical conduct," added to the mountain of evidence that Sessions is a racist. (The latest news about Sessions and bigotry came out yesterday.)
Proctor and his firm at the time (Lehr Middlebrooks Price and Proctor) made it a practice to use dubious tactics to get Clemon removed from cases. That strongly suggests Proctor is a racist, too, and that issue becomes particularly powerful when you read an Eleventh Circuit opinion in a case styled In re: BellSouth Corporation, 334, F. 3d 941 (11th Cir., 2003). We will take a close look at that case in upcoming posts, but suffice to say it makes Proctor and his former firm look like courtroom crooks.
His most recent order in "The House Case" makes it appear Proctor hasn't changed much. Why do Proctor's ties to Sessions matter in our case, and why did we cite them in our Motion to Recuse? Well, at least four defendants in the case -- Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Rob Riley, Cliff Sims, and Yellowhammer News -- have documented and strong affiliations with Sessions. Given that Proctor almost certainly owes his federal appointment during the George W. Bush years to Sessions, you can see where a glaring conflict of interest enters the picture.
With all of his unlawful rulings in "The House Case," is Proctor trying to protect Sessions' cronies? It's hard to imagine a rational person not asking that question. But R. David Proctor, supposedly a "devout Christian" from Briarwood Presbyterian Church (PCA), does not want to go there. In fact, he twists himself into a pretzel trying to make it appear he hasn't been cheating us all along.
Try not to laugh when you read the following: Proctor claims in his order that he is denying our Motion to Recuse, but he must recuse anyway. Then, he admits he's had a conflict since the beginning of our case, but claims it only surfaced recently. (I warned you: This guy deals in heavy-duty cow feces, the kind that emits dreadful odors in barnyards across the country.)
You can almost feel Proctor's indignation and self-righteousness jumping off the page of his order. And he starts by taking shots at us, something he's done since the earliest days of the case by referring to us as "frequent filers":
Before the court is a motion to recuse the undersigned, and every other judge in this district, from further participation in this case. . . . Similar to their pleadings in this case, Plaintiffs’ motion makes wild, implausible allegations that resemble Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon in their effort to connect the alleged plotters in a bizarre, fantastic conspiracy. (Note: Proctor fails to mention the reason all judges in the district, and in the Eleventh Circuit, should recuse. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, with his duty station at the Hugo Black Courthouse, is essentially Proctor's boss/overlord -- and Pryor is a defendant in our "Jail Case," which is loosely related to our "House Case.")
Pulling the old Kevin Bacon bit out of his white, doughy ass? Boy, that takes some creativity on Proctor's part. Then, get this: After denying our Motion to Recuse, Proctor admits our allegations of his conflict are not so "wild" and "implausible" after all. In fact, they are true:
Nevertheless, for reasons wholly unrelated to the “arguments” made in the motion, the undersigned hereby RECUSES himself from further participation in this case. On February 10, 2017, approximately four weeks after the court’s dismissal order was entered, Luther Strange, a party-defendant in this action before its dismissal, was sworn in as Alabama’s newest United States Senator. One of Senator Strange’s initial hires is a young staffer who worked on Senator Jeff Sessions’ staff (until then Senator Sessions’ appointment as the 84th Attorney General of the United States) and who is related to the undersigned. Based upon these events, which occurred after the court’s dismissal of this action, it is appropriate for the undersigned to RECUSE.
Talk about "wild,""implausible," and "fantastic"! Let's break down what Proctor is saying here:
(1) He denies our Motion to Recuse, but twice states (in BIG LETTERS) that he "recuses" himself. It, however, has nothing to do with our motion. Ummm . . . Hmmm. (You get a lifetime appointment with this kind of "thinking," folks.)
(2) He claims the conflict arose a couple of weeks ago when Luther Strange became U.S. senator and started hiring staffers. But he admits the young staffer in question, now a Strange employee, had worked for Sessions for quite some time. This tells us: (a) That the Sessions-related conflicts outlined in our Motion to Recuse are, in fact, on target; and (b) The conflicts date to the beginning of our case, showing that (in Proctor's own words) every one of his rulings is tainted and should, by law, be vacated.
(3) Notice that Proctor refuses to note the multiple defendants in our case who are closely tied to Sessions -- and there is zero doubt Proctor knows this, given his own documented ties to Sessions. But he tries to make the issue about Luther Strange and one of the senator's new employees. Does anyone else find it nauseating to be exposed to such blatant con artistry? R. David Proctor is nothing more than "a worm with a robe."
(4) Isn't it curious that the young Strange employee, who used to work for Sessions, doesn't have a name -- and his relation to Proctor is not spelled out? Why is that?
(5) Proctor wants us to believe his conflict had nothing to do with dismissal of our case. But he admits his relative's ties to Sessions go back awhile. That means Proctor has been conflicted out the wazoo from the beginning of our case, but he is too big a worm to admit it.
A reasonable person might think, "Well, with Proctor off the case, Mr. and Mrs. Schnauzer now should get a fair shake." Such a person would be hopelessly unfamiliar with the reality of our broken court system. After Proctor stepped down, the case landed with U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins, another George W. Bush appointee.
It took Hopkins exactly four days to prove she is just as corrupt as Proctor. Four days! She must have taken review of the case seriously, right?
Your tax dollars are supporting this kind of skulduggery -- and Hopkins, like Proctor, does not even try to hide what she's doing.
(To be continued)
|Jeff Sessions and Jake Proctor|
Jake Proctor, a 2016 graduate of the University of Alabama, started working as a staffer in the United States Senate on January 3 of this year, according to his Facebook page. The post does not say he was employed with Luther Strange at that time -- in fact, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley did not announce Strange's appointment to the Senate until Feb. 9 -- but Judge Proctor said his reason for recusing was that someone "related" to him had gone to work for Strange.
A number of questions remain unanswered about the circumstances behind Proctor's recusal, but this much seems clear:
* The unnamed relative was Jake Proctor, the judge's son;
* Something is fishy, or at least highly curious, about the dates related to Proctor's recusal and his son's employment in the Senate;
* Jake Proctor, according to his Facebook page, also has worked for former U.S. Senator and current Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Judge Proctor wrote in the order recusing himself that his relative had worked for Sessions before joining Strange's staff.
That last item might be the most important of all, in light of Judge Proctor's serial conflicts in our case. It also gets interesting, timely, and of national scope when you consider this question: If young Mr. Proctor considers Jeff Sessions to be "a warrior for the conservative movement," how does that square with last night's Washington Post story about Sessions' meetings with a Russian envoy during the 2016 campaign? How does that square with evidence that Sessions lied to Congress about the meetings? Does young Mr. Proctor have any clue that his "conservative warrior" is a profoundly corrupt individual?
In a caption to a photo of himself with Jeff Sessions, Jake Proctor writes the following:
April 12, 2016
This morning I was reflecting on my time in DC last summer. It was such an honor to work for Senator Jeff Sessions. Being on the defense team, I was able to see first hand the dangers our country faces, but I was also able to see the great work that Senator Sessions and his staff do for the people of Alabama. He is truly a warrior for the conservative movement and works daily to make this country a better place.
Notice the date on the caption -- April 12, 2016 -- and its reference to the previous summer. The words indicate Jake Proctor worked for Jeff Sessions in summer 2015. That was long before we filed our complaint in "The House Case" on March 26, 2016. It means Jake Proctor had worked for Sessions well in advance of our filing -- and Judge Proctor had every reason to know that at least four defendants in our case were closely aligned with his son's boss.
Bottom line: The moment "The House Case" was filed, Judge Proctor knew he had a conflict that required his recusal. But he stayed on the case, even after we had filed one recusal motion that should have jogged his memory about any conflicts. Judge Proctor did not step down until after we had filed our second recusal motion in early February -- and he claimed it was due to Strange's recent staff hirings, even though the judge's conflicts date at least to his son's employment with Jeff Sessions in summer 2015.
|Jake Proctor at Trump ball|
* Jake Proctor says he went to work as a Senate staffer on Jan. 3, 2017, but Luther Strange was not appointed to the Senate until more than one month later. Was Jake Proctor working for Sessions, even though the latter already had been nominated as Trump's attorney general, and then switched to Strange? Did someone know, well in advance, that Bentley was going to appoint Strange to fill Sessions' seat, and that made Jake Proctor comfortable about getting an early start on the job?
* Judge Proctor claimed in his recusal order that he dismissed "The House Case" before the issue of his son's employment with Strange came up. But if Jake Proctor was working in the Senate on Jan. 3, and his boss was Luther Strange, that isn't true. To be precise, Judge Proctor dismissed our case on Jan. 13, 10 days after his son went to work for somebody in the Senate. The latest version we can find of Sessions' Senate staff directory does not list Jake Proctor -- and one wonders why Sessions would make a new Senate hire when he knew he had been nominated as attorney general. All of that suggests Jake Proctor went to work for Luther Strange on Jan. 3 -- before Strange formally had been announced as Sessions' successor -- and Judge Proctor flat-out lied in a court order.
Either way, a disqualified judge decided our case -- and that isn't a matter of discretion for Proctor; a disqualified judge must step down, and he didn't do it.
While many questions remain about Judge Proctor's recusal, there is little doubt that he was disqualified from the outset of our case; it's only a matter of whether he admits it in his recusal order. The important thing is this: All of Proctor's orders in "The House Case," and in the related "Jail Case, must be vacated.
Proctor's name always tends to bring the word "deceit" to mind, so let's leave on this note: Why did the judge fail to reveal that the relative was his son, and his name is Jake Proctor? Was Judge Proctor wanting to give the impression that it was a distant relative, someone he barely knows? Was Judge Proctor trying to paint a picture that he's only mildly corrupt, rather than wildly corrupt?
We'll let readers decide that question for themselves. For me, it points to a judge who is dishonest to his core.
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|Jeff Sessions announces his recusal|
You might say Jeff Sessions is a crooked bigot, or a bigoted crook. Either way, his widely reported tendency to use racist language is not his only "distinctive" feature. He also is fundamentally dishonest, as the nation has learned in the past 38 hours or so. Sessions yesterday recused himself from any investigation related to the Trump-Russia scandal, and prominent Democrats are calling for him to resign. Even some of the nation's sleaziest Republicans are having trouble defending him, which makes us think Sessions soon will hit the exits, probably within a week.
How much doo-doo might Sessions have stepped in? An article by Zack Beauchamp, of vox.com, provides the best analysis I've seen. The headline on his story: "Legal experts think Jeff Sessions is in a whole mess of trouble." From the article:
The million-dollar questions: Did Sessions break the law? And, if so, could he lose his job — or even be charged with perjury like someone who lied in court? To find out, we reached out to several legal experts who study relevant topics. The general sense was that if Sessions didn’t commit outright perjury, he came uncomfortably close.
“I think a jury presented with evidence that he did have meetings with the Russians during the relevant time period could conclude that he perjured himself in front of the Senate committee,” Stuart Green, a law professor at Rutgers who studies the law of lying, wrote via email.
Sessions' ouster can't come soon enough for me. I lived in Alabama for more than 35 years -- and I hope to return there, sooner rather than later -- so I've seen his chicanery up close. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've felt it personally in recent days. Perhaps that's because I've reported many times on this blog about the underhandedness that seems to permeate the actions of Sessions and those affiliated with him. Here are just a few examples from the Legal Schnauzer archives:
Using "unethical conduct" to steer clear of a black judge
In a 1990s civil case, Sessions retained the Birmingham law firm of Lehr Middlebrooks Price and Proctor to represent him in a case styled USX v. Tieco, where Sessions (as Alabama attorney general) was a defendant. Why did Sessions choose that firm? Well, partner Terry Price is the nephew of U.W. Clemon, the first black federal judge in Alabama history. Hiring Price was a not-so-subtle form of "judge shopping." Clemon had built his career by representing plaintiffs and taking on powerful corporations and institutions in civil-rights cases, and Sessions knew such a judge might not view him and his activities favorably. Hiring Price forced Clemon to recuse himself, and that became such a common practice in Alabama legal circles that The Wall Street Journal wrote about it. An opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals described such actions as "unethical conduct." But Sessions used them anyway, with the help of another Lehr Middlebrooks partner, R. David Proctor. (Remember that name.) By the way, the USX case also generated a criminal case, in which a former Alabama state judge said Sessions' office had engaged in "pronounced and persistent" prosecutorial misconduct.
Having your crony judge cheat a journalist who has reported on GOP corruption
This one gets personal. My wife, Carol, and I have two pending federal lawsuits -- "The Jail Case" (re: my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County) and "The House Case" (re: the wrongful foreclosure on our Birmingham home of 25 years.) Both cases just happened to wind up with R. David Proctor. Yes, that's the same guy who helped Sessions steer clear of Judge U.W. Clemon. Perhaps as a thank you from Jeff Sessions, Proctor wound up with a lifetime appointment on the federal bench. From that lofty perch, in the Northern District of Alabama, Proctor repeatedly has cheated us in both of our cases. Gee, could that be because at least five defendants -- Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Cliff Sims, Rob Riley, Yellowhammer News, and Bill Pryor -- are closely aligned with Sessions? Proctor recently recused himself from one of our cases, when his conflicts became so glaring that even he had to acknowledge them. In fact, that sounds a whole lot like Sessions' recusal in the Russia scandal. Is this a case of "like mentor, like judge"? Has Jeff Sessions, or someone affiliated with him, instructed Proctor to cheat us in order to protect his cronies who are defendants? Given what the world has learned about Sessions in the past two days, that question is not unreasonable at all. If the answer is yes, it points to a crime called obstruction of justice -- to go along with lying to Congress, which already is obvious with Sessions in the Russia matter.
Being a closeted homosexual who is vulnerable to blackmail
One of the worst-kept "secrets" in Alabama politics is that Sessions is a closeted homosexual. D.C.-based Wayne Madsen was the first journalist to report on the subject, and he showed how the "secret" has been used against Sessions. When President Obama nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court, reports had Sessions determined to block her. That changed, Madsen reports, when the Obama administration (in a rare show of toughness) let it be known it was prepared to drop "The G Bomb" on Sessions if he tried to obstruct. And what do you know? Sotomayor made it smoothly onto the Supreme Court.
Paying late-night visits to the home of your youthful protege
After Sessions was elected to the U.S. Senate, he strongly pushed for his youthful deputy, Bill Pryor, to be appointed as his successor. After Pryor spent a few years in that post, Sessions pushed for him to be nominated to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. When Vladimir Putin selected Donald Trump as president, Sessions pushed for Pryor to fill Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. (The nod went to Neil Gorsuch of Colorado.) Is Sessions overwhelmed with admiration of Pryor's legal abilities? No, it appears he admires more than that about Pryor. We already know about nude photos of Pryor that appeared at the gay-porn Web site badpuppy.com in the 1990s. Perhaps Sessions knew of his former deputy's proclivities. After Alabama law-enforcement officials became aware of the badpuppy.com photos, they were concerned about possible blackmail of the new state AG. They conducted surveillance on Pryor's residence and caught Sessions making frequent late-night visits. Were they studying briefs? Maybe, but we doubt they were the legal kind. (See video embedded at the end of this post.)
Paving the way for the political prosecution of Don Siegelman
Former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, a Democrat, recently was released to home detention from federal prison. That Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy spent more than a combined 12 years in prison, is one of the most grave injustices of the modern era. And Jeff Sessions helped make it happen. How? First, he pushed for his favorite "boy," Bill Pryor to become Alabama AG -- and Pryor launched a state investigation of Siegelman that turned into a federal probe, driven by the wife of Karl Rove crony Bill Canary. Sessions also supported Mark Fuller for a seat on the federal bench in the Middle District of Alabama, and Sessions likely knew of plans to make Fuller "hanging judge" in the Siegelman case. Fuller allowed the prosecution to proceed, even though it was brought almost a full year after the five-year statute of limitations had expired. Fuller allowed a hopelessly compromised jury to convict, even though the trial produced zero evidence of an illegal quid pro quo ("something for something") agreement. Does the Siegelman case happen without Jeff Sessions? Almost certainly not.
Supporting a judge who proves to be a wife beater
How poor is Jeff Sessions' judgment? Well, he supported Mark Fuller as a federal judge. That's a lifetime appointment, the kind that is damned near impossible to lose. But Fuller managed to lose it, following his arrest for beating his second wife in an Atlanta hotel room. Documents from his divorce case indicated Fuller had abused his first wife and their children, while also drinking heavily, engaging in extramarital affairs, and abusing prescription painkillers.
Evidence suggests Jeff Sessions would not know someone with integrity if the person landed on the AG's little tiny hands. Maybe that's because Sessions lacks integrity himself, as the whole world now is finding out.
|George Washington law professor Jonathan Turley|
I already have stated that I don't think the Trump attorney general, who got away with all kinds of sleaze while serving as Alabama's attorney general and junior U.S. senator, can survive his current pickle -- and I doubt he will make it through the coming week. Sessions might survive longer than I think, if for no other reason than Republicans control Congress, and they've indicated they intend to protect him.
The only likely avenues for Sessions to survive are prosecutorial incompetence and investigative limp-wristedness -- both of which are distinct possibilities. It's early in the process, but here are some key questions we can answer now:
* Did Sessions lie to Congress? Yes, that can't be seriously disputed.
* Is that a crime? Yes, and it can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. At a bare minimum, Sessions should be in serious trouble for lying to, or misleading, Congress.
* Did Sessions commit perjury? It's too early to answer this one. A willful state of mind is a key component of this crime, so a serious investigation almost certainly is required before making a determination on criminal charges. (My guess? Yes, Sessions committed perjury.)
* Will Sessions stay in his job? If a FISA judge OK'd wiretapping on Trump Tower, it likely captured damning evidence against any number of Trump officials, including Sessions. Even a standard investigation -- unearthing e-mails, texts, notes, memoranda, testimony of aides -- is likely to provide troubling facts about Sessions' communications with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. If any investigation is led by committed, clear-eyed professionals, it's hard to see how Sessions survives.
How has this story tripped up some of our top legal analysts. Consider George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, a regular on various cable-news shows and a master at handling complex legal questions with succinct, understandable answers. Turley has written that, based on what we know now, Sessions was correct to recuse himself from the Russia case, but he probably did not commit perjury.
Turley reached this conclusion primarily by analyzing the question U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) asked Sessions. The problem is that Franken did not ask the question Sessions answered, as made clear in this article at the Washington Examiner. From the article, by Phillip Klein;
Now that we know Sessions did speak to the Russian ambassador in 2016, the disagreement has mostly focused on whether or not Sessions' denial of contact with Russian officials was a clear lie, a truthful assertion that he did not have contact in his capacity as a representative of the Trump campaign, or something in between meant to obfuscate the truth. But there's a weird aspect to all of this that's being neglected: Sessions did not have to volunteer that he didn't have contact with the Russians, because Franken never asked him about it.
In the relevant part of the exchange, which was posted by my colleague Pete Kasperowicz, Franken mentions a CNN story about ongoing contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign. Franken then asks Sessions: "if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?
So Franken was actually asking Sessions, were he confirmed as attorney general, how he would handle evidence about any communications. Sessions could have dismissed the question, saying he doesn't want to respond to hypotheticals. Or, he could have given a generic answer, such as saying that as the nation's top law enforcement officer, he would always want to make sure that the law was followed and that evidence of wrongdoing was properly evaluated.
But he did neither of those things. Instead, he responded to a question that Franken never asked, about whether he had contact with Russians."Sen. Franken, I'm not aware of any of those activities," Sessions said. "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians, and I'm unable to comment on it."
Since Franken did not ask the question that Sessions answered, it seems the "question" should be put on the side burner, for now. In essence, Sessions did not answer a question; he made a simple declarative statement -- "I did not have communications with the Russians" -- and we know that is false.
Under those circumstances, it's hard to see how Sessions avoids some sort of criminal charge here. Turley provides insight on some of the less-than-perjury charges the AG could face:
Of course, there are other charges like misleading Congress and “misleading” is defined broadly under federal law. . . .
Some have suggested that this is, at a minimum, a failure to give full and accurate testimony to the Senate, the basis for the misdemeanor charge against Richard G. Kleindienst. In his confirmation hearing, Kleindienst was asked about whether anyone had spoken to him about the antitrust case against International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (I.T.T.). He said that he had not. Later Leon Jaworski revealed a phone call in which Nixon told Kleindiesnt to drop the I.T.T. case. Kleindienst insisted that he had not thought the question was open ended but rather confirmed to a certain period.
As for perjury, legal analyst and author Jeffrey Toobin makes clear it is too early to reach a conclusion. Writing at The New Yorker, Toobin says the Sessions matter requires a thorough and careful investigation:
Partisans on both sides have been quick to convict or exonerate Sessions of any wrongdoing, but no final judgment is appropriate at this time. What’s needed is a full investigation—and here’s a guide to how such an inquiry might proceed.
In public statements after the Post’s disclosure, Sessions and his supporters offered various defenses of his conduct. They said Sessions didn’t remember his meetings with the Russian Ambassador; they said Sessions was meeting with Kislyak in Sessions’s role as a senator on the Armed Services Committee, rather than as a Trump campaign surrogate, which, they argued, made his response to Franken technically accurate, given the question he’d been asked; they said, furthermore, that the conversation between Sessions and Kislyak involved diplomatic, not campaign, matters, an additional indication that Sessions’s statement to the committee was accurate in context. These defenses may have merit. All the criminal laws involving false statements to Congress are so-called specific-intent crimes; in order to be found guilty, the defendant must intend to deceive. A faulty memory is a good defense. Likewise, establishing that a statement is literally true, even if misleading, is also a valid defense.
But all of Sessions’s possible defenses, as well as the details of a possible case against him, rest on facts—facts that are not yet known. This is what an investigation should disclose. For example, was anyone else present during the meetings between Sessions and Kislyak? If so, that person might confirm whether campaign matters were discussed, and if so, how much of a focus of the conversation they were. A third party could also help determine how long the meetings were; it’s easier to forget a meeting that lasts ten minutes than one that goes on for an hour. Likewise, how often did Sessions meet with Kislyak, or with any ambassador? There is nothing inappropriate about a senator meeting with an ambassador, but if Sessions had such encounters only rarely, it would be harder to credit his explanation that he simply forgot this one.
What is central to such an investigation? Toobin spells it out:
As in most investigations, the key evidence is likely to be documents, rather than testimony, because contemporaneous records are often more reliable than memories. Did Sessions or an aide take notes about the Kislyak meeting? Are there e-mails setting it up? (If a Sessions office e-mail said, “The Ambassador wants to talk about arms control,” that would be significant and exculpatory; if an e-mail said, “The Ambassador wants to talk about the campaign,” that would be relevant in a different way.) Did Sessions himself get e-mails or memos from his staff about the Kislyak meetings in advance or as follow-ups? Those would provide useful clues about what was said between the two men.
This goes to one of the legal lessons we have learned here at Legal Schnauzer -- a guilty, corrupt, or liable party almost always is desperate to avoid discovery, whether the case is criminal or civil.
If documents like the ones Toobin describes make their way to public eyes, it likely will spell bad news for Jeff Sessions.
Before leaving office as Alabama attorney general, to replace Jeff Sessions in the Senate, Strange filed perjury charges against incoming Jefferson County District Attorney Charles Todd Henderson -- and he did it before Henderson even could take office. Now, as a U.S. senator, Strange has issued a stream of excuses for the false statements Sessions made during his confirmation hearing as Trump AG.
How does one explain Strange's wildly differing viewpoints? Could the explanation simply be that Henderson is a Democrat, and Sessions is a Republican? Does lying under oath become serious, in StrangeWorld, only when the alleged perpetrator is a member of the opposing party? The answer seems to be yes.
Get a load of this press release from Strange's office, dated Jan. 13, 2017, announcing Henderson's indictment:
Attorney General Luther Strange announced the indictment today of Jefferson County’s district attorney-elect, Charles Todd Henderson, on a felony perjury charge. Henderson surrendered this afternoon at the Jefferson County Jail.
Attorney General Strange’s Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a special grand jury in Jefferson County, resulting in Henderson’s indictment today. This action was taken following an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office on information received from the Alabama State Bar in December of 2016.
Henderson is charged with one count of perjury under Code of Alabama §13A-10-101, which is a class C felony. Specifically, the indictment charges that Henderson did swear falsely and gave a false statement material to a proceeding before Judge Patricia Stephens in the case of Charbel Akl v. Yareima Carmen Valecillos Akl on September 26, 2016.
The indictment does not specify what false statement Henderson supposedly made -- but Strange charged him with perjury anyway. As for Sessions, it can't be seriously disputed that he made a false statement under oath. But Strange doesn't seem to take that seriously. Consider the new senator's words from a recent interview with Neil Cavuto, of Fox News:
CAVUTO: What do you make of this? Do you think that omission of a meeting is the same as lying about that meeting?
STRANGE: Well, I think Senator Sessions did a great job in his press conference clarifying the situation that occurred and correcting the record.
I have known Jeff an awful long time. And I'm more than certain that he would never intentionally mislead anyone. And I think he made that clear. In the context of the question he was asked, it was all about the campaign. And so I think it's -- as he understood the question, it was truthful.
Jeff Sessions "would never intentionally mislead anyone"? How does Luther Strange know that? How can he justify such a blanket statement? Is Strange saying that making false statements under oath isn't a concern if he has known you for "an awful long time"?
Here is more from the strange interview with Cavuto:
CAVUTO: But much of what had been the minute before this was about surrogates and their role and their discussions with the Russians.
And that would be, if I were being asked the question, I would be thinking, all right, now, he's asking as a campaign operative here what I did.
So, that, I understand. But -- but that is a big meeting not to recall or at least add on, and just to say, well, I did meet with the Russian ambassador in my office not very far from here on other matters, as you all do, as my colleagues on the left and right do all the time.
CAVUTO: But he didn't do that and he didn't clarify that.
And even later on, as he could have, he didn't provide an addendum even in writing or a report or a file. And that's what sort of is feeding this call for him to go way beyond recusing, to stepping down.
Now, that is probably extreme. That's political. I understand how your town works.
CAVUTO: But do you think he gave them the ammunition for that by not doing the kind of things that you would think, being considered for the highest legal office in the land, you do?
STRANGE: I really don't -- I don't think he did, Neil.
I think he was very clear in his written comments when he had time to reflect on it. This was a breaking news story at the time. And so I don't think that's the case at all.
What I would point out, because I sat through the entire day of these hearings before the Judiciary Committee as a private citizen and a friend of Senator Sessions, the attitude and the methodology of going after Senator Sessions has been well-established by the Democrats.
They said certain things about his record that were totally untrue and really mischaracterized his record as a senator and as a person, frankly. And I think it was very unfair to him. I think this is a continuation of that effort. And it goes way beyond Senator Sessions.
It really goes at trying to undermine the Trump presidency.
CAVUTO: All right.
Notice how Strange pivots to Sessions' written statements, and political matters, since it's nearly impossible to defend the AG's false oral statements to Al Franken. And Strange's official comments, as reported by Alabama Political Reporter, are even more nonsensical:
US Senator Luther Strange (R-Alabama) said, “I have not been in Washington very long, but I did not think Democrats could stoop much lower than they did during Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing. As we found out today, they can, and the hypocrisy of it is hard to stomach. For eight years, Democrats turned a blind eye to serious breaches of public trust, but they did not miss a beat in trying to undermine President Trump’s administration as it gets to work cleaning up their mess."
Memo to "Lutha": Democrats did not break the story of Sessions' false statements to Congress; America's free press, or what is left of it, did that. Again, Strange can't defend Sessions' conduct, so he tries to change the subject. And if Lutha wants a deeper understanding of hypocrisy, he should look in the nearest mirror.
Strange tries to excuse or throw up smokescreens for Sessions' conduct. But he brings perjury charges against Charles Todd Henderson for false statements that aren't even specified in the indictment.
Luther Strange is a classic postmodern political hack -- and statesmanship in America seems to be taking its dying breath.
|Trent Cowherd and his wife, Sharon|
This makes at least four ways our eviction on September 9, 2015, was unlawful. That is particularly powerful when you consider Carol now faces criminal charges for "assault on a law enforcement officer" and trespass, related to the eviction -- when deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department had zero legal grounds to be on the rental property that day. In fact, we now know they needed at least another 25 days to be there.
On top of that, a deputy assaulted Carol during the eviction and shattered her arm, requiring trauma surgery. Carol's left arm is filled with plates and screws, and she has limited use of it, because of an eviction that Trent Cowherd had no lawful grounds to bring.
Court records show Trent Cowherd has been filing rent-and-possession cases since at least 1992, so he's been a landlord for roughly 25 years -- and he does not know the law on evictions? Craig F. Lowther, Cowherd's attorney, has been filing R and P cases since at least 1990, and he does not know the law? My lawyer-brother, David Shuler, was involved in our case (theoretically representing our mother, who was our cosigner), and he does not know the law?
This takes an already corrupt proceeding to a whole new level of crookedness. And Carol faces criminal charges because of it? I'd say Cowherd, Lowther, and David Shuler -- not to mention Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott and his minions -- face a level of liability that is off the charts.
The relevant law can be found at RSMo 535.120, which reads:
Whenever one month's rent or more is in arrear from a tenant, the landlord, if he has a subsisting right by law to reenter for the nonpayment of such rent, may bring an action to recover the possession of the demised premises.
A parenthetical phrase in the statute makes it a bit fuzzy for lay readers. But its meaning becomes crystal clear when you consider language from House Bill 481, which ushered in the new provision in 2009:
(30) Changes when an eviction proceeding can commence from when the rent is six months in arrearage to when it is one month in arrearage (Section 535.120)
How about that? The wait used to be six months to begin eviction proceedings, suggesting public policy in Missouri was to give tenants a solid chance to fix rent problems before they were kicked to the curb. Given that many tenants have children, this seemed to be a humane policy for the Show-Me State. But Missouri's thuggish landlords apparently want to wipe any trace of humanity from the law books.
Has the landlord lobby paid for scores of dinners, prostitutes, and golf outings to get its way? I think you can count on it.
What about the timeline in our eviction? Here it is:
* July 31, 2015 -- Our rent is paid through this date.
* Aug. 5, 2015 -- Records at case.net (Case No. 1531-AC04535) show Craig Lowther filed a rent-and-possession petition, on Trent Cowherd's behalf, on this date. An R and P petition is one of two ways to start an eviction proceeding in Missouri. The other is called an unlawful detainer.
* Sept. 1, 2015 -- The date, under Missouri law, that eviction proceedings could begin -- if we were one month behind on rent, which we wouldn't have been.
* Sept. 9, 2015 -- We are evicted, and Carol's arm is broken by a Greene County deputy, even though the eviction was not even close to being timely, under the law.
How many ways can an eviction be unlawful? Give us a few more days, and we'll probably have six ways to Sunday. For now, we have these:
(1) Breach of contract -- Cowherd was trying to boot us because my mother wanted out as cosigner, and they claimed we had to qualify on our own to continue on a month-to-month basis. Our lease, however, contained no such provision, so Cowherd was violating his own contract.
(2) Eviction was unlawfully scheduled -- The Sept. 9 date was inside the 10-day window, from the date judgment was entered, when execution cannot take place.
(3) Eviction ignored our timely filed notice of appeal -- A notice of appeal, with proper payment of fees, puts a stay on eviction, under Missouri law. We filed our notice on Sept. 8 and notified all lawyers for parties in the case on that same day. The eviction was stayed, as a matter of law, but it took place the next day anyway.
(4) Eviction was unlawful because rent was not late for one month -- Eviction proceedings could not have started until Sept. 1, the date we would have been behind on rent by one month (although we would have timely paid if we had not been told we were being booted out regardless). Cowherd started eviction proceedings on Aug. 5, 25 days too early.
The eviction that left Carol with a broken arm, broken so badly that it required trauma surgery, has emitted a foul odor for months. The stench just got a whole lot worse.
What kind of thugs run the Trent Cowherd company? Real bad ones, it seems.
Victoria V. Vuletich, professor at Western Michigan University's Cooley Law School, said Sessions' statements to Congress, failing to disclose his communications with a Russian ambassador, could make him subject to bar discipline. That means the Alabama State Bar could play a central role in a scandal that threatens to bring Sessions' political life to an ignominious close.
The Alabama State Bar is known for its rightward political leanings and lack of strong ethical underpinnings. We have seen evidence, though, that the bar will suspend a lawyer for making false statements under oath. Would the organization impose discipline on perhaps its most prominent member? We have doubts, but Vuletich says the bar could wind up with an obligation to examine Sessions' statements to the U.S. Senate during his confirmation hearings. Says Vuletich:
As a licensed attorney, Attorney General Sessions must adhere to Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(c), which states that it is professional misconduct for an attorney to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. Failing to disclose material information can be deemed fraudulent and dishonest if the statement would lead the listener to a different conclusion than if the information had been disclosed. If a complaint is filed with the Alabama legal disciplinary agency, it is likely that Attorney General Sessions would be subject to, at minimum, a pubic reprimand and possibly suspension of his license to practice law. It would be highly inappropriate to have a sitting Attorney General be the subject of professional discipline.
Could Sessions serve as attorney general without a law license? We have not been able to find a clear-cut answer to that question, but it appears the answer is yes. Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon had their law licenses removed and remained as president. Members of the U.S. Supreme Court are not required to be lawyers. We suspect Sessions could remain as AG, even without a law license. But how bad would it look?
|Attorney Bill Swatek, who has family|
ties to Jeff Sessions
She is a frequent presenter on legal ethics issues. Professor Vuletich is former chairperson of the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education Committee. She was a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection 2004-2008. She is a member of the ABA Center for Professional Responsibility Policy Implementation Committee.
Most recently, Professor Vuletich was a guest lecturer at Hertford College, Oxford University, United Kingdom.
As for the Alabama State Bar's history of imposing discipline on a lawyer for making false statements under oath, we are most familiar with a case from the early 1980s involving Shelby County attorney William E. Swatek. Here's how we described issues in the Swatek case:
In the late 1970s, Swatek represented a Pelham policeman named Johnny Bailey in an employment case. During depositions, Swatek allowed opposing counsel to use his office for what they thought was a private meeting. But Swatek surreptitiously tape recorded them. The opposing attorneys found the running tape recorder and confronted Swatek with it. He eventually told multiple bar committees that he knew nothing about the recorder, it had been his client's idea to use it. Swatek was charged with perjury, and somehow was acquitted at trial, even though the following section from the audiotape was presented to the jury:
William E. Swatek and Johnny Bailey on cassette tape taken by Paul G. Smith from Swatek's office on May 30, 1979:
Swatek: "Testing . . . one . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . five . . . "
Bailey: ". . . 'cause that's the one probably to use, or do you want to use that one?"
Swatek: "I'd rather use this one, 'cause you can't hear it at all, and I can stick it down under the desk and . . . "
Swatek obviously knew about the tape recording. He decided which recorder to use, where to place it, and he tested it. He clearly lied under oath to the bar committees about it. But still a jury -- which almost had to somehow be tainted--found him not guilty.
Swatek, in a criminal case that had to be fixed, was found not guilty of perjury. But the Alabama State Bar did suspend his license for acts of "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation." -- one of at least three times the bar has publicly disciplined Swatek. You will note the "dishonesty, fraud . . . " language is the same provision Prof. Vuletich cites from Sec. 8.4(c).
How is this for irony? Swatek's son, Dax Swatek, is a GOP operative who has worked for . . . Jeff Sessions, among others. And Bill Swatek, more than any other "human,"has caused the legal agony my wife, Carol, and I have suffered for roughly 17 years -- mainly by unethically representing Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor in Birmingham.
Maybe karma will bring down Sessions, along with some of the Alabama dirt bags who have ridden his coat tails.
Below are two videos about Bill Swatek's disciplinary history:
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