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- 03/29/17--04:40: _Bentley's refusal t...
- 03/30/17--04:13: _Effort to shine spo...
- 04/03/17--04:13: _Missouri deputy cre...
- 04/03/17--11:15: _New Alabama AG Stev...
- 04/04/17--04:14: _Missouri deputy adm...
- 04/04/17--13:19: _Ashley Madison cust...
- 04/05/17--04:15: _Gay-porn photograph...
- 04/06/17--04:25: _"Luv Guv" Bentley s...
- 04/07/17--16:31: _Heather Hannah, for...
- 04/10/17--04:27: _Alabama's "Christia...
- 04/10/17--10:45: _When Dianne Bentley...
- 04/10/17--17:30: _Gov. Robert Bentley...
- 04/11/17--04:03: _Report on "Luv Guv"...
- 04/12/17--04:05: _Baldwin County real...
- 04/13/17--04:07: _Even progressive jo...
- 04/14/17--04:53: _Finding of "no prob...
- 04/17/17--04:36: _Federal judge order...
- 04/17/17--11:20: _John Archibald uses...
- 04/18/17--05:30: _Robert Bentley's cl...
- 04/18/17--11:55: _Paul Alan Levy, law...
|Rebekah Mason and husband, Jon Mason|
Recent statements from the governor indicate he is determined to stay in office. That might greatly enhance his chances of winding up in prison.
Bentley increasingly finds himself backed into a corner, according to a report earlier this month at Inside Alabama Politics (IAP), a highly regarded subscription newsletter. From IAP:
The cards are stacking up against embattled Governor Robert Bentley, who is finding he has fewer chips to use with each round of play.
. . . according to multiple sources IAP spoke with, the question to be considered is: If Bentley is impeached, does it put him in double jeopardy against any criminal charges he may face subsequently? The U.S. Constitution protects Bentley from twice facing legal jeopardy for the same offense. However the most extreme punishment Bentley can face with impeachment is removal from office, whereas if he is convicted in court of a felony he could also face jail time.
Other sources in close proximity to this fiasco have told IAP that it is practically a given Bentley will face indictment of criminal charges as a result of grand jury proceedings. If that is true, Bentley may find it a more judicious use of money to pay for legal defense from criminal charges and resign from office before he is impeached. But will he?
Bentley recently responded to rumors that he is about to resign with one of the most inane statements in the history of politics. From al.com:
Speaking to reporters in Birmingham, Bentley said he had "no intention" leaving before the end of his second term.
"I have no intention of not doing what God has called me to do and that is serve the people of this state," Bentley said in remarks reported by WBRC.
"I have done absolutely nothing," he continued. "All I have done is serve the people of the state of Alabama. I can assure the people of Alabama I have never done anything illegal. I have never done anything unethical. My story has not been told."
Where to begin with this hokum? In terms of governance, "I have done absolutely nothing," might be the most truthful statement Bentley's ever made. Let's recall this is the same right-wing "man of God" who was caught on audio recordings talking about caressing Rebekah Mason's boobs and exploring her nether regions -- while both were married. That's not unethical? That, somehow, is serving the people of Alabama?
On April 5, the Alabama Ethics Commission will hold a meeting to discuss the direction of the investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley. What is also expected is secret grand jury type testimony from witnesses as to the allegations of impropriety by Bentley.
Sources tell IAP that several witnesses may be called to testify about what they know concerning Bentley’s misuse of state resources in his alleged affair with advisor Rebekah Mason and whether he broke campaign finance laws.
The Alabama House of Representatives Judiciary Committee voted in early March to continue the investigation of impeachment articles against Bentley. The Judiciary Committee voted to direct special counsel Jack Sharman to resume the investigation after it was sidetracked by then Attorney General Luther Strange. . . .
What is also being overlooked is that the state is picking up the tab for legal work on both sides of the probe. Special Counsel Jack Sharman, according to some reports, will take in nearly $350,000 for his work and Gov. Bentley’s attorney Ross Garber could make around $100,000…all taxpayer funded.
Should the Ethics Commission vote to bring charges it will likely start the process of removing Bentley from office.
So, lawyers get rich, and Alabama taxpayers get screwed -- all because of "Luv Guv" Bentley. And a state with enormous untapped potential continues to tread water -- or slowly sink, depending on how you look at it.
Thankfully, the "Luv Guv's" days might be numbered.
|Dr. Randy Brinson|
The organization, called Redeem the Vote and led by Dr. Randy Brinson of Montgomery, seems to have its heart in the right place. And Lord knows, it has taken on a task of broad scope and monumental importance to quality of life in our state. If Redeem the Vote targets the right rocks to look under, and uses effective tactics to unmask snakes hiding under those rocks, it could do a world a good.
We applaud the group's efforts, especially since it specifically mentions Gov. Robert Bentley, U.S. Senator Luther Strange, and former House Speaker Mike Hubbard as politicians deserving of scrutiny. Those all are Republicans, the type who typically claim the "family values" mantle to attract faith-based voters -- while acting contrary to all notions of honesty and integrity that can be found in the New Testament.
If Redeem the Vote is to maximize its potential, what two sources of corruption must not be ignored? They are:
(1) The judiciary; and
(2) The Bob Riley political machine. including "First Children" Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell, plus long-time associates, such as Alabama Supreme Court Justice Jim Main, and organizations (Bradley Arant law firm, etc.) that have benefited from Riley's tendency, while governor, to shower taxpayer dollars onto favored organizations. (Son-in-law Rob Campbell is a partner at Bradley Arant.)
Redeem the Vote is not a new organization. Modeled roughly after MTV's Rock the Vote, the group was founded during the 2004 presidential campaign to register people of faith regardless of party affiliation, or personal political beliefs, but as a matter of Christian principle, "that people of faith must be engaged in the political debate and vote as a matter of moral imperative."
The focus on public corruption is new, and Brinson said it will cut across party lines. From a report at WSFA in Montgomery:
“We are going to target our anti-corruption message against The Governor, Senator Luther Strange, the remnants of Speaker Hubbard’s Machine and any other politician who thinks they are above the law,” Brinson said. “We have a message, it is this: we are not going to take it anymore.”
The organization says it has an over one-million-person email list in the state alone, with over 300,000 engaged members. This is the reason the organization believes it is built for this type of voter education program.
“We were founded in 2003 to help engage the evangelical community and register them to vote, and we did so in unprecedented numbers,” Brinson said.“Many of these same voters who rejected the corruption of Hillary Clinton and propelled President Donald Trump into office are unaware of the rank corruption polluting Alabama’s highest offices. We intend to make them aware.”
As a journalist/blogger who has reported on Alabama corruption for almost 10 years -- and been thrown in jail and had our home stolen out from underneath us, as a result -- I like the sound of that. I also like the sound of this:
Redeem the Vote plans to initiate modern public awareness through advertising and outreach campaigns based on targeted digital communications on TV, radio, mail, and phone calls. They will also couple this with person-to-person outreach in the faith community.
“We are going after people of faith who feel like they are being disenfranchised because of the dishonest, double-dealing and backroom decisions being made by our public officials.”
"Disenfranchised" is one term that could be used to describe what happens from public corruption. "Taxpayer-supported abuse upon taxpayers" is another term that fits. My wife, Carol, and I know because almost everything we owned has been stolen from us because of corrupt judges, lawyers, and law enforcement -- many (maybe all) connected to the Riley Machine.
I've written about many other victims -- especially women and children in divorce/family courts (see the cases of Sherry Carroll Rollins, Linda Upton, and Bonnie Cahalane). The judiciary probably cheats the public in more direct and ruinous ways than any other area of government. Judges tend to get away with it because they wear robes, are called "Your Honor," and give the general impression of being above it all. But corrupt judges -- Sibley Reynolds in Chilton County, Ron Jackson in Shelby County, Robert Vance and Don Blankenship in Jefferson County, and J. Michael Joiner (formerly of Shelby County, now on the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals) -- trample constitutional rights in ways that few other public officials can muster.
Why are we concerned that Redeem the Vote might not be targeting the judiciary? An article by Josh Moon, of Alabama Political Reporter, makes no mention of plans the group might have to go after corrupt judges. Neither does a March 14 report from the Inside Alabama Politics (IAP) newsletter, which gave a sneak peek under the headline, "Plans to spotlight past state corruption being organized." From the IAP article:
March 14, 2017
Plans to spotlight past state corruption being organized
Sources close to IAP tell us that a ‘large scale citizen powered organization’ is launching an Independent Expenditure campaign in the very near future aimed at highlighting corruption at all levels of government in Alabama.
The focus will be educating voters about the numerous scandals that has rocked the pillars of government from Speaker of The House, to Governor, US Senator, Chief Justice and Attorney General.
“I think many of those associated with Alabama politics will know the names associated with this project,” the source told IAP. “This project will spotlight how corrupt state government has been the last few years. We expect to see this rolled-out in the very near future.”
They plan to identify, organize and turn out anti-corruption voters focusing on current and future elected officials and holding them accountable for their actions.
Stay tuned . . .
The term "Chief Justice" likely refers to Roy Moore, and that could include the entire judicial system, which the chief justice oversees. The term " the remnants of Speaker Hubbard’s Machine" might refer to Riley Inc. While Hubbard probably thinks he has a political machine, he actually is a subset of, and a throw-off from, the Riley corruption racket.
It's possible Redeem the Vote intends to spotlight rogue judges (hopefully, at both state and federal levels), along with Riley-backed cheaters across the spectrum. It's possible the group didn't announce its targets with the completeness and clarity I would have preferred.
But if Redeem the Vote helps force some of our most malevolent snakes out from under rocks, this could be one of the most hopeful news stories to come out of Alabama in a long while. My sense is that Dr. Randy Brinson is a smart guy, who genuinely cares about the public good. I wish him and Redeem the Vote well -- and if they want my help in tackling a cleansing job that desperately needs to be completed -- I would be glad to help.
|Deputy Debi Wade|
I use the term "preposterous" to describe Wade's claim for two reasons: (1) She places the "barreling" event near the front door of our duplex apartment, and I saw everything that happened in that area, from the front seat of our car, parked about 15 feet away in the driveway. Carol never initiated contact with Wade, and I never saw Wade make contact with Carol, unless it was to help her off the ground after another officer had body slammed Carol and broken her left arm by yanking on both arms in an upward and back motion; (2) Greene County Prosecuting Attorney (PA) Dan Patterson apparently does not believe Wade's account because, in his Misdemeanor Information (MI) filed with the court, he charged Carol with only one count of assault on an officer -- and that allegedly was against a male officer named Jeremy Lynn, and it was inside our apartment, just as officers had thrust open the door.
Carol is not charged with assaulting Wade, so one has to wonder why Wade included false information that even the PA does not believe -- or at least, he does not believe it amounted to a criminal offense. It also raises questions about Wade's credibility, especially when you consider all the other hokum in her PC Statement. (More on that in upcoming posts.)
What really happened? Carol spells that out in a Motion to Dismiss Charges filed on March 14. (The Motion to Dismiss, PC Statement and MI are embedded at the end of this post.)
Note: Wade admits in the first paragraph of her PC Statement that she did not witness Carol push Officer Lynn, but an unknown person "advised" her that it happened. That, of course, is blatant hearsay, which is inadmissible in court and means, as a procedural matter, there is nothing to support probable cause that Carol committed any offense involving assault. As a factual matter, Wade's account is pure fantasy and should put her at risk of criminal sanctions for filing a false PC statement.
Carol's account starts with Jeremy Lynn and other officers bursting through our door, even though we had filed a Notice of Appeal the day before that placed an automatic stay on eviction. Given that we were in lawful possession of the apartment on Sept. 9, 2015, every action by the cops amounts to "forcible entry and detainer," a charge they will face (among others) in our upcoming police brutality/civil rights lawsuit. Here are Carol's words from the Motion to Dismiss:
I heard noise outside our apartment and looked out the peephole to see what was going on. We had filed a notice of appeal the day before, with appropriate fees, and we knew that put an automatic stay on the eviction. I knew there was no way, under the law, that anyone could be attempting an eviction. When I heard noise outside, I thought we had a possible prowler or someone attempting a home invasion. That’s why I looked out the peephole, and I had my cell phone in my hand, thinking I might need to call 911 any moment. Next thing I knew, the door was thrown open, and I was slammed up against the wall, behind the open door, hard enough to possibly cause a concussion. My glasses were knocked off, the cell phone was knocked out of my hand, and I was disoriented. But I never caused physical contact with Officer Lynn or anyone else on 9/9/15. While I was facing the wall, someone (I assume it was Officer Lynn) grabbed both of my arms, pulled them behind my back and placed them in handcuffs. As Lynn was applying the handcuffs, he caused my head to bang against the wall another 2 or 3 times. Also, someone put his hand on top of my head, as handcuffs were being applied, forcing my head violently into the wall several more times. Once in handcuffs, I wasn’t capable of pushing anyone, and I did not do so. I did not push anyone before being placed in handcuffs, either. I would be glad to file an affidavit if the court deems it necessary. If Jeremy Lynn is the officer I think he was, he’s a large fellow – maybe 6-4 or 6-5 and 270 pounds or more. The notion that I would push him is absurd.
So, Jeremy Lynn caused Carol's head to bang against the wall ("2 or 3 times"), and as Lynn was handcuffing her, someone put his hand on top of her head and violently pushed it into the wall several more times. And the cops are claiming Carol assaulted them? Is it any wonder I've seen signs that Carol is suffering from post-concussion symptoms, especially when you consider she also was slammed butt-first to the ground that day, outside the apartment? Carol has one of the sharpest minds I've encountered -- she made straight A's in school through K-12 and college -- but I now regularly see signs of jumbled thinking, an inability to express thoughts in a concise, direct manner. Is this the result of her brain being battered about inside her skull during an eviction that never should have happened?
In the days immediately after the eviction, our No. 1 concern was about trying to get Carol's arm pieced back together via trauma surgery. I'm not aware of medical personnel conducting any concussion tests on her, but there is no doubt her brain took a beating at the beginning and the end of our eviction.
As for Wade's claim that Carol "barreled" into her, it's pure nonsense -- and it should earn Wade time behind bars, depending on the penalties for filing a false PC Statement . Here are Carol's words on the subject:
I did not take off on a dead run for the door, and Officer Wade did not help me put items in our car. I did that on my own. Officer Wade already was at the front of the residence, so she did not jog up behind me, and I did not pivot and barrel into her head first. I wear glasses, I have scoliosis, and I have never been in a physical encounter with anyone. The notion that I would “barrel into” Debi Wade, likely breaking my glasses and injuring my neck and back, is nonsensical. I did not initiate contact with Officer Wade, and I do not recall her making contact with me.
This fantasy about Carol barreling into her, tells me that Debi Wade was not even trying to get things accurate in her PC Statement; she apparently was assigned to concoct a document that would terrorize us -- causing Carol to be falsely arrested and imprisoned -- and that's what she did.
(To be continued)
|Kathleen Green Robertson|
But first, let's recall one of the many "endearing" traits Luther Strange exhibited before Gov. Robert Bentley chose him to replace Trump AG Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. Strange always seemed to think the public, the ones who for unknown reasons voted him into office, was stupid. We were too stupid to see that he reached a quid pro quo deal with Bentley, that Strange would not prosecute the governor in exchange for Sessions' Senate seat. Or he thought we were too stupid to see that he prosecuted Mike Hubbard because the House Speaker, while wildly corrupt, also stood in the path between Strange and higher office, such as governor or U.S. senator.
Now, it appears Steve Marshall, the guy Bentley chose to replace Strange, is just as tin-eared as his oversized predecessor. Last week, Marshall announced that Kathleen Green Robertson would be chief counsel in the AG's office. Now, consider Robertson's qualifications, as reported by Alabama Political Reporter (APR):
Robertson holds a B.S. in political science from Auburn University and a law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law. She began her career at the US Department of Justice in the Office of Intergovernmental and Public Liaison where she assisted in fostering relationships between the Department and State and local Law Enforcement. She later worked for US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) as legislative counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, handling matters related to crime, drugs and national security. Robertson said that that experience that instilled her passion for constitutional and criminal law. Robertson recently returned to Washington to serve Sessions throughout the process of his confirmation to become Attorney General of the United States.
Most of Robertson's experience consists of working for Jeff Sessions. That would be the same Sessions who now is the target of a criminal complaint, alleging that he violated federal statutes on perjury, making false statements, and obstruction of justice -- all related to lies he made during his confirmation hearings about meetings with a Russian ambassador.
Sessions stands at the heart of "KremlinGate," which might soon bring down the Donald Trump White House and become known as the most grotesque political scandal in American history. But Steve Marshall thinks it was a good idea to promote one of Sessions' former aides to chief counsel? Is it far-fetched to think Sessions might have put in a call to Marshall on Robertson's behalf, and Marshall was clueless enough to go along with the perjurious AG's request/demand?
None of us knows how KremlinGate will unfold, but for now, we have daily drips of news that suggest a foreign adversary (Russia) colluded with Trump surrogates (and maybe Trump himself) to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Is Steve Marshall so naive that he does not comprehend the potential gravity of this? Does he not see the possibility of impeachment and/or prison time for those in Trump's inner circle, which definitely includes Jeff Sessions.
For Robertson's part, she's was not just any old aide to the senator. She helped him prepare for the very confirmation hearings where he lied. She used to work with the same committee before which he lied. At a bare minimum, one might think such an aide could keep her boss from committing crimes during and after his testimony. But Robertson apparently could not do that.
It's not far-fetched to think that Robertson could wind up painted with the KremlinGate brush, but Steve Marshall said, "By golly, we've just got to have her as chief counsel in the AG's office."
That thought takes us back to around 1975. Imagine a state attorney general -- let's say in California -- making the following announcement:
Today, I welcome John Ehrlichman as my new chief counsel. Mr. Ehrlichman comes to us after serving in the administration of President Richard Nixon. Mr. Ehrlichman has enjoyed a distinguished career, especially if you don't count the fact he created "The Plumbers" and played a key role in the Watergate cover up. Mr. Ehrlichman won't be able to join our office immediately. First, he will have to serve one to four years in federal prison. But once he's out of the slammer, I'm sure he will do a splendid job as chief counsel. After all, he's associated with Richard Nixon, who has been one of our finest presidents -- if you don't count his various pathologies, plus the paranoia and dishonesty that were central to the Watergate scandal. Richard Nixon . . . what a swell guy! And I can say the same thing about John Ehrlichman!
Sounds like a crazy announcement doesn't it? Steve Marshall's announcement of Kathleen Green Robertson's appointment might not be as far from that as he would like to believe.
I'm not making this up. Follow us on a three-step path that shows what we mean:
(1) Carol is charged, per a Misdemeanor Information (MI) from Greene County, Missouri, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, with trespass. The MI states that particulars about the trespass charge are in a Probable Cause (PC) Statement from Deputy Debi Wade. The PC Statement, however, says not one word about trespass. That means the charge is based on . . . nothing -- and it must be dismissed, as a matter of law.
(2) Wade claims in her PC Statement that Carol "barreled into [her] head first," apparently supporting a count of assault on a law enforcement officer. Wade's claim has a couple of problems: (a) It didn't happen, as Carol has shown in her Motion to Dismiss; (b) Even Patterson seems to acknowledge that it didn't happen because he filed no charge against Carol based on the alleged Debi Wade incident. That count, essentially, already has been dismissed as a matter of law.
(3) The only remaining claim is that Carol "assaulted" Deputy Jeremy Lynn by pushing him after he had forced his way into our apartment during an unlawful eviction on Sept. 9, 2015. But Wade admits in her PC Statement that she did not witness this event. Specifically, Wade states: "I was not witness to that assault, however, I was advised that Carol first pushed the door from inside when Capt. Lynn attempted entry with the key, then got physical with him once inside the threshold and pushed him repeatedly.”
(Note: The PC Statement, MI, and Motion to Dismiss are embedded at the end of this post.)
If you believe that arresting and imprisoning someone is serious business -- and you agree with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which holds that no seizure of a person shall happen without probable cause -- this should scare you death.
Consider what Wade is saying here: She did not witness Carol do anything wrong regarding Jeremy Lynn, but someone "advised" her that Carol pushed the officer. Well, who advised her on the subject? Was it another officer, a squirrel out on the lawn, a passing meter reader, a golden retriever taking a poop across the street?
You might think I'm being ridiculous, but get this -- the "adviser" has no name. We don't even know if he's human.
That's why I say Carol was arrested on the word of a ghost. Based on Wade's statement, the "adviser" might as well be from the spirit world. Whoever he is, and wherever he's from, he provides no probable cause to arrest my wife.
How many people -- with names and swearing under oath -- claim Carol Tovich Shuler did anything wrong regarding Officer Jeremy Lynn? Zero.
That means two things:
(1) All of the criminal charges against Carol are not based in probable cause and must be dismissed;
(2) Carol's arrest and imprisonment were based on zero probable cause, constituting a false arrest and false imprisonment -- and a Fourth Amendment violation -- that are about as blatant as they can come.
We are left with this glaring question: If someone on the scene witnessed Carol push Officer Lynn, and advised Debi Wade of such, why was that officer not chosen to submit the Probable Cause Statement? Why have Officer Wade make a statement under oath about events she admits she did not see?
With those questions hanging in the air, the credibility of the Greene County "justice apparatus" is emitting the smell of a rotting fish. In fact, it might not even smell that good.
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|Dr. Keron Vickers; his wife, Tracey; and their children|
Dr. Keron Vickers operates Back on Track Chiropractic on Grants Mill Road, near I-459. His wife, Tracey, teaches at Briarwood, and they have two children -- Audrey, 14, and Alan, 11. They attend Asbury United Methodist Church in north Shelby County.
Vickers obtained his B.S. degree in biology at Troy State University and earned a doctorate at Life University in Marietta, Georgia. He focuses professionally on family practice and care of the athlete. From his Web site:
Dr. Vickers has been practicing in Birmingham for 17 years, where he is very active in the community. He has served on the Irondale Chamber as a member and past Vice President. Dr. Vickers is currently one of the official chiropractors for the Alabama Ballet and one of the founding members of Team Chiropractic, which is group of local chiropractors in the Birmingham/Gadsden area who are dedicated to help educate and adjust as many families as possible as well as achieve optimal health using natural chiropractic care. He and his family attend Asbury United Methodist Church located in Inverness. He is an active sponsor of the surrounding high schools treating many of the athletes. Dr. Vickers is an avid golfer and has completed the 2011 Rock n Roll Savannah Marathon.
The Vickers Web site features at least four photographs of him with his wife, his children, or both. He creates the image of a man who cares deeply about his family. But publicly available records indicate his care for them slipped a bit when he signed up for an account at Ashley Madison.
We sought Vickers' comment for this post, but he has not responded to our queries. Here is his Facebook page.
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, AL (1/26/17)
(23) Thomas Mancuso, tax attorney, Montgomery, AL (2/16/17)
(24) Nicholas Arciniegas, attorney, Washington, D.C. (2/21/17)
(25) Griffin McGahey, vice president, High Cotton USA, Birmingham, AL (3/16/17)
(26) Matthew Couch, attorney, Cabaniss Johnston, Birmingham, AL (3/23/17)
|Bill Pryor and his gourd|
As each nude photograph of U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor surfaces, you can see Pryor grow as a gay-porn artiste. We're not kidding.
Photo No. 1 was nothing more than Pryor and his erection. Not much going on there, but it was a start.
Photo No. 2 was Pryor sitting on a block of wood. ("He's got wood, get it?") That's an artistic statement on the Beavis and Butt-Head level, but it shows the beginnings of some depth in the Pryor oeuvre.
Photo No. 3, to which we introduce you now (right), shows signs of real growth. It features Pryor, with his ever-present schlong (of which he seems quite proud), holding what appears to be a gourd. (A full-blown, NSFW version of the photo can be viewed by clicking on a link at the end of this post.)
But wait, it's not just any old gourd. Someone appears to have drawn a face on the gourd -- two eyes, a nose, hair, maybe lips. The hair is styled a bit like Pryor's, so maybe we have a self portrait -- Pryor's face on a gourd, with his schlong co-starring in all of its glory.
This is the artistic equivalent of playing a Beatles record backward in the late '60s so you could hear "I buried Paul." (Yes, I tried that; no, I never heard anything but static.) Nobody seems to know what it means, but it sure is weird so . . . hey, that's cool.
What kind of intellect does it take to be considered for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court? Bill Pryor seems to provide the answer: You have to be able to draw a face on a gourd and hold it up for the camera, while your schlong is on full display.
That sets the bar pretty darned low doesn't it? Just what we need in an era of Donald Trump, "alternative facts," and complete lack of respect for the rule of law.
Our crack Legal Schnauzer researchers are scouring Europe-based porn sites to find the remaining images in the Pryor gallery; they reportedly total eight to 12. We hope to have a full set within the next two or three months.
Bill Pryor NSFW No. 3
|Robert Bentley: "Slimy guy," in what should be|
Alabama's Image of the Year.
(From Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser)
It was a story where a one-man blog beat Alabama's corporate, mainstream media (MSM) at every turn. In fact, MSM reporters joined with Bentley in trying to trash my reputation. Multiple reports even had Bentley unlawfully using state and federal law-enforcement resources in an effort to target -- and find damaging information about -- me. That operation apparently did not work so well. But when you consider my wife, Carol, and I were the victims of an unlawful eviction in Greene County, Missouri, just nine days after I broke the Bentley story, one wonders if Alabama fingerprints were on that filthy operation.
Given that Missouri deputies brutalized Carol and shattered her left arm during the eviction -- then concocted bogus criminal charges against her, which she's still fighting -- a reasonable person might wonder just how low Alabama's creepy governor and his sassy siren might go.
The Bentley-Mason scandal reached a crescendo yesterday when the Alabama Ethics Commission heard testimony and engaged in deliberations for more than nine hours before finding "probable cause" that Bentley violated the state's ethics and campaign finance laws.
According to a report at the Montgomery Advertiser, the commission referred the charges to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey. If indicted and convicted, Bentley could face up to 20 years in prison for each violation and a fine of up to $20,000 on each charge. With four charges on the table, mostly related to misuse of public resources and campaign funds, the governor could be looking at a maximum of 80 years behind bars. And that doesn't count other legal issues he faces, as reported by the Montgomery Advertiser:
The decision adds to Bentley's legal ordeal over allegations about his personal and professional relationship with former staffer Rebekah Caldwell Mason, charges that could lead to his removal from office. The House Judiciary Committee could begin impeachment hearings against Bentley next week, and the committee's special counsel should file an investigative report on the governor by Friday. The Alabama attorney general's office is also investigating Bentley, though it's not clear if that probe relates to the Mason charges or another matter.Has anyone investigated possible efforts by Bentley and Mason (or their surrogates) to bully and intimidate Carol and me? I don't know, but we have not been interviewed. It's possible, however, that yesterday's nine-hour hearing touched on a relatively small portion of criminality that might be tied to Bentley and his paramour.
Do I feel vindicated by yesterday's events? The answer is, "Hell, yes." In the roughly 18 months since I broke the story, I've watched major news outlets -- The Rachel Maddow Show, The Washington Post -- credit al.com with breaking the story (cough . . . hack!). I've seen lawyer and Facebook reporter Donald Watkins twice take credit for breaking the story, when he knows that isn't true. I corrected him on it once, and he seemed to acknowledge that Legal Schnauzer was first on the story, but then he repeated his canard just a few days ago.
Heck, I wasn't even in Alabama when I broke the story. Carol and I were living in Springfield, Missouri, trying to keep a roof over our heads. That came on the heels of my unlawful arrest and incarceration in Shelby County, Alabama, and the loss of our home of 25 years in the Birmingham area to a wrongful foreclosure. We have pending federal litigation on both of those issues, plus an upcoming civil-rights and police-brutality case over the actions of Missouri cops, which might have been driven by Bentley/Mason or other conservative political thugs in Alabama.
How does a reporter break one of the biggest stories in modern Alabama history while living in the Midwest? Well, it all goes back to sources, and no one can touch the quality of sources I've had on this story. I wish I could name them, to provide the public thank you they deserve. But they know who they are, and they know that these kinds of stories can generate major blow back -- making it critical that they remain anonymous.
You can't get better sources in Alabama than the ones we've had on the Bentley story, so I've known we were on target from the outset. But has our blog been showered with "atta boys" from the MSM and public officials, who now are on the train to oust Bentley from office? Not exactly. In fact, we've been attacked from multiple angles. Some examples:
(1) John Archibald gets "smoked"
In an article published Aug. 31, 2015, the venerable John Archibald wrote the following at al.com:
Several media outlets--bloggers and radio talkers--this morning cited "sources" as they reported that Gov. Robert Bentley has without question had an affair with a female staff member, a torrid love cuddle that caused the governor's wife of a half century, Dianne Bentley, to file for divorce and ask for everything the guy ever made.
All they offered was "sources." Not proof or fact or anything more than smoke.
Turns out Bentley did, without question, have an affair, and he now faces possible prison time for issues related to it. There was way more than smoke, John, but you didn't want to see the fire.
(2) Chuck Dean and his "unsubstantial rumor"
In an article published Sept. 4, 2015, al.com's Chuck Dean wrote:
Despite no claim of infidelity in the divorce papers, the rumor traveled across platforms such as talk radio, Facebook, Twitter and in some blogs of dubious credibility purporting the unsubstantial rumor as fact.
The "blogs of dubious credibility" turned out to be not so dubious, after all. And the "rumor" proved to be both substantial and substantiated.
(3) Chuck Dean proves to be "dubious" again
In an article published Dec. 27, 2015, al.com's Chuck Dean came up with this:
In her filing Dianne Bentley never alleged infidelity on the part of her husband. But once the filing became public on August 28, online blogs -- some discredited in courts of law and others with dubious histories - were almost instantly filled with unsubstantiated rumors of an extramarital affair between Bentley and a senior advisor. . . .
If Bentley, most Alabamians and even Montgomery insiders were shocked by the news, a handful of bloggers didn't seem to be surprised. Within hours of the painful news, blogs rolled out posts featuring far-fetched stories with highly implausible details about the alleged affair.
What they did not roll out was any proof.
"Implausible" and lack of "proof." You were wrong then, Chuckster, and your journalism career is pretty much toast now. The public does have proof that you are a lazy-ass reporter, with no useful sources and no credibility -- and the story was blowing up under your nose the whole time.
(4) The "Luv Guv" lies his ass off
In the Dec. 27 article, Dean quotes Gov. Bentley as follows:
"The rumors were not true," said Bentley.
The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.
"There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.
Bentley was lying, and Chuck Dean bought every lie. Who really crossed the line here, Governor?
(5) Bentley takes the "slimy" road
In August 2016, a tape surfaced of a conversation between Bentley and State Rep. Allen Farley (R-Bessemer). In it, Bentley can be heard referring to me as a "slimy guy."
Let's allow that thought to simmer for a moment. During the ethics commission's marathon executive session yesterday, the major news story involved efforts by Montgomery and state law-enforcement officers to block reporters from an exit where witnesses appeared to be leaving the building. The officers, in a show of absurd cluelessness, tried removing journalists from a public sidewalk. At one point, three vehicles (which appeared to be black, state SUVs) were parked in an apparent effort to block reporters from even seeing witnesses, much less asking them questions.
Finally, Mickey Welsh, of the Montgomery Advertiser, captured probably the Image of the Year in Alabama. From a perfect angle above the fray, Welsh caught Bentley scurrying into an SUV, looking very much like a cockroach searching for cover after the lights have been turned on.
That is a great piece of photojournalism by Mickey Welsh, and I can only imagine the amount of thought and effort that went into it.
And it raises this question, as the Bentley administration rests perilously on the edge of implosion: Who's the "slimy guy" now, Governor?
That is among the key findings from a House Judiciary Committee impeachment report released late this afternoon.
Heather Hannah, who had been an assistant to Dianne Bentley prior to the first lady's divorce from Gov. Bentley after 50 years of marriage, became the target of an intimidation campaign from the governor's office. It included at least two confrontations with Gov. Bentley himself.
The 131-page report broadly found that Gov. Bentley used law-enforcement personnel to help cover up the affair with Mason. From the report:
Governor Bentley directed law enforcement to advance his personal interests and, in a process characterized by increasing obsession and paranoia, subjected career law enforcement officers to tasks intended to protect his reputation.
The most stunning example of the administration's "obsession and paranoia" involved Heather Hannah. From the report:
The first evidence of this obsession occurred in the Spring of 2014 and involved Heather Hannah. At the time the recordings were made, Hannah was just a few months shy of her departure from Ms. Bentley’s staff, which occurred after the Republican Primary in June. As Hannah describes it, Governor Bentley blamed Hannah for the existence of the tapes because he believed there was no possible way Ms. Bentley could have made them without her help. As the existence of the recordings became known, Hannah began to hear through other staff members and officials that Governor Bentley perceived her as problematic due to the existence of the recordings.
That led to two encounters with Gov. Bentley, labeled "The Kitchen Confrontation" and "The Parking Lot Confrontation." From the report, about the first encounter:
Hannah testified that Governor Bentley’s suspicion of her was so great that he personally confronted her on two occasions at the Governor’s Mansion. One confrontation took place in front of a wall of refrigerators in the kitchen of the Mansion. Governor Bentley pointed his finger in Hannah’s face and threatened, “You will never work in the State of Alabama again if you tell anyone about this (the affair).” Hannah relates that she was not intimidated by this encounter but believes intimidation was Governor Bentley’s intent. She described his demeanor as angry and that he was speaking to her in a loud tone of voice.
Gov. Bentley's intimidation efforts did not stop there. From the report:
The second Bentley confrontation of Hannah occurred shortly thereafter when she came face-to-face with Governor Bentley in the parking lot of the Mansion. Then, Governor Bentley confronted her about his suspicion that she had bugged his office to listen to conversations between him and Mason. Hannah relates that Governor Bentley warned her to “watch herself,” that she “did not know what she was getting into,” and that because he was the governor, people “bow to his throne.”
Hannah was set to testify in a deposition before the Alabama Ethics Commission in June 2016, and she soon had reason to fear for her safety:
In June 2016, Heather Hannah provided deposition testimony to the Alabama Ethics Commission regarding her knowledge of the Bentley-Mason relationship. In that same month, she was the victim of two separate incidents of vandalism at her residence. She related that the first incident occurred before her testimony to the ethics commission and the second occurred shortly thereafter. Both incidents were reported to law enforcement after the second incident . . .
The two acts of vandalism are described in the report as "The Vehicle Incident" and "The House Incident." The first came just before Hannah's deposition, and the second came afterward:
Within a few days of Hannah’s deposition, she believes on or about June 6, 2016, Hannah was outside of her new home watering plants when she heard what sounded like her bushes rustling. Unsure of the source of the noise, she walked to the front of her house where she noticed “scribbles” on the windows of her vehicle. She stated that at the time she could tell the scribbles were some sort of writing, but she had difficulty reading it. She took photographs of the writing on her windows, and it showed up much clearer in the pictures. Hannah provided the two pictures to Special Counsel, which are attached to this report and contained in Exhibit 9A at 217-218. The first photograph is of writing on what appears to be the driver side windows of her vehicle, and it appears to read, “Bitch Die.” The second photograph is of writing on the windshield, and it appears to read, “You will fucking die.”
From the report, about the second incident:
On June 15, 2016, Hannah was at her home preparing for bed. She turned off the light in her kitchen and was walking to the back of her house when she heard the sound of breaking glass. She walked back to her kitchen where she believed the sound originated and saw a rock lying on the floor. She also observed a broken panel in a large window on the front of her house. Hannah immediately called the police, who came to her home and took a police report at twenty minutes after midnight. At that time, Hannah also advised the officers of the vandalism of her vehicle. The police report reflects that Hannah told the officers at the time that she believed both incidents were related to her recent deposition.
Hannah testified during her deposition by Special Counsel that she believed both incidents were related to her testimony before the Alabama Ethics Commission. She based that belief on two facts. First, she could recall no personal or business conflicts outside of her service in the Office of the Governor. Second, her residence was located in a Birmingham suburb with an exceptionally low crime rate. It is also important to note that she had recently moved to the residence, and to her knowledge, her address had not been officially changed. However, she had sent a text message to a number of friends, updating her address. She stated that the distribution list of her text would have included friends with “pretty strong connections to the capital.”
The full investigative report is embedded below:
At a hastily called news conference on the Capitol steps, Alabama's embattled governor faced the public and made his first statement since the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that he had violated ethics and campaign-finance law. From a report at al.com:
"I have done nothing illegal," the governor said. "If the people want to know if I misused state resources, the answer is simply no, I have not."
Question: If Bentley has done nothing illegal, why has he agreed to resign (apparently seeking to stay out of prison), according to a report this morning from Josh Moon and Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter?
Back to Friday: Later that day, the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) released its Impeachment Report, showing that Bentley had, in fact, misused state resources on his extramarital affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The committee provided plenty of specifics, citing at least five examples where Bentley used state resources to facilitate or cover up the affair. Actually, the following five examples involve only the misuse of security chief Ray Lewis. The report includes at least six examples of Bentley's misuse of other law-enforcement personnel. (See pp. 82-90 in report, which is embedded at the end of this post.)
Here are the five examples involving Ray Lewis:
(1) Governor Bentley asks Ray Lewis to break up with Rebekah Mason for him.
When Lewis arrived at the Capitol, Governor Bentley met him at the door to his office and seemed to Lewis to have been crying. Lewis went into the office with Governor Bentley to see Rebekah Mason, who also seemed to have been crying. Governor Bentley told Lewis that Ms. Bentley thought he and Mason were having an affair and that someone had made an audio recording of him and Mason talking on the phone. Governor Bentley thought his son, Paul, had the recording. Governor Bentley asked Lewis to go to Tuscaloosa to meet with Paul and to try to get Paul to hand it over.
Lewis recalls that he responded to Governor Bentley: “[A]re you telling me this is true, the affair is true?” Governor Bentley admitted the affair to Lewis and told him there were things on the recording he would not want anyone to hear.
Governor Bentley then sent Mason out of the room and asked her to wait in the Lieutenant Governor’s conference room on the second floor of the Capitol. With Mason out of the room, Governor Bentley and Lewis discussed the situation. Lewis says he expressed to Governor Bentley that the affair was wrong and had to end. Lewis says he told Governor Bentley that the affair would be an embarrassment to him, his family, and the State of Alabama. Governor Bentley agreed with Lewis. Lewis was disappointed and “shocked” by the realization that Governor Bentley had had an affair with Mason. Governor Bentley was embarrassed and asked Lewis to go upstairs to meet with Mason and end the relationship.
(2) Ray Lewis attempts to retrieve the tapes.
Lewis left the Lieutenant Governor’s conference room and immediately drove to Tuscaloosa, on Governor Bentley’s orders, in his state vehicle, to try to retrieve the tapes from Governor Bentley’s son, Paul Bentley. Lewis called ahead, and Paul invited him to his office. When Lewis arrived, he asked Paul if he had the tapes. Paul replied: “Yes, and you ain’t getting it.” Paul told Lewis that he could not bring himself to listen to the full recording, but that his wife Melissa had a copy.
Lewis reported the results of his Tuscaloosa mission to Governor Bentley over the phone and told him that the tapes existed.
(3) Governor Bentley directs Ray Lewis to visit Mason in Gulf Shores.
In that same phone conversation, Governor Bentley told Lewis that Rebekah Mason was just not getting it and directed Lewis to drive to Gulf Shores in the morning to break up with her again. He instructed Lewis to leave early so that he could reach Mason before her husband arrived. Lewis prepared to depart on the mission in his state vehicle the next morning, but Governor Bentley called him and told him not to go. Lewis cannot remember for certain whether he had already departed on the mission when Governor Bentley called him off.
(4) Requests for surveillance sweeps of Mason’s vehicle.
Corporal Nance Bishop of ALEA recalls that relatively early in the re-election campaign of 2014, he was asked to perform a sweep of Rebekah Mason’s personal vehicle for bugs or listening devices. Bishop could not recall specifically who made the request, except that it came from a group of Governor Bentley’s officers that included Collier and Stabler. Bishop refused the request because it was campaign-related and not related to government work.
Ray Lewis says that Bishop told him about this request soon after it was made. Lewis said he discussed this request with Bishop because, at the time, “everybody was concerned about what was going on” with Rebekah Mason.
(5) Governor Bentley demands that Rebekah Mason travel on state transports.
Rebekah Mason ceased to be an employee of the Office of the Governor in July 2013 when she began working for Governor Bentley’s re-election campaign. She did not surrender her security credentials for access to the Capitol, however, as other staff members were required to do upon transitioning to the campaign. Ray Lewis testified that he is not aware of any other staff member who was permitted to retain security access in this way.
Furthermore, it was Lewis’s understanding that Mason, after leaving the employ of the State, could not accompany Governor Bentley on official transportation, including flights on State planes or movements in State vehicles. Lewis frequently found himself in the awkward position of addressing this with Governor Bentley.
Lewis says he told Governor Bentley several times of the need to keep Mason’s movements separate from Governor Bentley’s official movements, and that he could not provide security services to non-state personnel. Lewis testified that Governor Bentley indicated that he knew and understood this. In fact, Lewis testified, this rule was consistently applied to others, like Zach Lee, who had left the Office of the Governor for the campaign. . . .
Nonetheless, on multiple occasions, and with a frequency that increased as the relationship between Governor Bentley and Mason grew, Lewis found himself overruled by Governor Bentley. Lewis recalls one occasion when he instructed Governor Bentley’s Director of Scheduling Linda Adams, while planning for a trip, not to put Mason on the State plane. Later that day, Governor Bentley called Lewis and ordered him to put Mason on the flight. Lewis recalls telling Governor Bentley: “Sir, I disagree with that, but you’re the governor and I will respect your wishes.” Lewis believes this conversation was the beginning of the deterioration of his relationship with Governor Bentley.
How adamant was Bentley that Mason fly with him? He decided to lease a private plane, in order to get around reporting requirements connected to state aircraft.
In 2014, Bentley for Governor, Inc. leased a plane from a company based near Atlanta. Lewis testified that Governor Bentley told him that he had leased the plane so that Mason could travel on it. The company used private pilots, and Lewis was limited in his ability to vet them. For State recordkeeping purposes, Linda Adams attempted to find out and document basic information about flights that Governor Bentley took on the leased campaign plane. Governor Bentley has not made any of these records available.
On August 4, 2014, the day before Lewis and Collier confronted Governor Bentley about the tapes (described in detail below), Governor Bentley told Lewis and other staff members that he wanted Mason on the leased plane with him. Lewis recalls Governor Bentley telling him: “She’s needs to be able to do her job, so she will be on the airplane.”
Lewis was becoming increasingly worried during this period that he would lose his job because of Rebekah Mason. He looked back with the benefit of hindsight on the occasion when Governor Bentley had asked him to confront the female staff in Governor Bentley’s office for gossiping about an affair that (Lewis now knew) had actually been happening. Lewis realized that Governor Bentley had used him as a tool and that he could not trust Governor Bentley. Lewis said: “[A]fter seeing how the governor was dealing with his family situation and he really didn’t care what Ms. Bentley thought or anybody else thought, I knew that if I were putting people on the plane like Ms. Mason, that I felt like he wouldn’t take responsibility for it. He would simply say I didn’t do that, Ray Lewis did it." Lewis testified that it was for this reason that he began making a record of daily events in his personal calendar.
Let's return briefly to Bentley's press statement of last Friday morning. From al.com:
Bentley said he had struggled in recent years, admitted he had made mistakes and apologized. He did not go into specifics.
"Once again, let me say to the people of this state how sorry I am to all of our people," Bentley said. "To all of you. There's no doubt that I have let you down. But all I ask is that you continue to pray for me and I will continue to pray for you."
Bentley repeated what he has said before, that he believes he is doing a job God called him to do.
"My motivation is to do what I truly believe God called me to do," Bentley said. "That's to work hard and to serve our state and to serve and love the people of this great state of Alabama. God bless them and may God bless this great state as I continue to try to serve in the way that God has placed me in this position."
Gee, imagine how much the "Luv Guv" would have lied to us if he weren't such a "fine, Christian man."
Alabama House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Report, Including Exhibits
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How crazy with fury was Gov. Bentley when he became convinced that one of the first lady's assistants, Heather Hannah, had helped generate a tape recording of the "Luv Guv" gushing about the joys of fondling Mason's breasts and groping her nether regions? He sought to have Hannah arrested, apparently never considering that Hannah was only an accomplice, in the broadest sense of the word. The one who came up with the idea for the taping, and actually pushed the "record" button, was . . . Dianne Bentley. That means: (a) No crime likely was involved; (b) If a crime was involved, it would mean arresting not only Hannah, but Bentley's own wife, the state's beloved and much-admired first lady.
Consider these headlines: "Alabama's horn dog governor has his faithful wife of 50 years arrested for gathering evidence about his affair with aide who has glorious breasts."
We're talking "cray, cray" here, and those are just two instances from the House Judiciary Committee's (HJC) Impeachment Report that suggest the "Luv Guv" was operating in an "out there" state of mind. No wonder some family members thought he had dementia.
How was a recording device set up to catch Gov. Bentley in heated and lustful discussions with Mason about various parts of her apparently luscious anatomy. Here is background from the HJC report:
The recording came about through Ms. Bentley’s collaboration with her chief of staff Heather Hannah. Ms. Bentley had asked Hannah to help her make a recording that she could use to “catch” her husband and Mason in their affair. They had discussed various options, including ordering a miniature recording device over the Internet. That thought was dismissed, primarily due to concerns with having the device securely delivered to Ms. Bentley. Ultimately, Ms. Bentley came up with the idea to use her cell phone’s recording feature but asked Hannah to show her how to operate it.
Was "Operation Horn Dog" an immediate success? Not exactly. But when it worked, Mrs. Bentley hit a home run -- apparently with little or no help from Hannah:
Ms. Bentley made several efforts to capture Governor Bentley on the phone with Mason at the Mansion, but those efforts failed. The successful recordings were made during the Bentleys’ trip to their beach house in March 2014. Ms. Bentley captured the first of two recordings by turning on the phone’s recording device, placing it in her purse on the sofa, and then announcing to her husband that she was taking a long walk on the beach. Promptly upon her departure—within approximately 59 seconds—Governor Bentley was on the phone with Mason.
The conversation begins with discussions of the weather but quickly moves to capturing Governor Bentley agreeing to extended commentary by Mason. Of particular note, prior to the conversation becoming more intimate in nature, is an extensive discussion about moving Wanda Kelly’s desk and rearranging the office. About halfway through the conversation, Governor Bentley engages in the now infamous monologue about how much he enjoys feeling Mason’s breasts and their need to lock the door to his office when engaging in certain activities.
As for the notion of arresting Heather Hannah, Bentley absolutely was serious about that. From the report:
Shortly after the August 5 intervention, Governor Bentley told Secretary [Spencer] Collier that he believed Heather Hannah had been responsible for making the recordings. He ordered Collier to find out whether there were criminal statutes that applied to Hannah’s suspected activity. He told Collier to be prepared to arrest Hannah if the tapes were released publicly. Collier went to his ALEA counsel, Deputy Attorney General Jason Swann, gave him a factual hypothetical about covert recording, and asked him to research the law to determine the applicability of any criminal statutes to the hypothetical. Swann provided Collier with copies of the relevant eavesdropping statute and discussed the law with him. Sometime later, Collier confided to Swann that the research he had asked him to do related to Governor Bentley and said “we’re looking into it.”
Gov. Bentley and Collier had a conversation on the same topic with Scott Lee, an SBI special agent who had agreed to become an "on-call investigator" for Collier:
Governor Bentley and Secretary Collier told Lee that the person they suspected had planted the recording device was a young woman who had served as Dianne Bentley’s assistant. They suspected that the young woman, as well as members of Governor Bentley’s family, might be in possession of the tapes. They also mentioned that Collier had paid a visit to a woman about the tapes on the night of the election. Bentley and Collier wanted Lee’s opinions about opening an investigation into the matter. . . .
|Dianne and Robert Bentley|
After Lee told Bentley and Collier that he would insist on seeing any investigation through to its conclusions, he was not asked to proceed with the investigation.
Alabama's primary criminal eavesdropping statutes can be found at Code of Alabama 13A-11-31 and
13A-11-33. The following, from Sec. 33, might have been central to any investigation of Heather Hannah:
(a) A person commits the crime of installing an eavesdropping device if he intentionally installs or places a device in a private place with knowledge it is to be used for eavesdropping and without permission of the owner and any lessee or tenant or guest for hire of the private place.
We are not in a position at the moment to research case law on this subject. But the statutory language suggests that Dianne Bentley, as an owner of the "private place," had a lawful right to install an eavesdropping device on the premises. That suggests the recordings were captured lawfully, and Heather Hannah likely would not be subject to a charge of possessing illegally obtained materials.
Our assessment? The governor of a state should be smart enough to read the eavesdropping statute and realize there likely was no case against Heather Hannah. That Bentley was determined to seek an investigation anyway, should raise serious questions about his fitness for office.
Alabama House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Report, Including Exhibits
|Gov. Robert Bentley's mugshot|
Is Bentley's plea deal a good deal for Alabama citizens? The answer is absolutely not, and that's because it essentially says, "Cover up your crimes, and it's likely to benefit you." We will explain in a moment.
All three of the posts with links above -- the last one showing that Mason and her husband, Jon, had made almost $1 million during the Bentley Administration -- were published before any other news outlet (mainstream or otherwise) wrote about the Bentley/Mason scandal.
One could argue that a one-man blog -- one written by a journalist with more than 35 years of professional experience -- took down a state's most powerful politician. That point is important for a couple of reasons: (1) It's unclear if today's news ever would have happened without our reports from Aug. 31, and Sept. 1-2, 2015; (2) While al.com has wrongfully received credit for breaking the story at multiple national outlets (yes, you, Rachel Maddow and The Washington Post), the story actually has been an embarrassment for mainstream media (MSM); in fact, it's shown MSM reporters in Alabama too often are ethically compromised, reluctant to report aggressively and accurately on their conservative favorites.
Al.com reporters John Archibald and Chuck Dean spilled serious amounts of ink trashing me, claiming my posts offered only "smoke" and no "proof" -- and my blog had "dubious" credibility. Deep in the bowels of the House Judiciary Committee's Special Counsel Report are e-mails that suggest Dean more or less was working as a public-relations agent for Mason and the Bentley administration. (See p. 38, Exhibit 5-CC, bentleyinvestigation.com.)
Does that mean I'm a smarter, better journalist than the MSMers on the Alabama horizon? I will leave that question for others to answer. But this much is clear: I had better sources than they did, and I didn't have to answer to politically sensitive editors in a Deep Red state who might want the story squelched. My sources on this story were impeccable -- and they knew I would listen when they talked. Their need to remain anonymous has only grown as the Bentley story picked up steam, but I dearly wish I could give their names, so they could take a bow. If there are heroes in this, they are the ones. They have taken personal risks to provide a public service to a state they care about deeply.
My sources weren't the only ones who took risks. Nine days after I broke the Bentley/Mason story, my wife, Carol, and I were subject to an unlawful eviction in Greene County, Missouri (on Sept. 9, 2015). I had an assault rifle pointed at my head, Carol's left arm was shattered, and she likely sustained a concussion from having her head banged against a wall multiple times, and being body slammed butt-first to the ground before a deputy yanked on her limbs so violently that the bone in her left arm was snapped in two above the elbow. We know Carol's arm never will be the same, and we've seen signs of jumbled thinking that suggests her brain might never be the same either. And get this: Bogus criminal charges -- for trespass and assault on a law-enforcement officer -- were filed against her.
Are Bentley and Mason evil enough to be involved in something like that? Well, multiple reports have indicated Bentley unlawfully sought use of state and federal criminal data bases to target me (and attorney/Facebook journalist Donald Watkins) in retaliation for our reporting. Does that sound a bit like the intimidation campaign we now know Bentley conducted against Heather Hannah, a former assistant to First Lady Dianne Bentley? It sure as heck does.
From a journalism standpoint, this much is clear: Legal Schnauzer and Donald Watkins were way ahead of the pack on the Bentley/Mason story, during a seven-month time frame when the MSM did it's best to stamp out the fire. Numerous news outlets have reported that the scandal started in March 2016, when a tape of sexy talk between Bentley and Mason found its way to the press. But that is wrong. The scandal started with my initial reports in late August and early September of 2015 and took fire with two key series from Watkins -- "Forbidden Love" and "Executive Betrayal."
It's possible the sexy tape never appears if the mainstream press succeeds in trying to shush and discredit Watkins and me. It's also possible Bentley serves out his term as governor, without the work of two reporters who are not tied to the MSM and its usual accoutrements -- layers of editors, big-box advertisers, and political suck-ups.
As for the Bentley resignation plea deal, we still are trying to digest what it means. But a report at al.com includes this tweet from Chris England, a member of the House Judiciary Committee:
Due to Governor Bentley's resignation, the work of the impeachment committee is no longer needed. We are adjourned.
What? Who says your work no longer is needed? The Special Counsel's report makes clear that Bentley, his staffers, and associates failed to provide (or heavily redacted) key documents that were requested and subpoenaed. Dozens, likely hundreds, of e-mails, texts, phone records, and financial statements were not provided. And the Special Counsel made clear this, alone, was grounds for impeachment.
Team Bentley engaged in blatant stonewalling and cover-up, but England's words suggest they are going to get away with it. Is evidence of criminal acts included in all that material that was withheld from investigators. The answer likely is yes. But we know this absolutely: That material, produced on public time, with public resources, belongs to the public. It should be revealed to the public, and no deal should be finalized until all that information is turned over. If that information is not made public -- with under-oath interviews from subjects who skipped them the first time around -- Alabamians should pitch a collective fit.
Gov. Bentley's administration has failed, but his cover-up (so far) has succeeded. We will have more on this subject in a post tomorrow.
|Gov. Robert Bentley|
(From Mickey Welsh, Montgomery Advertiser)
Legislative and law-enforcement types, by signing off on the plea deal, are sending this message to future miscreants in public office: "If you think you are in trouble, go ahead and cover up and stonewall -- and you likely will get away with it."
The House Special Counsel made it clear in his report that Bentley, his staff, and his associates failed to cooperate with the investigation in any meaningful way. Now, Bentley is being rewarded for his intransigence -- and his lack of respect for the legislature's oversight duties.
Here is one puzzling question: Why were officials in such a hurry to cut a deal with Bentley. Prosecutors and legislators clearly had the upper hand, so why agree so quickly to a deal -- much less one so outrageously favorable to Bentley? I can think of only one answer: The process was driven at every turn by Republicans, and they were concerned that a trial or impeachment proceeding would damage the party "brand," whatever is left of it in the wake of the Mark Fuller, Mike Hubbard, Roy Moore, and now Robert Bentley scandals.
If Team Bentley had been required to turn over responsive e-mails, text messages, phone records, and financial records, how many GOP big-hitters might have been implicated? Our guess is "a lot." And that might have been the No. 1 driver behind the quick plea deal.
This much is certain: No deal should even have been considered until Bentley and his office had turned over all of the documents sought by the House Special Counsel -- and all individuals sought for interviews had testified under oath. I rarely agree with al.com on anything, but their editorial on the matter was right on target:
Bentley pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges. But the stakes are too high for the pursuit of justice to stop here. This impeachment investigative report creates as many questions as it does answers.
It implicates many people in Montgomery beyond the governor. At times, it seems like everybody knew everything but nobody did anything.
Allegations were made in the report that many surrounding Bentley were complicit in the cover up.
They too should be held accountable for their actions. We know from the commission report Bentley, Mason and others refused to cooperate with the investigation. Subsequently, we still do not know the extent to which their alleged actions constitute criminal behavior. What more would we learn from their private messages and emails?
Birmingham attorney Eric L. Welch Guster, a legal analyst on cable news shows, was on the same page. Here is Guster, from Facebook:
LAW, POLITICAL PARTIES and RACE -- ALABAMA STYLE: Bentley got probation and his side piece got protected. That's how this works and has been this way for generations.
The GOP protected their own even in the face of sex, thievery, lies & nationwide embarrassment. Robert Bentley will remain free WITH A MISDEMEANOR while other politicians similarly situated received prison sentences and NEVER had an offer of probation. There was enough evidence on Bentley that a 13-year-old could take this case to trial and win. There was no need for a plea, except to protect him and his beloved boo-thang.
They claim justice is blind but we know better. It sees color, political party affiliation and the ties that bind them all together.
I am done with this foolery.
How blatant was the cover up in this matter? Here is a reminder: The Special Counsel's report makes it clear that The Bentley Bunch engaged in world-class stonewalling and foot-dragging. Reaching a plea deal -- without requiring that all documents be produced and interviews completed -- might mean that individuals who possibly engaged in criminal conduct could benefit from a cover up.
News outlets have described the impeachment report as "salacious,""lurid," and "damning." Imagine how bad it would look if the Bentley Administration actually had produced all of the documents and granted all the interviews investigators sought.
From the report: "Governor Bentley and the Office of the Governor did not meaningfully cooperate in the Committee’s investigation." That suggests Team Bentley likely caused the report to contain only a fraction of the misconduct that could have been revealed. A reader is left to wonder how many crimes remain under wraps because of the administration's determination to obfuscate. The report might be "salacious," but it's probably not nearly as salacious, or definitive, as it should be.
Was the Special Counsel amused by Team Bentley's determination to claim "privilege," squawk about "due process," and generally ignore, or fail to respond to, document requests and subpoenas? Not exactly. In fact, the report states that failure to cooperate with the investigation is a potential ground for impeachment. From the report:
Governor Bentley's failure to cooperate with the Committee’s investigation is potentially an independent ground for his impeachment. The Legislature is a coequal branch of government. The executive branch cannot ignore or treat in a cavalier fashion its constitutional duties, one of which is to participate fully and in good faith with the discharge of the Legislature’s constitutional duties. In this context, a “failure to cooperate” can either be direct – as in Governor Bentley’s refusal to respond to the authorized document requests of Special Counsel, to the Committee’s subpoena or for requests for testimony – or it can be indirect, as by using litigation tactics to delay and frustrate the Committee’s attempts to get the facts.
The Special Counsel provides nine examples of foot-dragging from Bentley and his staff or supporters:
(1) Governor Bentley asserted privilege in response to the subpoena
In his submissions to the Committee, Governor Bentley claimed that the Committee’s subpoena “attempts to subvert the attorney client privilege.” As counsel to the Office of the Governor has noted elsewhere, “public sector lawyers should keep in mind that they might someday be subpoenaed to testify about the substance of conversations with their clients.” Looking to the federal courts for guidance, in disputes arising from the Whitewater matter involving President and Mrs. Clinton, government lawyers were obliged to produce what might otherwise be reasonably construed as material protected by the attorney-client privilege.
(2) Blacked-out portions of documents produced.
A timeline created by Bentley and adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason is "heavily and arbitrarily" blacked out. Text messages between Bentley and the ACEGov dark-money nonprofit are "almost entirely" blacked out. The same is true regarding certain e-mail communications with the press regarding Mason's compensation. One key e-mail from Bentley to Mason was redacted in its entirety. From the report:
Despite requests, Governor Bentley failed to provide the Committee with a log of redactions made to documents produced and failed to offer any justifications for the redactions.
(3) Cell phones, state phones, and “burner” phones.
Despite multiple witnesses stating that Governor Bentley has consistently used three cell phones, Governor Bentley provided no documents responsive to the Committee’s request for a list of his cell phones or mobile devices. . . . The Committee noted that the document labeled OTG009338 (Ex. 5-CC) is a cover page for a selection of text messages from a phone that is referred to as “Governor state phone.” At a minimum, Governor Bentley’s “state phone” was in the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor.
(4) Mason’s state email account.
Governor Bentley has similarly claimed that the Committee’s request for a copy of Rebekah Mason’s email account . . . “seeks production of information that is outside of the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor.” However, the documents he produced to the Committee indicate that Rebekah Mason was in fact assigned a State email account. . . .
Rebekah Mason’s State email account is in the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor, and responsive emails should have been produced.
(5) Governor Bentley’s email accounts.
The Committee subpoenaed information related to the email accounts used by Governor Bentley. Governor Bentley objected that the request “seeks information outside the possession, custody or control of the Office of the Governor.” He continued: “As has been reported in the press, the Governor does not maintain a State of Alabama email address.”
Governor Bentley’s statement appears to be inconsistent with emails that were included in the documents produced. Those emails show that Governor Bentley routinely used his “comcast.net” email address to send and receive official State communications, including emails marked “Law Enforcement Sensitive.” This portion of the investigation is relevant to the Committee’s inquiry. As illustrated by the FBI investigation of former Secretary of State Clinton during the recent presidential campaign, the use by senior executive branch officials of private or undisclosed email accounts for official or sensitive information can raise significant concerns. Governor Bentley’s email accounts should have been identified and responsive emails produced.
(6) Visitor Logs to the Governor’s Mansion.
The Committee subpoenaed information related to Rebekah Mason’s visits to the Governor’s Mansion or to Wynfield Estates Governor Bentley objected that this request is “overly broad, unduly burdensome and harassing.” However, a simple electronic search of the access logs for those facilities would easily yield the requested documents and information.
(7) Mason’s compensation information.
Governor Bentley provided invoices from RCM Communications, Inc. to Bentley for Governor, Inc. for only five months: January, February, and December 2015, and January and March 2016. Public records show that Bentley for Governor, Inc. paid Mason throughout 2015, after the campaign was over. In addition, Mason has stated publicly that she was paid by ACEGov in 2015. The Committee sought, without success, (1) the complete set of invoices for the period of time requested and (2) all other documents related to Mason’s compensation.
(8) Unedited State aircraft records.
Governor Bentley produced the publicly available “State Aircraft Usage” documents for January 2015 through August 2016. However, he has also produced a chain of internal emails . . . that indicates that members of Governor Bentley’s staff routinely review and amend “flight log records” before they are “post[ed] to the Governor’s website.” In fact, the documents labeled show after-the-fact red-line edits that were made to the State Aircraft Usage document for the Fourth Quarter of 2015 before it was made public. Such documents and communications were clearly comprehended by the Committee’s request but were not provided.
(9) Refusal to testify under oath.
On October 24, 2016, the Committee, through Special Counsel and pursuant to Amended Committee Rule 6, sent to the Office of the Governor notices for the transcribed testimony under oath of Governor Robert J. Bentley, Zach Lee, Wesley Helton and David Byrne. Despite follow-up requests, the noticed persons have declined to testify.
In the end, Team Bentley's stonewalling almost makes Richard Nixon and his staff of crooks look forthcoming by comparison. For now, the public is left to only guess at the misconduct, even criminality, that the Bentley Bunch has covered up.
Alabama House Judiciary Committee Impeachment Report, Including Exhibits
|Patti Jackson Austin|
(Update at 11:40 a.m. -- Our Facebook problems seem to have been resolved. A number of my wife's FB friends contacted Facebook to let them know the "unsafe content" message was in error. That might have done the trick. A big thank you to Facebook friends of Carol Tovich Shuler.)
Robert Bentley might be gone as Alabama's governor, but the stench from his corrupt administration remains. One mini-scandal that still is aflame involves an unnamed woman who accompanied Bentley on a state airplane to attend the Trump Inauguration back in January. Well, we have her name.
She is Patti Jackson Austin, a real-estate agent in Baldwin County. One Web site lists her with Keller Williams, specializing in the Daphne and Fairhope markets. Austin's LinkedIn page lists her with RE/MAX By the Bay in Fairhope. Our sources say she also works extensively in the Orange Beach and Point Clear markets.
Austin has five children, according to her bio at Keller Williams. This is part of her greeting to potential customers:
I'd like to welcome you in advance to the Alabama Gulf Coast! A little bit about me! I began my real estate career in Ocean Springs, MS in 2005 and worked with all types of buyers and sellers along the Gulf Coast and in Hattiesburg, MS. I grew up vacationing in Orange Beach, AL and had the pleasure of bringing all 5 of my children to vacation here as well! What an amazing experience for them. I have relocated to the Eastern Shore in Baldwin County, AL permanently and started my real estate career back in full swing with the Jason Will Real Estate Team.
The area is vibrant and beautiful from historic Mobile Bay to the sugar, white sands of Orange Beach. Baldwin County has so much to offer at all stages of life that it is world renowned and a destination that is highly coveted and constantly receiving praise and tourists!
Initial reports had an unnamed female guest accompanying Bentley to the Trump Inauguration, along with Rebekah Caldwell Mason (Bentley's adviser and mistress) and her husband, Jon Mason. It doesn't take much imagination to consider the potentially kinky elements of this arrangement -- especially when you consider that Austin and Rebekah Mason look quite a bit alike.
But the big issue has been this: Passengers on a state aircraft, by law, must be listed on the public manifest. So far, that hasn't been done, and Bentley's office has refused to provide the passenger list and hotel information for the trip to Washington, D.C. Inquiring minds want to know if there is some reason for keeping Patti Austin's name under wraps.
A January 27 report from al.com describes the legal issues at play:
State law requires the governor's office to provide flight logs records "for public inspection" with entries to include the dates of departure and return, the destination and purpose of the trip and a manifest of all passengers.
The manifests must be posted quarterly, "on the first working day of the second quarter following the quarter that is the subject of the report," according to Alabama law.
That means reports from January 2017 and the Trump inauguration could be held until June. That's what happened last year during scrutiny of Gov. Bentley's use of state aircraft in the months leading up to his admission he'd made inappropriate comments to then-adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The records for those months were not released until the end of the second quarter - June - showing Mason accompanying the governor and his staff on three trips from January to March.
This seems like a relatively simple law to follow, so why is Bentley playing games with it? That is not clear. Rebekah and Jon Mason have said they will pay for their own expenses from the trip. Who is picking up the tab for Patti Austin's expenses? Has it been Alabama taxpayers so far? If so, will that change?
|Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
Earlier this year, the Governor's Office declined to release a complete passenger list for those who traveled to Washington, D.C. with Bentley to attend President Donald Trump's inauguration. The manifest covering the Jan. 20 inauguration trip -- which included an unnamed guest of the governor's and Gov. Bentley's alleged mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason and her husband Jon -- won't be posted until June. . . .
Use of the state plane by the governor -- even on personal matters -- isn't against the law. Alabama's Constitution stipulates that all property belonging to the state, "unless otherwise provided by law," is under control of the governor.
Use of the state plane doesn't come cheap, however.
A Cessna Citation CJ4, the type of plane leased by the state in 2015, can cost as much as $1,900 an hour to operate.
We sought comment from Patti Austin for this story, but she has not responded to our queries.
|Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell|
Andrew Kreig, a D.C.-based lawyer and journalist, takes the MSM to task for its coverage of the Bentley scandal, in a new column at the Justice-Integrity Project. The piece is titled "Alabama blogger, not mainstream media, exposed state house scandal."
We appreciate Kreig's recognition that the Bentley scandal broke here at Legal Schnauzer, not al.com or any other mainstream outlet. In fact, we broke the story almost seven months before the MSM hopped on the train, and during those intervening months, al.com reporters John Archibald, Chuck Dean (yes, he of Ashley Madison fame), and Leada Gore mostly tried to debunk the story and attack my reporting.
I'm never surprised when al.com -- a consortium of Alabama right-wing rags -- sinks to lazy, dishonest, or underhanded reporting. But it is disappointing when even progressive journalists, like Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell of MSNBC, can't get it right about the origins of the Bentley scandal.
I'm a fan of both Maddow and O'Donnell, and I appreciate that Maddow has been, by far, the most prominent journalist to cover the story; she has devoted segments to it on at least a half dozen occasions, giving it the kind of probing, insightful treatment her viewers have come to expect.
But she repeatedly has gotten it wrong about who broke the story. (Rachel, it was me, dammit!!!) On multiple occasions, she has credited al.com and John Archibald with breaking the story. That's not even close to being accurate; they tried to squelch the story and trash the reporter who did break it.
MSNBC took it a step further after her report Monday night, after Bentley had resigned. During the talky transition from one show to another, O'Donnell gave Maddow credit for being out front on the story, before everyone. (Cough . . . hack . . . snort!) Maddow did not say anything that indicated she disagreed with that assessment.
Two cable news stars broadcast a repulsive but revealing display of self-promotion Aug. 10 when MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell credited fellow anchor Rachel Maddow for coverage prompting the resignation of Alabama's scandal-ridden governor earlier in the day. "You alone," he told her, covered the scandal.
But credit belongs not to the heavily promoted Maddow . . . but to the courageous Alabama blogger Roger Shuler. He has been financially ruined, beaten and jailed for his relentless investigations of top state officials, including the just-departed GOP Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley.
Shuler broke the story of the scandals arising from Bentley's affair with a highly paid state aide, Rebekah Mason Caldwell. . . . Shuler began with a column Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley engaged in extramarital affair that prompted First Lady's divorce complaint on Aug. 31, 2015. He followed with two more such columns over the next two days.
Kreig goes on describe the heavy price my wife, Carol, and I have paid for my progressive journalism in a Deep Red state -- and he shows that real journalism can start at the grassroots level, not necessarily in a New York-based newsroom or studio:
The story of his scoop is particularly apt now because of the awful price that Shuler and his wife Carol have paid for such work. Also, the mainstream media are waging a heavy-handed public relations campaign against bloggers, alternative media and those falling under the smear of "fake news" and "conspiracy theory."
This is the first of several columns we plan about those developments, which are prominent this week in part because of the annual annual announcement of Pulitzer Prizes. The Pulitzers were dominated as usual by winners from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal in major categories. . . .
But there's much more to journalism than the big outlets. Grassroots practitioners like Shuler across the country do not and cannot spend their scarce income much on application fees to compete in such contests, even in the unlikely event their work would receive serious consideration from the corporate-controlled media that control such recognition.
So, we focus for now on the brave and largely unreported tale of how Shuler, an impoverished blogger in flight with his wife from autocratic Alabama judges managed to bring down his state's governor in the kind of mind-boggling sex, legal and financial scandal whose revelation has become commonplace recently in that state.
Kreig provides extensive details on how the story was broken -- and the environment in which it was broken: (Hint: It did not involve Rachel Maddow or John Archibald.)
Bentley's resignation means the leadership of all three branches of Alabama's state government has been ousted in less than a year because of scandal, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (permanently suspended for refusing to follow U.S. Supreme Court precedent on gay rights that conflict with his understanding of The Bible) and House Speaker Mike Hubbard, arguably the most powerful state official and convicted last June of 12 felonies involving massive graft. . . .
The irony is that Shuler gets virtually nothing for it — hardly any money and very little recognition, and probably many more legal hassles to come — whereas the MSNBC anchors are reported to receive multi-million-dollar annual salaries.
|John Archibald discusses Bentley scandal on MSNBC|
What's most important about this, however, is not who gets the credit for this particular story. The vital point instead should be greater public awareness that a healthy society depends on the different strengths that independent blogging and mainstream news bring to civic awareness.
Are Maddow and O'Donnell intentionally trying to deceive their viewers about the origins of the Bentley scandal? I don't think so. They are based in New York -- a long way from the heart of the story -- and they probably assume that any major story in Alabama must have been broken by one of the state's major news outlets. They probably have no idea that al.com -- known mainly for decades as The Birmingham News -- has long been little more than a GOP house organ, supporting the likes of knuckle-draggers like U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby and former U.S. Sen. (now Trump attorney general) Jeff Sessions.
Maddow certainly deserves credit for her coverage of the Bentley scandal, and I suspect both she and O'Donnell have their hearts in the right place. Any of their journalistic sins likely have been of omission, not commission.
As for genuine deceit, it has been present in other MSM quarters, and I discussed that -- and other Bentley-related issues -- earlier this week with one of the nation's most knowledgeable progressive radio hosts.
A post on that is coming right up.
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|Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
The commission's inexplicable finding suggests the Bentley/Mason sex scandal is far worse than the public knows, and it likely involves far more powerful individuals than the public realizes. The finding also indicates there is hard evidence of criminal actions by Bentley, Mason, and others, but the commission doesn't have the stomach to look into it. Specifically, the commission appears to be participating in a cover-up to protect a Republican Party brand that has been riddled by corruption in the past couple of years.
State Auditor Jim Zeigler filed an ethics complaint against Mason on March 25 and received notice of the "no probable cause" finding in a letter dated Wednesday (April 12, 2017) from Thomas Allbritton, executive director of the ethics commission. One wonders how Allbritton wrote that letter with a straight face.
Here's how al.com described Zeigler's complaint in an article published roughly one year ago:
Zeigler said he filed a report with the state Ethics Commission to determine "whether Gov. Bentley and Mason are using state property in furtherance of their personal relationship, and if they have used their position to interfere with an attorney general's investigation."
In his report to State Ethics Commission Executive Director Thomas Albritton, Zeigler cited the audiotape in saying that it was "apparent that Mrs. Mason and Gov. Bentley have been using state property and resources in furtherance of their personal relationship." He was referring to the governor mentioning that "Wanda's desk" would have to be moved down the hall.
Zeigler also alleged that Mason was violating the law because she has never registered as a lobbyist -- which he claims should have been done if she's being paid by a third party and not the state. If she was considered a state official, Zeigler contended, then Mason would be violating the law by receiving private funds.
As was recently reported at the Montgomery Advertiser, "Under state law, the Alabama Ethics Commission acts as a grand jury when a public official faces accusations of breaking the state's ethics law. The commission cannot press charges but can find probable cause and refer cases to the Alabama attorney general or a district attorney -- usually the one in Montgomery County -- for prosecution. Testimony and deliberations take place in private, but votes are public."
An old joke in legal circles is that a "grand jury could indict a ham sandwich." In other words, the bar for probable cause is extremely low, as Bentley attorney William Athanas stated after the ethics commission found probable cause on four counts against his client:
"It’s a finding of probable cause, which is one of the lowest legal standards we apply in these cases," he said. "We certainly disagree there was evidence to support a probable cause finding. We definitely disagree there was enough evidence to support a finding beyond a cause of reasonable doubt."
The statement about reasonable doubt is an effort to muddy the waters. That standard applies to juries in criminal trials, but it has no connection to the ethics commission, which must find only probable cause. There is enough probable cause against Mason to sink a battleship in Mobile Bay. That the commission could not find probable cause suggests it wasn't trying very hard.
A few issues to consider:
* Our second report on the Bentley/Mason scandal showed the governor's campaign had spent more than $400,000 with a company owned by Mason, his mistress. Bentley hired Mason's husband, Jon, to a state position that had paid him more than $390,000. That doesn't constitute probable cause of an ethics or campaign-finance violation? We're to believe Rebekah Mason had no knowledge of how her husband landed his state job or took no actions to ensure that he filled the job? Don't make me laugh.
* In our third report on the scandal, we showed the Masons had received almost $1 million in government-related payments since the beginning of the Bentley administration in 2011. During a chunk of this time, Rebekah Mason was conducting an extramarital affair with Bentley -- and taking actions to keep it under wraps, according to published reports. No probable cause of unethical activity? Don't make me laugh.
* According to multiple published reports, Bentley allowed Mason to serve as the state's "de facto" governor. And a report at USA Today showed that former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) chief Spencer Collier alleged both Bentley and Mason used state time and resources to pursue the affair. According to former spokesperson Jennifer Ardis, Mason's clout caused regular disruption of operations in the governor's office. "Nothing could be done in the office without Mason's sign-off," Ardis said. No probable cause? Don't make me laugh.
* A House Judiciary Report showed that Bentley, Mason, and others failed to turn over requested documents -- emails, texts, phone and financial records -- to investigators. They also failed to appear for interviews under oath. Did the Alabama Ethics Commission, deliberating in private, even seek such information? We've seen no evidence that it did. Again, no probable cause? Don't make me laugh.
* The Montgomery Advertiser yesterday reported as follows:
In a letter to State Auditor Jim Zeigler dated Wednesday, Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton said the Ethics Commission did not find probable cause that Mason violated the Alabama Ethics Act.
Albritton’s letter did not specify the reasons why. It said the Ethics Commission received the results of the investigation April 5, the same day commissioners heard evidence against Bentley.
Did the commission conduct any independent investigation of Mason? It doesn't sound like it. Was the complaint against her completely intertwined with the Bentley case? The answer appears to be yes.
How sleazy is all this? It suggests the ethics commission itself needs to be investigated. Attorney Donald Watkins summed it up well at his Facebook page:
In the same April 5, 2017, Ethics Commission meeting that resulted in a referral of Bentley’s case to state prosecutors on four felony ethics violations, the Commission also dismissed the case against Rebekah Mason. According to investigators, they could not find any evidence that Mason had misused state property.
They did not look hard enough, if they looked at all. Rebekah Mason operated her public relations firm, RCM Communications, Inc., while working full-time as Bentley’s communications director. Rebekah also conducted RCM’s business from the governor’s office and used state resources to further her private business interests.
Also, Bentley made sure that Rebekah had unfettered access to state trooper transportation, the Governor’s mansion (at all times of the night), the state airplane, the Winton Blount mansion in Montgomery (which was donated to the state), and to any other state resource she needed to make herself fully available to the Governor for his personal and sexual pleasure. After all, Rebekah, in Bentley’s mind, was the real First Lady of Alabama.
Watkins goes on to use the "F word" to describe the ethics commission's actions:
The Commission's disposition of Rebekah’s case has the feel and smell of a political “fix”. Through back channels, Bentley apparently signaled that he would resign as governor if no charges were brought against Rebekah and if he could dispose of his felony violations by pleading guilty to two no-jail time misdemeanors. The state caved in and agreed. Bentley’s exit from the governorship played out Monday just as the governor had demanded.
This is why Robert Bentley was smiling in his mugshot. He hoodwinked them all. The only people who were not aware of: (a) the Ethics Commission’s accommodation “fix” of Rebekah’s case, (b) the prosecutor’s “sweetheart” plea deal with the governor, and (c) the “sellout” of the people’s right to the fair administration of justice, were the citizens of Alabama who are thirsty for tough law enforcement in public corruption cases. Once again, they got shafted in this debacle. Nobody gave a damn about their rights as crime victims.
U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala (Northern District of Alabama) issued an order on March 31, 2017, for the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) to turn over the requested documents, many of which apparently involve the alleged recusal of former U.S. Attorney Leura Canary in the Siegelman case. OPR gave notice on April 10 that it had submitted the requested information.
That sounds encouraging. Joseph Siegelman, the former governor's son, submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in June 2015, only to receive stonewalling from OPR. In January 2016, Joseph Siegelman filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Alabama, leading to Haikala's order that OPR turn over the requested documents -- and OPR's notice that it had, in fact, turned them over.
What happens next? If Haikala and OPR act with integrity -- and those are big "ifs" -- it could generate one of the biggest bombshells in the history of the American justice system. It could show how Siegelman was railroaded, and who exactly was behind the scheme. It could show that the DOJ is more of a crime-producing organization than a crime-fighting outfit. It could threaten the careers of numerous lawyers, prosecutors, and political figures.
But caveats are planted within the case, which is styled Joseph Siegelman v. United States Department of Justice, et al. According to the case docket, Haikala's ruling calls for an in camera review of the OPR documents. In camera is Latin for "in the chamber," meaning the documents will be reviewed in private, with the press and public excluded. It could mean the OPR documents, no matter how much corruption they reveal, could never see the light of day.
In OPR's notice of April 10, it refers to "Submission of Ex Parte, In Camera Material."Ex Parteis Latin for "from the party," and generally refers to a decision that is made with only one party to the controversy present. Does that mean the government is seeking to keep Joseph Siegelman and his attorneys locked out of any document review? Is this some kind of "double-secret probation"? Is this a form of blatant "bad faith" from the government? Given the government's conduct in the Siegelman matter, the answer probably is yes.
In another form of "trust me" justice, the public might be forced to assume OPR actually turned over all relevant documents. In theory, OPR lawyers could be subject to serious sanctions for withholding any documents. But could they, in reality, hold back the most damning documents and get away with it? Considering the behavior of judges and prosecutors throughout the Siegelman matter, the answer clearly is "yes."
Those who have followed the Siegelman case know we have been down this road before. U.S. Magistrate Charles S. Coody (Middle District of Alabama) wrote in a June 2012 order that he had reviewed documents requested by Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy and found "no exculpatory matter" that would "further their claims." Lawyers for Siegelman and Scrushy later filed documents showing Coody never even ordered the requested documents -- and he certainly never reviewed them. In other words, Coody lied -- probably to cover up for federal prosecutors.
The road to seeking government documents has been long and winding in the Siegelman case. It started with a FOIA request in 2006, a FOIA lawsuit in 2009, and years of stonewalling by both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administration.
Are these documents sensitive? Well, the government has covered them up for 11 years, when both Republicans and Democrats controlled the White House. That has led to the current Joseph Siegelman lawsuit, with OPR supposedly turning over the documents and Haikala supposedly set to act with integrity while reviewing them outside of public view.
It all comes down to this: Can Judge Madeline Haikala be trusted? She is an Obama appointee, but given his dismal record on justice issues, that provides little grounds for hope.
We do not have access to the full case file, but these words from Joseph Siegelman's complaint are . . . well, we'll let you make the call. Here is what Joseph Siegelman asked for in his original complaint:
Plaintiff respectfully requests that this Honorable Court (1) issue an injunction ordering Defendant to disclose the requested documents, (2) provide for the expeditious processing of this action, (3) award Plaintiff reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs incurred by Plaintiff in this action, exclusive of pro bono services rendered, and (4) order any other relief this court deems just and proper.
You will notice that Joseph Siegelman did not ask for an in camera review. He asked for the requested documents to be disclosed, for "expeditious processing" of the case, and for attorney fees and litigation costs, plus any other proper relief.
Here is another key point: Joseph Siegelman included a jury demand in his complaint. We are not experts on FOIA law, but the jury demand indicates all, or many, of these issues lawfully could be determined by a jury. That suggests Siegelman is seeking transparency, while OPR probably wants no part of a jury.
We see no indication that Siegelman wants the process kept from view of the public or press, to be decided behind closed doors by a one-woman censor/judge. The in camera angle apparently entered the picture at the government's insistence -- and with Haikala's approval -- during consideration of multiple summary-judgment motions.
The potentially monumental repercussions of this case cannot be overstated. It threatens the careers of numerous legal and political figures. It could turn the DOJ upside down, bringing extensive review and much-need changes for a corroded system that is badly broken. Depending on statute-of-limitations issues, it could lead to criminal sanctions and perhaps millions of dollars in civil damages.
Our experience has been that federal judges are driven to protect the status quo. They benefit from a system that is in stasis, and they tend to rule with self-interest in mind. But if Madeline Haikala proves to have iron-clad integrity and the "stones" to invite transparency, justice might finally be on the horizon in the Siegelman case -- and the DOJ could be set for a shake-up of historic proportions.
|John Archibald, discussing the Bentley scandal on MSNBC|
Our questions ran from the probing to the absurd, and Collins and I decided the above question fell into the latter category. In fact, we were thinking along the same lines, and when that realization hit, it presented an LOL moment for both of us.
On a serious matter, Collins proved prescient about the direction any post-Bentley investigation might take. In fact, he essentially predicted the "no probable cause" finding on the "Luv Guv's" adviser and mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason, two days before it happened.
At the heart of our journalism discussion was al.com columnist John Archibald, who had appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show the night before and accepted credit for breaking the Bentley-scandal story -- which, of course, we broke here at Legal Schnauzer. This is not the first time this has happened on the Maddow Show, as she has been by far the most prominent journalist to shine a regular spotlight on the state of "affairs" in the Bentley administration.
To my knowledge, Archibald never has appeared on the show and said, "I broke the Bentley/Mason "Luv Guv" story." (Perhaps that's because he knows he didn't.) But he never corrects Maddow when she gives him credit for breaking it and heaps praise on both him and his ethically challenged "news organization." That led to the following exchange between Peter B. Collins and me.
Peter B. Collins (PBC) -- Maddow gave John Archibald full credit. Archibald himself didn't bother to say, "Well, you know, there was a blogger . . . "
Legal Schnauzer (LS) -- laughing . . . I can't help laughing because I thought of this same scenario.
PB -- Go ahead and laugh all you want, you deserve it. Here's Archibald being treated like a Pulitzer Prize nominee, and he doesn't have the good judgment and generosity to say, "Well, some other people broke the story, and I'm riding on their coattails."
LS-- I've imagined that same scenario -- and knew he wouldn't do it, wouldn't have the integrity to correct Rachel on the air and say, "I have reported on it, but I didn't break it, and my organization didn't break it, and for seven months we tried to squelch it. He said [my story] was "smoke" and "no fire, no facts, no proof." That's what's really galling. He not only didn't break it, he was seven months behind the curve . . .
PB -- And he was carrying water for Bentley!
As for Peter B's ability to foretell the future, consider this comment, made two days before the "no probable cause " finding on Rebekah Caldwell Mason:
PB -- My guess is . . . the way these things typically roll, now that [Bentley] has resigned, they will put it in a steamer trunk and bury it. There is no appetite to go further.
Talk about nailing it. Here are some other highlights from our discussion, where we either nailed it, missed it, or tried to act like we knew what we were talking about:
About Heather Hannah and her role as a hero in the Bentley scandal
LS -- For your listeners who might be football fans, she's the niece of John Hannah, who played for the New England Patriots and many consider to be the best football player to come out of the University of Alabama. . . . Bentley was attacking a member of what might be called "The First Family of Alabama football."Shows how stupid Bentley was. She's a very young woman, but she stood up to [the governor] and is a real hero in this.
On similarities between Heather Hannah's experiences and those of my wife, Carol, and me
LS -- As we read about Heather Hannah's experience, it was like having flashbacks. Bentley was trying to have her arrested, and we were arrested. She had vandalism at her home, which we had in the midst of our problems with the neighbor who has a criminal record. She had a rock thrown through her window, and we had a metal measuring tape thrown through ours. She had death threats written on her car, and we had death threats.
I thought, "My God, this sounds a lot like what we went through. The big picture is the misuse of law enforcement. This young woman did not do anything like a crime. They were trying to get her on a criminal eavesdropping statute, but Dianne Bentley was the one who placed the recording device. And she had every right to do that, as co-owner of the property. You can put an eavesdropping device in your own home.
On the roaming eyes of Southern "Christians," and how the "Luv Guv" Scandal was broken
LS -- These people, it's like they eat hypocrisy for breakfast. [Bentley] and his wife had been married for 50 years, and that's how the whole story started; she filed for divorce. . . . I talk about breaking the story, but to be honest, it wasn't a great act of shoe-leather journalism on my part. The minute Mrs. Bentley filed the divorce complaint, I had people -- who I knew were knowledgeable on politics -- calling me. All I had to do was sit there and listen. The story came to me more than the other way around.
|Peter B. Collins|
LS -- Yes! I put a worm on my hook, and next thing I know, I started reeling them in. If I did anything right in all of this, these people knew they could call me, and I would listen and take it seriously. You call al.com with a story about a Republican, and they just stick it in the desk drawer.
On my reporting about the Ashley Madison scam, and how it relates to the "Luv Guv" scandal
LS -- "I was astonished when reporting on the Ashley Madison story, how many familiar names I saw . . . "That guy's head of a bank" or "That guy's head of an engineering company. I tracked it down because I know the zip codes -- and the areas of town called Over the Mountain in Birmingham, where people with money and who vote Republican tend to live.
"It's very two-faced. One of the first things Bentley did, on his Inauguration Day, was to say, "If you haven't been saved by Jesus, you aren't my brother, and I want to be your brother -- something outrageously stupid like that. Everybody thought, "He's a harmless grandpa, how much harm can he do?" Grandpa has impure thoughts, as it turns out."
On the price paid for reporting on conservative corruption in Alabama
LS -- I broke the Bentley story on August 31, 2015, and nine days later -- we were living here in Springfield, Missouri, by that time because our house basically had been stolen in Alabama due to a wrongful foreclosure, and we wound up here, where I grew up -- but nine days after I broke the story, we were the subjects of a terrifying eviction that was unlawful. Carol had her arm snapped like a twig, and deputies pointed an assault rifle at my head. You wonder, when that happened so close together, if the Bentley team had something to do with it. It's been reported in several places that Bentley used state and federal criminal databases to look up dirt on me. . . . That's an example of the blow back you can get. These Republicans in the South, it's a lot like organized crime.
On possible criminal exposure for Rebekah Mason -- despite the "no probable cause" finding
LS -- Usually, prosecutors cut a deal with the lower-level person to get them to testify against a person higher up the food chain. In this case, it seems to be working in reverse. I don't know what will happen with [Mason] or other underlings. But in a real justice system -- which Alabama does not have -- she would have significant legal exposure.
On a personal level, if someone on their behalf targeted Carol and me, we are going to be looking at a lawsuit. And they already are facing several lawsuits.
The big issue with this plea deal is they didn't respond to investigative requests. Hardly any e-mails or text messages were turned over. In the digital world, that's where many crimes now are revealed. They've gotten away with a cover up, so far.
On the racism and classism that drive postmodern political corruption
LS -- We live in a country right now where if you are white and conservative, you get away with stuff. If you are white or black and liberal, watch out. The whole 14th Amendment stuff about equal protection and due process becomes a joke. That's been the theme of my blog for 10 years.
|Paul Bryant Jr.|
(From Bloomberg Markets)
Bryant was a major financial backer when the Tuscaloosa-based Bentley ran for governor. But the relationship must have soured because a recently released impeachment report quotes Bentley as saying Bryant was among several power brokers who were "using" him. Others included in the quote were Clay Ryan, vice president for governmental affairs and special counsel at the University of Alabama, and Bill O'Connor, a political consultant and former president of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) who became a Bentley insider, with close ties to Chief of Staff Seth Hammett.
Bentley's comment about Bryant is buried on page 86 of the impeachment report, and to my knowledge, has received no attention in the press. (The full report is embedded at the end of this post.)
The comment came after Bentley had dispatched Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) chief Spencer Collier to meet with the governor's scheduler, Linda Adams, to find out what she might know about tape recordings of a steamy conversation between Bentley and his adviser/mistress Rebekah Caldwell Mason. The meeting with Collier left Adams shaken, and Bentley brought it up with her in a subsequent meeting. From the report:
About a week later, on routine business in Governor Bentley’s office, Governor Bentley asked Adams if Collier had come to see her on election night. She replied: “Yes, sir, he did, and I don’t appreciate it.” Governor Bentley said: “I sent him.” Adams asked Governor Bentley: “Do you not trust me?” Governor Bentley replied: “Oh, no, no, no Linda, it’s nothing like that.” Adams says that Governor Bentley told her that his family was turning against him and that Paul Bryant, Clay Ryan, and Bill O’Connor were “using” him. Adams ended the conversation by telling Governor Bentley, “Governor, there are a lot of people using you.”
The governor is telling a key aide that two top-of-the-food-chain officials from the University of Alabama and a former president of the BCA are "using" him. How could those individuals "use" the governor? Were they using him for their personal benefit, for the benefit of the university and certain business interests? Did their "use" of Bentley involve Rebekah Caldwell Mason?
O'Connor reportedly told security chief Wendell Ray Lewis, ""We created Rebekah, but it wasn't to sleep with the Governor."
Who exactly is "we," and why did they create Rebekah Mason? That is one of many questions lingering over the Bentley scandal, even after he is gone from office.
|Paul Alan Levy|
On March 27, 2014, the day after my release the previous evening, I sent an e-mail to Paul Alan Levy, a lawyer with Public Citizen, a D.C.-based nonprofit founded by Ralph Nader, with the stated purpose of helping regular citizens fight injustice brought by the wealthy and the powerful. It took only a few minutes for Levy to prove to me that he didn't stand for anything upon which Nader had built the organization. Here was my introductory e-mail to Levy, which I thought was lucid and well stated for someone who had just spent five months unlawfully incarcerated in the Shelby County Jail:
I am a journalist/blogger in Alabama, and I was released from jail yesterday after being incarcerated for five months because of a preliminary injunction in a defamation case. It's all very similar to Dietz v. Perez, and I thought it might be of interest to you. I need legal representation and wanted to see if we could talk. My case has been widely covered in the NY Times, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post and many other news outlets, and even right-wing commenters seem to acknowledge that the injunction without a trial (in fact, without any discovery at all) is wildly unconstitutional.
I would appreciate any insights or guidance you can offer.
I thought I showed Levy plenty of respect. Did he return the favor? Not exactly, although he did take only 21 minutes to respond:
From what you say, you must be the guy who was enjoined and simply refused to comply with the injunction, and, from what I have heard from others, you were also too pigheaded to accept sound advice. Not a very attractive client for pro bono work!
In any event, we don’t handle defamation cases on the merits at the trial court level, so perhaps it depends what representation you are seeking.
As I noted in our previous post in this series, Levy came across as one of the biggest assholes I've ever encountered. You can see how I reached that conclusion. His "I have heard from others you were also too pigheaded to accept sound advice" was particularly interesting. He seemed to be referring to legal advice, and the only person who had given me legal advice regarding my incarceration was David Gespass.
Levy was not done being an ass. Here is how our conversation continued, with a response from me:
Thanks for your response. I don't think some of your assertions are correct, but I appreciate you getting back with me.
I decided I probably was showing Levy way more respect than he deserved, so I followed up:
A few thoughts come to mind that might be worth making:
* My wife and I never were served with the temporary restraining order, and a lawyer who has seen the file indicated to me the record shows that. It's hard for me to know because the record was sealed until well after my arrest.
* We received notice of the preliminary injunction hearing barely 24 hours before it was to be held. That is insufficient notice under Alabama law, which contemplates notice that allows for calling of witnesses, introduction of evidence, etc.
* I challenged service, which seemed to be the first order of business considering that we received papers during a dubious traffic stop. I was arrested before receiving an order on the motion to quash and before having an opportunity to address the preliminary injunction.
* I assume you are referring to advice I received while in jail, just a few days after being arrested, beaten, and maced in my own home. I hope you can appreciate that meeting with an attorney under such circumstances is difficult. It also was difficult for the attorney. The file was sealed, so he had virtually nothing to review and had to go to the other side to get court papers. Everyone who has seriously looked at the case, from all political sides, seems to agree that the preliminary injunction is unconstitutional, so I was having to seek advice while unlawfully incarcerated. Imagine if Ms. Perez had been hauled into jail, and you'd had to meet with her under those circumstances. It probably would have complicated things for both of you. In my case, I think it's more a matter of being traumatized than being pigheaded.
* Finally, all the evidence I've seen indicates I was arrested on an unsigned warrant. It appears such a warrant is "utterly void" under Alabama law. From Kelley v. State, 316 So. 2d 233 (1975):
Often rules relating to arrest warrants parallel those applying to searches and vice versa. Significantly unsigned arrest warrants have been held void. Oates v. Bullock, 136 Ala. 537, 33 So. 835 (warrant utterly void).
Again, I shouldn't have been having to discuss complex, constitutional issues with a lawyer while incarcerated. It makes for a very uneven playing field. Hope you will find these thoughts worth considering.
How did Levy respond to that? With absolute silence. You will notice, however, that he did not deny he was referring to legal advice I received in jail, which could only have come from David Gespass. Levy appeared to be acknowledging that my right to client-confidentiality had been violated.
That was the end of that exchange, but Paul Alan Levy and I were not finished with each other. I had occasion to communicate with him one other time -- and he proved to be as big an asshole the second time as he was the first time.
(To be continued)
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