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

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    Richard Shelby in Russia
    A Republican delegation, led by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), likely visited Russia over July 4 to seek help with the 2018 midterm elections and to restore a $500-billion Arctic oil-drilling deal, according to a source with deep knowledge of modern-era relations between Alabama and Russian political figures.

    Jill Simpson, a whistle blower and retired attorney from northeast Alabama, says Shelby's actions -- as a lead-in to talks between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, amount to treason. From a post at Simpson's Facebook page:

    As a person who spent over 11 years tracking the corrupt Alabama Gang's involvement with the Russians, I am not the least bit surprised Shelby led a group of GOP folks to Russia this past week, trying to cut the GOP a deal with Russia on the Arctic drilling deal that will make Putin and Russia $500 billion from Exxon and keep the GOP the majority party in the U.S. . . . It is ridiculous Shelby would try to make like we could be friends with the Russians again, when we outright know they stole and meddled with the 2016 election. Yes I said stole as their false propaganda caused a shift in the vote. I might add Shelby, it appears, is another American politician grifting on the Russians. That is treason. He should be jailed for it.

    This is a story of international breadth, but it hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. We recently asked this question: Could Russian interests be involved in the abuse that has been directed at my wife,  Carol, and me -- in two states, Alabama and Missouri? That question might seem far-fetched to some, but when you consider the documented ties to Russia of leaders in both states . . . well, it seems like a 50-50 proposition, at least to me.

    In terms of Alabama, we asked the question while thinking of former U.S. Senator (R-AL) and current Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions, GOP lawyer and political thug Rob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama head Bill Canary. All three have well-established ties to Russia. (Also, see here and here.)

    Richard Shelby's Russia connections might be less overt than those of Sessions and Co., but they are old news to insiders, says Simpson:

    It has been well known for years in Alabama that Shelby's former Senate employees (like Stewart Hall), plus the Riley bunch got tied into Oleg Deripaska through Haley Barbour's BGR Group, which worked directly for the Russian government and Oleg. The roots of this Russian mess in Alabama start with Rick Davis (Paul Manafort's former partner and an Alabama good ol' boy), Sessions, Shelby, Canary, Riley, Haley Barbour's BGR Group, and Twinkle Cavanaugh, who was GOP chairperson at the time this all started.

    Manafort's legal problems -- he currently is facing a criminal trial in the Robert Mueller investigation -- might have prompted Shelby's mission to Russia. And it all could lead to more Russian meddling in a U.S. election. Writes Simpson:

    The Alabama Resistance tracked and outed their mess with the Manafort Davis firm in 2007 and 2008, plus we released pictures of the situation of secret meetings from all over the world. We also tracked their Russian mess in 2016, with Manafort and Bannon and Cambridge Analytica. 
    These guys really should be locked up for treason. We at the Alabama Resistance are very worried [the Shelby group] may have negotiated new meddling with the Russians for our 2018 elections. Since Manafort was locked up, it appears the GOP senators may have had to take a more direct line of action with Russia, in an effort to retain their Senate majority. Never in the history of the US have we seen such treason at the surface.

    Russian drilling platform
     As for the Arctic-drilling deal, many informed observers say that was the No. 1 reason Putin helped steal the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. Plans for exploration went on hold when the United States hit Russia with sanctions in 2014 following the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Writes Simpson at another Facebook post about Shelby's July 4 GOP mission to Russia:

    They were over there trying to cut themselves and their party a deal to get support in the 2018 election is what most Russian government watchers believe. Also, we are going to be watching closely the $500-billion Arctic drilling deal; it will become obvious if this bunch tries to help Trump put it through. We will resist. We are watching what appears to be treason at the top level of the government, led by a member of the corrupt Alabama Gang. I might add most Russia watchers believe that Trump was put in to give Putin the $500-billion Arctic drilling deal. That will never happen. As the planet will be in danger, and a whole lot of world leaders will stand up to Trump and Putin.

    If Jill Simpson is on target -- and Robert Mueller should turn his attention to the driving forces behind Richard Shelby's mission to Russian -- well, that could place an unpleasant ending on an Alabama political legacy.

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    Bill Pryor and Jeff Sessions in a
    1996 photograph
    Trump Attorney General and former U.S. Sen. (R-AL) Jeff Sessions commenced a homosexual affair with federal judge Bill Pryor while the latter was in college, according to a recent report from a D.C.-based investigative journalist. That probably is the No. 1 reason Pryor sits on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and has been mentioned twice as a possible nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS).

    It also might explain why, when Donald Trump last night announced Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, Pryor's name was nowhere to be found. When Trump had to fill the late Antonin Scalia's seat, Pryor initially was seen as the favorite. But as word spread that he had posed nude for photographs that wound up at the gay-porn site badpuppy.com in the late 1990s, Pryor's star seemed to fade -- and he finished a distant third, with Neil Gorsuch, of Colorado, getting the nod.

    When the Kennedy seat recently became open, Pryor's name again surfaced as a candidate, in some quarters. But he quickly fell off the leader board, and reportedly was not among the seven candidates that Trump interviewed.

    Is that, in part, because of our reporting -- which has spread to sites across the nation -- about Pryor's ties to gay porn via badpuppy.com? That seems likely. But it's also possible that political insiders, including some on Team Trump, are learning that the Pryor/Sessions relationship is disturbing -- even perverse. And we now are learning that the perversity goes back much farther than originally thought.

    Nothing in Pryor's background suggests he is, or ever will be, an outstanding judge or legal thinker. But as journalist Wayne Madsen points out, Pryor has enjoyed the consistent support of Sessions, and that has little, if anything, to do with Pryor's legal qualifications. It appears to have almost everything to do with Sessions and Pryor being closeted gays -- with Sessions willing to take advantage of a young man when he was barely out of high school.

    It all raises this ugly question: Did Jeff Sessions commit acts with Bill Pryor that come close to defining him as a child sexual abuser?

    Pryor grew up in Mobile, while Sessions has spent much of his professional life in that coastal Alabama city. We have reported on nude photographs of Pryor that wound up on the gay-porn Web site badpuppy.com in 1997. We have reported that Alabama law enforcement -- because of concerns that Pryor's hidden lifestyle could make him vulnerable to blackmail as the state's attorney general (or as a federal judge, a position for which Pryor already was angling) -- conducted surveillance that showed Sessions making frequent late-night visits to Pryor's apartment in Montgomery. We also reported that the Obama administration threatened to use information about Sessions' secret life to make sure he did not block the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

    But Madsen's latest report adds important new insight to the peculiar Sessions-Pryor relationship, which is particularly timely as Sessions remains near the center of the Robert Mueller investigation, and evidence grows that Pryor lied to Congress during his confirmation hearing to the federal bench. Our reporting tied the Session-Pryor sexual relationship to the late 1990s, but Madsen reports that it started much earlier than that -- when Pryor was a student at Northeast Louisiana University (now University of Louisiana Monroe), from 1980-84.

    All of this is ironic, of course, because Sessions and Pryor have taken ardently anti-gay, conservative positions in their right-wing political lives. From a 2017 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, by reporter Bill Rankin:

    Pryor, 54, has called Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case legalizing abortion, the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” And he once wrote that the right to engage in same-sex relationships would “logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia.”

    As for Madsen, this is from his article, published June 28-29, at Wayne Madsen Report (a subscription-only Web site), which focuses primarily on the Anthony Kennedy retirement and his possible successor:

    Another potential Kennedy replacement is William Pryor, Jr., now serving on the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Pryor is subject to blackmail, something that Trump would find to his own advantage. Pryor is a close personal friend and longtime apprentice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Several Alabama sources claim that in 1980, Sessions, who was 34 at the time, began a gay relationship with Pryor, then an 18-year old student at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe. Pryor also allegedly posed nude for a gay magazine during his college years. In 1997, as Alabama Governor Fob James was announcing Pryor's appointment as Attorney General of Alabama, replacing Sessions who was elected to the U.S. Senate, the photos appeared in a gallery of college-aged boys, titled "WizardBoy Pix," on a gay website called badpuppy.com.

    Sessions was pushing for Pryor to be nominated to the Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the 2016 death of Antonin Scalia. Scalia died while participating in a Valentine's Weekend hunting and orgy fest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch in Texas. Trump, instead, opted for Gorsuch.

    Pryor has denied the photos on the gay website are of him, however, they were salacious enough to have caused the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to report their existence to Governor James after he appointed Pryor to fill the Attorney General vacancy left by Sessions. There were enough doubts about Pryor's past to cause 45 senators to vote against his 2005 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

    We sought comment from Pryor and Sessions' spokesperson, Sarah Isgur Flores. They did not respond to our queries.

    Meanwhile, we have tracked down multiple individuals who knew Pryor at Northeast Louisiana, mainly from participation in the band and work-study jobs. They say the badpuppy.com photos definitely are of the Bill Pryor -- and one describes Pryor as "flamboyant" in his homosexuality while in college. Several posts on this topic are coming soon.

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    William M. Acker II
    Just when you are rid of perhaps the worst federal judge in Alabama history, along comes another who seems hell-bent on proving she is just as bad.

    In a rare piece of good news on "justice" in the Deep South, William M. Acker Jr., 90, died on June 21 after spending 34 years as a "judge" in the Northern District of Alabama -- the last 20 on senior status, before his full retirement in 2016. The wrinkled Reagan appointee had been on the federal bench in Birmingham since 1982.

    Acker is the judge who cheated me raw in my First Amendment/discrimination lawsuit against UAB. Many of the ugly events that have happened to my wife, Carol, and me in the past six or seven years -- my kidnapping and incarceration; loss of our home of 25 years in Birmingham to wrongful foreclosure; our unlawful eviction in Missouri; Carol's shattered arm, requiring almost eight hours of trauma surgery (thanks to Greene County deputies) -- would not have happened if Acker had handled the UAB case lawfully.

    Perhaps the best part about Acker's death is that it might allow for revival of my lawsuit against UAB. Wouldn't that be a hoot if the SOBs (and daughters of bitches, DOBs?) who thought they got away with cheating me the first time were to see my complaint slapped on their desks -- or wind up in their mailboxes, for those who no longer work at the university? It could happen.

    The original case was not a hard case to decide, given that UAB human-resources official Anita Bonasera admitted in a tape-recorded phone call that I was targeted because of my reporting on this blog about the Don Siegelman case. But Acker, being a Bastard-Coated Bastard With Bastard Filling (BCBWBF), repeatedly ruled contrary to black-letter law -- and he even had the audacity to state in open court that he was going to cheat me, and then he did it. Naturally, his corrupt cronies on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta backed him up in a "Do Not Publish" opinion -- which is a little trick federal judges use to cheat certain litigants without screwing up the actual law in federal reporters.

    The late Monroe Freedman, a Hofstra University professor who was considered the father of modern legal ethics as an academic subject, said he was sick of seeing crooked opinions like the one Acker produced in my case. From Freedman:

    Frankly, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges.

    I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued, judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities, judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules.

    Freedman said that in a 1989 speech, and the quote made me feel like I was in awfully good company in reporting on scoundrels, like Acker, on the federal bench. Freedman died in 2015, and judicial corruption only got worse during the later years of his life.

    As for the Northern District of Alabama, I've learned in recent weeks that Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins, who reportedly retired to senior status in June, might be just as crooked as Acker. We will deal with her in upcoming posts. But for now, let's tell the world that William M. Acker Jr. was a hideous criminal, and the world is a better place now that he's dead.

    An American tradition is that we speak kindly (and falsely) of the dead, no matter how big a BCBWBF he was in real life. That applies to Acker, as you can see from this article about his death at al.com:

    Colleagues of retired United States District Judge William M. Acker, Jr., are remembering him this week as a brilliant and compassionate jurist who ruled on a variety of cases during a three-decade career on the federal bench.

    "Brilliant and compassionate," my ass. You will notice the article includes only quotes from fellow judges and lawyers -- none from parties who had cases before Acker. I wish they had asked me for a quote. Here is what it would have been.

    I consider Bill Acker to be a worse criminal than Jarrod W. Ramos, who killed five people in the recent newspaper shooting at Annapolis, Maryland. At least Ramos had the decency to use his own money to purchase his weapon. Even the worst mass killers generally do that. But not Bill Acker and his fellow judicial crooks. They use taxpayer money, in taxpayer-funded facilities. to cheat taxpayers who have cases before them -- all the while treating constitutional rights like they were used toilet paper and showing utter disrespect for the rule of law. In other words, Acker steals your money to buy a gun and shoot you with it. Hell, Jarrod Ramos almost certainly has more integrity than that. 

    How badly did Acker screw me on the UAB case? I've written several lengthy posts on that subject (see here,here, and here), but it boils down to this. He granted the university summary judgment, without discovery, in clear violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Eleventh Circuit precedent, as outlined in Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988). From Snook:

    "This court has often noted that summary judgment should not be granted until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity for discovery. . . . The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a right to challenge the affidavits and other factual materials submitted in support of the motion by conducting sufficient discovery so as to enable him to determine whether he can furnish opposing affidavits. . . . Generally summary judgment is inappropriate when the party opposing the motion has been unable to obtain responses to his discovery requests."

    Law doesn't get much more direct and simple than that. I filed at least three motions to inform the court that discovery had not been conducted, and Acker admitted in open court that he was aware of that, and I was entitled to conduct discovery to counter UAB's motion for summary judgment.

    We've reported on at least one of Acker's judicial colleagues in the Northern District of Alabama who knows the law on discovery and summary judgment and has applied it correctly multiple times. We've reported that  Acker himself has correctly applied the law in multiple cases. He just didn't do it in my case, and that's probably because he knew political thugs had pressured UAB to unlawfully terminate me, and Acker chose to protect those thugs. Specifically, Acker likely was protecting GOP cretin Rob "Uday" Riley and his associates, who were the driving forces behind my cheat job at UAB. We recently have uncovered evidence that suggests the Alabama State Bar might have been involved, too.

    Speaking of Rob Riley, I'm not the only litigant Acker cheated in the name of protecting the son of former Alabama GOP Gov. Bob Riley.  He did much the same thing in a whistle blower case on which we reported, where Rob Riley's company (and individuals tied to UAB) reportedly were engaging in health-care fraud. The plaintiff's Mississippi lawyers were left so amazed at Acker's unlawful rulings that they hardly knew what to say. They did say it might be possible to re-bring the case later, "but we'll have to wait for him to die."

    Well, thank God, that time has arrived, although a send-off remains on schedule for Acker. According to an obituary at al.com, a "celebration" of Acker's life will be at 11 a.m. on July 28 at Highlands United Methodist Church. How do you "celebrate" the life of a publicly funded criminal? From the obit:

    Judge Acker was known for his humorous limericks and writings but most particularly for his legal writings. Two weeks before his death, although nearly blind, he completed a law review article which will be published in the Cumberland Law Review in the near future.

    Acker was a funny guy? Tell that to the parties he cheated in court. Acker almost went blind near the end of his life? Let's hope he enjoyed his time in near darkness, and maybe he learned something from it -- like karma really can be a bitch.

    As for the possibility of reviving my UAB lawsuit, I'm still researching that topic -- but I think it is a possibility. In terms of new evidence, all evidence in the case is new because Acker did not allow any discovery the first time around. This much is certain: If my UAB case winds up back on the docket, William Marsh Acker II won't be hearing it.

    Before we leave, let's pay tribute to Dr. Perry Cox, the memorable character from Scrubs who created a classic phrase we borrowed above. Here's the video:

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    Virginia Emerson Hopkins
    William M. Acker Jr. is dead and gone -- thank God -- but Virginia Emerson Hopkins seems hell-bent on claiming his title as the worst federal judge in Alabama, certainly in the Northern District. How is she doing it? By dismissing our "Jail Case" -- the one based on my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County -- on grounds that aren't even close to being correct under the law.

    It's pretty hard to dismiss the Jail Case, based on the facts or law. It's a matter of public record that I was, in fact, kidnapped from inside my home (no warrant, in violation of state law, the Fourth Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court finding in Payton v. New York), and defendants were among those responsible for it. No one can seriously argue the arrest was lawful, given that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed a bogus defamation claim, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited as prior restraints under more than 230 years of First Amendment law.

    Since Hopkins -- whose husband (Anniston lawyer Chris Hopkins) essentially bought a judicial seat for her, by giving generously to Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions -- can't cheat us on fact or law, how does she do it? By butchering simple procedural and statutory law that an orangutan should be able to get right. (Hopkins'"judgment," our Rule 59 motion in response to it, and an amendment to our Rule 59 motion are embedded at the end of this post.)

    You might recall that Hopkins hardly has a judicial temperament, as we showed in a post about her screaming fit, for about 20 minutes, at Fultondale attorney Greg Morris when he appeared to represent us at a Rule 26 planning meeting. Now, we can show Hopkins doesn't have the brains or the integrity for the job, either. Given what we've learned about interference in the Jail Case from the Alabama State Bar, it would not be a surprise if Hopkins were collaborating with bar officials to cheat us.

    Hopkins' first line of deceit involves the statute of limitations (SOL). She dismissed all six of our federal claims -- First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, False Arrest, False Imprisonment, and Excessive Force -- by finding that we filed our complaint after the two-year statute of limitations for claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 had expired.

    It is standard around the country that the time bar for a Sec. 1983 claim is based on each state's statute of limitations for personal-injury cases. In  Missouri, that is five years; in Alabama, it's two years. So, it's undisputed that our case, in fact, is governed by a two-year SOL. But that is not the only time-related matter at hand. There also is the small matter of when the SOL begins to accrue. In other words, when does the two-year clock start clicking on a Sec. 1983 claim in Alabama, or any other state?

    To answer that question, one must turn to federal law. Here is how the U.S. Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) put it in a case style Kelly v. Serna, 87 F. 3d 1235 (11th Cir., 1996):

    “Deciding what statute of limitations applies to this action gets us only half way to our destination. Secondly, we must decide at what point the applicable statute begins to run. A statute of limitations begins to run when the cause of action accrues. Accrual of a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is a question of federal law.Mullinax v. McElhenney, 817 F.2d 711, 716 (11th Cir.1987).

    As the Eleventh Circuit put it, Hopkins decided only half of the issue. Her memorandum opinion gives no hint that she even considered the second half -- the accrual half, which is extremely important, especially in a case where false imprisonment is alleged.

    You might recall that I was incarcerated for more than five months -- from Oct. 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014. As you probably can imagine, being in jail cuts one off from the world. In the Shelby County Jail, inmates did not even have access to a functioning writing implement (a pen could be used as a weapon) or pieces of paper. Federal courts recognize this and have adopted a special rule that applies to cases involving allegations of false arrest/imprisonment. The U.S. Supreme Court has spelled out this rule, as has Restatement of Torts, a compendium of U.S. common law, which applies in courts across the country.

    Here is how the nation's highest court put it in a case styled Wallace v. Kato, 549 US 384 (U.S. Supreme Court, 2007):

    “The statute of limitations in a § 1983 suit is that provided by the State for personal-injury torts,e.g.,Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-250, 109 S.Ct. 573, 102 L.Ed.2d 594 . . . For false imprisonment and its subspecies false arrest, "[t]he... cause[s] of action ... provid[ing] the closest analogy to claims of the type considered here," Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383, the statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged false imprisonment ends, see,e.g., 4 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899.”

    The Northern District of Alabama already has correctly interpreted and applied the law, in a case styled Antonio James v. City of Birmingham (ND of AL, 2012). From James:

    “As to Count Two, alleging false imprisonment, the “running of the statute of limitations on false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule-dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned: "Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends.’” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389 (quoting 2 H. Wood, Limitation of Actions § 187d(4), p. 878 (rev. 4th ed. 1916).

    You'd think that Hopkins might be able to figure out that a judge in her own building already has correctly applied the law regarding accrual of the SOL in a case alleging false imprisonment. But you would be wrong. You'd also think Hopkins might be able to consult Restatement of Torts, a volume that probably is found in every law library -- even in podunk counties -- around the country. You would be wrong about that, too.

    In fact, Restatement of Torts provides probably the most clear and concise description of the matter -- and again, this is the U.S. common law, which applies all over -- and that's why we filed an amendment to our Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. We wanted to provide the most plainly understood version of the law, in hopes that Hopkins and opposing lawyers in the case -- almost all of whom claimed our lawsuit was untimely filed -- might be able to grasp it. From Restatement of Torts:

    “For false imprisonment, the statute [of limitations] begins to run only when the imprisonment ends, since the period of imprisonment is treated as a unit."Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899, (1979). See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389,127 S. Ct. 1091("The running of the statute of limitations on [common-law] false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule—dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned."). The Restatement.

    Law does not get much more clear and simple than that. Our Rule 59 motion is pending, so we will see if Hopkins can figure it out. Our guess is that she won't even try; she appears to be so bereft of integrity that she likely will figure out some other way to cheat us.

    The law and the numbers, however, do not lie. Here is a summary, involving the dates in question:

    * All parties involved agree that Alabama's two-year statute of limitations governs this Sec. 1983 case;

    * Hopkins ignores federal law -- as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court and Restatement of Torts -- that governs when our complaint accrues, when the clock starts ticking on the two-year SOL;

    * I was arrested on Oct. 23, 2013, so Hopkins wrongly claims our clock started ticking then -- that our complaint had to be filed by Oct. 23, 2015;

    * But I was incarcerated for more than five months -- released on March 26, 2014 -- and under the law cited above, accrual of our complaint began on that date;

    * Hopkins admits our complaint was filed on March 26, 2016, which means it was timely per Kato and the Restatement. 

    It will be interesting to see if Hopkins continues to get this wrong because, if she does, that is a criminal act -- one that almost certainly is driven by extrajudicial forces that should have forced her disqualification from the case many months ago. Hopkins likely is tippy-toeing over the line of the nation's racketeering laws, involving obstruction of justice and other criminal acts. We've seen evidence that suggests officials with the Alabama State Bar also have stepped into RICO land.

    We'd say Hopkins, and her cronies at the state bar, are dancing in dangerous territory, but we're not sure they are smart enough to understand that.

    As for the second ground upon which Hopkins wrongfully dismissed our Jail Case, we will examine that in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Brian Benczkowski, behind Jeff Sessions
    A Republican insider -- with ties to a Russian bank and the Don Siegelman case -- has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Donald Trump's choice to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). One insider describes Brian Benczkowski as a "fixer" for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and multiple Democrats and news outlets have voiced concerns that the newest Trump appointee could help thwart the Robert Mueller investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

    Jill Simpson, a whistle blower and retired attorney from northeast Alabama, had personal encounters with Benczkowski during investigation of the Siegelman case as a political prosecution, and she says it's hard to imagine a worse choice to lead the Criminal Division. Benczkowski was confirmed almost strictly along party lines. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) was the only Democrat to cross over and vote to confirm Writes Simpson, in a Facebook post:

    Benczkowski goes back to the EADS Refueling Tanker deal with Oleg Deripaska that Sessions and Manafort and his partner, Rick Davis, at the time were trying to put through, and we, the Alabama Resistance, stopped it by seeing the stories we're told on the Refueling Tanker deal and saved 35,000 American Boeing jobs. Putting a Putin mole in as the chief of the criminal division when he has never tried a case is hoot. I guess all you have to do to get those jobs is kiss Jeff Sessions' and his Russian friend's asses.

    This is the second time this week we've had news about a Trump nominee (or confirmee) whose appointment appears geared to protect the White House from the Mueller investigation. The first such news came Monday night with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. We've already learned that Kavanaugh can't even manage his own credit cards, in the name of buying tickets to Washington Nationals baseball games. Writes Mother Jones (MoJo), on the latest news about Benczkowski:

    The Senate confirmed a top Justice Department official on Wednesday who could help oversee the Trump-Russia investigation, despite his own troubling connections to Russia and his close ties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Brian Benczkowski, a former Senate aide to Sessions, was confirmed on a 51-48 vote to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, a job that could give him sway over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Several Senate Democrats have argued that Benczkowski should be disqualified due to previous work on behalf of a Russian bank with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a general lack of experience in criminal law.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) points to several beneath-the-surface reasons for Benczkowski's nomination. From MoJo:

    Whitehouse posits several ways in which Benczkowski could undermine the Mueller investigation from his perch atop the Criminal Division, which would give him insight into the investigation. He could share information about the probe with Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation, or with President Donald Trump’s legal team. He could also slow down the investigation by delaying or denying any requests that come to his desk.

    And Whitehouse notes that the Trump administration is surely aware that the president could replace Rod Rosenstein with Benczkowski, since anyone confirmed by the Senate to any post can be temporarily appointed to other posts that typically require Senate confirmation. That would transfer oversight of the Russia investigation to him. “There are lots of nefarious explanations for why this guy at this time gets installed in a position with a window into the Mueller investigation,” he says.

    Other Democrats have voiced similar warnings. “The Benczkowski vote could mark a pivotal moment in the Russia investigation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) tweeted Tuesday, as the vote on the nomination approached. “The warning signs are clear.”

    Jill Simpson, from her experience with the Siegelman case, has seen signs that Benczkowski simply is dishonest. From a second Simpson post at Facebook:

    Benczkowski wrote a letter packed with lies about me when I went to D.C. to testify in 2007, and Scottt Horton did a piece about it at Harper's Magazineshowing what a liar Benczkowski was back then, taking his letter apart showing his lies, which we knew he did for Sessions because of the EADS deal he was protecting for the Russians. 
    Now Benczkowski has been confirmed to be the chief of the DOJ Criminal Division,  which is a joke. I can't imagine why anyone would approve this known Russian-government employee ( lawyer for Russian-government Alfa Bank) liar. He is a known Sessions fixer; he fixed the Siegelman case, he fixed the Russian Election stuff for Russian Alfa Bank, so  Sessions could cover tracks at the Trump Tower. And now, Trump is giving him this job to fix the Mueller investigation . 
    This one appointment shows that our DOJ is no longer reputable. I tried coming forward years ago to stop this [kind of thing] from happening. I am sad, but this will be a complete takeover of government when Russians essentially control the criminal division. Folks must rise up and say, hell no. I am speaking out as I was a direct victim of this Russian ass-kissing lawyer thug, as he wrote a bunch of lies against me when I came forward as a Siegelman witness.

    Simpson has more about Benczkowski's affiliations with the corrupt "Alabama Gang," led by Jeff Sessions:

    This is not my first rodeo with the very corrupt Mr Brian Benczkowski. Check what the then Sessions fixer Senate Judiciary DOJ staffer, Mr Breczkowski, did to us in the Siegelman case. He repeatedly lied in writing. This is an old article by Scott Horton on the Siegelman case that shows how corrupt a jerk Benczkowski is
    He did this to us at the time for Alabama Gang leader Jeff Sessions, his corrupt boss at the time. Now he is set to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. The guy has zero ethics and morals and would not understand the rule of law if it bit him on the ass. He is Jeff Sessions' fixer and has been for years. Mr. Mueller and his team need to stand against this appointment, or they will get caught in this fixer's trap. We in Alabama have long identified Brian Benckowski as a fixer for for Alabama Gang members, and we all need to stand up and tell all we know on him. This is my start on this Alfa Bank Russian mole bastard.

    We reported here at Legal Schnauzer on Benczkowski's dubious actions in the Siegelman case, borrowing from the work of Scott Horton, legal-affairs analyst at Harper's: From that LS post of September 2007, not long after I started this blog:

    Isn't it heartening to know that our public officials, particularly ones who take an oath to uphold the law and tell the truth, are capable of telling repeated falsehoods?

    And we're not talking about lying in a casual conversation. We're talking about lying in a letter to Congress about matters that go to the very heart of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

    That's what we citizens received when Brian A. Benczkowski wrote the DOJ's official response to a Congressional request for documents related to three cases that appear to involve politically motivated prosecutions. The prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is one of those cases.

    It wasn't enough that Benczkowski essentially refused to comply with a request from the governmental body that funds his agency and writes the laws he and his colleagues are sworn to uphold. No, Benczkowski has to tell one lie after another.

    Scott Horton, of Harper's, is just the guy to dissect Benczkowski's fact-challenged missive. Horton's verdict? In just two paragraphs, the DOJ's chief Congressional liaison tells seven whoppers. It's not easy to tell seven lies in such a small amount of space. But hey, this guy works in the Bush Justice Department.

    How serious could the Benczkowski appointment be? Jill Simpson considers it to be extremely serious, and she levels one more blast:

    Glad to see it is now coming to light that Jeff Sessions' former Senate Judiciary staffer Benczkowski (who sent an ugly lying letter to Conyers in the Siegelman matter) went and worked for Russian-owned Alfa Bank ( yes the one in Trump Tower that was believed to be sending info back to Russia for Trump Campaign Project Alamo Team and IRA ) after they got caught in the Steele Dossier investigation and the Alabama Project Alamo Election Stealing investigation. 
    Now, Sessions wants his cleaner-fixer, Mr. Benczkowski, to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. My guess is that it is to clean up for Sessions and Trump "the mess" (which is how the GOP refers to Mueller) at the DOJ. We at the Resistance have known of Mr Benczkowski's Russian hanky panky for a while, going back to Jeff Sessions' Senate days. It appears folks are on Mr. B's trail now, which is good, considering he is woefully unqualified for the job as head of the DOJ Criminal Division. He has zero experience as a civil or criminal litigator, and to our knowledge and the Democrats on the Hill in D.C.,  he's never even filed a federal appeal. 
    In a normal Senate and Congress, Benczkowski would be disqualified due to his close association with the Russian government and his representation of the Alfa Bank. Jeff Sessions and Trump, with this appointment, are not fooling anyone; they are bringing in another Putin ass- kissing Russian mole buddy to fix the Mueller situation. But they are caught,  and, the story is out of the bag due to Rachel Maddow's courageous reporting. We at the Alabama Resistance love Rachel and thank God she is seeing the truth is told. 
    Generally, the head of the criminal division of the DOJ often becomes, at a future date,  the head of the FBI. So it appears the Russian government is trying to install a former employee ( Alfa Bank job for Benczkowski) as head of the DOJ Criminal Division, with a possible trail to the FBI. This is breath taking to watch, and not in a good way. I wonder if any members of the GOP are loyal to country in D.C.,  or are they all corrupted by Russian money. This appointment is Russia's fix to protect Trump and Sessions. They paid this gentlemen very well to get them off the hook and to let Trump and Sessions off the hook, and sadly they are all Russian moles. These are Russia's useful idiots at the top of the collusion deal.

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    An Arkansas police officer sparked a federal lawsuit and national news coverage when he arrested a man for acting suspiciously at a railroad yard -- and the man worked for the railroad company. That sounds like a joke, but it's only the beginning of the craziness at the heart of a case styled Adam Finley v. City of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, et al.

    In fact, the case has plenty of ugliness to go with the craziness. When Finley and his wife, Heather, visited the Walnut Ridge Police Department to file a complaint against Officer Matthew Mercado, Chief Chris Kirksey said Finley was lucky not to be in jail, and the chief and a sergeant wound up writing a citation that charges Finley with two crimes -- obstruction of governmental operations and resisting arrest. This came even after Chief Kirksey had seen body-cam video that proves Finley did not obstruct or resist anything. (Video of the encounter with Officer Mercado is at the top of this post; Video of the meeting with Kirksey and Sgt. Matthew Cook, in two parts, is at the end of this post. Note: In the video above, Officer Mercado apparently did not turn on audio to his body cam, so the video is silent for about 30 seconds at the beginning.)

    Bottom line: If you are the victim of police misconduct in Walnut Ridge, AR, and you have the audacity to report it, you can wind up facing criminal charges you clearly did not commit, per a dash-cam video. This, of course, sounds a lot like the experience my wife, Carol, and I have had in Springfield, Missouri, where Greene County deputies broke her arm -- requiring trauma surgery and about six months of physical therapy -- during an unlawful eviction in September 2015, and then hit her with an "assault of a law enforcement officer" charge, even though the "victim" officer (Jeremy Lynn) admitted in a written report and under oath at trial that he initiated contact with Carol, meaning she was not guilty, as a matter of Missouri law.

    In Carol's case, officers repeatedly lied under oath, and Judge Jerry A. Harmison Jr. violated black-letter law in order to find Carol guilty in a bench trial, where there was not even probable cause to arrest, much less to prosecute.

    Compared to Carol, Adam Finley got off easy. He did not have any broken bones, and the criminal charges against him ultimately were dropped. There already has been some semblance of accountability for the Walnut Ridge Police Department; there has been zero accountability, so far, against the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) and its head thug, Jim Arnott, and crooked prosecutor, Dan Patterson.

    The police abuse of Adam Finley is relatively tame compared to what happens in some cases, where victims wind up with broken bones, or even dead. For one, Finley (like Carol) is white, so it shows police abuse is not just directed at black people. We have no doubt police disproportionately target black folks, and there is good reason the Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri. But the Finley case is not about race; it's more about mind-numbing stupidity on the part of an officer, and the corruptness of his superiors -- all of it conducted while cameras were rolling.

    Stan Morris, of NEA (Northeast Arkansas) Report, has led news coverage of the Finley story at a local level. Radley Balko, of The Washington Post, picked up on the Finley case earlier this week and noted, right off, the goofiness of it all. We invite you to watch the body-cam footage above, and Finley promptly turns over his ID as a railroad-company employee. (Note: Again, Officer Mercado apparently did not immediately turn on audio to his body cam, so the video is silent for about the first 30 seconds.) In other words, Finley was not "acting suspiciously" at all; he was on the job and had work-related reasons to be at the railroad yard. But Officer Mercado apparently can't grasp that and slams Finley up against his own truck, cursing him, slapping handcuffs on him, and then ultimately letting him go. But Finley winds up facing criminal charges after filing a complaint, and (unlike Carol) he is acquitted. From Balko:

    Mercado didn’t turn on the audio for his camera until about 30 seconds into the stop. During that time, the video shows Finley handing Mercado both his license and his employee ID from the railroad company. Mercado then asks Finley to get out of his truck. It’s here that Mercado then turns on his mic. He asks Finley, “What’s with the attitude?” Finley, who appears to have done nothing to indicate an “attitude,” replies, “Nothing.”

    Mercado persists. “No, you have an attitude. What’s your problem?” Finley responds, “I don’t have no problem, I’m good.” Mercado again pushes. “I can pull you over if I want.” Finley says, “That’s fine.”

    This is obstructing governmental operations? Does an alternate universe exist in Walnut Ridge, AR, especially in law enforcement. Here is more from Balko:

    Later Mercado again expresses doubt about Finley’s employment — again, despite having Finley’s employee ID in his own hands. “It doesn’t look like you were working,” he says. As he says this, Finley takes a small step away from the truck. Mercado snaps, “If you get up on me again, we’re going to have problems.” Finley, clearly taken aback at the escalation, flashes a nervous smile. Mercado again ratchets up the tension. “I’m glad you think all of this is a joke, sir.” Finley shakes his head and again tells Mercado that he works for the railroad. Mercado again indicates that he doesn’t believe him.

    Mercado then orders Finley to put his hands behind his back, and says he’s going to arrest him for “obstructing my operation.” Finley, clearly nervous, protests and tries to prove to Mercado that he works for the railroad by showing him some equipment in the back of his truck. At this point the stop turns violent. Mercado grabs Finley and throws him against the truck. Finley puts his hands behind his back. Mercado cuffs him and says, “You’re about ignorant.” He then again shoves Finley into the truck, this time with enough force to dislodge his own body camera, which falls to the ground.

    Over the course of the next several minutes, Mercado repeatedly uses profanity, lectures to Finley as if he were a child and claims that Finley is “hostile and aggressive.” Throughout all of this, Finley is remarkably calm, insisting over and over that he works for the railroad, and that he doesn’t understand why he was pulled over.

    After pointing out multiple falsehoods in Mercado's incident report, Balko strives to put the whole contretemps in perspective:

    It’s tempting to blow all this off as a single, insignificant incident in a small town. It isn’t Los Angeles’s Rampart, after all. Or Chicago’s systemized torture. But it also isn’t unique. There’s a steady stream of stories like this one. I was alerted to this particular story by a former police officer who now advocates criminal-justice reform. (He asked me not to use his name, for reasons that will be apparent in a moment.) I asked him: In his experience, how common is this sort of thing? His response:

    "This is very common in policing. Looking back on my career, I realize just how often I acted similarly and didn’t even realize it. It was subconscious. I was trained and subtly incentivized to do so. You intentionally create conflict and manufacture noncompliance in order to build your stop into an arrest situation. Because that’s what generations of law enforcers who have been steeped in a fear-based, comply or else, us-vs.-them mind-set do. They arrest people. Arrests are a primary measure of productivity and gives the appearance your department has solved a problem.

    "Most aggressive cops have honed this to an art. They are savvy, know exactly how to weaponize numerous petty laws, ordinances, use-of-force policy and procedure against citizens. This cop was off his game and clumsily went through the motions like a desperate door-to-door perfume salesman. Except when cops manufacture a “sale” like this, the “customer” ends up arrested, criminalized, emotionally and financially devastated, not to mention possibly physically beaten or worse. And the justice system will deem it legal, even when it isn’t.

    "As far as the police leadership and prosecutors, they knew exactly what they were doing. If someone makes a complaint, you find something, anything to charge them with."

    So, the thinking demonstrated by Officer Mercado and his chief is common in policing. And that should concern all Americans, of all colors and persuasions. Writes Balko:

    Finley wasn’t shot, or choked to death, or found hanging in a jail cell. He didn’t suffer any permanent or lasting physical injury. Mercado didn’t even use racist or bigoted language. But Finley did everything he was supposed to. From the footage we can see and hear, he was polite, provided ID when it was asked of him and stepped out of the truck when ordered. Despite cooperating, he was treated poorly, detained and roughed up. When he then tried to file a complaint, he was harassed, and the chief of police attempted to turn his own wife against him — by citing video she hadn’t seen and that ultimately vindicated her husband. Yet even after viewing that video, city officials proceeded to prosecute. And even after the video was released, city officials maligned Finley in the press and insisted that the residents of Walnut Ridge believe the assertions of authority figures over the video evidence that contradicted them.

    The “lesson” Finley learned here is pretty clear. Power usually wins. You can be as cooperative as possible, but if a police officer wants to dish out some abuse, he can. And he’ll probably get away with it. Try to hold him accountable if you’d like, but just know that doing so may come with a heavy price.

    Once other public officials cover up for “bad apple” cops, the story is no longer about the bad apples. It’s about systemic failure. It’s about public servants willing to tolerate abuse because they’re more loyal to one another than to the public they serve. It’s difficult to say how someone in a position of authority — someone with the public trust — could view footage of the encounter between Mercado and Finley and proclaim they believe that the criminal charges against Finley were merited. Perhaps they were just lying. Or perhaps they were so blinded by deference to law enforcement, a fear of accountability or a knee-jerk defense of authority that they actually believe what they’re saying. I’m not sure which of those scenarios ought to worry us more.

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    Jarrod W. Ramos
    In the wake of the recent deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, several commentators have suggested it might usher in an era of attacks on the free press. If those commentators had been able to walk in my shoes over the past 10 years, they would know such an era already is under way -- especially in Jeff Sessions' Alabama.

    Sessions and/or his acolytes have relentlessly attacked this blog since 2008, when I was cheated out of my job at UAB for reporting on the Don Siegelman case in a way that then Gov. Bob Riley (and his son, Rob "Uday" Riley, and Rob's legal partner, current U.S. Sen. Doug Jones) found displeasing.

    The attacks became so flagrant that they included my kidnapping, from inside my Birmingham home without a warrant and no allegation of a crime, and a five-month incarceration (from Oct. 2013 to March 2014) in the Shelby County Jail -- making me the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, the only imprisoned journalist in the western hemisphere for 2013, and apparently the only journalist in U.S. history to be jailed due to an unlawful preliminary injunction in a defamation case. In other words, Alabama in the Sessions era became more of a First Amendment backwater than places like Venezuela, Chile, and El Salvador.

    No one should be surprised that Sessions, in his role as Trump attorney general, has not ruled out  jailing journalists in the future.

    The actions of shooter Jarrod W. Ramos in Annapolis were dreadful, but they did not start a movement that had not already been going on for a while. In fact, there are a number of parallels between the Ramos case and the attacks we've experienced at Legal Schnauzer. Let's take a look:

    (1) Facebook as a platform for harassment -- The Ramos story started when he connected with a former high-school classmate, a woman, on Facebook. At first, the woman tried to be friendly and helpful when Ramos noted that he was struggling with some issues in his life. But she sensed something was amiss and tried to withdraw from the conversation, sparking threats, harassment, and stalking from Ramos. She pursued criminal charges, and Ramos was found guilty, with coverage of that case sparking his crusade against the Capital Gazette. Trolls of some nature -- from Alabama, Missouri, Russia, parts unknown -- have been attacking my Facebook account for months -- causing URLs to Legal Schnauzer to be blocked for anywhere from 30 days to a few hours. It's happened at least a dozen times since the first of this year.

    (2) Baseless defamation claims as a mechanism to silence reporters -- Ramos brought a defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette (CG) that was almost laughably weak. Acting as his own lawyer (pro se), Ramos could not point to a single item in the CG's story that was false. It's hard to support a defamation claim when you admit the story in question is accurate. Ramos also seemed unaware that journalists are legally privileged to report on official and public proceedings, such as a court case. Ramos' lawsuit was no weaker than the sham defamation claim Rob Riley brought against Legal Schnauzer and me (even my wife, Carol, who had nothing to do with the blog until after I was thrown in jail) over my reporting on his "friendship" with lobbyist Liberty Duke. How irregular was the Riley lawsuit, which led to me being thrown in jail for "contempt" over a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited under more than 230 years of First Amendment law?

    Rob and Bob Riley
    a. Riley and Duke (the plaintiffs) never sought discovery to prove their case. (Maybe that's because they had no case.) Riley never has stated under oath that my reporting was false; Duke filed an affidavit making such a claim, but why didn't Riley follow suit? Did he and his colleagues think it was OK for her, a non-lawyer, to lie under oath, while such an act might put his bar card at risk?

    b. Riley and Duke never asked for a trial or a jury, both of which have been required under decades of defamation law. Instead, they asked corrupt retired judge Claud Neilson (a Bill Baxley crony) to unlawfully act as a one-man censor.

    c. As a matter of law, my reporting on the Riley/Duke relationship never has been found false or defamatory.

    d. I never was hit with any money damages in the case, and Riley/Duke never made any valid request for such damages. They did ask for "sanctions" against me, but those are prohibited under Alabama law against a non-attorney representing himself -- as I was.

    (3) Murder vs. kidnapping -- Thankfully, I was not murdered like the five CG employees that Ramos shot. But evidence suggests that one reason for suing Carol was to incarcerate both of us and possibly kill both of us -- with no one likely ever knowing what happened to us. Aside from that, I clearly was the victim of a state-sanctioned kidnapping. Officer Chris Blevins showed no warrant on the scene, never said he had a warrant before entering our home, never stated his reasons for being on our property (a violation of Alabama law), and could not produce a warrant when a judge ordered him (and prosecutors) to do so at my trial for "resisting arrest." Aside from the warrant issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that it is unlawful for a law-enforcement officer to enter a residence without a warrant for a "routine felony arrest." (See Payton v. New York, 455 U.S. 573, 1980.) My case involved no felony, no allegation of a crime at all -- and yet, cops broke into our home, which they clearly cannot do under law that has been around for more than 30 years.

    (4) Attacking employment as an act of terror -- The victim of Ramos' harassment lost her job at a bank, under peculiar circumstances, not long after her Facebook interactions with him turned dark. She has stated that she believes Ramos contacted her employer and caused her to be terminated. There is zero doubt that Rob Riley, or someone affiliated with him, caused me to be cheated out of my job at UAB -- where I had worked for 20 years -- because of my reporting on the Siegelman case. Evidence also strongly suggests that Riley and legal buddy Doug Jones were alarmed about my reporting on a federal HealthSouth lawsuit, which wound up generating more than $51 million in attorney fees, with several million of that going to Riley and Jones. In fact, it has been reported that funds from that lawsuit largely helped finance Jones' run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.

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    Rob Riley
    Rob Riley was among several prominent Republicans who pressured former Gov. Robert Bentley to investigate the Attorney General's office during the Mike Hubbard trial, according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

    The revelation came from Bentley during a deposition in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by Spencer Collier, former secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). The pressure apparently was designed to target lead prosecutor Matt Hart and bring an end to the Hubbard case, reports APR's Josh Moon.

    Jimmy Rane, owner of Great Southern Wood, was among others who joined Riley in pressuring Bentley. Reports Moon:

    Former Gov. Robert Bentley said during a recent deposition that he was pressured by lawmakers, attorneys and major donors on numerous occasions during the Mike Hubbard trial to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Alabama Attorney General’s Office — a move that likely would have torpedoed the case against the former House speaker.

    Under oath during a deposition in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, Bentley said Great Southern Wood owner and mega-political donor Jimmy Rane contacted him three different times about appointing a special prosecutor.

    Additionally, Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley and a Hubbard attorney, also contacted his office about opening an investigation of the AG’s office. Two more of Hubbard’s attorneys, Augusta Dowd and Lance Bell, also contacted Bentley about appointing a special prosecutor, Bentley said. Bentley also said three sitting legislators pressured him, but he said he didn’t remember who they were.

    Bentley was not keen on the idea of his office getting involved in the Hubbard case. Writes Moon:

    “I did not want the governor’s office to be involved in that trial in Lee County,” Bentley said during the deposition. “I wanted to stay neutral, because I had been getting pressure to do other things. I told them I had no plans to do anything. I told them to leave me alone.”

    The push to appoint a special prosecutor was widely viewed as a defense strategy by Hubbard’s lawyers, meant to undermine the credibility of the prosecutor on a case Hubbard’s attorneys couldn’t win. Hubbard’s defense team filed motion after motion claiming that lead prosecutor Matt Hart had overstepped the law during his investigation of Hubbard or that Hart had leaked grand jury information to the media.

    Ultimately, Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker dismissed those complaints, and a quick investigation by ALEA determined that Hart had not leaked grand jury information during the case.

    Bentley's statement has ties to tomorrow's primary runoff elections in Alabama, especially the Republican AG race between Steve Marshall and Troy King:

    Oddly, some of the major players in that case have gone from calling for investigations of the AG’s office to financially supporting Steve Marshall, the incumbent AG appointed by Bentley.

    Rane, who was directly involved in one of the counts for which Hubbard was convicted, has dumped hundreds of thousands in donations into Marshall campaign account or into political action committees that have donated to Marshall.

    Through his Great Southern Wood company, Rane has contributed more than $1 million in Alabama over the last year, with almost all of that money going through PACs. In total, Great Southern Wood dumped $218,000 into 11 PACs that donated to Marshall. Those 11 PACs gave Marshall $217,500.

    Through his law firm, Rob Riley, who is still listed as an attorney for Hubbard — a man with a pending appeal that Marshall’s office is fighting — has donated $2,500 to Marshall.

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    Maria Butina
    Trump attorney general and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was "in the loop" on communications that led to yesterday's charges against a Russian woman who stands accused of spying for Moscow by infiltrating the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an effort to influence the Republican Party and American politics. From a report at The Guardian:

    Maria Butina, who purported to be a pro-gun activist, met American politicians and candidates to establish “back channels” and secretly reported back to the Kremlin through a high-level Russian official, according to the US justice department.

    Prosecutors said in a statement that Butina, 29, had been “developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation”.

    Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as a Russian agent within the US without notifying the attorney general. She was arrested on Sunday and appeared before a magistrate in Washington on Monday, officials said. In an affidavit, an FBI agent said investigators had searched Butina’s laptop computer and mobile phone.

    According to a Rolling Stone (RS) report earlier this year -- and we reported on it in a post dated April 30, 2018 -- those "U.S. persons" included Jeff Sessions and his former chief of staff Rick Dearborn, who went on to become a member of the Trump transition team. The winding road that led from Butina to Sessions involved Vladimir Putin ally Alexander Torshin and Republican/NRA operative Paul Erickson.

    Rolling Stone reported on an email between Erickson and Dearborn and describes Butina as a "Torshin's protege."  It says Erickson and Butina had started a business together in South Dakota. From the RS report, which was built on a response from Democrats to a U.S. House Intelligence Committee report on the Trump-Russia scandal:

    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 back channel 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.)

    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.

    How close does this get to Jeff Sessions. According to RS, the answer is "real close":

    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."

    Where was the excerpt found? In Jeff Sessions' files:

    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.

    Here is how we concluded our April post on Butina, Torshin, Erickson, Dearborn, and Sessions:

    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."

    Butina has been in the United States is the first Russian operative to be arrested in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. If she cooperates with investigators or goes to trial, that could present a nightmare scenario for Jeff Sessions and some of his associates.

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    Robert Bentley's mugshot after guilty plea
    and resignation.
    Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley talked with a member of his cabinet about investigating me and attorney/Facebook blogger Donald Watkins, according to a deposition in a pending lawsuit.

    The deposition, conducted in June, is part of a wrongful-termination lawsuit that Spencer Collier, former secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), brought against Bentley and others. (A transcript of the full deposition is embedded at the end of this post.)

    I apparently was targeted for investigation because I broke the story here at Legal Schnauzer, on August 31, 2015, about Bentley's extramarital-affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Watkins followed up on my reporting, and that apparently prompted an investigation of him. In other words, Bentley and his team retaliated against Web-based journalists for accurately reporting on the "Luv Guv" scandal. In addition, it appears Mike Echols, Bentley's former CPA, was investigated.

    The mainstream press largely ignored the scandal for roughly seven months -- and al.com reporters John Archibald and Chuck Dean attacked me for breaking it -- until audiotapes of Bentley and Mason surfaced in March 2016.

    Reports of Bentley's team investigating Watkins and me have been reported in several news outlets, including Alabama Political Reporter (APR), which published a Bill Britt story with the headline "Bentley Ordered Law Enforcement to Target Critics." In the deposition, Bentley admits he discussed such matters with . . . of all people, Spencer Collier. Here is Bentley, from page 207 of the deposition:

    Spencer and I talked two or three times about all these things that had transpired, you know, the things that were on blogs and things like this. The thing about Donald Watkins, so much of that had been fed to him by, obviously, somebody, and so he was one of the ones that was putting out some of this material that I felt was somewhat threatening. So Spencer told me -- I remember on three occasions, Spencer said, "Now, Governor, you're not telling me to investigate this, because I don't know how they investigate things," but he said, "I am going to investigate this."He investigated -- I don't know how much they did on Donald Watkins, I don't know what they looked into it on it, I don't know what they used, but he was one of the ones that we talked about. The guy at Legal Schnauzer, whatever his name is, he was one of the others. I also gave Spencer some e-mails from my former accountant that Spencer felt like were extortion. So Spencer investigated some things. I don't know exactly how much was investigated, though.

    Legal Schnauzer
    Bentley seems to be laying the investigations at Collier's feet -- this was while Collier still was a loyal sergeant, before he, too, was investigated and then terminated. But Bentley's tone changes a bit on page 208 of the deposition, under questioning from Collier's lawyer, Kenneth Mendelsohn. Suddenly, it doesn't seem the investigations were all Collier's idea:

    Q. And the things on Donald Watkins, Legal Schnauzer, and Mike Echols are all things that Spencer did on his own?

    A. No. We had talked about it, but Spencer said, "If you feel threatened" -- basically, if we feel like that was a threat, if the governor feels threatened, then it's the duty of the law enforcement to do whatever they need to do. I don't know how much investigation was done.

    Q. And what Donald Watkins was posting on his blog, or whatever you call it, his Facebook page --

    A. Right.

    Q. -- was matters concerning your relationship with Rebekah Mason?

    A. Primarily, yes.

    Q. The same thing with Legal Schnauzer?

    A. I guess, yes.

    On page 210 of the deposition, we find this, again with questioning from Mendelsohn:

    Q. Do you have any information, other than what you just referred to about your conversations with Spencer, that he ever did any background checks on Donald Watkins or Legal Schnauzer?

    A. I don't.

    MR. MENDELSOHN: That's all I've got now.

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    Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin might have thought their meeting in Helsinki yesterday was virtually private, but that almost certainly was not the case, reports a D.C.-based investigative reporter. In fact, Wayne Madsen writes that a transcript likely was provided to key western political and military leaders in real time.

    An article at the subscription-based Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), dated July 16-17, carried the headline "No note takers at Helsinki summit, but Trump-Putin conversation will be fully wired." How so? Madsen provides the details:

    Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin's one-on-one summit in Helsinki, which, like Trump's meeting in Singapore with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, was without advisers and note takers but with only translators, will be fully monitored in real-time with transcription provided almost immediately to select Western political and military leaders.

    To ensure that any secret deals made between Trump and Putin or discussions about the U.S. investigation of malfeasance with the 2016 election are fully known to others, Finland's top-secret signals intelligence agency, Viestikoelaitos (VKL), the academic-sounding Signals Experimental Institute, has likely had the summit venue, the Finnish Presidential Palace (Presidentinlinna), located on the Helsinki harbor waterfront and overlooking Market Square wired for audio and video surveillance. Working with the Finnish security and intelligence service, the Suojelupoliisi (SUPO), VKL will have its ears extended on to the Putin-Trump summit. When it comes to Russia, an old enemy, Finland takes nothing for granted, especially when it involves a one-on-one meeting between the leaders of Russia and the United States. This is particularly true when the summit involves an American president whose loyalties to his own country and NATO are under heightened suspicion.

    As a former intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, Madsen has an insider's knowledge of such activities. He reports that Finland is sophisticated when it comes to signal intelligence:

    The VKL, a department of the Finnish Air Force, is a third-party provider of signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the FIVE EYES cooperative alliance of the National Security Agency (NSA), Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The FIVE EYES alliance also shares intelligence routinely with Germany, France, and NATO. During the renovation of the Presidential Palace, fully completed in 2015, new high-tech "security" systems should afford eavesdroppers all the surveillance of the Putin-Trump summit that is desired by the Finns.

    Finland likely was not alone in following the Trump-Putin proceedings, Madsen reports. He was expecting Sweden to also be involved:

    It will not be merely the VKL and SUPO that will have an ear on the Putin-Trump meeting but also the Swedish embassy, which is conveniently located near the Presidential Palace. The Swedish National Defense Radio Establishment or Försvarets radioanstalt (FRA), a Third Party agency for NSA and FIVE EYES, will also be listening in on the summit from its eavesdropping unit located on an upper level of the Swedish embassy in Helsinki. The FRA-run and NSA-equipped unit has been in use since the days of the Cold War.

    Finland's President, Sauli Niinisto, will not have to worry about eavesdropping devices listening in on his dinner conversations or "pillow talk." Although the presidential office is located in the palace, Niinisto and Jenni Haukio, Finland's first lady, live at another location in Helsinki, the Mantyniemi official presidential residence.

    The central parties to the summit, especially Trump (with his widely expressed disdain for NATO), might be clueless about the spying capabilities of those in the neighborhood. But they are not dealing with a bunch of rubes, reports Madsen:

    Messrs. Putin and Trump may believe that their meeting will be strictly one-on-one. Ironically, their conversations will be known, in near real-time fashion and thanks to VKL and FRA, to key members of the Finnish and Swedish governments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and even Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull -- all recipients of Trump's boorish bluster. In fact, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will only know what was said at the summit by nicely asking leaders like Merkel, May, or Trudeau to be cued in.

    Trump believes he knows much more about the world by watching Fox News and reading the National Enquirer. Trump ignores intelligence reports and makes decisions based on his "gut feeling." Soon, Mr. Trump will discover that the Western intelligence agencies will provide his gut with a "feeling" -- a swift kick to the stomach.

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    "Luv Guv" Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason

    Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, contrary to his sworn deposition testimony, ordered investigations of Web-based journalists, according to a report from attorney, businessman, and Facebook blogger Donald Watkins. In fact, Watkins says Bentley's attacks on him went beyond personal matters to targeting at least one of his businesses.

    As we reported yesterday, Bentley admits in his deposition that he met with a cabinet member at least three times about investigating Watkins and me, as the two journalists who reported on the governor's extramarital affair with adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason (and related scandals) for roughly seven months before the mainstream press rose from its slumber on the story. (A transcript of the deposition is embedded at the end of this post.)

    The cabinet member was former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) secretary Spencer Collier, who brought the wrongful-termination lawsuit for which Bentley was deposed. Bentley acknowledges, under oath, meeting with Collier multiple times to discuss possible investigations of Watkins and me -- apparently on the grounds that accurate journalism was seen as a "threat" to the governor.

    Bentley suggests that he never ordered any investigations, but Collier took it upon himself to proceed because the governor felt "threatened." Watkins says in his latest post, published yesterday and updated this morning, that is false. From the Watkins post, titled "Surviving Hatred In Alabama":

    Online journalist Roger Alan Shuler published an article [yesterday] reporting that former Alabama governor Robert Bentley ordered the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (“ALEA”) to open a criminal Investigation on Shuler and me for exposing his marital cheating and public corruption scandal with his lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Bentley was also the Chief Magistrate of Alabama when the order was given, but he provided law enforcement officials with no evidence that Shuler or I had engaged in any wrongdoing.

    To his credit, then-ALEA Chief Spencer Collier refused to open the criminal investigation Bentley requested. Bentley later fired Collier.

    In March 2017, Collier confirmed to me that Governor Bentley requested a criminal investigation that targeted me. Bentley's June 23, 2018 deposition testimony in Collier's wrongful termination case affirms this fact.

    Watkins and I are pretty much on the same page, but I read Bentley's deposition testimony a bit differently than does Watkins. I understand Bentley to be stating, under oath, that he did not order an investigation, but he discussed it with Collier, who moved forward of his his own accord. Watkins, as I understand it, essentially says Bentley lied under oath -- and in doing so, Watkins breaks two important pieces of information:

    (1) Collier told him more than a year ago that Bentley requested a criminal investigation of Watkins -- and, presumably, of me, too. Collier has stated publicly that Bentley used ALEA as a political tool;

    (2) Collier refused to open the criminal investigations that Bentley requested.

    As for me, I believe the Watkins/Collier version of events over anything Bentley might say -- under oath or not. Remember this statement from Bentley in a December 2015 interview with al.com's disappearing and discredited Chuck Dean, apparently referencing online reports from Watkins and me. Writes the discredited Dean:

    Throughout the ordeal Bentley, reluctant to talk about the deeply personal issue, would only say it was a personal, family matter.

    And he never addressed the unfounded rumors of an affair.

    Until now.

    "The rumors were not true," said Bentley.

    The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.

    "There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.

    Bentley said it's hard as a public official to address the kind of rumors that were being spread and he said he felt to directly address them would only serve in some cases to give them credibility.

    Bentley said the rumors hurt many people.

    "There were many people - my own family and there were a lot of other families - many people, people that I love, that I care about, they went through some difficult times because people were able to say whatever they wanted to say. They were just ridiculous. I don't know how anyone could ever believe them."

    We now know the "rumors" were true -- and Bentley knew they were true at the time he spoke these words. -- with Chuck Dean licking his boots, like Donald Trump bowing before Vladimir Putin. This is a so-called "Christian" governor lying to the public about his own extramarital affair -- and he found a limp-wristed journalist who swallowed every word. (Have we mentioned that Chuck Dean is discredited, and he seemingly has disappeared from the journalism scene?)

    Donald Watkins
    Three words that could apply to Bentley are "wicked,""loony," and "dishonorable," and the deposition testimony reveals he has learned nothing from his misadventures with the fetching Ms. Mason and her magnificent boobies. In fact, Bentley states under oath that "Home Wrecky Becky" now works at his dermatology practice, with a salary of $5,000 a month.

    So, while Bentley continues to prop up the Mason household, he reportedly did his best to ruin one of Donald Watkins' businesses. From the Watkins Facebook post:

    Unlike Spencer Collier, John D. Harrison, then-Superintendent of the Alabama State Banking Department, went along with a separate Bentley order to place my Birmingham-based bank and me under heightened regulatory scrutiny. Working in concert with the FDIC, the State Banking Department launched a full-scale, coordinated "Blitzkrieg" investigation of Alamerica Bank and me that has been ongoing for five years. To provide political cover for this illegal regulatory activity, the State Banking Department encouraged the FDIC to take the lead in trying to run me out of the banking business.

    As an accommodation to the State Banking Department, the FDIC trumped-up baseless allegations that I violated Regulation O with respect to a loan the bank made to one of my business partners and a loan that was made to one of my sons. Regulation O governs bank loans to executives and directors of the bank. I was chairman of the bank at the time these loans were made, but I had no role in their application process, underwriting, or approval.

    In my case, the FDIC has repeatedly refused to recognize that both loans fell squarely within the well-known, published exceptions to Regulation O. This has not been the case with similarly situated bank officers and directors.

    Where does the banking matter stand? Well, it's ugly, and provides evidence that Bentley is tied to a probe that is drenched in racism. Writes Watkins:

    I formally answered the FDIC’s allegations and denied all of the charges, while asserting my affirmative defenses. My case is in front of an FDIC administrative law judge, but it has been stayed indefinitely.

    My case will likely have to start over in light of a June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring the process used by federal agencies like the FDIC and SEC for selecting and assigning administrative law judges to be unconstitutional. I lodged the same objection to the selection of the administrative law judge in my FDIC case.

    Based upon what is happening in Washington, the public knows that federal regulatory agencies have become convenient tools for imposing and enforcing political agendas and for administering retribution against targeted individuals. My case is no different.

    In fact, the "non-public" agency files in this state/federal regulatory investigation of Alamerica Bank are filled with racially derogatory references to me. What is worse, another Birmingham, Alabama-based federal agency that is involved in a parallel investigation of the same two loans transactions has at least two reputed white supremacists embedded in the agency who are reportedly actively working on my case.. . .

    Alamerica Bank is one of only nineteen African-American-owned banks in the United States. Within this group, we are the only one that state and federal regulators are actively trying to collapse (without any success to-date).

    For the record, no judicial body has ever found that I have violated any state or federal banking industry rule or regulation.

    All of this -- plus Bentley's deposition testimony and his blatantly false statements to Alabama's largest news organization -- raise a number of troubling questions:

    (1) Should Bentley be referred for a perjury investigation related to his testimony in the Collier lawsuit?

    (2) Did Bentley violate Alabama ethics law by ordering that state resources be used for his personal mission to investigate journalists who had repeatedly broken stories about scandals in his administration?

    (3) While a grand jury has cleared Bentley of additional criminal charges in the overall Mason scandal, should he be referred for an ethics investigation related to his apparent orders regarding Watkins and me?

    (4) Why would Alabama Republicans overwhelmingly support incumbent attorney general Steve Marshall, a Bentley appointee, in yesterday's primary runoff election? It seems to be widely understood in Alabama that Bentley is fundamentally dishonest and corrupt, and yet, voters support his appointee, whose estranged wife died under mysterious circumstances just a few weeks ago. Does that make a lick of sense?

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    Most rational Alabamians probably concluded that former Gov. Robert Bentley was a corrupt, dishonest rube about the time he resigned in April 2017, after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors. If there is any doubt that Bentley is a loon, it should be erased by Bentley's words in a deposition, revealed this week.

    What is the surest sign Bentley is so narcissistic and self-righteous that his visions of grandiosity form a disconnect with reality? My No. 1 choice is this: Audio evidence shows that Bentley delighted in massaging the boobs and exploring the nether regions of married senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but he now says such behavior was not -- I repeat, NOT -- inappropriate.

    If you have forgotten the contents of the Bentley audio, we have a transcript here, courtesy of Yellowhammer News. As for the deposition, we invite you to take a gander at these words from Bentley, on pages 176 and 177, and try not to spew. (The full deposition is embedded at the end of this post.) The questioning, from attorney Kenneth Mendelsohn, focuses on Bentley's divorce from his wife of 50 years, Dianne:

    Q. Was the relationship between you and Rebekah Mason the reason for the divorce?

    MS. MAYS: Object to the form.

    A. It was one of the reasons, yes.

    Q. And I understand you say that there was no consummation of your love, but Mrs. Bentley did not like the relationship that you had with Mrs. Mason?

    MR. SEGALL: Object to the form.

    A. No, she did not.

    Q. And she believed that as a married man, and certainly a man that had been married for right around 50 years, that having such a relationship with Ms. Mason was inappropriate?

    MR. SEGALL: Object to the form.

    A. I'm sure that she did.

    Q. Do you consider the relationship inappropriate? 
    A. No.
    Bentley even struggles to admit he owed the people of Alabama an apology. He decides to play the "clueless oaf" card, a role for which he is particularly well suited. From pages 177-178:

    Q. And there have been a couple of occasions where you apologized to the people of the state of Alabama. Do you recall those?

    A. I do.

    Q. What were you apologizing for?

    A. The first time I apologized was in a press conference, that was the day that Spencer [Collier] had his press conference; but at that time, I don't know what I was apologizing for, because I didn't know what I was even talking about. I didn't know what was released. You know, I apologized for inappropriate things that I may have said, but at that time I didn't know what those things were. And if I had it to do over again, I probably would not have had a press conference that day. But the second time that I apologized, then all of this had been brought out. I mean, I still didn't know what was on the tapes, I never knew that until they were actually released. So the second time that I apologized, it was up in Huntsville, and I wanted an opportunity to do that, I did do that. I said, "I own these. If it's my voice, I own them. I do not deny it, and I want to apologize to the people of the state and to anybody that was hurt from them."

    Good Lord, this guy makes Shallow Hal sound like Alistair Cooke.

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    ESS office in Birmingham
    News broke last week that officials with the nation's largest manufacturer of voting software admitted they produced systems in the 2000s that included a remote-access feature. Now we've found evidence that the company, Omaha-based Election Systems and Software (ESS), was involved in the controversial 2002 Alabama governor's race -- the one where incumbent Democrat Don Siegelman was declared the winner, only to have some of his votes disappear overnight due to a supposed "computer glitch," giving the election to Republican Bob Riley.

    The ESS story made headlines because of revelations about Russian officials in indictments that Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought recently. But it has profound implications for Alabama, adding to the already considerable evidence that the 2002 election was stolen. For good measure, the company has an office in Birmingham, in the Oxmoor area.

    What does a remote-access feature mean for a voting system? It means someone away from the voting site could interfere with the tabulations -- and they likely would get away with it. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) received a letter from ESS officials in April, confirming some of their systems allowed for remote access. It did not take Wyden long to realize that was a bad sign for election security.

    The Web site motherboard.vice.combroke the ESS story last Tuesday From the story by reporter Kim Zetter:

    The nation's top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them.

    In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had "provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006," which was installed on the election-management system ESS sold them. . . .

    ESS is the top voting machine maker in the country, a position it held in the years 2000-2006 when it was installing pcAnywhere on its systems. The company's machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ESS election-management systems. It’s not clear why ESS would have only installed the software on the systems of “a small number of customers” and not all customers, unless other customers objected or had state laws preventing this.

    How did Wyden react to news about remote-access on ESS systems? With alarm -- and concern about the company's apparent stonewalling. Writes Zettner:

    Wyden told Motherboard that installing remote-access software and modems on election equipment “is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner. . . .

    “ESS needs to stop stonewalling and provide a full, honest accounting of equipment that could be vulnerable to remote attacks,” he told Motherboard.“When a corporation that makes half of America’s voting machines refuses to answer the most basic cyber security questions, you have to ask what it is hiding.”

    Don Siegelman
     As Wyden's reference to Moscow indicates, the ESS story has international implications, thanks to the Mueller indictments:

    Even if ESS and its customers configured their remote connections to ESS in a secure manner, the recent U.S. indictments against Russian state hackers who tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections, show that they targeted companies in the U.S. that make software for the administration of elections. An attacker would only have had to hack ESS and then use its network to slip into a county's election-management system when the two systems made a remote connection.

    As for the 2002 Alabama election, ESS's involvement has been a matter of published record for some time. From an article at In These Times, by reporter Bev Harris:

    In the Alabama 2002 general election, machines made by Election Systems and Software (ESS) flipped the governor’s race. Six thousand three hundred Baldwin County electronic votes mysteriously disappeared after the polls had closed and everyone had gone home. Democrat Don Siegelman’s victory was handed to Republican Bob Riley, and the recount Siegelman requested was denied. Three months after the election, the vendor shrugged. “Something happened. I don’t have enough intelligence to say exactly what,” said Mark Kelley of ESS.

    When I began researching this story in October 2002, the media was reporting that electronic voting machines are fun and speedy, but I looked in vain for articles reporting that they are accurate. I discovered four magic words, “voting machines and glitch,” which, when entered into a search engine, yielded a shocking result: A staggering pile of miscounts was accumulating. These were reported locally but had never been compiled in a single place, so reporters were missing a disturbing pattern.

    I published a compendium of 56 documented cases in which voting machines got it wrong.

    How do voting-machine makers respond to these reports? With shrugs. They indicate that their miscounts are nothing to be concerned about. One of their favorite phrases is: “It didn’t change the result.”

    Except, of course, when it did.

    Did a vulnerable system change the result of the Alabama 2002 governor's race? Was Bob Riley ever the legitimate governor of Alabama? Reasonable people have been asking those questions for 15 years or so. The latest reports on ESS provide even more reasons to ask those questions.

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    Officer Chris Blevins
    If Alabama federal judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins had her way, cops could break into your home (without a warrant), beat you up without stating their reason for being there, douse you with pepper spray, and haul you to jail without the whiff of a criminal allegation against you -- and it would all be lawful, as long as they were acting within the boundaries of their employment.

    What I described above is a state-sanctioned kidnapping, and of course, it isn't lawful in the United States -- at least, not yet. It also describes exactly what deputies in Shelby County, Alabama, did to me, and it is the heart of our federal lawsuit (we call it the "Jail Case) that is pending before Hopkins in the Northern District of Alabama.

    We already have shown that Hopkins unlawfully dismissed portions of the Jail Case on statute-of-limitations grounds. She wrongly dismissed other portions of it on state immunity grounds -- essentially saying the actions I described above are lawful, as long as cops are acting within the lines of their job -- and not, say, breaking into your house while on a drunken weekend bender.

    Hopkins' finding is preposterously off target, and we have challenged it with a Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). In fact, Hopkins ruling is so unlawful that we've had to file two amendments to our Rule 59 motion, just so that we could attempt to address most of the screw-ups. (Hopkins' judgment, and our Rule 59 motion -- plus our two amendments to the motion -- are embedded at the end of this post.)

    If all that doesn't work, we will appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. We also will consider filing a criminal complaint against Hopkins and others who apparently have been involved with cheating us on the Jail Case, including officials with the Alabama State Bar, who clearly have interfered in the matter. It all could wind up in a federal lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act -- against Hopkins, opposing lawyers and parties, State Bar officials, and perhaps others.

    As you can tell, my wife, Carol, and I consider this a serious matter. We've already been cheated on our "House Case" (involving the theft of our home of 25 years in Birmingham via wrongful foreclosure), and we intend to pursue every possible avenue to get justice in that matter. Hopkins' ruling on immunity in the Jail Case is particularly appalling because the cheat job is so obvious.

    On page 25 of her memorandum opinion, under "Count Nine, Assault and Battery," Hopkins admits the statute of limitations under Alabama law is six years, so she can't screw us on that. But she comes up with something else -- the immunity sham.  This is from her memorandum opinion on the issue:

    Sheriffs generally enjoy sovereign immunity from suits for damages in their individual capacities for acts they performed in the course and scope of their employment. See Ex parte Davis, 930 So. 2d 497 (Ala., 2005).

    Notice Hopkins use of the word "generally" in the passage above. That means sovereign immunity does not always protect deputies, and Hopkins ignores portions of the law that do not fit her agenda -- which is to let cops skate for gross violations of our constitutional rights. From our Rule 59 motion, at No. 23:

    How wrong is Hopkins on her finding that the officers are protected by state-agent immunity? A case styled EX PARTE ALABAMA DEPT. OF YOUTH SERVICES, 880 So. 2d 393 (Ala: Supreme Court, 2003) holds: "Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the foregoing statement of the rule, a State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity: (1) when the Constitution or laws of the United States, or the Constitution of this State, or laws, rules, or regulations of this State enacted or promulgated for the purpose of regulating the activities of a governmental agency require otherwise; or (2) when the State agent acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law." The Shulers allege that the officers, at the direction of Curry, acted in bad faith (with malice and fraud) and outside the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution. Therefore, the officers are not protected by state-agent immunity.

    In other words, a deputy and a sheriff are not protected by immunity when they violate rights under the U.S. and Alabama constitutions -- or when they act willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.

    Immunity is one of the most twisted, confusing, nonsensical areas of the law I have encountered. In Alabama, it's particularly mind-numbing because sheriff's are considered "constitutional officers," and deputies are considered the sheriff's "alter egos" -- and some case law hints that such status gives them absolute immunity to abuse citizens without fear of being held accountable.

    Other case law, such as Ex parte Alabama Dept. of Youth Services (cited above) essentially holds that "constitutional officers" might be immune to charges of alleged negligence, but they lose that protection for intentional acts in "bad faith." We've seen signs that law related to state immunity for sheriffs and their deputies is inconsistently written and inconsistently applied in Alabama. But the most recent case we've found from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, built largely on findings of the Alabama Supreme Court, make clear that Hopkins butchered immunity law in the Jail Case. We will explain further in upcoming posts.

    As for Chris Blevins and Jason Valenti, the two officers who beat me up in my own home (and Valenti threatened to break my arms) -- and Sheriff Chris Curry, who apparently directed their activities -- it's clear they acted way outside the constitution and with all of the ill motives noted above.

    These concepts -- that state agents, employees, and officers are not immune when they act outside the law, outside their authority, with ill motive, etc. -- go well beyond the Alabama law that Hopkins cites. From our Rule 59 motion:

    Hopkins essentially says cops enjoy sovereign immunity to break into someone’s home, beat them up, and unlawfully arrest them without a warrant (and no whiff of a criminal allegation). The officers assert various forms of immunity, including qualified immunity, and that defense fails. Per Jones v. Fransen, et al (11th Cir., 2017), “But the doctrine’s protections do not extend to one who “knew or reasonably should have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of the [plaintiff].”Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 815 (1982).

    Law from the state, Eleventh Circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court are clear -- cops are not protected by immunity when they unlawfully enter your home, beat you up, douse you with pepper spray, and arrest you without a warrant or any hint of a criminal allegation.

    How can a federal judge possibly get this wrong? One answer might be that Virginia Emerson Hopkins and her husband essentially bought a judicial seat by making campaign donations to then Alabama U.S. Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. Hopkins is nothing but a sleazy product of the Shelby/Sessions corruption pipeline, and we will spell that out as our series on this topic continues.

    (To be continued)

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    Nicholas Jain
    Nicholas Jain, the drunk-driving Missouri prosecutor who spearheaded a bogus "assault of a law enforcement officer" charge against my wife Carol, faces a defamation lawsuit in his home area of Dunklin County (county seat: Kennett).

    Jain is running for prosecuting attorney (PA) of Dunklin County and faces a Republican primary on August 7 against incumbent Jeff McCormick. But in his efforts, while campaigning, to attack McCormick and sound "tough on crime," Jain talked his way into a lawsuit. (The complaint is embedded at the end of this post.)

    In a June 27 post to his campaign Web site, Jain discussed cases McCormick's office had dismissed. One of those involved a defendant named Kaluem Reid, and Jain suggested something was corrupt about the dismissal of charges against Reid. From Jain's Facebook post:

    Prosecutors should be open and responsive to the citizens they serve, and proud of the way they resolve the cases they handle. I will be proud of the way I prosecute cases, and I will want the public to know the end result of those cases. I am committed to seeking the truth as prosecutor, and during this election.

    Four weeks ago, after repeatedly hearing questions while campaigning all over the county, I asked current prosecutor, Jeff McCormick, for information on cases that his office dismissed, specifically those that were moved out of this county before being dismissed. He wrote “I will have someone research those items and will get back to you with an estimate of the time and cost to provide the information along with an estimate for copies.” I am still waiting.

    While waiting, I found one defendant, Kaleum Reid, whose cases, which included felony drug and weapons charges, were transferred out of Dunklin County and immediately dismissed. The attorney who got these dismissals for Defendant Kaleum Reid was, at that time, also representing prosecuting attorney Jeff McCormick in a civil matter. (Jain apparently is referring here to a 2017 divorce  case involving McCormick.)

    Prosecutors must avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Moving cases out of this county and dismissing them accomplishes nothing except keeping the dismissal from being reported in the local newspaper. And, when a prosecutor agrees to do this for an attorney who is actively representing both the defendant and the prosecutor at the same time, it raises even more questions.

    This is the same Nicholas Jain, who while serving as an assistant PA in Greene County (Springfield), brought at least two cases without a whiff of probable cause -- the "assault" case against Carol and a DUI case against Charles Hollis Roux. The arrest of Roux was so dubious that Judge Margaret Palmietto suppressed evidence, and Jain appealed, with the Missouri Court of Civil Appeals violating its own precedent to overrule Palmietto. On the second go-around before her, Palmietto took the easy route and convicted Roux, even though her own words showed there was no probable cause for arrest, much less prosecution. (See State v. Charles Hollis Roux, Case No. 1631-CR00195 at case.net.)

    As for Carol's case, Jain dropped out of it when he moved to Dunklin County earlier this year, replaced by a brainless twit (with zero respect for the rule of law) named Nicholas Bergeon; Palmietto (the original judge in Carol's matter) stepped down on a recusal motion, replaced by the hideously corrupt Jerry Harmison, who convicted Carol without a shred of fact or law to support it.

    This tells us two things about Nicholas Jain:

    (1) He's the product of a hopelessly crooked "justice system" in Greene County;

    (2) He is such a hypocrite that he brings DUI charges against others, while keeping his own DUI conviction -- for which he served two years of probation -- under wraps.

    How did Jain step in doo-doo regarding the Kaleum Reid case? Here is more from Jain's Facebook post:

    From what I’ve been able to piece together, over the course of two days in August 2017, the Malden Police Department investigated and submitted three reports to the prosecutor’s office, each of which resulted in felony charges being filed. One case was based on an eyewitness report that Kaleum Reid brandished a weapon in a threatening manner during an altercation, and the prosecutor charged Reid with felony unlawful use of a weapon. Early the next morning, an eyewitness reported seeing Kaleum Reid pointing a gun out of the window of his car then hearing six to seven shots after she ducked down to hide. The victim hid on her living room floor until daylight after the defendant shot into her home. Based on that report, the prosecutor charged Reid with another charge of felony unlawful use of a weapon. Later that same day, police executed a search warrant at Kaleum Reid’s house where they found what preliminary tests indicated to be cocaine. The prosecutor charged Reid with felony possession of a controlled substance.

    On August 30, 2017, a private attorney entered his appearance in the two weapons cases. He then entered his appearance in the drug case on September 14, 2017.

    On October 12, 2017, Kaleum Reid’s private defense attorney filed a petition in an unrelated civil matter as private attorney for Jeff McCormick.

    According to the Delta Dunklin Democrat’s Dunklin County case reports, on October 25, 2017, venue was changed to New Madrid County for all three cases against Kaleum Reid.

    Around November 2, 2017, Jeff McCormick dismissed all three cases against his attorney’s other client, Kaleum Reid, previously held on more than $100k in cash bonds on three separate felony charges, was released to return to the streets.

    There could be some legitimate reason for these cases to be dismissed, but did that reason not exist the week before when the cases were in Dunklin County? And, why was no special “independent” prosecutor requested when both prosecutor and defendant with three separate felony charges were current clients of the same private attorney?

    For some reason, Kaleum Reid took offense to Nicholas Jain trashing his good name over charges that were dropped. Heck, even Jain admitted there might have been legitimate reasons for dismissal, but he bashed Reid anyway -- and Jain never provided any specifics about what would be unethical about Reid and McCormick having the same attorney, one in a criminal case and one in a civil matter.

    Jeff McCormick
    The attorney in question, Theodore Liszewski of Sikeston, MO, wrote in Reid's complaint that there were, in fact, solid reasons for dismissal -- and they had nothing to do with McCormick. Specifically, a witness refused to participate in court proceedings, and no evidence linked Reid to the alleged offenses. From the complaint:

    5. At some time during the calendar year 2017, Plaintiff [Reid] was charged with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon in Dunklin County, Missouri;

    6. Plaintiff thereafter retained counsel;

    7. Plaintiff’s Counsel, upon being retained by Plaintiff, spoke with Ian Page, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Dunklin County, Missouri regarding Plaintiff’s charges and the allegations against Plaintiff;

    8. Plaintiff’s defense counsel, nor Plaintiff, spoke to the elected Dunklin County Missouri Prosecuting Attorney about Plaintiff’s case;

    9. Ultimately, the State’s charges were dismissed after witness refused to participate in Court proceedings and no evidence linked Plaintiff to the charges alleged.

    Reid is suing Jain for false light/invasion of privacy and libel, and Jain could wind up lighter in the pocketbook. Reid is seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages on each count, plus pre-judgment interest and costs. It's hard to determine how high the damages could go, but a six-figure judgment for Reid does not seem out of the question.

    You'd think Nicholas Jain -- with a DUI conviction rattling around in his own closet, plus at least two cases he initiated without probable cause -- might be careful about questioning the ethics of others. The Reid complaint alleges that Jain made his Facebook remarks without consulting anyone connected to the dismissed charges -- witnesses, defense counsel, Reid himself.

    This is in keeping with Jain's handling of Carol's case. Clearly, no one investigated the case before bringing charges, no one talked with the "victim" officer (Jeremy Lynn) , who admitted he initiated contact with Carol, not the other way around -- meaning, as a matter of law, she was not guilty.

    Nicholas Jain has a habit of trashing others in the public square, without doing his due diligence. This time, it might bite him in the ass -- big time.

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    Joseph and Don Siegelman
    A lawsuit seeking information from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) about the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has been dismissed. As often is the case with federal-court matters in Alabama, the final ruling is dubious -- in large part, because Judge Madeline Haikala received documents from the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) last spring and sat on the case for roughly 10 months before making a final ruling.

    Does Haikala's ruling make sense under the law.? We don't have access to the entire court file, so it's hard to make a determination on that question. But an online summary of the case docket raises troubling questions and suggests powerful conservative forces -- both in Alabama and Washington, D.C. -- are trying to keep the lid on what really happened in a case that has become known as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.

    Here is the most disturbing part: OPR turned over documents that "were so heavily redacted they were worthless," a source close to the case says -- and Haikala let the government get away with that. Haikala,an Obama appointee and former attorney with Birmingham's Lightfoot Franklin firm, is the same judge who twisted the facts and law into a pretzel in order to let Madison police officer Eric Parker off on criminal charges after he had body slammed Sureshbhai Patel (a grandfather from India), causing spinal injuries. We reported a four-part series about the myriad ways Haikala butchered the law in the Patel case.

    Is there any reason to think Haikala got it right in the Siegelman matter? I don't see any.

    The case started when Birmingham attorney Joseph Siegelman (Don's son and currently a candidate for Alabama attorney general) filed a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), seeking documents about the prosecution that caused his father to spend more than six years in federal prison. Of particular interest were documents related to the supposed recusal of Leura Canary, who was U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama on the Siegelman case -- even though her husband, Bill Canary, had worked for the campaign of Siegelman's chief opponent, Bob Riley.

    Madeline Haikala
    Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit is the latest in an effort that has gone on for more than a decade, struggling to unlock the truth behind his father's case and meeting OPR stonewall tactics at every turn. This is from a Legal Schnauzer post of April 17, 2017:

    The road to seeking government documents has been long and winding in the Siegelman case. It started with a FOIA request in 2006, a FOIA lawsuit in 2009, and years of stonewalling by both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations.

    Are these documents sensitive? Well, the government has covered them up for 11 years, when both Republicans and Democrats controlled the White House. That has led to the current Joseph Siegelman lawsuit, with OPR supposedly turning over the documents and Haikala supposedly set to act with integrity while reviewing them outside of public view.

    At the time those words were written, OPR had just turned over the requested documents for Haikala's in camerareview. We now know those documents were so redacted, with information blacked out at every turn, that they provided almost no information about Canary's "recusal" or anything else related to the Don Siegelman prosecution. To justify the redactions, OPR apparently claimed the material was exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Haikala -- surprise, surprise -- sided with OPR, in a ruling that suggests we might as well not have a FOIA law if the government can get away with producing blacked-out documents that reveal nothing.

    Here are the final four entries from Joseph Siegelman's FOIA case:

    2017-04-10 -- 25 -- NOTICE by Office of Professional Responsibility, United States Department of Justice (Notice of Submission of Ex Parte, In Camera Material) (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 04/10/2017)

    2018-02-09 -- 26 -- ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE - The Court ORDERS OPR to SHOW CAUSE by February 23, 2018 why the portions of the report identified above are subject to the FOIA exemptions claimed and cannot be segregated and produced, or to produce those portions of the report to the plaintiff. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 2/9/2018. (KEK) (Entered: 02/09/2018)

    2018-02-23 -- 27 -- RESPONSE to re 26 Show Cause Order filed by Office of Professional Responsibility, United States Department of Justice. (Bennett, Michelle) (Entered: 02/23/2018)

    2018-02-28 -- 28 -- FINAL ORDER - On February 23, 2018, OPR gave notice that it produced the identified non-exempt portions of its report to Mr. Siegelman. (Doc. 27). Because OPR produced the portions that are not protected from disclosure under FOIA exemptions 3, 5, 6, and 7(C), Mr. Siegelman's request for injunctive relief is now moot. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED AS MOOT. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 2/28/2018. (KEK) (Entered: 02/28/2018)

    Notice that OPR turned over the requested (and heavily redacted) documents for Haikala's review on April 10, 2017, and the case went dormant until February 2018. Then, in a span of 19 days, Haikala issued three orders that disposed of the case -- with no sign she even considered any Siegelman arguments to OPR's claims of exemption -- with a final order dated February 28, 2018.

    Does that smell funny to you -- especially when you consider Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions played a major role in launching the Siegelman investigation while serving as U.S. senator from Alabama? It sure smells funny to me, given that Sessions and his allies -- including some "Democrats" -- likely had major influence on Haikala, and her outlook for career advancement.

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    Richard Shelby
    This month marks the 20th anniversary of an incident that drives home an unsettling lesson: White elites in the United States enjoy privileges that don't apply to the rest of us. Specifically, if you are going to get caught bringing hashish into this country, it helps to be the son of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL).

    We are talking about Claude Nevin Shelby, the youngest son of the senator, who most recently was in the news for leading a GOP delegation to Russia during the week of July 4. When Claude Shelby was 32 years old, in 1998, he had a serious run-in with the law at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. From an Associated Press story, dated July 28, 1998:

    The youngest son of Alabama senator Richard Shelby was arrested on drug charges last week at Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport, customs officials said Tuesday.

    Claude Nevin Shelby, 32, of Tuscaloosa, Ala., was taken into custody last Friday after U.S. Customs Service inspectors using a drug-sniffing dog found 13.8 grams of hashish in his possession, officials said.

    Shelby, who had arrived at the airport on a Delta Airline flight from London, was issued a $500 administrative penalty by Customs officers. After paying the fine on the spot, he was turned over to the Clayton County Sheriff's Department for state prosecution.

    He was released from the Clayton County jail on Friday, according to a jail official, who would not give his name. He referred questions on possible state charges to Clayton County Sheriff Stanley Tuggle, who was not immediately available.

    Sen. Shelby was shocked, absolutely shocked, that his son would be involved in the drug trade -- but not so shocked that he apparently could not pull some strings behind the curtains. From the AP report:

    Shelby's father, a Republican who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that he and his family ``are shocked and saddened by the misdemeanor possession charge against my son and I will stand by him through this difficult ordeal.''

    ``However, I do not condone any violation of the controlled substance act, including marijuana derivatives,'' he said. ``My position on fighting illegal drugs is well known. It continues to be a priority for me regardless of personal circumstances.''

    Claude Shelby, a real estate investor, is married and has one child.

    Did Claude Shelby face any punishment other than the $500 penalty noted above? Not according to a book titled America's Corrupt War on Drugs: And the People, by Rodney Stich (2013). From the book:

    One of Sen. Richard Shelby's constituents, Jerry Lundy, wrote a letter to the senator asking for his help on behalf of Lundy's son, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison on drug charges when the son never had any drugs, never was near any drugs, and sentenced solely on the purchased testimony coerced by DOJ prosecutors. That witness later recanted his testimony and made out an affidavit describing how he was coerced and threatened by DOJ prosecutors to provide the perjured testimony. The father was seeking the senator's help. Sen. Shelby responded with a standard form letter:

    "We must take a strong stand against drugs, and I support strict punishment for individuals involved in the possession or distribution of illegal drugs. I believe that our nation's drug problem is serious enough to warrant harsh sentences."

    But when it came to his own son, his position took a complete reversal. The senator's son, Claude Shelby, was arrested upon arriving by plane at Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport with 13.8 grams of hashish. Sen. Shelby applied the proper pressure in the right places, and instead of a long prison sentence, the charges were reduced to a simple misdemeanor and ordered to pay a $500 administrative fine. Without the senator's involvement, his son would probably with a prison inmate with a long prison sentence.

    Bottom line: Jerry Lundy's son received a 30-year sentence on drug charges that appear to be dubious. Sen. Richard Shelby's son was fined $500, when there seems little or no doubt that he indeed brought hashish into the country (from London) via an airplane. (Question: Since when is it  a misdemeanor to bring 13.8 grams of hashish into the United States?)

    Yorktown Commons Apartments
    According to an online resume, Claude Shelby manages two apartment complexes near the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa -- Yorktown Commons and Parkview Circle Apartments. He's been a deacon at First Presbyterian Church. He enjoys golf, water skiiing, wakesurfing, and swimming.

    Sounds like a pretty nice life for a guy who might well still be in federal prison if his father was not a U.S. senator.

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    Virginia Emerson Hopkins
    Why is U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins so blatantly cheating us in "The Jail Case"? Public documents indicate the answer is simple: Hopkins is a glorified whore for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), former U.S. Sen. and current Trump attorney general Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and former President George W. Bush -- and almost every defendant in The Jail Case is connected to Shelby, Sessions, Bush, or all three.

    I realize "whore" is an ugly word, and I don't use it lightly. But I do use it when it fits, at least figuratively -- as it does in this instance. In so many words, Hopkins and her husband (Anniston attorney Christopher Hopkins) bought a judicial seat by giving money to Shelby, Sessions, and Bush. We've seen no sign that Virginia Hopkins is remotely qualified to be a federal judge. But she and hubby funneled cash to Alabama's two crooked U.S. senators -- and our nation's worst president, until Donald Trump came along -- and that was the only "qualification" she needed.

    What kind of track record do Shelby and Sessions have when it comes to appointing federal judges in Alabama? Well, they supported the nominations of Mark Fuller (he of wife-beating fame) and Bill Pryor (he of gay-porn and badpuppy.com fame). It's hard to get worse than that, although Hopkins is doing her best to prove that she, like Fuller and Pryor, is a political hack.

    As for Bush, he nominated Fuller and Pryor, while allowing Karl Rove to use the U.S. Justice Department as a political weapon. Our nation still has not recovered from -- and might never recover from -- damage done to our justice system on Bush's watch. Barack Obama only made matters worse by vowing to "look forward, not backwards" when it came to Bush-era criminality. No wonder Vladimir Putin decided to meddle in U.S. elections; he saw it was easy to get away with such chicanery. In fact, one could argue Obama's weakness directly led to the ongoing Trump debacle of today.

    Any reasonable observer should be able to see that Hopkins is disqualified from hearing the Jail Case, and she has an obligation under the law to step down of her own accord. She, of course, does not have the integrity to follow the law, so we were forced to file a Motion to Disqualify (with accompanying affidavit) under 28 U.S.C. 144. (The Motion to Disqualify and the required affidavit are embedded at the end of this post.)

    The following information from our affidavit shines white-hot light on Hopkins' ascendance to the federal bench -- as well as her tendency to act corruptly in the Jail Case, not to mention other cases where Shelby and Sessions might favor one party over another:

    Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins has demonstrated bias and prejudice in the instant case that is both “extrajudicial” and “pervasive” in her unlawful rulings.

    A report titled "Money Trails to the Federal Bench," from the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), indicates Hopkins wound up on the federal bench because of the cold-hard cash she helped funnel to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), with some also going to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), now attorney general in the dysfunctional Trump administration.

    The CIR report states the following under the header: Hopkins, Virginia Emerson, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama
    Nominated: October 14, 2003 | Confirmed: June 15, 2004

    Summary: In May 2003, five months before her nomination, Hopkins and her husband, attorney Christopher Hopkins, each contributed $1,000 to Sen. Shelby, who strongly supported her nomination. On Halloween 2003, two weeks after Hopkins was nominated by the White House, President Bush received $2,000 from Hopkins’ husband. Sen. Sessions, also a backer of her nomination, later received $1,000 from husband Christopher Hopkins several months after her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Sessions is a member. Overall, Hopkins’ husband made nearly $9,000 in federal contributions between 2000-2004, with all but $500 going to Republicans.

    Virginia Hopkins, formerly an attorney in private practice, gave President Bush $250 in 2000.

    The CIR report even provides a helpful timeline, which makes the Hopkins judicial appointment look an awful lot like the kind of quid pro quo that constitutes bribery under U.S. law. Were federal crimes committed in the name of putting Virginia Emerson Hopkins on the bench? Well, consider the following:


    * May 21, 2003: Shelby receives $2,000 total from Hopkins and her husband;

    * October 14, 2003: Bush nominates Hopkins;

    * October 31, 2003: Bush-Cheney campaign receives $2,000 from Hopkins’ husband;

    * November 19, 2003: Confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee;

    * March 2, 2004: Sessions receives $1,000 from Hopkins’ husband;

    * June 15, 2004: Hopkins is confirmed by the Senate.

    Do you see a pattern here? It's hard to miss. Money flows from the Hopkins camp into the Shelby/Sessions/Bush coffers, and positive steps are taken toward naming Virginia Emerson Hopkins a federal judge, culminating with her confirmation in June 2004.

    Richard Shelby, in Russia
    Long-time readers might remember that the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals found in the Don Siegelman case that a jury is free to "infer" that an illegal quid pro quo was present in a bribery case. With that in mind, one could make a strong argument that the Hopkinses, Shelby, Sessions, and Bush all should have been thrown in the slammer years ago.

    If someone (Shelby, Sessions, the Alabama State Bar) is influencing Hopkins to cheat us on the Jail Case, that would constitute obstruction of justice, which still could send the responsible parties to prison. And we intend to file a criminal complaint on just that subject.

    Here is a wrap-up from our affidavit:

    The summary? Christopher Hopkins made $9,000 in federal contributions just before, and after, his wife was nominated to the federal bench. Then, we see a regular money trail leading from Christopher and Virginia Hopkins to Richard Shelby, the Bush-Cheney campaign, and Jeff Sessions. All of these contributions came between May 2003 and March 2004, just before and after Virginia Hopkins was nominated. In essence, Christopher and Virginia Hopkins bought a seat on the federal bench, in a thinly disguised pay-to-play scheme and it had nothing to do with the nominee's judicial qualifications. We learn that Virginia Hopkins owes her judicial seat to her allegiance (and financial contributions) to Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, and George W. Bush.

    Why does this matter in the instant case? Almost every defendant in this case is tied, directly or indirectly, to Shelby, Sessions, and Bush – or all three. And I, Roger Shuler – on the blog Legal Schnauzer– have written numerous highly critical articles about these three prominent political figures (and their appointees or associates). In other words, I have shined unflattering light on the individuals who have supported, championed, and enhanced Judge Hopkins’ legal career – creating a deep animosity in her that is personal, extrajudicial, and way outside the four corners of the courtroom. Judge Hopkins has exhibited a consistent bias and prejudice toward Carol and me because we have unmasked the individuals (and their associates) who have been her personal boosters.

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    Joseph and Don Siegelman
    Which is more important: (A) That the public be assured its justice-related work is conducted ethically; or (B) The personal privacy of justice-related government workers is protected?

    In a semi-functional democracy, the answer clearly should be "A." But the recent dismissal of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman suggests the answer is "B" -- at least in the minds of federal judges and Department of Justice (DOJ) employees.

    As we recently reported, a FOIA lawsuit from Birmingham attorney Joseph Siegelman (Don's son and a candidate for attorney general of Alabama) produced documents from the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) that were, according to a source close to the case, "so heavily redacted they were worthless." That means a 12-year government cover-up of documents about the "recusal" of Leura Canary (then U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama) -- and other key issues in the Siegelman prosecution -- will continue to keep the public in the dark.

    OPR turned over the documents last April for in camera review, and U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala -- surprise, surprise -- sided with the government. Haikala let the case stay dormant for roughly 10 months before dashing off three rulings in February 2018, the last being a final order, dismissing the case on Feb. 28.

    This is the same Haikala,-- an Obama appointee and former attorney with Birmingham's Lightfoot Franklin firm, -- who twisted the facts and law into a pretzel in order to let Madison police officer Eric Parker off on criminal charges after he had body slammed Sureshbhai Patel (a grandfather from India), causing spinal injuries. We reported a four-part series about the myriad ways Haikala butchered the law in the Patel case. Our view is that she butchered the Siegelman FOIA case, too.

    An online summary of the case docket indicates Haikala sided with the government because it claimed certain information requested was exempt under FOIA.  The final docket entry reads as follows:

    2018-02-28 -- 28 -- FINAL ORDER - On February 23, 2018, OPR gave notice that it produced the identified non-exempt portions of its report to Mr. Siegelman. (Doc. 27). Because OPR produced the portions that are not protected from disclosure under FOIA exemptions 3, 5, 6, and 7(C), Mr. Siegelman's request for injunctive relief is now moot. Accordingly, this action is DISMISSED AS MOOT. Signed by Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala on 2/28/2018. (KEK) (Entered: 02/28/2018)

    FOIA includes nine exemptions, where the government does not have to produce information. In the Siegelman matter, OPR claimed exemptions 3, 5, 6, and 7(c). Let's examine the language in each of those four exemptions:

    Exemption 3: Information that is prohibited from disclosure by another federal law.

    Exemption 5: Privileged communications within or between agencies, including those protected by the:

    1. Deliberative Process Privilege (provided the records were created less than 25 years before the date on which they were requested)
    2. Attorney-Work Product Privilege
    3. Attorney-Client Privilege

    Exemption 6: Information that, if disclosed, would invade another individual's personal privacy

    Exemption 7: Information compiled for law enforcement purposes that

    7(A). Could reasonably be expected to interfere with enforcement proceedings
    7(B). Would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication
    7(C). Could reasonably be expected to constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy

    Detailed information is available at the following links: Exemption 3Exemption 5, Exemption 6, and Exemption 7. Without diving too deeply into the minutiae of FOIA law, let's try to look at this from the "reasonable man" perspective.

    The government spent more than five years investigating Don Siegelman and co-defendant Richard Scrushy. In fact, the investigation dragged on so long that it passed the five-year statute of limitations, meaning the case, by law, could not go to trial. The prosecutors, judges, their offices, and courthouses -- all resources on the government's side of the case -- were taxpayer funded. After a jury reached a guilty verdict that ran contrary to facts and law, Siegelman and Scrushy were sent to federal prison for roughly six years each -- all at taxpayer expense.

    Madeline Haikala
    Does the public have a right to know if the prosecution was conducted lawfully? Well, the case cost taxpayers millions of dollars, so the answer clearly is yes. Why does the Office of Professional Responsibility, then,  seemingly feel it has no responsibility to the public? Why do OPR lawyers -- with assistance from a federal judge -- use FOIA as a tool to cloak information in darkness, rather than to shine light on government processes?

    Exemptions 3 and 5 involve mostly inter-agency communications and legal privileges that can be arcane and mind-numbing. Without access to the full court file, it's hard to take an informed view of those, so we won't spent time on them.

    Exemptions 6 and 7(c), both dealing with "personal privacy" (apparently of government employees, in the Siegelman case), are deeply alarming. Certainly Leura Canary and others who worked on the Siegelman prosecution have "personal privacy," to a certain extent. Let's imagine Canary used her work computer to jot out a grocery list, make a guest list for a party, or write a letter to a relative. If those showed up in a FOIA search, they understandably would be redacted as private.

    But when Canary and her staff put on their prosecutors' hats and conduct public business, why should they be entitled to "personal privacy"? Why should their actions on the Siegelman case -- generally considered the most flagrant political prosecution in U.S. history -- be considered "private"?

    Exemption 7, for example, applies to records that were "compiled for law enforcement purposes." But multiple courts have held it must a a "proper law enforcement purpose." What if the Siegelman case was brought for political purposes, which had nothing to do with legitimate law enforcement? That probably is the central question that Joseph Siegelman's FOIA lawsuit sought to answer. But the government apparently is allowed to unilaterally declare -- in a "trust me" sort of way -- that it acted in good faith, without providing any evidence to support that assertion.

    As for Exemption 6, withheld information must fall in the category of ""personnel and medical files and similar files." Why would Joseph Siegelman be interested in personnel and medical files of DOJ employees? He wouldn't. Why would such files have an impact on his father's prosecution? They wouldn't. It's hard to imagine how Exemptions 6 and 7 could apply to the Siegelman FOIA request.

    From  a practical standpoint, why would Leura Canary, her staff, and OPR be concerned about a FOIA request if the Siegelman case was conducted lawfully, for "proper law enforcement purposes?

    That the government has been stonewalling now for 12 years suggests someone has something to hide. And the public should be outraged that it's still in hiding.

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