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

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    Don Siegelman and Doug Jones
    Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) engaged in a heated political discussion shortly before Siegelman was forced to go to the doctor and wound up having heart surgery, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

    Siegelman had heart-bypass surgery on Feb. 9, the same day that his son, Joseph, qualified to run as a Democrat in the 2018 race for Alabama attorney general. Joseph Siegelman's political plans were at the heart of a tense conversation between Jones and Don Siegelman, sources say.

    Don Siegelman, apparently under the mistaken impression that Jones would be supportive of the younger Siegelman's plans, asked the senator for an endorsement. Jones declined, which should not have been a surprise considering the evidence of his support for the other Democrat in the race, Bradley Arant lawyer Chris Christie.

    Jones' negative reaction to the idea of a Joseph Siegelman endorsement should not have been a surprise for several other reasons:

    (1) Jones clearly has been aligned with the so-called "Alabama Gang" of Republicans -- including Rob Riley, Bill Canary, Jeff Sessions, and Karl Rove -- dating at least to the work Jones and Riley did together in the early 2000s on a lawsuit against HealthSouth and related entities, a case that generated more than $50 million in attorney fees.

    (2) Jones was Don Siegelman's defense attorney for a time in the federal bribery case that wound up unlawfully sending the former governor to federal prison for roughly six years. Jones inexplicably extended the statute of limitations for the government to built a case it obviously didn't have at the time. Jones also charged Siegelman $300,000 while doing relatively little legal work -- and then bailed out of the case before trial because of a conflict on Jones' end. We've seen no sign that Jones returned any of the money, and he has refused to answer our questions on the subject. To add insult to insult, Jones went before a Congressional committee in 2007 and talked glowingly about Bill Pryor, the current federal judge who, as Alabama AG in the late 1990s, launched the Siegelman investigation before the new governor's fanny barely had hit the office chair.

    (3) Jones apparently favors Chris Christie, even though a prominent spokesperson for the Christie campaign is Sirote Permutt lawyer Barry Ragsdale. That's the same Barry Ragsdale who helped former U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller fight charges that he beat his wife in an Atlanta hotel room -- events that led to Fuller's forced resignation from the bench. Fuller, of course, is the judge who oversaw the Siegelman trial, repeatedly making unlawful and one-sided rulings that helped ensure a conviction. Jones essentially supports a candidate whose campaign has ties to wife beating and the kind of judicial corruption that sends innocent people to prison.

    What's the No. 1 reason Jones doesn't support Joseph Siegelman? It's possible the younger Siegelman would be a tough, competent attorney general -- probably the first Alabama AG with integrity since Jimmy Evans (1991-95). The last thing Jones and his right-wing associates want is a competent AG who might take a critical glance at some of their under-handed activities in recent years. Here is how we put it in a recent post:

    Why is Joseph Siegelman's run for the AG's office generating blow back from establishment Democrats and Republican? The answer, to me, is obvious. Many of those establishment types -- Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Jeff Sessions, Doug Jones, Bill Canary, Mark Fuller, Leura Canary and many more -- were deeply involved in the crooked prosecution that caused Don Siegelman to land in prison.

    The establishment knows that a real attorney general, such as Joseph Siegelman, still could pursue any number of civil or criminal claims that are not barred by the statute of limitations. And that means a Joseph Siegelman tenure as AG could help put some of them -- and their brethren -- behind bars, where they belong. No wonder they support Chris Christie, who likely is to serve as their protector.

    In other words, Joseph Siegelman could be a threat to Doug Jones and the right-wing thugs who helped him land in the U.S. Senate. Don Siegelman apparently does not grasp that, and we can't imagine why.

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    Eric Greitens
    A woman who had an extramarital affair with Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said she felt coerced into having sex, and he threatened to release a photo of her bound and blindfolded if she ever mentioned his name and the affair, according to a report released yesterday by the Missouri State House.

    The woman also said Greitens struck her, touched her crotch without consent, and called her a whore.

    Greitens, a former Navy SEAL who once was considered a possible Republican presidential candidate, now faces heightened calls for his impeachment or resignation. From a report at CNN:

    A Missouri state House committee released a graphic report Wednesday including lurid details of alleged conduct by Gov. Eric Greitens with a woman who testified under oath that Greitens subjected her to non-consensual sexual activity and violence.

    The report could set the stage for impeachment proceedings against the embattled Republican governor, who already faces criminal invasion of privacy charges in addition to multiple ongoing probes.

    The woman, whose name was concealed by the committee, said under oath that the governor staged and took a photo of her bound and blindfolded, and then threatened to release the photo, were she to disclose their encounter.

    "You're not going to mention my name. Don't even mention my name to anybody at all, because if you do, I'm going to take these pictures, and I'm going to put them everywhere I can. They are going to be everywhere," he said, according to her testimony, "and then everyone will know what a little whore you are." The governor previously denied that he had ever blackmailed or threatened the woman.

    The CNN report included graphic details about the woman's encounters with Greitens:

    The woman testified that during their first sexual encounter, Greitens held his penis near her face as she was "uncontrollably crying." She said she felt coerced into oral sex, and agreed with the statement that she "didn't feel necessarily able to leave without performing oral sex" and feared for her "physical self."

    In another meeting, the woman said Greitens asked her whether she had been sexually active with anyone else, including her husband. When she replied that she had, Greitens "slapped me across my face, just like hard," the woman said.

    Stltoday.com also provided details about the ugly nature of Greitens' alleged actions:

    During several sexual encounters with his hair stylist the year before he was elected Missouri's governor, Eric Greitens struck her in the face, touched her crotch without her consent and called her a "whore," the woman told a Missouri House committee, according to newly released documents.

    The claims add disturbing new layers to the single criminal allegation Greitens faces — a felony invasion-of-privacy charge, for allegedly taking and transmitting a semi-nude photo of her without her consent.

    In sworn testimony made March 7, the woman stood by that allegation, as presented in the House report released Wednesday afternoon. She also painted a broader picture of Greitens as a controlling, jealous lover for whom violence or the threat of it was an integral part of the affair.

    Bullying was a major part of the relationship, according to the stltoday.com report:

    During one encounter in the summer of 2015, the woman testified, Greitens struck her and shoved her to the ground as they became intimate in his Central West End home.

    "And I instantly just started bawling and was just like, 'What is wrong with you? What is wrong with you?'" she told the committee. "And I just laid there crying while he was just like ... 'You're fine, you're fine.'"

    During another encounter, she alleges, he physically restrained her from leaving his home and insisted she give him oral sex, even though she was crying.

    Greitens reacted angrily to the report's release. From CNN:

    Greitens, in a statement to reporters prior to the report's release Wednesday, called the investigation a "political witch hunt" and characterized the findings as "tabloid trash gossip" based on "lies and falsehoods," although witnesses interviewed with the committee under oath, and the committee found the woman to be "an overall credible witness." The governor declined to testify.

    His response Wednesday echoed statements by his team in recent weeks, which have sought to frame the governor's scandal as a partisan endeavor. But a Republican majority authorized the House committee's investigation, which was also led by a Republican.

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    North Birmingham Superfund cleanup

    The North Birmingham Superfund scandal is a classic case of environmental racism -- driven by "a good ole boy network littered with sketchy cash" -- according to a new report from an online magazine about African-American culture. Two well-known corporate entities in Birmingham -- Alabama Power and Southern Company -- are right in the middle of the scandal, but so far have managed to keep a respectful distance from the fallout.

    In a piece titled "Eau de Bull, Again: Good Ole Boys Have ‘No Concerns About Anything Inappropriate’ in Environmental-Racism Case,"The Root points to Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions and Luther Strange, both former U.S. senators, as key figures in a white network that consistently tramples the rights of black residents in low-income neighborhoods. The network largely revolves, the report states, around Drummond Co. and the Balch Bingham law firm.

    Four people -- two Balch lawyers, one Drummond executive, and former State Rep. Oliver Robinson -- have been indicted and entered not-guilty pleas. But The Root says other key players have been kept under wraps, to this point. From the article:

    In September, Robinson entered a plea deal. To reduce the 100 years in prison he faced from seven federal offenses, Robinson confessed as to who, what, how and which angle of bent he found most comfortable while taking bribes. Two Balch lawyers, Joel Gilbert and Steven McKinney, and one Drummond vice president were indicted on counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. All three have pleaded not guilty.

    But the buck doesn’t stop here. Rather, its tracks drunkenly meander out into a good ole boy network littered with sketchy cash.

    Only people from Balch and Drummond have been indicted. However, they weren’t the only ones contributing to the nonprofit work from which Robinson siphoned profits. Another utility company represented by Balch -- Alabama Power, for example -- donated $30,000 to Robinson’s foundation in 2015.

    Ah, Alabama Power, part of the Southern Company umbrella. Those corporate names will get anyone's attention in Birmingham. And The Root suggests they have received softball treatment in the Superfund case:

    Alabama Power, a coal titan in and of itself, is a subsidiary of Southern Co., America’s second-largest utility. Both entities share more relations with Balch than sister-wives. Executives at Southern and Balch swap out like Pokémon cards. Their little black book of political donees is Old Testament-thick.

    Just as an example: Balch was founded in the ’20s by the brother of Alabama Power’s president to focus on the latter’s legal affairs. Southern and Balch were Jeff Sessions’ biggest donors when he was an Alabama senator. When Sessions became attorney general, Jeffrey Wood -- who worked as Sessions’ environmental and energy counsel until going to lobby for Balch and Southern in 2014 -- was made head of the ENRD. When the Trump administration replaced the EPA director overseeing the 35th Avenue site, it picked Trey Glenn, an Alabama official who worked for Balch Bingham in 2016, to oversee the 35th Avenue site.

    To have an affiliation with Balch or Southern is to be two -- at most -- degrees of separation from either a new job at the other company or a convenient position in the Trump administration.

    The plot thickens as we see the Trump White House enter the fray. And The Root points to K.B. Forbes, publisher of the Web site banbalch.com and founder of Consejo de Latinos Unidos (CDLU). Forbes' reporting has focused heavily on an apparent conspiracy where Balch attorneys tried to steal the lucrative collections business established by Birmingham solo practitioner Burt Newsome. As we've reported earlier, Luther Strange's nasty fingerprints appear to be all over the attempted financial hit on Newsome.

    Forbes recently interviewed a key Southern Company executive and found the company sees no reason to be concerned about the Superfund scandal. From The Root:

    Cousin-loving nepotism and corrupt congressmen make for an interesting conflict-of-interest cocktail. But for those not sipping the Kool-Aid, Southern’s recent response to the advocacy group Consejo de Latinos Unidos tastes fishy.

    K.B. Forbes, head of the CDLU, recently interviewed Southern’s general counsel, Jim Kerr. Forbes submitted a plan of action that Southern could take to wash its hands of Balch’s misdeeds in the Robinson scandal, including measures such as these: “Immediately conduct an internal top to bottom review of all partners and whose actions that may be unethical, criminal or unscrupulous. Fire all the bad apples regardless of tenure or seniority.”

    Kerr responded, “We do not see a place to step into [the Robinson scandal].” That rings hollow considering that Wood, Balch’s point lobbyist for Southern, was lobbying on Superfund policy at the time on behalf of Southern. In fact, Wood has specifically recused himself from any matters at the ENRD pertaining to the 35th Avenue site, suggesting that he was specifically lobbying about the site. After Forbes pointed this out, Kerr took a long pause before going full Sarah Huckabee Sanders: “We reviewed the information. I have no concerns about anything inappropriate.”

    When I asked Kerr about his comments, which Forbes surreptitiously recorded, I was referred to Southern’s media strategist Schuyler Baehman: “I can confirm that it is Jim Kerr in the conversation. Beyond that, we have no further comment.”

    Southern may not have been indicted, but the company could be doing more to distance itself from a firm whose web of cash sticks to every facet of a conspiracy to disenfranchise poor blacks.

    Talk of nepotism and corruption takes us back to Sessions and Strange:

    Robinson aside, Balch ghost-wrote a letter from then-Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, which argued against the EPA’s proposal to expand the 35th Avenue site. Strange also wrote another letter, falsely stating that Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management’s initial assessment was that the 35th Avenue site shouldn’t be put on the National Priorities List.

    That, of course, came after Drummond had slipped contributions of $25,000 and $50,000 to Strange. Was that a quid pro quo that would amount to federal-funds bribery and could send "Big Lutha" to the Big House? Sure sounds like it. Speaking of federal prison, let's not forget Jeff Sessions, who already is awash in the Trump-Russia scandal:

    Mother Jones also discovered that a 2015 “Balch Bingham newsletter touted a meeting with Jeff Sessions to discuss the 35th Avenue site and predicted a letter, signed by top Alabama lawmakers, would shortly be sent to the EPA expressing concerns over the agency’s methodology when it came to assigning blame.” It was. Sessions and his staffer Brandon Middleton (who would later become Wood’s deputy at the ENRD) arranged meetings with EPA officials to argue against putting the 35th Avenue site on the NPL.

    Now the funny part: Sessions ultimately oversees this corruption investigation. He’s been asked multiple time to recuse himself. He hasn’t acknowledged any such steps.

    But hey, no need to be concerned about anything inappropriate.

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    Noah Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
    My nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler, has seen his wild-ass speeding case (being clocked at 88 mph in a 60 zone) resolved -- with a plea of guilty, six months of probation, and a fine of $90.50. The offense to which he pleaded guilty is the equivalent in Missouri of a DUI -- which carries possible punishment of up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000 -- so it's clear Noah received softball treatment, even though he also had a possession-of-drug-paraphernalia charge pending when the speeding case first was set to be heard.

    That presents this question: Why was Noah "not guilty" when he entered a plea back in January -- the speeding incident happened in May 2017, but was not listed as a court case until late October -- but he suddenly became guilty on April 6?

    Public documents suggest the answer is that Noah's father, my lawyer-brother David Shuler, pulled a con game to help his son achieve a soft landing while he had three court cases pending at one time. That David Shuler would engage in a con certainly is no surprise, given the evidence we've uncovered in recent weeks that he has acted with repugnant deceit toward Carol and me. In short, evidence suggests David helped arrange our unlawful eviction, his actions regarding a 911 call (that I did not make) damned near got us killed, and he played a huge role in Carol's arm being broken. (Details in upcoming posts.)

    How did David Shuler game a system that is broken beyond repair to begin with? It couldn't have been hard, when you are a lawyer with a kid who can't stay out of trouble, and many members of the legal tribe are known for protecting their own -- while screwing the general public at every opportunity.

    Noah's case presents powerful proof that our pleading system in criminal cases is a dysfunctional, steaming pile of cow feces. During the course of a court case, individuals who "swear falsely" (under oath) can be subject to criminal charges in the form of perjury. But the same individuals can enter a false plea -- David Shuler likely knew his son was guilty in the speeding case -- and get away with it.

    Curious timing was everywhere in the Noah matter -- and that's because he was facing multiple charges, in separate cases, at roughly the same time. Let's follow the docket trail:

    * May 22, 2017 -- a state trooper clocks Noah driving up to 88 mph in a 60 zone on U.S. 65 near Springfield, MO.

    * October 28, 2017 -- the case appears in public records as a court matter. Why the delay of more than five months? Our guess is that Noah was hoping the case would go away and did not tell his parents, and they likely got clued in when a piece of court mail arrived at the residence.

    * December 19, 2017 -- Noah is set for arraignment, but David Shuler (acting as his son's lawyer) was granted a continuance.

    * January 17, 2018 -- The arraignment is held, and David Shuler enters a plea of "not guilty."

    Let's catch our breath and remember that date -- Jan. 17, 2018. That's when Noah, according to his lawyer/father, was not guilty.

    But let's consider another key date -- Dec. 30, 2017. That's when a cop in Sparta, MO, pulled Noah and girlfriend Aubrynne Russell over (she was driving and charged with speeding), with Noah found in possession of drug paraphernalia.

    David Shuler almost certainly knew about the drug charge when he entered the "not guilty" plea in the speeding case on Jan. 17, 2018. But that's just the first sign of gaming. The next came on March 7, 2018, when a hearing was set in the speeding case, and David again asked for a continuance -- this time, the hearing was reset for April 6, 2018, Friday before last.

    Was there a legitimate reason for the continuance? The answer probably is no. David Shuler likely knew two things: (1) Noah was going to have to plead guilty in the speeding case; it's pretty hard to prove your innocence when a trooper has clocked you driving at 28 mph above the speed limit; (2) The drug-paraphernalia case still was hanging out there and could lead to a tougher sentence for Noah in the speeding matter.

    I don't claim to be an expert on the criminal side of our "justice system," but my research indicates it's not a good idea to get a new charge -- particularly a drug-related matter -- while another charge is pending. Prosecutors, if there are any real ones in Missouri, can ask for tougher sentences in such circumstances. And Judge Jerry Harmison might have become inclined to issue more than a wrist slap in the speeding case.

    Our guess is that David Shuler asked for the continuance on 3/7 because he knew the drug matter had not been resolved. We're still not sure it's been resolved -- a hearing was set for April 12 (last Thursday, in Sparta Municipal Court), but the record disappeared from case.net on or about March 8, one day after David asked for a continuance in the speeding case.

    Did that keep prosecutors and Judge Harmison from even knowing about the drug case -- and help Noah get softball treatment that he likely did not deserve?  The answer probably is yes.

    David Shuler makes good money, but we've seen substantial evidence that suggests he's not much of a lawyer. Early in his career, David did quite a bit of criminal-defense work, but he wound up with a legal-malpractice case that paints a disparaging assessment of his legal skills.

    Attending the University of Missouri School of Law might not make you much of an attorney, but it apparently provides you with enough knowledge of procedural matters that you can easily con a court and give your ne'er-do-well kid a soft landing.

    Impressive.

    (Note: While Noah Shuler's drug paraphernalia case has disappeared from case.net, the speeding charge against his girlfriend, Aubrynne Russell, remains in plain sight, for anyone to see -- 160572245, CITY OF SPARTA V AUBRYNNE LAINE RUSSELL. A hearing for her was set on April 12 (the same date as Noah's was set), but attorney Russell Dempsey (the same attorney Noah had) asked for a continuance, and a new hearing date has not been set. Why does Ms. Russell's speeding charge remain visible to the public, while Noah Shuler's drug-related charge has disappeared? Is she being treated differently from the son of a local lawyer? Is that "justice" in the Missouri Ozarks?)


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    The notice we've put on Facebook regarding troll
    attacks that have caused Legal Schnauzer URL to be blocked
    as "spam" and "unsafe."

    For the second time in less than a month, I am in "Facebook Jail," apparently because pro-police trolls have reported certain blog posts about my wife Carol's broken arm (courtesy of Missouri cops) as "spam" and "unsafe." The bogus spam complaints have caused Facebook to block the Legal Schnauzer URL, meaning those who follow me on Facebook cannot go via a link directly to the blog.

    When this happened last month, it took about 10 days to resolve. It looks like it will take 10 days or more to resolve it this time. That is irritating to me and my readers -- and one reader had an idea that just might put a stop to it.

    The reader suggested that I sue Facebook. At first, I laughed that idea off. If I was able to secure the services of a lawyer who wanted to take on the social-media giant, that might be one thing. But for me to do it myself, on a pro se basis? Well, that seemed like a Quixotical task, given the way courts love to cheat individuals who represent themselves.

    But I've decided the idea might have merit, with or without a lawyer. For one, I've repeatedly explained to Facebook that my posts are not spam, and they are tied to a secure URL, so they aren't "unsafe" either. I've encouraged the company to eye the trolls who are causing the problem and punish them, perhaps by throwing them in Facebook Jail. Those entreaties seem to have fallen on deaf ears, which could lead to a valid legal claim against Facebook -- perhaps for negligence, wantonness, or more.

    We have not gotten, however, to what might be the good part. Part of a lawsuit against Facebook could be, via discovery, to force the company to turn over the names of trolls who are causing this malicious action against me. With the names of the trolls in hand, I could add them to the lawsuit and try to hit them where it hurts -- in the pocketbook.

    If Missouri cops or their associates are behind this -- and I have little doubt they are -- taking a big chunk out of their paychecks might be quite a treat indeed. The trolls could be hit for tortious interference, for sure, and perhaps other claims.

    If it's proven that cops are using public resources (computers, phones, etc.) for their own personal amusement (to facilitate harassment of a blogger), it could lead to an investigation on possible violations of ethics law -- and it could cost several coppers their jobs.

    A lawsuit might be a way to drop some serious hell on the heads of thug cops who deserve to be outed and punished. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

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    Noah Hayes Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
    Marijuana has become a prime subject here at Legal Schnauzer, thanks mainly to the legal travails of my nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler -- the son of my lawyer-brother David Shuler.

    While researching the MJ issue recently, we came across an article about the changing drug culture here in the Missouri Ozarks. It seems the region once was known for low-quality, inexpensive weed that tended to arrive from Mexico. That's not the case anymore, as this article from 2015 explains:

    It was only a few years ago when undercover narcotics officers could set up a dealer on the cheap — only $1,000 for a pound of marijuana.

    Today, to bust a drug dealer for that same amount of weight, they expect to pay up to six-times that.

    Dan Banasik, a Missouri State Highway Patrol supervising sergeant for narcotics, said the Springfield market has been inundated with high-grade marijuana from Colorado and other states where the drug is legal.

    “We’ve seen a large increase in that,” Banasik said. “Since it is legal there, I don’t believe the enforcement is as tough.”

    Banasik said the marijuana coming from Colorado is a much higher quality than the Mexican weed that was most common in Springfield a decade ago. He said the product from Colorado has much higher levels of THC — the main active ingredient in marijuana — meaning it takes less of the drug to achieve a stronger high.

    So, a "Rocky Mountain High" now can be had in the Ozarks. But it comes with extra potency and a serious price hike, both of which could be troublesome for users:

    Banasik said the more potent marijuana has driven up the price of the drug in Springfield. But while that may be good news for dealers in town, local experts say the recent infusion of potent marijuana could be trouble.

    Mark Wood, chemistry professor at Drury University, said marijuana works by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. He said those neurotransmitters play a role in just about everything — including fear, pleasure, hunger, smell, vision and pain.

    Wood said the higher the THC level in marijuana, the bigger the impact the drug has on those neurotransmitters in the brain.

    “Anytime you increase the active ingredient in something, you are going to get a bigger effect,” Wood said. “If there is an addictive effect or a negative effect, it is going to be bigger.”

    That takes us back to Noah Hayes Shuler. He lives at the Millwood golf-course community near Ozark, MO, in a house appraised at more than $621,000. That means he likely can afford the good stuff from Colorado, or some other state where MJ is legal.

    Colorado weed -- the expensive kind
    For his recent possession-of-drug-paraphernalia case, Noah was described in the police report as owner of a rubber MJ pipe and three mostly empty sandwich bags -- all containing marijuana residue. How did all three baggies become empty at the same time? One answer might be that someone dumped the weed in the car when police lights were spotted in the rear-view mirror. A Sparta, MO, cop on the scene did not search the vehicle, driven by Noah's girlfriend (Aubrynne Russell), so we likely will never know.

    Here are three other questions, with elusive answers:

    * What kind of weed was in Noah's baggies? Was it the expensive kind from Colorado, which now seems to be the rage on the Ozarks scene -- especially among those who can afford it?

    * If Noah had been smoking the MJ the officer smelled -- and it was the highly potent kind -- how high was Noah at the time of the traffic stop?

    * If all three baggies once were full, that means Noah possessed at least three ounces of weed. Our research indicates that is way more than a casual user typically would have. Whether Noah was using (which the pipe suggests) or dealing (which the three baggies suggest), how much did the weed cost, and where did Noah get it?

    Finally, why has Noah's drug case disappeared from the public record at case.net? A reader recently suggested prosecutors might have offered Noah a soft sentence (and a hidden record) if he turned into a confidential informant -- also known as a snitch -- to help nail others on drug charges.

    We don't know if that's the case, but it certainly would explain some oddities surrounding Noah's case.

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    Nicholas Jain (fourth from left) at a gathering of
    Republican candidates in Dunklin County, MO.
    Nicholas Jain, Missouri's notorious drunk-driving prosecutor, is running for prosecuting  attorney (PA) of Dunklin County. We've reported on Jain's likely plans for several weeks -- even before he left his job as assistant PA in Greene County -- and the Delta Dunklin County Democrat newspaper recently made it official.

    The Democrat reports that Jain will run against Republican incumbent Jeff McCormick. From an article titled "Republican candidates speak at Lincoln Day Banquet":

    Nicholas Jain, who is also seeking the position of Dunklin County Prosecuting Attorney, addressed the group. Jain is a native of Kennett and after law school moved to Springfield where he joined the Green County prosecuting attorney’s office, specializing in domestic violence, driving while intoxicated and white-collar crimes.“I’m running because I want to prosecute tough and smart, support law enforcement, and I want to work tirelessly to fight crime in Dunklin County,” said Jain. “I want to apply all of the things I learned in Springfield to work here in Dunklin County.” He explained how working closely with law enforcement to the point of going through training, DUI testing, and child forensics improves his ability to ask the best questions. He said being accessible to the victims is one of the biggest assets to successful prosecution. “I promise that if I’m elected prosecutor, I will work as hard as I can to do the best job that I can,” he said. “I’m asking you for your vote and I’m asking you for your trust as the next prosecutor for Dunklin County.”

    Hmmm . . . Jain mentions that he worked on drunk-driving cases and even went through training for DUI testing. But no mention of his own DUI conviction, which we've reported in considerable detail. Surely, Jain meant to mention that to the law-abiding Republicans in his home county, so it must have just slipped his mind. Perhaps someone needs to notify the press and political figures in Dunklin County about the DUI skeleton in Jain's extra-wide closet.

    Here is information about Jain's opponent:

    Prosecuting Attorney Jeff McCormick, who is seeking a second term for Dunklin County, spoke to the group. With over 15 years of legal experience, McCormick during his time as Prosecuting Attorney has prosecuted over 5,000 criminal cases and hopes to continue to serve Dunklin County. At 44 years old, McCormick said of the Democrat party, “The party of what I thought I was, left.” Being from Missouri, he said he has always held conservative values, and it was not a giant leap from one to the other. “The values of this party are absolutely the values I have always had and what represents me,” declared McCormick. “This is where I wanted to be…for the first time, no matter what, in the next election cycle, Dunklin County will have the first Republican prosecutor that it has ever had.” McCormick praised [county GOP chair Tammy] Gibson for her work in expanding the party and being the driving force behind it. “It is nice to be a part of this party and to have things that are occurring, to be on the move, and taking a step forward all the time.” He then asked for everyone’s vote and the opportunity to serve again.

    Let's note a few curious items in Jain's statement:

    (1) He says one of his goals is to "support law enforcement." That's what a prosecuting attorney is supposed to do? I thought the job entailed seeking justice, on behalf of all citizens in the county. What if law enforcement acts corruptly in a particular case, as we've seen they can do in Greene County. Is Jain's job still to "support law enforcement." What if cops in his area are so corrupt that THEY need to be prosecuted? Does Jain apply the law or "support law enforcement"?

    (2) Jain says he wants to apply what he learned in Springfield? Does that include bringing cases where probable cause clearly is lacking? He's done that on multiple occasions in Greene County, as we've reported several times. From a recent LS post:

    Along with his boss, Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson, Jain showed quite a knack for bringing criminal charges without probable cause. He did it in the "assault on a law enforcement officer" case involving my wife, Carol, and our unlawful eviction in September 2015. He did it again in a DUI case involving Springfield resident Charles Hollis Roux. In fact, trial judge Margaret Palmietto granted the defense's motion to suppress in the Roux matter, tossing the case for lack of probable cause.

    Jain and Patterson appealed, and the Missouri Court of Appeals went against its own precedent to overrule Palmietto and force Roux to trial on April 26. He pleaded guilty to two minor vehicle-related infractions, and Palmietto took the DUI matter under advisement.

    All kinds of issues likely will be discussed in the Dunklin County PA race over the next few months. But you can rest assured Nicholas Jain does not want his DUI conviction to be one of them.


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    James Bookout
    A high-ranking administrator at Troy University appears as a paying customer on the Alabama list at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, according to publicly available records.

    James M. Bookout, senior vice chancellor for finance and business affairs, has been a major figure at Troy for 15 years. What does his office do? This is from the university Web site:

    The mission of the Office of Finance and Business Affairs at Troy University (comprising the Troy, Montgomery, Dothan and Phenix City campuses) is to deliver an array of support services to students, faculty and staff that contribute to the enhancement and delivery of the University's academic programs and student programs and activities essential to the educational experience of the University. Through a highly-trained and service-oriented staff, the Office of Finance and Business Affairs is committed to embrace change and focus on responsiveness in support of the University's mission.

    Bookout joined Troy's administrative team in 2003, as vice chancellor of financial affairs. Chancellor Jack Hawkins Jr. appointed Bookout to his current position in 2008. From an article at Troy University Magazine:

    Mr. Bookout joined Troy University’s administrative team in October 2003 as Vice Chancellor for Financial Affairs. In his new role, Bookout also takes on new business responsibilities including Auxiliary Services, Facilities and Capital Planning, Dining Services and the Athletics Business Office. He will report directly to the Chancellor.

    “Jim Bookout is an outstanding leader and I have no doubt he will excel in his new role,” Chancellor Hawkins said. “Troy University prides itself on efficiency and good stewardship. Mr. Bookout understands how to return the maximum service for every dollar we invest. He is the right man at the right time.”

    The 2008 magazine article also shined light on Bookout's background:

    Bookout, a native of Chipley, FL, is a CPA and holds a bachelor’s degrees in business management from the University of West Florida and accounting from Florida State University, as well as a master’s degree from Boston University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Alabama.

    Bookout's marital status is not clear. Property records show that he lives at 503 Flavia Circle in Troy's Ridgewood subdivision, and the property has an appraised value of $260,800.

    Property records from 2013 show that Alicia G. Bookout sold the Flavia Circle property -- or her share in it -- for $262,770 to  James M. Bookout. It appears they were married and lived at that property before getting a divorce somewhere around 2013. We don't have access to full AlaCourt.com records, but it appears there was a divorce, and Ms. Bookout moved to a property in Destin, Florida, at least for a while. It's not clear if the couple has children, but a Brent Bookout works as an HR manager for Troy University Dining Services.

    We sought comment from James M. Bookout for this post, but he has not responded to our queries.


    Previously:


    Article with links to 1-40 in Ashley Madison series

    (41) David Armistead, director of enterprise sales, TekLinks, Birmingham (10/19/17)

    (42) William House, VP and controller, HealthSouth, Birmingham (10/26/17)

    (43) Olin B. Barnes III, VP, One Resource Group, Birmingham (11/1/17)

    (44) T.J. Bunn Jr., ST Bunn Construction, Tuscaloosa (11/2/17)

    (45) Todd Deffenbaugh, VP and controller, Express Oil Change, Birmingham (11/6/17)

    (46) Richard D. Crites, lawyer and reserve deputy, Springfield, MO (11/13/17)

    (47) Mark C. Trudeau, CEO, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, St. Louis, MO (11/15/17)

    (48) Peter Blasi, lawyer, Evans Blasi, St. Louis, MO (11/16/17)

    (49) Todd Wiesehan, director of resource management, Christian Co., MO (11/22/17)

    (50) Spencer Desai, lawyer, Carmody MacDonald, St. Louis, MO (11/27/17)

    (51) Johnny Aycock, assistant to the president, University of West Alabama (12/19/17)

    (52) Chris McIntyre, district judge, Calhoun County, AL (1/3/18)

    (53) William W. Smith, lawyer, Smith and Alspaugh, Birmingham (1/10/18)

    (54) Jake Reinbold, lawyer, Turner Reid Law Firm, Springfield, MO (1/11/18)

    (55) Chevene Hill, lawyer, Birmingham (2/15/18)


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    The back seat of a patrol car, where Carol was placed after Missouri
    deputies had beaten her and broken her arm. (Notice part of the
    seat-belt system at left.)

    Sheriff's deputies, first thing the next morning, started concocting a false story to cover up the police brutality that caused my wife's broken arm, a newly obtained photograph shows.

    The photograph is part of  limited discovery prosecutors have produced in the bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" case Carol has been fighting for 14 months. Prosecutors mostly have stonewalled on Carol's discovery requests, producing responses like "we're not aware of that existing" or "we haven't been able to find that."

    Despite the stonewalling, we've received evidence that reveals a lot about the brutality and dishonesty that seem to be part of the modern cop's DNA. We reported recently on photos -- taken at a hospital emergency room roughly an hour after Carol's arm was broken and she was hauled to jail -- that show the early signs of how badly Carol was injured. Two photos show the beginning of severe bruising, along with a baseball-size lump that likely was caused by the pooling of blood and a broken bone that was pushing against skin. 

    The photos apparently are so unsettling to cop trolls that they've filed false reports to Facebook that my posts are "spam" or "unsafe," causing my blog URL to be blocked. This has happened twice in the past month -- both times on posts that include photos of Carol's broken arm -- and it takes 10 days or so to get the matter resolved. If the problem continues, I'm considering a lawsuit against Facebook and the trolls responsible for these abusive tactics.

    Back to the photos of Carol's injuries, taken while she was in custody. What was Carol, the obvious victim of a police assault, doing in jail? She was there because Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott was on the scene and stood about five feet away as three of his officers surrounded Carol and one slammed her viciously to the ground and yanked on her limbs. Perhaps sensing this was police brutality that might have produced a serious injury, Arnott started the cover-up by pointing at Carol and saying, "She assaulted a law-enforcement officer." I saw all of this happen from the front seat of our car in the driveway of our duplex apartment, about 15-20 feet away.

    How gross is the corruption that Arnott set in motion? The photograph at the top helps tell the story. It was taken of the backseat of a squad car where Carol was placed for transport to jail, after her arm had been broken and Arnott had fingered her for a bogus criminal charge.

    It is a simple picture, not artsy in the least. But it reveals a couple of key points that point to the beginnings of police corruption -- a cover-up, if you will:

    (1) On the left side of the photo, you see part of the vehicle's seat-belt system. It shows a strap running downward from the top of the seat, with a buckle at the bottom of the strap. Another part of the seat-belt system likely is out of view -- on the other side of where a suspect would sit -- with both parts used to secure the suspect in the back seat. Bottom line? Carol was placed in a vehicle equipped with what appears to be a modern and high-end seat-belt system.

    (2) The photograph is time stamped at 8:34 a.m. on 9/10/15.

    Let's start with No. 2 and see what that tells us. As we recently reported, Carol complained of severe pain in her left arm, and a jail nurse ordered that she be taken to the emergency room at nearby Cox North Medical Center. Deputy Scott Harrison took photos of Carol's injuries, and they are time stamped between 15:01 hours (3:01 p.m. on 9/9/15) and 16:09 hours (4:09 p.m. on 9/9/15). Shortly after that, Carol's arm was X-rayed, showing a comminuted fracture, and she was transported to Cox South, where her left arm was placed in a temporary cast in preparation for trauma surgery.

    The beginnings of severe bruising in photo taken about
    one hour after Missouri cops had broken Carol's arm.
    The X-rays are time stamped between 5 and 6 p.m on 9/9/15., so by early evening, Harrison knew Carol's arm was broken -- and he almost certainly knew how it was broken, and by whom. Carol said she could see him feverishly texting information to someone. We don't know the content of those texts because they have not been produced in discovery, but our guess is they went something like this:

    "Holy shit, we've got a problem! Officer ________ broke that woman's arm! Worst of all, there goes my pension!!!" 

    So what does the time stamp in item No. 2 tell us. It shows that bright and early the next morning, at 8:34 a.m. on 9/10/15, someone had concocted a phony story of Carol hurting herself by flailing about in the backseat -- and the photo was a sorry effort to document that.

    We've reported before about the cops' theory, stated in their incident-report notes, that Carol must have injured herself because, Lord knows, cops never hurt anybody. This is from Officer Debi Wade's written report:

    Once she was detained in the back of the car, Deputy Harrison retrieved her [Missouri] ID from her purse, and then gave the purse to Mr. Shuler. Mr. Shuler was asked to leave the scene so that the movers could get to work. He sat in his car across the street, refusing to leave the area while we allowed the movers in the house and turned the keys over to them. When I walked past the patrol car a couple of minutes later, Carol was screaming and jerking her body all over the back seat and cage of the car very violently.

    We've shown that Wade's story -- and similar ones from other officers -- is a load of crap. For one, Carol was seat-belted into the vehicle, using the system you can see in the photograph at top. Two, Carol's medical records show her injuries are inconsistent with the cops' fantasy story. In short, it's not possible to inflict such severe injuries on yourself by flailing about in the back seat of a patrol car. From our post on the subject:

    A comminuted fracture is a break or splinter of the bone into more than two fragments. Since considerable force and energy is required to fragment bone, fractures of this degree occur after high-impact trauma such as in vehicular accidents.

    External fixation devices such as splints and casts are usually inadequate in treating this type of fracture. Repairing a comminuted fracture often requires open surgery to restructure the bone to normal anatomy.

    Can a person, in the tiny cage depicted in the photograph, generate enough force and energy to produce a comminuted fracture -- one that put Carol at threat of shock, blood loss, nerve damage, kidney damage, and elevated pressures, according to medical records? Of course not.

    An X-ray of Carol's broken arm shows a bone
    fragment almost breaking through the skin, perhaps
    stopped only by pooling blood in the dark area
    at right.
    But the time stamp above shows that Jim Arnott's minions started working on that bogus story first thing the morning after they had learned of Carol's broken arm.

    As for Point No. 1, the use of (or lack of use) of seat belts in police transports has become the source of lawsuits across the nation. One such lawsuit is Brown v. Missouri Department of Corrections, where a prisoner was injured in a vehicle crash when he was not secured with a seat belt. A Department of Transportation reported titled "Legal Issues Regarding Police and Seat Belts" provides data and analysis of the issue. This is from a July 2017 LS post:

    If you Google "prisoner transport and seat belts," you will find there has been litigation around the country about instances where prisoners or suspects were injured after officers failed to secure them with seat belts. (See here, here, and here.) Police agencies have paid out lots of money for failing to secure individuals riding in the back of patrol cars.

    Our research indicates many police agencies have adopted policies that require officers to use seat belts whenever transporting prisoners or suspects. This is from page 745 of the policies and procedures manual of the Springfield (Mo.) Police Department, which is available online:

    All prisoners transported in a police car shall be secured with a seat belt for their safety.

    There is little doubt that the Greene County manual, which has not been produced in discovery, requires deputies to place prisoners or suspects in a seat belt. And Carol was, in fact, seat-belted into the back seat.

    Is that all we've learned from recently obtained photographs? Nope. We have one more that helps reveal the brutality that was used against Carol.


    (To be continued)


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    Diamond and Silk, with their hero.
    Two black women from North Carolina, who frequently express their undying devotion to Donald Trump online, have become a cause celebre among conservatives by claiming Facebook discriminates against their right-wing views. Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson -- professionally known as Diamond and Silk -- even are scheduled to testify Thursday before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on the subject of "social-media filtering."

    Diamond and Silk are mostly a poor attempt at low-brow humor and attention-grabbing, so it's hard to figure what the judiciary committee hopes to accomplish with their testimony. But Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), a former auctioneer from my current district in Missouri, is pushing their act -- and Long never has been confused with a statesman or a policy wonk. If Billy Long is involved, you can bet the whole thing is a charade. Our guess is that Diamond and Silk's issues have everything to do with trolls and nothing to do with discrimination.

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently testified before Congress in what was supposed to be a serious inquiry into the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and related issues. Billy Long helped turn it into a clown show by asking Zuckerberg about Diamond and Silk. Zuckerberg, apparently realizing that Long is what passes for "leadership" in the postmodern Republican Party, gave a serious answer, as reported at NPR:

    Just days before Zuckerberg was slated to testify before key House and Senate congressional committees last week, Diamond and Silk alerted their followers on Facebook that their content was being suppressed by Zuckerberg's massive social media platform. . . .

    The conservative website Drudge Report splashed it as a top story. Conservative Twitter accounts lit up with concern.

    "'BOOM' Diamond And Silk make the Drudge Report........ Don't start none, won't be none!" the partnership wrote on their Facebook page.

    And then came the hearings where Zuckerberg faced Congress. . . .

    "What is unsafe about two black women supporting President Donald J. Trump?" asked Rep. Billy Long, R-Mo. . . .

    The CEO told lawmakers that any efforts to limit the duo's reach was an "enforcement error" on the part of the Facebook team but did not detail what Facebook had done — or why.

    Diamond and Silk's main point seems to be that Facebook makes stupid decisions that result in censoring and blocking only those with right-wing views. That's a crock of barnyard excrement; I know from firsthand experience that Facebook makes the same dumb decisions against users on the left as it does against users on the right . In fact, Facebook takes progressive bloggers who write about serious subjects -- such as police brutality -- and blocks their links by deeming them "spam" and "unsafe."

    I know because it's happened to me twice in the past month. The gist of Diamond and Silk's complaint, which they are taking to Capitol Hill, is that Facebook"limits the reach" of their right-wing views.. But the same "unsafe" label has been applied to my blog, Legal Schnauzer -- twice in the past month. In fact, as I write this, I'm still in "Facebook Jail" -- with my blog link blocked so that it can't be shared via links on Facebook.

    Is my reach being limited? It sure as heck is -- and I'm about as far from a conservative as you can get; I wouldn't say a positive word about Donald Trump if someone tried to force me at gunpoint. Also, I'm not just a second-rate "comedy" act. I'm a journalist, with a B.J. degree from the University of Missouri and more than 35 years of professional experience -- with a daily newspaper, magazines, institutional publications, broadcasts, you name it.

    Legal Schnauzer has been ranked among the top 50 law blogs in North America by Cision, a Chicago-based Web marketing and research firm. My blog, at No. 37, was the only one on the list that is truly independent -- not affiliated with any law firm, law school, legal organization, media outlet, or social-justice organization. In short, Legal Schnauzer has been ranked by a company, which deals with such issues on a daily basis, as the best blog of its kind in the United States and Canada.

    Facebook's treatment of our progressive blog has been so outlandish that we recently asked (only slightly in a joking manager) if the company supports police brutality. After that post, we were out of Facebook Jail for roughly one working day, and then went right back in. We are considering a lawsuit against Facebook and the individuals attacking the blog if the problem is not corrected, pronto.

    Why the question about police brutality? In September 2015, I watched deputies brutalize my wife, Carol, and break her arm during an eviction in Springfield, Missouri, which was unlawful on at least 12 grounds. I've published X-rays that show the comminuted fracture (broken in more than two places), plus photos taken about an hour after the incident that show the beginnings of severe bruising that eventually would cover Carol's left arm (plus the right arm, which was not broken but was black and purple for its full length, thanks to police-imposed violence.)

    Carol Shuler's broken arm, a photo that Facebook
    deemed "unsafe".
    Roughly eight hours of trauma surgery was required to repair Carol's arm, and she is expected to regain, at most, 75- to 80- percent usage. It will never be the same. During the whole process, Carol faced a number of complications -- shock, blood loss, nerve damage, elevated pressures -- that could have been life threatening.

    Unbelievably, Greene County prosecuting attorney Dan Patterson brought bogus "assault of a law enforcement officer" charges against Carol, an obvious "cover charge" designed to impede her pursuit of civil damages.

    Issues don't come much more serious than the ones surrounding Carol's broken arm. But when I have reported on the subject, including photos of the arm just before X-rays revealed the break, Facebook has deemed my blog "unsafe" -- and my blog URL remains blocked. Diamond and Silk, with their goofy comedy routine about the most dangerous and incompetent president in our history, think they have problems with Facebook? Let's consider a timeline regarding the Legal Schnauzer case:

    * 3/26/18 -- I write a post about Carol's cop-induced injuries, including photos of her broken arm;

    * 4/6/18 -- After 10 days in Facebook Jail (our blog URL is blocked), we are deemed "safe" for the free world again.

    * 4/9/18 -- After roughly one working day out of jail, we wind up back in jail after another post (featuring photos) about Carol's cop-induced injuries.

    * 4/23/18 -- As I write this, our second stint in Facebook Jail has lasted 14 days. Combined with the earlier 10-day "jail sentence," we've had our reach limited for 24 days in less than a month.

    What is happening in our case? The answer seems clear: Conservative, pro-cop trolls (many of whom probably are cops, perhaps using taxpayer-funded resources) have reported my posts to Facebook as "spam" in an effort to interfere with our reporting. The company apparently takes the word of trolls, people who intentionally abuse Facebook rules, and blocks targets without any investigation. Does that make sense? Not one lick, but that almost certainly explains our situation, and it probably explains the Diamond and Silk issue, too.

    Are liberal trolls reporting Diamond and Silk as spam? I haven't seen that issue raised in news reports from across the country, but my guess is that the answer is yes.

    If liberals are acting as trolls, it's wrong, and I don't support it -- even though I think Diamond and Silk's speech has about the same intellectual worth of a dried cow turd. Facebook should go about identifying the trolls and punishing THEM, instead of imposing restrictions on Diamond and Silk. Facebook should take the same action in my case.

    Thousands of taxpayer dollars will be spent so that Diamond and Silk can go to Congress and whine about Facebook's discrimination against their right-wing views. In truth, the whole contretemps almost certainly has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with Facebook's silly policies -- and it's inability to deal with trolls, of all political colors.

    Below is a video of Diamond and Silk, attacking broadcast journalist Megyn Kelly after she had the audacity to ask Donald Trump during a presidential debate about vile, rude, and sexist comments he had made about women over the years. As you can tell, Diamond and Silk have no respect for their own race or their gender.

    That kind of Uncle Tomism must be a big hit among white, postmodern conservatives.





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    Sean Hannity
    Revelations that Fox News' Sean Hannity is linked to more than 20 shell companies that bought roughly $90 million of real estate in mostly Southern states should raise eyebrows with anyone who has experienced a foreclosure over the past few years in Alabama -- and that includes your humble blogger.

    The whole smelly Hannity story has a distinctly Southern stench to it. The shell companies were formed in Georgia, via a wealth-management firm in the Atlanta suburb of Kennesaw. The properties are in seven states -- including Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas -- along with New York and Vermont. After a brief stint in college radio, Hannity started his professional broadcast career at radio stations in Athens, Alabama, and Atlanta, Georgia.

    Why does the Hannity story raise an eyebrow with yours truly? My wife, Carol, and I went through a dubious foreclosure on our home of 25 years in Birmingham. Our home went into default in 2013, and we were in a forbearance program with our mortgage company (Chase) to get back on track when I was arrested in October 2013 shortly after breaking a series of posts about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his history of posing nude for photographs that appeared at the gay-pornography Web site badpuppy.com in 1997.

    The five months I was wrongfully incarcerated cost us any chance of saving our home, and it was sold at foreclosure in summer 2014, forcing us to move to my home state of Missouri. Reporting on the Hannity story states that many of his properties were bought at foreclosure, but we've seen no mention that foreclosures can be conducted unlawfully. Ours definitely was a wrongful foreclosure, and we have filed a federal lawsuit (we call it "The House Case") over the matter. As often is the case in legal matters where we are involved, courts have made numerous rulings that are contrary to simple, black-letter law.

    Corrupt rulings in "The House Case"started in the Northern District of Alabama under Judge R. David Proctor and have grown more blatant at the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Bill Pryor and is based -- surprise, surprise -- in Atlanta, not far from the epicenter of Sean Hannity's real-estate empire. (More reporting on the Eleventh Circuit and our "House Case," plus possible ties between our foreclosure and the Hannity story, in upcoming posts.)

    Hannity's real-estate holdings revolve around Henssler Financial, which includes Bill Lako, a principal who has appeared on Hannity's radio show as a finance expert.. From The Guardian and reporter Jon Swaine, who broke the Hannity story yesterday:

    The shell companies used to buy the properties are registered to the offices of Henssler Financial, a wealth management firm outside Atlanta. Bill Lako, a principal at the firm, has appeared on Hannity’s radio show as an expert on money issues.

    Lako recently wrote an article for the show’s website berating Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating ties between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Russia, without noting his ties to Hannity. He did not respond to an email. . . .

    The list of properties bought by the Hannity-linked companies includes multimillion-dollar homes used by Hannity. It also features single-family units priced as low as $50,000 in relatively poor suburbs. In at least two cases, batches of homes were bought simultaneously at a discount, after they were repossessed by banks from their previous owners in foreclosure proceedings.

    The entire portfolio connected to Hannity comprises at least 877 residential units, which were bought for a total of just under $89m. Another seven properties bought by the companies over recent years have subsequently been sold for more than $4m, according to public records.

    How do shell companies enter the picture? An article at Fortune explains:

    According to documents reviewed by The Guardian,Hannity bought real estate through more than 20 shell companies registered in Georgia. A shell company is a vehicle used to hold assets and can help beneficiaries remain anonymous. They are not in themselves illegal, though they are sometimes used to conduct illegal activities such as tax evasion. There is no indication that Hannity is engaged in any illegal practices, but he is the hidden owner behind at least some of the 20 companies through which he has bought property. In his case, it appears the shell companies were used to limit his liabilities in the real estate deals in question.

    As is typical for a conservative, Hannity took advantage of others' struggles. He helped build a fortune on the collapsing U.S. economy that the failed GOP administration of George W. Bush ushered in -- a presidency that Hannity enthusiastically supported. From Fortune:

    Despite his criticism of President Obama over the U.S. foreclosure rate, Hannity was an apparent beneficiary of the high number of foreclosures that accompanied and followed the great recession. In 2013 he purchased homes at a discount after their previous owners lost them to foreclosure. The Guardian reports he bought dozens of homes this way.

    No wonder Hannity loved the Bush years. He made millions off the administration's failed policies, and then tried to blame it on President Obama, who pulled the country out of a potential economic disaster.

    If you experienced an Alabama foreclosure in recent years, especially since 2013, we urge you to follow the Hannity story closely. With FBI agents recently seizing records from the office of Michael Cohen, attorney for both Donald Trump and Sean Hannity, more information about Hannity's real-estate holdings is likely to surface. And it might not be pretty.

    As for our own foreclosure, we don't know if it has any ties to Hannity's wheeling and dealing. But it fits the profile of the properties that have been reported about so far -- especially when evidence suggests that our foreclosure was driven by those who saw me, and my journalism, as a threat to their political well-being. It was, without a doubt, a political hit -- and Sean Hannity is a political opportunist posing as a talk-show host on Fox News.

    Here is the key questions for us, and we encourage targets of Alabama foreclosures over the past five years or so to keep it in mind: Were the foreclosures involving Sean Hannity's shell companies lawfully conducted? Did firms with ties to Hannity engage in wrongful foreclosure to essentially steal properties at bargain-basement rates from the rightful owners? Did the firms target individuals (such as Carol and me) who were seen as political opponents of Hannity and his right-wing friends?


    (To be continued)

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    Sean Hannity
    Fox News' Sean Hannity is connected to a real-estate broker who pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of fraud and conspiracy related to foreclosed properties in Georgia.

    That adds another area of common ground, which we began outlining in yesterday's post, between the Hannity story and our experience with a dubious foreclosure in Birmingham, Alabama. It also adds to the possibility that criminal acts were involved in the loss of our home, which we owned for roughly 25 years. We have obtained information about reporting possible foreclosure fraud to federal authorities, and my wife, Carol, and I plan to use it, pronto. We encourage other possible victims to do the same; contact information for appropriate federal agencies is at the end of this post.

    Does all this mean our foreclosure was connected to the 20-plus shell companies that Hannity helped form via a wealth-management firm in Kennesaw, Georgia, just outside Atlanta? No. In fact, given that the value of mortgages in the United States tops $10 trillion, the odds that any one mortgage in the seven states where Hannity's shell companies operate (Alabama is one of them) is quite low. That includes our mortgage.

    Even if our foreclosure proves to have no ties to Hannity -- and we don't know, one way or another, right now -- revelations about the broadcaster's real-estate empire shine light on the kind of shady actions that clearly were present in the loss of our home -- and might be widespread in the mortgage industry. That's especially true with yesterday's follow-up story by reporter Jon Swaine, of The Guardian, titled "Sean Hannity's real estate venture linked to fraudulent property dealer," focusing on a Georgia-based con artist named Jeff Brock. Writes Swaine:

    Sean Hannity’s real estate venture bought houses through a property dealer who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain foreclosed homes, according to records reviewed by the Guardian.

    In 2012, a shell company linked to the Fox News host bought 11 homes in Georgia that had been purchased by the dealer, Jeff Brock, following foreclosures. Brock transferred the properties to corporate vehicles that sold them on to the Hannity-linked company at a profit.

    Brock pleaded guilty in 2016 to federal charges of bank fraud and conspiracy for his role in an operation to rig foreclosure auctions between 2007 and 2012. He was sentenced to six months in prison and had to pay more than $166,000 in fines and restitution.

    What did Brock do? He and his conspirators rigged foreclosure auctions to enrich themselves and make sure other parties, who were legally entitled to a share of the funds (and this includes the homeowners, in many cases), got little or nothing. Here is how the U.S. Department of Justice described the scheme in a 2016 press release announcing guilty pleas:

    Jeffrey Wayne Brock, David Wallace “Chuck” Doughty, and Stanley Ralph Sullivan each admitted that they agreed to rig auctions of foreclosed homes in Cobb County from June 2007 until January 2012. According to court documents filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Brock, Doughty, Sullivan and their co-conspirators agreed not to compete for the purchase of selected foreclosed homes so that they could win the auctions for those homes with artificially low bids. The winning bidders then made payoffs to conspirators who had refrained from bidding against them. As a result, conspirators profited from money that otherwise would have gone to mortgage holders and other secured debt holders, and in some cases, to the owners of foreclosed homes.

    “These defendants conspired to corrupt foreclosure auctions that should have benefited lenders and homeowners,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.“The Antitrust Division will continue to work with our colleagues at the FBI to pursue those who took advantage of disruption caused by the financial crisis to line their own pockets.”

    Here's how Jon Swaine describes it at The Guardian:

    In February 2012, the Hannity-linked company spent about $540,000 buying 10 single-family houses in Georgia’s Fulton, Cobb, Clayton and DeKalb counties, according to county records. It bought an additional DeKalb county property later that year for about $60,000.

    The company was formed in Georgia days before the February purchases by an attorney for Hannity. It was registered to the offices of Henssler Financial, Hannity’s wealth managers. As a limited liability company (LLC), it was not required to report its actual owner to Georgia regulators. Hannity is not mentioned in the company’s publicly available filings.

    Brock had bought the 11 Georgia houses in foreclosure auctions in 2011 and 2012, after the previous owners defaulted on mortgages. He transferred the properties to five LLCs. Brock was the registered agent for two of the five LLCs and a colleague at Key Property was the agent for another. Then the Hannity-linked company bought the houses from these five LLCs, paying a total of $600,000.

    Notice the flipping of the foreclosed properties from one shady entity to another. That's how the conspirators in the Brock case, via a Hannity shell company, rewarded each other with funds that should have gone to someone else.

    Clayton Mobley, of Spartan Value Investors
    A similar scenario played out in our Alabama foreclosure. Our research indicates the vast majority of foreclosed properties are bought by banks, so they can seek the amount owed on the mortgage. That did not happen in our case. A Birmingham outfit called Spartan Value Investors -- founded and headed by Clayton Mobley -- bought our home at auction and quickly flipped it to another local outfit, called JAG Investment Strategies. A couple named Preston and Angela Crider wound up in our house, even though there is almost no way they could own it lawfully.

    Why did these two entities go into flipping overdrive on our house? I don't know, but it smells funny. It also smells somewhat like the scheme Jeff Brock and his conspirators concocted, via Sean Hannity's shell company. Here is how we described the peculiar actions around our foreclosure in a September 2016 post:

    In a standard foreclosure, the mortgage holder -- a financial institution of some sort -- buys the house, and the purchase price equals the outstanding debt on the house. In our research, we've found a number of articles on the Web quoting a mortgage veteran saying something like this: "I've been in the business for 35 years, and I've never seen a foreclosed property sell for more than the outstanding debt, and I've only seen a handful sold to someone other than the bank." (The price can be for less than the outstanding debt, which creates an unpleasant set of problems for the homeowner, but that didn't apply to us, so we will leave those issues off the table.)

    Back to the thoughts of our imaginary mortgage professional, who would have had quite the experience at our foreclosure. The buyer was not the bank, Chase Mortgage; it was a house-flipping outfit, with roots in Tuscaloosa and an office on Birmingham's Southside, called Spartan Value Investors. (Roughly two weeks after we were out of the house, Spartan sold it to another house-flipping outfit, JAG Investment Strategies. JAG obtained a loan from Nowlin and Associates of Birmingham and apparently used that to remodel the house and get it on the market pronto, where a couple named Preston and Angela Crider bought it.)

    The foreclosure on our home wound up being unlike anything our imaginary mortgage veteran had ever seen. Here's why:

    Here's how things took a left turn with our foreclosure: In the days leading to the sale on the Shelby County Courthouse steps, we contacted Robert Wermuth, of the Huntsville law firm Stephens Millirons, which was ramrodding the proceedings. We wanted to know the outstanding debt on the property, and Wermuth sent us a document stating it was roughly $66,000. That includes a bunch of "fees" that mortgage holders and their lawyers love to tack onto such documents, so the real balance probably was somewhere in the $55,000 to $60,000 range. Regardless, we were having to deal with the higher figure. If we had been able to come up with $66,000, we would still be in our house.

    We're not sure what happened on the day of the sale, but the property wound up selling for $74,359, which is more than $8,000 over the outstanding debt. . . .  Our house was in a fairly desirable area, and it was in pretty good shape considering the financial duress we had been under for years, due to loss of our jobs at UAB and Infinity Insurance, respectively. Did two or more parties get into a bidding war, driving up the price? Did some other unusual circumstance cause a sale unlike any our imaginary mortgage pro above had ever seen?

    Remember the two circumstances our imaginary mortgage veteran had almost never seen? (1) A foreclosed property selling for more than the outstanding debt; (2) A foreclosed property being sold to someone other than the bank. Both of those events happened with our foreclosure.

    Strange? Sure seems like it to me.

    Did someone connected to the "flipping" of our home commit foreclosure fraud? We aren't sure, but we will contact the appropriate federal authorities about our experience -- and we intend to do it soon. We urge others who might have been victims of foreclosure fraudsters to do the same. Here is the contact info, as outlined in a DOJ press release about the Jeff Brock case:

    Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information about the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

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    Joseph Siegelman and Bill Baxley
    A prominent whistle blower and opposition researcher yesterday blasted Alabama attorney general candidate Joseph Siegelman for posing with former AG and gubernatorial candidate Bill Baxley. The photo appeared at the Joseph Siegelman for Attorney GeneralFacebook page, and Dana Jill Simpson responded by essentially saying it showed extremely poor taste and judgment on Siegelman's part.

    In the process, Simpson stood up for Legal Schnauzer and me, noting our role in reporting -- in more depth, quality, and quantity than any other news site -- on the political prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman, Joseph's father. We've paid a steep price for that reporting, in the form of a bogus lawsuit and other corrupt legal actions from Bill Baxley, acting on behalf of the noxious "Alabama Gang" of crooked Republicans -- including Rob Riley, Mike Hubbard, Jeff Sessions, Bill Canary, Luther Strange, and Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

    Specifically, Baxley almost certainly played a major role in my 2013 kidnapping (no warrant ever has surfaced) and five-month incarceration, which was ordered by retired judge Claud Neilson -- a long-time Baxley crony, who was specially appointed by the hideously corrupt Alabama Supreme Court. The five months I spent in jail made it impossible for my wife, Carol, and me to resolve issues with our home mortgage -- leading to a foreclosure that had Baxley's fingerprints all over it. Finally, Baxley filed a baseless defamation lawsuit against me on behalf of Jessica Garrison -- former campaign manager and mistress to Luther Strange. That case resulted in a $3.5-million default judgment -- issued by Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship, even though the case involved no discovery, no trial, no jury, no cross-examination, nothing associated with a normal defamation case. What kind of favors or "patronage" had to be dolled out to get that worthless judgment from Blankenship?

    On top of that, the Garrison judgment is void on multiple grounds (improper jurisdiction and lack of notice re: default application and hearing), and can be attacked as such at any time, Baxley surely knows this -- as does Garrison, who happens to have a law degree -- but neither has said a peep about it in a public forum.

    That helps explain, in part, why Jill Simpson was appalled that Joseph Siegelman, a Democrat, would allow himself to be photographed with Baxley, a Democrat who has become a lap dog for the right wing in his senior years. This is from a post last night at Simpson's Facebook page (with some editing for clarity):

    First let me say, folks, I am not sure why Joseph Siegelman got his picture with Bill Baxley? However, one thing is for sure: I heard from a bunch of progressives all over the state about it today, as they just thought it was wrong and were asking me: "Is the Siegelman kid ignorant as to what happened to Roger Shuler, his father's biggest press defender, because of Baxley?

    They are like: "There he is, Jill, standing with the Alabama Gang guy, Bill Baxley, that got the $3.5-million judgement against Roger Shuler, while he was in jail, on bullshit deal about Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange and Liberty Duke and Rob Riley. 
    After all, everyone knows Bill Baxley covered for Luther with his Jessica deal, suing Roger for her, while he was in jail unable to defend himself. Former State Senator Lowell Barron months ago appeared on Marcus Echols' progressive radio show in Huntsville and told what he knew and why Luther dropped the charges on him like a hot potato out of fear of having to testify under oath about Luther's relationship with Jessica Garrison.

    Curiously, we've seen no reports of Garrison suing Lowell Barron, no claims that he defamed her for stating unequivocally she had an affair with Strange, and it badly compromised Strange in his role as attorney general. So, Garrison claimed my reporting was false and defamatory, but Lowell Barron's broadcast statements -- pulled pretty much from my posts and Barron's own knowledge -- are fine

    Garrison has not sued Barron, of course, because his statements are true -- as were my posts. Bill Baxley has every reason to know that, but he filed a groundless lawsuit against me anyway. So why, on earth would Joseph Siegelman -- running for the state's top law-enforcement office -- align himself with an integrity-challenged figure like Bill Baxley? Here is more from Jill Simpson:

    So that brings me back to being clueless why Joseph would stand beside the guy that terrorized the Shuler family. Roger Shuler, without a doubt, is the most fearless reporter who told the whole story on how Don Siegelman was politically prosecuted. How that young man, Joseph Siegelman, could stand with Billy Baxley is beyond my comprehension.

    I might add this: Please direct your questions to Don and Joseph, as I have no answer to this matter -- and well, frankly, have no intention of defending him of such behavior. I also might add that I was pretty harshly attacked as well for helping get friends from D.C. and Montgomery to help get Shuler. The very same bunch attacked me, and lost everything, so seeing this picture was kind of disgusting.

    I am forever grateful to Andy Kreig, flying down to help Carol Shuler get Roger out -- and helping me when this bunch left me with nothing. But the Siegelmans did not come to my rescue. At the time all of Roger's stuff was happening, I heard from religious right Republicans that they were fearful Roger might get hurt if left in jail. I am grateful for their advice on getting him out, as they knew what Luther and Jessica and Rob and Liberty were capable of, as well.

    That said, I am disappointed Joseph got his picture taken with Bill Baxley as I know how awful Bill Baxley treated the Shuler family -- by representing a corrupt bunch of Republicans against Roger, who lost everything defending Joseph's dad, as did I.

    So you all know, I am not planning on voting in the primary; I will be voting in the fall. I have little interest in this slate of candidates. I don't really see any true progressives willing to kick the corrupt Alabama Gang out of our state. All we at this point have is folks snuggling with the Alabama Gang.

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    Sean Hannity, of Fox News
    Unidentified investors in Georgia funded foreclosure fraud involving a real-estate broker connected to Fox News' Sean Hannity. Evidence suggests a similar scenario might have been at the heart of our wrongful foreclosure in Alabama.

    That means well-heeled and hidden investors need to be identified -- in both the Jeff Brock case in Georgia (involving a Hannity shell company) and the Shuler foreclosure in Shelby County, Alabama (involving at least two house-flipping companies).

    In our case, we plan to seek investors' identities via a federal lawsuit and a criminal complaint. We do not intend to sit back and let rich people get away with financing the theft of our house, via a wrongful, and possibly fraudulent, foreclosure.

    While Brock pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy in the Georgia case and spent six months in federal prison, he did not conduct the scam alone; he had help on the front end from two conspirators who also pleaded guilty, and he had financing from investors who never have been held accountable for their role in stealing funds that, in a number of cases, should have gone to homeowners. From a report at the Daily Beast:

    According to the government sentencing memorandum from when Brock was sent to federal prison for a scheme involving numerous rigged auctions, the payoff for the Lakewood Drive house was $3,770. The memorandum notes that the actual payoff money in all Brock’s crooked auctions came not from Brock himself but from investors who bankrolled his acquisition of foreclosed houses. He or, in his absence, his representative provided the investor invoices for what were described as “finder’s fees.”

    “Brock did not use his own money to pay Doughty and Sullivan for not bidding competitively at the December 6, 2011 auctions; rather, he used money that outside investors had given him to acquire foreclosed properties,” the memorandum says,“To keep his investors informed, Brock instructed an employee to send them invoices documenting the payments that he made.”

    The employee dutifully prepared an invoice documenting a $3,770 payoff for the Lakewood house. The sum seems altogether reasonable considering that county records show Brock paid only $21,130 for a house that had been purchased back in 1999 for $95,000 and subsequently carried a mortgage of $155,000.

    The obvious question: Who are these investors who funded criminal activity? Right now, we don't know. From the Daily Beast:

    The memorandum does not identify the investor who provided the payoff funds. Property records show that title to the house did pass from Brock to a Cobb County entity called The First Real Estate Corporation, though no purchase price is recorded and the property passed that very same day to one of Sean Hannity’s myriad shell companies, SPMKX GA LL.

    Even so, however innocent he may be of actual wrongdoing, Hannity remains the beneficiary of a crooked scheme. Records show Hannity paid $54,000 for a house worth double that amount.

    Whoever paid the payoff, the outcome of this deal is so messy you might think that Michael Cohen was involved. There is no indication that he had anything to do with it.

    In our Alabama case, it's not clear that criminal activity was involved. But there is little doubt hidden investors were involved. By its very name, the entity that bought our home at auction (Spartan Value Investors) involves investors, and their identify is cloaked in secrecy. Roughly two weeks after buying the property, Spartan Value Investors "flipped" it to another outfit, called JAG Investment Strategies. Again, the name suggests unknown investors are involved.

    Clayton Mobley, Spartan Value Investors
    How do the numbers stack up in our case? Spartan bought our property for $74,359 and sold it to JAG for $98,500. That's a profit of more than $24,100 in roughly two weeks time. And our house had a market value of around $200,000. That's likely where investors made a nice chunk of change. And we made nothing, even though our house was a rare one that sold for more than the amount left on the mortgage.

    There probably is not much worse in life than going through a foreclosure or an eviction -- and we have been through both. And when it appears the processes involved fraud or deceit . .  well, it's enraging.

    Here is how the Daily Beast put it, in reporting on the Brock case in Georgia:

    Along with describing how the investors provided the payoffs to secure a purchase price far below the actual value, the sentencing memorandum notes, “For the homeowner victims, these thefts occurred at a low point in their lives.”

    The memorandum continues, “The money that Brock and his conspirators kept for themselves could have helped the victims get back on their feet, but Brock instead enriched himself.”

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    Jeff Sessions
    Jeff Sessions, former U.S. Senator (R-AL) and current Trump attorney general, was directly in the loop on plans to form a "back channel" between Russia's Vladimir Putin and the Donald Trump campaign, according to a new report at Rolling Stone (RS)

    Building on a Democratic response to the U.S. House Intelligence Committee report on the Trump/Russia alliance, RS focuses on Putin ally Alexander Torshin and his efforts to reach the Trump campaign via the National Rifle Association (NRA). In the process, RS shines significant new light on an email between NRA and Republican operative Paul Erickson and longtime Sessions aide Rick Dearborn.

    What is at the heart of the email? It shows Sessions knew about early efforts to build a link between Russia and the Trump campaign -- and it adds to evidence that Sessions lied to Congress on multiple occasions. It also suggests Sessions might wind up in federal prison -- and the NRA could wind up on the scrap heap of history -- before the smoke has cleared on Robert Mueller's investigation of the Trump/Russia scandal.

    The response from the Democratic minority indicates Republicans on the committee made no serious effort to get at the facts connecting Russia and the Trump campaign. In fact, the majority report might charitably be called a whitewash.

    RS reporter Tim Dickinson sets the stage by focusing on Alexander Torshin and his ties to Putin and the NRA:

    The Democratic report affirms and amplifies the findings of Rolling Stone's investigation into the NRA's Russia connections. In particular, the Democrats strongly suggest that Putin ally Alexander Torshin was running an op through the NRA: "The Kremlin-linked individual"– Torshin – "appears to have used the group"– the NRA – "to befriend and establish a backchannel to senior Trump campaign associates through their mutual affinity for firearms," the Democrats write, "a strategy consistent with Russian trade craft." (Torshin, a lifetime NRA member, was recently sanctioned by the Treasury Department and can no longer travel to the United States.)

    That leads to the email, written about six months before the 2016 election, that ties Sessions to the whole sordid scheme. Reports Dickinson:

    The Democratic report also publishes a full excerpt of an infamous May 2016 email from Paul Erickson to the Trump campaign. (Previously, this email had only been reported in snippets by The New York Times.) Erickson is an NRA- and GOP operative who repeatedly visited a Torshin-backed gun-rights group in Moscow. He later started a mysterious business with Torshin's protege, Maria Butina, in South Dakota.

    The excerpt is illuminating: Erickson addressed the email – which included a proposed meeting between candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin – to Rick Dearborn, then a top Trump campaign staffer. But the full text suggests Sen. Jeff Sessions was directly in the loop. Erickson wrote:

    "I'm now writing to you and Sen. Sessions in your roles as Trump foreign policy experts/advisors. […] Happenstance and the (sometimes) international reach of the NRA placed me in a position a couple of years ago to slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin's Kremlin. Russia is quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. that isn't forthcoming under the current administration. And for reasons that we can discuss in person or on the phone, the Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true re-set in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House."

    Let that last line of the email sink in for a moment. The Russians believe it will be favorable to them if a certain Republican is in the White House, and they want to make sure Jeff Sessions knows about it. Did the email actually make its way to Sessions -- and to others near the top of the Trump food chain? The RS report leaves little doubt:

    Did Sessions, now the attorney general, receive a copy of this email directly? The report's footnote, sourcing the email, reveals the document came from "Attorney General Jeff Session [sic] Document Production."Rolling Stone asked for clarification from a spokesperson for Ranking Member Adam Schiff; he replied: "We cannot comment."

    That this email was found in Sessions' files is a startling revelation. Sessions previously told House investigators that he did not recall the outreach by Erickson, according to The New York Times. And it may provide new context for why Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation.

    The Democratic report also reveals that Dearborn moved Erickson's message up the chain of command – and amplified when and where Putin hoped to meet with candidate Trump. "Dearborn communicated this request on May 17, 2016 to the highest levels of the Trump campaign, including Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Jared Kushner," the Democrats write.

    Russia's outreach efforts did result in a meeting with a Trump representative, and there is little doubt Jeff Sessions knew about it. There also is little doubt that Republicans on the intelligence committee tried to cover it up. Writes Dickinson:

    Torshin hoped to use the 2016 NRA convention to break the ice, and open a personal line of communication to "someone of high rank in the Trump Campaign," the report continues. "As explained in Dearborn's email, such a meeting would provide Torshin an opportunity “to discuss an offer he claims to be carrying from President Putin to meet with DJT." ("DJT" is a reference to Donald J. Trump.) "They would also like DJT to visit Russia for a world summit on the persecution of Christians at which Putin and Trump would meet.'"

    Ultimately, Torshin met the future-President's son, Donald Jr., at the NRA convention. The Democrats upbraid the majority for "conveniently" concluding there was "no evidence that the two discussed the presidential election." The Democrats expand: "this relies solely on the voluntary and self-interested testimony of the individual in question . . . Trump Jr." The report adds: "The Majority refused multiple requests by the Minority to interview witnesses central to this line of inquiry, including Torshin, Butina, Erickson, and others."

    How ugly could this get for the NRA -- with Jeff Sessions right in the middle of it? From RS:

    The Democrats conclude the NRA section of their report with a litany of questions the GOP majority refused to examine, writing that the GOP majority report "ignores significant outstanding questions about individuals who sought to set up this back channel, including why Torshin and Butina were interested in connecting the Trump campaign to Putin, what they sought to get out of that connection, why they enlisted the support of NRA colleagues, and whether others in the campaign were communicating with Russia through the NRA."

    The Democrats also underscore that Republicans took no interest in getting to the bottom of allegations that Russian money illegally boosted Trump's candidacy."The Majority refused to investigate," Democrats write, "whether Russian-linked intermediaries used the NRA to illegally funnel money to the Trump Campaign, to open lines of communication with or approaches to Trump or his associates, and how those approaches may have informed Russia's active measures campaign as it unfolded throughout 2016."

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    Daniel Wagner
    We've shown that a Missouri sheriff and prosecutor conspired to bring a bogus criminal charge against my wife, Carol, after deputies broke her arm during an unlawful eviction in September 2015. This is known in the trade as a "cover charge," designed to limit the chances of receiving civil damages for victims of police abuse.

    A recent report indicates the use of cover charges is not limited to Carol's case. In fact, it seems to be a prominent part of the toolkit for "law men" in the Missouri Ozarks.

    The latest incident involves a Springfield man named Daniel Wagner who answered a knock on his door, only to have two deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) shoot him 10 times. Somehow, Wagner managed to survive, but he now faces a felony charge of "unlawful use of a weapon," per RSMo 571.030.

    You read that correctly: Wagner was shot 10 times -- the deputies apparently had not a scratch on them -- but Wagner is facing a criminal charge. A judge, magistrate, clerk, or hobo apparently signed off on a probable cause statement in the Wagner case with a straight face.

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's arm, after
    Missouri cops broke it.

    And we are not joking about this. Our creativity is much too limited to concoct a story like this. From a story on the Wagner case, by reporter Harrison Keegan, in last week's Springfield News-Leader:

    Defense attorneys say Daniel Wagner saw two blobs standing outside of his front door.

    After Wagner and his wife heard rustling outside of their home and then a knock at the front door one night in October, Wagner grabbed his .40-caliber Sig Sauer handgun and opened the front door.

    Those two figures that Wagner saw turned out to be Greene County Sheriff's Office deputies.

    After they say Wagner pointed the gun at them, they fired more than 10 rounds through a glass storm door, shooting Wagner.

    Wagner survived and was later charged with unlawful use of a weapon.

    How did this bizarre scenario unfold? Reports Keegan:

    Court documents say the incident started on the night of Oct. 16 when deputies were dispatched to a home in the 2600 block of Vincent Street, southwest of the Springfield city limits, to investigate a bullet hole found in a home.

    Documents say a deputy determined the bullet possibly came from the house next door — Wagner's home.

    Two deputies then went to Wagner's home, knocked on the front door and at least one of them called out "sheriff's office," according to court documents.

    Eventually, documents say, Wagner got up out of a recliner, went to a hallway and then came to the door with a gun in his hand.

    The court documents say Wagner raised the gun and pointed it at one of the deputies, at which point they both shot Wagner in the chest.

    Wagner allegedly told investigators he had recently watched a news report about rising burglaries and he believed there might be burglars at the door when he approached with a gun.

    Prosecutors claim Wagner displayed his gun in a "threatening manner." If that's the case, why is Wagner the one who wound up with 10 bullet holes in him? And since when is it a crime to display your gun in a threatening manner -- inside your own home -- when you think, as Wagner has stated publicly, you think you are about to be the victim of a burglary or home invasion? Oh, wait . . . an officer feared for his life, so that makes 100 percent of the responsibility shift to Wagner. (Sarcasm alert.)

    Photo of Carol Shuler's arm, just before
    X-rays showed it was broken.
    Shane Cantin and Erica Mynarich are Wagner's defense attorneys. They should be able to make hay with the two questions above if they can find a southwest Missouri jury that isn't filled with cop ass-kissers. From the Springfield newspaper, in a report about last week's preliminary hearing:

    Sgt. Steve Martin, one of the deputies who opened fire on Wagner, testified during Wednesday's hearing that he yelled out "sheriff's office" twice and that he feared for his life when Wagner raised the gun.

    Cantin did not cast blame on the deputies who fired the shots. He said they were put in a tough position, but he also did not feel like Wagner acted inappropriately.

    Cantin said Wagner thought the people on his porch might be intruders and he was within his legal rights when he walked to his front door with a gun in hand.

    "Everything he did was completely lawful," Cantin said.

    Cantin said he was thankful Wagner survived.

    What proof was there that the bullet hole came from Wagner or his home? Probably none. Residents around Wagner have described him as a good neighbor. Did the deputies have lawful grounds to be on Wagner's doorstep? Under a strict interpretation of the law, they probably did. But from a common-sense perspective, should they have been on his property -- at roughly 10:30 p.m., in the dark? My answer is no. First, a bullet hole in a house might not even be evidence of a crime. It could have been the result of an accident, and even if it wasn't, how are the cops supposed to solve it -- when the shot might have been fired months (even years) earlier? If cops felt a dire need to talk with Wagner, why not come back to the scene the next day, in the daylight?

    As for Carol's case, it's clear deputies had no grounds to be on our rented property, much less breaking into our home and pointing assault weapons and various handguns at us. We've shown that the eviction was unlawful on at least 10 grounds, making it an unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps most importantly, we had timely filed a notice of appeal, with the required fees, putting an automatic stay on execution, under Missouri law.

    Carol has been fighting a bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charge for 15 months. Judge Margaret Palmietto has refused to dismiss the charges, even though Officer Jeremy Lynn (the "victim") admits in a written statement that he initiated contact with Carol, after bursting into our home, not the other way around.

    The charge against Carol is a misdemeanor, and prosecutors have taken jail off the table as possible punishment. Still, Carol is at risk of being found guilty of an offense even the "victim" admits she did not commit.

    Meanwhile, Daniel Wagner faces up to four years in prison, if convicted. All because he answered a knock from cops on his door late at night, when they easily could have used common sense and come back the next day when it was light -- and the possible offense likely did not even amount to a crime.


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    Noah Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
    Has my nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler, become a confidential informant (C.I.) in the wake of his arrest near Sparta, Missouri, for possession of drug paraphernalia? By the seedy nature of informant activity, plus its demands for secrecy, prosecutors and judges are not forthcoming about details of this law-enforcement staple. So, it is almost impossible to reach a definitive answer to the question raised above about Noah. But if he accepted an offer to become a C.I., it certainly would explain some of the oddities surrounding his case.

    For example, we know Noah's case disappeared from public view on case.net; and that could point to the secrecy needed for an informant. We know Noah received barely a slap on the wrist for what we call a "wild-ass speeding case" (driving up to 88 mph, the equivalent of a DUI under Missouri law) that was pending at the time of his drug case; that points to the leniency informants often are provided in exchange for their cooperation with law enforcement. We know Noah's speeding case was delayed at least twice, seemingly for no reason, while the drug case still was pending, according to records we viewed and copied before they disappeared from case.net; that suggests Noah might have been assisting law enforcement while his speeding case took a few unscheduled delays.

    Noah's case sends mixed signals. On one hand, he was found with a marijuana pipe, which indicates he is nothing more than a casual user, perhaps with little or no value as a C.I. On the other, he was found with three empty sandwich bags, all containing marijuana residue. If the baggies held one ounce each and had all been full at some point, that is an awful lot of MJ, according to our research. Three ounces is way more than a casual user normally would have and could point toward distribution. That could make him a valuable C.I.

    Noah comes from a family with money, so that might have heightened law-enforcement interest in him, especially in an age where expensive, high-quality marijuana from Colorado and other legal states has become the rage in the Missouri Ozarks. Was Noah able and willing to spread the "good stuff" among the moneyed class in southwest Missouri? If so, that could have led to his value as a C.I. -- also known as a snitch, a rat, and other not-so-flattering terms.

    How does the C.I. deal work? Here is how it is described in an article at cracked.com:

    If you want to live the glamorous life of the confidential informant, you don't need to be a former mafia assassin who gets busted by the feds. If you've committed even a minor crime -- especially if it involved drugs -- The Man might come calling with an offer to turn into a CI and start feeding them information from the inside. . . .

    First, working with the police as an informant doesn't come with many guarantees, but there are some rough rules of thumb: You can rely on the prosecutor dismissing a charge for every two arrests of equal or greater value. Get busted for possessing and intending to distribute cocaine? You'd better be able to help the police bust two other coke dealers. Two-for-one is a great deal whether you're talking about felonies or Little Caesars pizzas, which is why cops are so willing to work with young ne'er-do-wells . . . 

    Is it always two-for-one? Well, a Legal Schnauzer reader suggested in our comment section that a common refrain is "Snitch on three, you go free!" Perhaps it depends on the jurisdiction. Either way, the use of informants is common in drug busts here in the Missouri Ozarks. The following articles and press releases help make the point:


    * Six Southern Missouri Residents Indicted for Large-Scale Meth Conspiracy (April 2016)

    * 4 indicted on drug charges (January 2017)

    * Travis Dibben Taken into Custody for Drug Treatment Following Guilty Plea (May 2013)

    * Charges filed in drug bust (December 2008)


    The last article makes a reference to COMET (Combined Ozarks Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Team), a drug task force that covers seven southwest Missouri counties, including Greene (where Noah lives) and Christian (where he was arrested). Did information about Noah's case make it's way to COMET? Whether Noah was used as a C.I. or not, I'd say the answer to that question likely is yes.

    A downside to the informant trade is that targets do not take kindly to being informed upon. Consider this headline from the Springfield News-Leader:


    * 3 charged with killing of suspected drug informant (September 2015)


    From the article:

    Three people were charged with murder Thursday in connection with the June 2014 killing of Christopher Younes at the Mark Twain National Forest near Chadwick. One could have been in custody, records show, long before he allegedly did the killing.

    The suspected informant was found dead as authorities were investigating a drug distribution ring, and records show they had enough evidence to arrest and charge one of those now accused of doing the killing — months before the alleged murder.

    Albert Romero, 40, Timothy Murray, 28, and Gabriella Shields, 27, were each charged Thursday with first-degree murder and armed criminal action after authorities say they shot Younes to death June 6, 2014 in Christian County because they believed he was helping investigators learn about their drug activity in Springfield.

    You will notice that the article does not say whether the victim, Christopher Younes, actually was a C.I. That is typical of the secrecy that tends to surround informants.


    (Note: While Noah Shuler's drug paraphernalia case has disappeared from case.net, the speeding charge against his girlfriend, Aubrynne Russell, remains in plain sight, for anyone to see -- 160572245, CITY OF SPARTA V AUBRYNNE LAINE RUSSELL. A hearing for her was set on April 12 (the same date Noah's was set), but attorney Russell Dempsey (the same attorney Noah had) asked for a continuance; a new hearing has been set for 1:30 p.m. on May 10 at Sparta Municipal Court. Why does Ms. Russell's speeding charge remain visible to the public, while Noah Shuler's drug-related charge has disappeared? Is she being treated differently from the son of a local lawyer? Is that "justice" in the Missouri Ozarks?)

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    Sean Hannity
    What does foreclosure fraud look like from the inside? A document from a fraud and conspiracy case connected to Fox News host Sean Hannity provides the answer. It also raises this question: Did something similar happen during our dubious foreclosure in Alabama, one of seven states where Hannity has substantial real-estate holdings?

    How sleazy can this get? Prosecutors in the Hannity-related case alleged that conspirators rigged public foreclosure auctions and then conducted second, private auctions among themselves. If that sounds sick to you, join the crowd. (Details are provided below.)

    The document in question is a criminal information, which is pretty much the same as an indictment, in the Northern District of Georgia, styled United States v. Jeffrey Wayne Brock, et al. Brock is a real-estate broker who spent six months in federal prison after pleading guilty in a foreclosure-fraud scheme connected to one of Hannity's 20-plus shell companies.

    Here is how the government set the scene for its case against Brock and his conspirators. This is  much like the scenario we encountered in Alabama and applies in hundreds of thousands of foreclosures across the country -- and many states likely have little oversight in the process:

    When Georgia homeowners default on their mortgages, the mortgage holder, some of whom are financial institutions, can institute foreclosure proceedings through a nonjudicial public real estate foreclosure auction ("public auction"). These public auctions typically take place at the county courthouse. At the auction, an auctioneer sells the property to the bidder offering the highest purchase price. Proceeds from the sale are then used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property. Any remaining proceeds are paid to the homeowner.

    The highest bid usually is equal to the amount owed on the mortgage, and the top bidder usually is a bank or financial institution. But that's not how it worked in our Alabama case. A house-flipping outfit called Spartan Value Investors (of Birmingham) bought the property at auction for about $8,000 more than was owed on the mortgage. In roughly two weeks, Spartan sold the property to another house-flipping company called JAG Investment Strategies (also of Birmingham) -- making a handsome profit of more than $24,100 in a very short time.

    Did something underhanded unfold in our case? Well, we know it amounted to a civil case of wrongful foreclosure, which under Alabama law essentially means the foreclosure was conducted with an ulterior motive -- for a reason other than to collect on a debt. And that could have involved any, or all, of the entities involved in the process.

    What about criminal wrongdoing in our case? Well, we don't have a definite answer on that. But we know some of the actions that landed Jeff Brock in prison sound familiar. Here is how the feds laid out specifics of Brock's scheme to rig the public foreclosure bidding process in Georgia. In lawyer talk, the section is titled "Means and Methods of the Conspiracy":

    15. For the purpose of forming and carrying out the charged combination and conspiracy, defendants JEFFREY WAYNE BROCK, DAVID WALLACE DOUGHTY, and STANLEY RALPH SULLIVAN and co-conspirators did those things that they combined and conspired to do, including, among other things:

    a. purchasing rigged foreclosure properties at public auctions at artificially suppressed prices;

    b. negotiating payoffs with each other and with one or more co-conspirators in exchange for agreements not to compete at public auctions;

    c. conducting secret, second auctions, open only to co-conspirators, to bid for title to rigged foreclosure properties;

    d. awarding rigged foreclosure properties to co-conspirators who submitted the highest bids at the secret, second auctions;

    e. transferring title to rigged foreclosure properties into the names of coconspirators who submitted the highest bids at the secret, second auctions;

    f. distributing payoffs to co-conspirators that otherwise would have gone to financial institutions, homeowners, and others with a legal interest in the rigged foreclosure properties, in an amount based on a predetermined formula agreed upon by co-conspirators or through direct negotiations between co-conspirators;

    g. making and causing to be made materially false and misleading pretenses and representations to agents of the foreclosing financial institutions and others involved in the auction and sale of the rigged foreclosure properties; and

    h. causing artificially suppressed purchase prices to be reported and paid to financial institutions and others with a legal interest in rigged foreclosure properties.

    Note highlighted item (c) above. In reporting on the Hannity story, I've seen no references so far to secret, second auctions that were open only to those in on the conspiracy. That is is a level of chicanery and deceit that makes the jaw drop.

    Re: item (f)., it drives home the point that these are not victimless crimes -- and the victims are not faceless financial institutions that aren't likely to draw much sympathy. In quite a few cases, the victims include homeowners -- people who have worked to own and maintain a home, and after unfortunate circumstances that caused their mortgage to go into default, still were lawfully entitled to a share of foreclosure proceeds (depending on the amount of the bid, claims by creditors, etc.). These are people who need every penny to get back on their feet. But Jeff Brock and Co. flat-out stole their funds.

    In our Alabama case, we timely paid on our mortgage for almost 25 years and would, by now, almost have it paid off if political thugs had not cheated us out of our jobs (me, at UAB; Carol, at Infinity Insurance) because of my reporting on this blog. The roughly $8,000 in excess of the mortgage debt legally was ours. But we did not see a dime of it. That is part of a federal lawsuit in what we call "The House Case," and we intend to report our experience to federal authorities for possible criminal prosecution.

    We encourage others who might have been the victims of fraudulent foreclosures in Alabama to do the same. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has stated in public documents that Georgia has an ongoing problem with foreclosure fraud. There is no reason to think neighboring Alabama doesn't have a similar problem. When it comes to corruption and college football, Alabama almost always ranks near No. 1.

    Here is information, from a DOJ press release, on reporting possible fraud related to a foreclosure:

    Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information about the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov. Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to public real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Washington Criminal II Section of the Antitrust Division at 202-598-4000, call the Antitrust Division’s Citizen Complaint Center at 888-647-3258, or visit http://www.justice.gov/atr/report-violations.

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    Donald Trump and Michael Cohen
    The recent search and seizure involving Donald Trump attorney Michael Cohen is likely to yield evidence of Trump's past sex crimes -- plus cash payments to buy silence from victims of sexual assault -- according to a report from a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist.

    Wayne Madsen reports that victims of Trump assaults likely includes minors -- both female and male. In short, Madsen writes, the raid on Cohen's office, residence, and hotel could provide evidence that the president of the United States is a pedophile. (See Wayne Madsen Report.)

    Madsen and fellow journalist Andrew Kreig have written extensively about the case of Katie Johnson, who alleges in two federal lawsuits -- filed in California and New York -- that Trump and his wealthy friend, investment banker Jeffrey Epstein, raped her in 1994, when she was 13 years old. (See here, here, and here.) Johnson's complaint also alleges that Trump and Epstein raped a 12-year-old girl known only as Maria, who was abducted from Waterbury, CT, in March 1993, when she was 11.

    Kreig and Madsen report, in a series of articles from January 2018, that Maria's kidnappers were involved in a child-trafficking ring that provided under-aged sex partners for wealthy individuals, such as Trump and Epstein. Madsen's latest special report on the subject connects the alleged ugliness in Trump's past with seizure of the Cohen documents. Writes Madsen:

    FBI agents and federal prosecutors may also be examining Cohen's records for documents and information pertaining to several alleged out-of-court multi-million dollar settlements reached by Trump and his attorneys, and lawyers for individuals who claimed they were sexually assaulted by Trump when they were minors. Some of the incidents allegedly occurred in the early 1990s, the same time frame during which Trump and Epstein allegedly raped Katie Johnson and Maria. 
    One was with the family of a 10-year old boy, alleged to have been forced to fellate Trump at Mar-a-Lago in 1992. Others allegedly involved oral and anal rape of an 11-year old boy at Trump Tower in Manhattan and rape of a 13-year old girl at Mar-a-Lago in 1993. 
    More recent settlements are said to include Trump's alleged anal rape of an 11-year old boy at Trump Tower in 1998 and vaginal rape and oral sodomization of a 13-year old girl at Trump Vineyard Estates in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2012. The first alleged pedophile incident took place in 1989 and involved a 12-year old girl being raped by Trump at Trump Tower.

    Is it any wonder Trump has seemed particularly unhinged in the wake of the seizures from Cohen's office and residences? What kind of impact could the Cohen documents have on Trump's future? They could, Madsen reports, be devastating:

    Some of the out-of-court settlements may be contained in Trump's tax returns from the pertinent years. If Cohen maintained records of these and other settlements with Trump's sexual assault victims, there was a good reason why Trump has, according to White House sources, "lost his shit" over the FBI raid of Cohen's office and residences in New York. There is also reason to believe that Trump's psychiatric records, some of which may be held in the files of his personal attorneys, contain diagnoses that Trump suffers from the American Psychiatric Association's formal designation of a "pedophilic disorder."

    The American public likely does not fully grasp the possible impact of the seized Cohen documents -- or the darkness in Trump's past. Here is how Madsen sets the stage for what might be the biggest threat to the Trump administration -- and it seems to have nothing to do with Russia:

    There is an avalanche of evidence that suggests that the criminal referral by Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) -- which resulted in a "no-knock" search and seizure of President Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen's office, temporary hotel residence, and home -- was to gather evidence about Trump's past sex crimes and cash payments for silence from assault victims. The search warrant, approved by a federal magistrate with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, was initiated with the approval of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. With the recusal of the interim U.S. Attorney for the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, a Trump campaign donor and former law partner of former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Robert Khuzami -- a longtime federal prosecutor and chief of the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission -- is leading the investigation of Cohen's activities.

    Although Trump, in a series of uninformed and juvenile tweets and comments, suggested that Mueller decided to "break into" his personal attorney's office, mounting evidence and news reports suggest that the new investigation surrounding Trump and Cohen involve Cohen's intimidation of women who accused Trump of sexual assault. In cases such as those involving porn actress Stephanie Clifford, who uses the stage name of "Stormy Daniels," and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, the $130,000 and $150,000 cash payments received from Trump associates and friends in return for their silence during the latter stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, likely violated federal campaign finance laws.

    Sexual assault . . . hush money . . . pedophilia . . . kidnapping . . . campaign finance violations. It might be, by far, the most sordid story ever to reach the American White House. Writes Madsen:

    Trump has, up to the present, relied on his attorneys and "fixers" to take care of anyone with information about his past as a serial assaulter of women and minors, female and male. There is little wonder why Trump now wants to fire Rosenstein, Mueller, and anyone else who poses a threat in what makes Richard Nixon's infamous "Saturday Night Massacre" look like a minor governmental reorganization.

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    Roy Moore
    Roy Moore's lawsuit, against three women who accused him of sexual misconduct before Alabama's 2017 U.S. Senate special election, has been treated as pretty much a joke in several corners of the media world. Moore's complaint contains little of substance and is filled with the "craziness" for which "Ten Commandments Roy" has become known, says one columnist. The complaint sets out no facts to prove a conspiracy, makes Moore look like a "sore loser" (to Democrat Doug Jones) -- and, hey, the defendants are mostly fictitious -- writes another.

    Moore's complaint is a nothing-burger that makes him look like a crybaby, the two analysts essentially conclude. I'm one of the last people on earth who ever will be accused of defending Roy Moore -- and I don't intend to do that here;  his brand of right-wing, pseudo-religious political zealotry leaves me stone cold, and I believe the Alabama Supreme Court and Alabama State Bar were hideously corrupt on his watch as chief justice.

    But I disagree with the analysts above about Moore's lawsuit. I believe it does have substance, it provides more than enough information to get past the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss stage (which is all a complaint really is designed to do), and it could pose a serious threat to major political players -- including Doug Jones; his right-wing compadre Rob Riley; Bush family associates (including perhaps Karl Rove?) -- if it's proven they cooked up false stories about Roy Moore to turn the election.

    As the plaintiff, Moore will bear the burden to prove the allegations against him are false -- and that likely will be a challenge. As for me, I'm not making a claim one way or another about the truthfulness of the women's stories. But I sense the main defense in the complaint is, "Judge Moore never has faced accusations of improper behavior before, so these stories can't be true now." Such a stance likely will sink quickly as the case moves along. If Moore hopes to carry the day, he will need to come up with something stronger than that.

    In fact, the biggest weakness of Moore's complaint is that it doesn't do much to show the allegations are false. But it doesn't have to do that in the early stages of litigation. That's where discovery -- the fact-finding process of depositions, interrogatories, production of documents in a lawsuit -- comes in. If Moore can gather enough facts to show there is a genuine issue of whether the accusations are false and defamatory, he should get past the summary-judgment stage -- which means we are looking at a trial or a settlement. 

    (The Moore-Corfman matter, for now, involves multiple complaints and jurisdictions. Corfman filed a lawsuit against Moore in Montgomery County, and he filed a counterclaim there against her. Moore's lawsuit of last week is filed against Corfman and other accusers in Etowah County, where most of the combatants do, or have, lived. The cases likely will be consolidated and heard jointly in one jurisdiction. But how that will work out remains to be seen.)

    Let's examine some of the issues raised by the two columnists noted above -- Josh Moon and Joey Kennedy, both of Alabama Political Reporter (APR):

    (1) Moore's complaint has no substance -- A complaint does not have to display much substance to get past the Rule 8 notice pleading standard that applies in Alabama state courts. To get past the Rule 8 bar on a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff merely must "give the opponent fair notice of the pleader's claim and the grounds upon which it rests." Moore's complaint might not do a lot, but it does do that -- meaning the case likely will not be dismissed and will go to discovery.

    (2) Moore's complaint lists 19 "fictitious defendants" -- This perplexes Joey Kennedy. "That's bizarre; if they're 'fictitious,' they don't exist," he writes. Actually, there is nothing bizarre about the fictitious defendants. It's a technique that is used in Alabama litigation all the time. And it doesn't mean the defendants don't exist. It means Moore and his lawyer do not know their names yet. But they plan to learn the names via discovery and add them to the complaint. This could make several prominent sphincters tight.

    (3) So there is a point to the 19 "fictitious defendants" stuff? -- Absolutely. In fact, they might form the No. 1 point in Moore's complaint. Moore probably knows his accusers did not cook up a scheme to cost him the election on their own. And even if they did, they probably do not have the power and deep pockets that could make this a national story. By naming 19 fictitious defendants, Moore's lawyer essentially is leaving space for the names of those who really did concoct a scheme to spread false and defamatory stories about Roy Moore -- if, in fact, such a scheme existed. It might be difficult to prove the stories are false, but it could be easy to prove a conspiracy -- by using discovery to seek emails, text messages, memos, phone records, etc. If such discovery points to names like Doug Jones, Rob Riley, Karl Rove, the Bush family (Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby?) -- well, copious amounts of feces could start hitting the political fan.

    (4) Doesn't Moore have to point in his complaint to some sign of conspiracy? -- Well, he does point to such signs. So far, the conspiracy points primarily to an Etowah County resident named Richard Hagedorn, who appears to have a criminal history. From the Moore complaint:

    Two days later, Hagedorn spoke with a reporter of BirminghamWatch.Org and said that he had “known Leigh Corfman for 25 years, ” and that he and Corfman talked about Judge Moore over the past “few years” but never in “great detail.”

    In that article Hagedorn admitted to “drug offenses” and “prison” but failed to disclose that after serving prison sentences for trafficking and possession of cocaine, he was subsequently held in contempt of court by Judge Moore on May 18, 1994 for non-payment of past-due alimony and child support amounting with interest to $63,154.33. The following day, Judge Moore issued an income withholding for monthly payments of $600 against that arrearage.

    Most recently, Hagedorn pleaded nolo-contendere (no contest) to possession of marijuana in Okaloosa County, Florida.

    (5) That doesn't sound like much of a political conspiracy to me -- Well, it points to long-standing connections between Hagedorn and Corfman, and their apparent shared disdain for Roy Moore. But it doesn't end there; from the complaint:

    On or about October 12, 2017, Hagedorn met with an agent for the WAPO (The Washington Post) at the Big Chief Restaurant in Glencoe, Alabama and made statements which were false and defamatory, knowing that they would harm the character and reputation of Judge Moore. Hagedorn’s brother, David Hagedorn, is a columnist for WAPO and resides in Washington, D.C., with his male partner. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg presided over the high-profile marriage of Hagedorn and his partner in Washington, D.C., while the case of Obergefell v. Hodges was pending before her Court. Richard Hagedorn attended the “wedding.” Judge Moore had been critical of the same-sex marriage movement and its success in the federal courts prior to his candidacy for U.S. Senate. He had, in particular, criticized Justice Ginsburg for performing same-sex marriages while the legal validity of that practice was at issue in a case pending before her Court. . . .

    Hagedorn not only conveyed false and malicious information to the WAPO but escorted its reporters for several days in Etowah County and attended meetings with other individuals, including Corfman and Wesson to further the false and malicious attacks on the character and reputation of Judge Moore. On the evening of November 9, Hagedorn posted on this Facebook page a picture of his “friend of 40 years” Leigh Corfman, expressing his support and encouragement for her defamatory statements.

    (6) Doug Jones and Rob Riley wouldn't conspire to undermine Roy Moore, would they? -- They sure as hell would. As we showed in a series of pre- and post-election posts, Jones and Riley are evil bastards, linked by their shared lust for a chunk of $51 million in attorney fees from a lawsuit against HealthSouth and related entities. Also, they have close ties to the Republican pro-business corruption machine, which favored Jones (a Democrat, in name only) over Moore and his religion-based supporters. The public record strongly suggests Jones and Riley were among the crooks who conspired to bring a political prosecution against former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. I have zero doubt that Jones and Riley were among the scoundrels who cheated my wife, Carol, and me out of our jobs (her at Infinity Insurance; me at UAB), caused me to be kidnapped from my own home and thrown in jail for five months -- for blogging; and worked with slime balls like Luther Strange, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, and Bill Baxley to cheat us out of our home of 25 years in Birmingham.

    (7) If Moore gets to the bottom of this via a lawsuit, could he also unearth crimes? -- This might be the most important question of all. I don't pretend to be an expert on all the possibilities here, but discovery in the Moore lawsuit certainly could unearth evidence of election fraud and (if the accusers were paid or compensated in some fashion) campaign finance violations. Could that cause some corrupt low-life types to wind up in federal prison? I would not rule it out.

    As with most lawsuits, it all will come down to discovery -- or the fear of discovery, by one side or the other. If the case lands with a judge who allows thorough and wide-ranging discovery, certain "fictitious defendants" might become very nervous.

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