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

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    Chris Blevins
    The first sign that U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins was cheating us on state-immunity issues in our "Jail Case" came when she could not even get the burden of proof right. Such a fundamental determination should be fairly easy for a judge to make, but not with Hopkins. And that was just the first of several immunity-related issues she butchered in unlawfully dismissing our case, which we have challenged with a Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment.

    This is a classic example of judicial incompetence, crookedness (or both), the kind of thing we've experienced over and over from judges in the Northern District of Alabama. Our journey into the murky world of immunity begins on page 26 of Hopkins' Corrected Memorandum Opinion. (The opinion, our Rule 59 motion, and our two amendments to the Rule 59 are embedded at the end of this post.) Writes Hopkins:

    Plaintiffs do not dispute that the defendants (Sheriff [Chris] Curry, Deputy Sheriff [Chris]Blevins, and Deputy Sheriff [Jason Valenti]) were acting in the course and scope of their employment when the complained-of touching allegedly occurred.

    Hopkins is putting the burden of proof on the plaintiffs -- my wife, Carol, and me. The judge is claiming it was up to us to dispute that the sheriff and his deputies were acting in the "course and scope of their employment." (BTW, isn't it charming that Hopkins refers to Chris Blevins shoving me to a concrete floor three times and dousing me with pepper spray as "complained-of touching" that "allegedly occurred"?)

    In essence, Hopkins turns the real law on its head, ruling in a way that is the opposite of what she is obligated to find under the law. We explain on page 2 of the Second Amendment to our Rule 59 Motion:

    The Alabama Supreme Court, however, has adopted a burden-shifting framework for establishing a right to immunity, per Ex parte Estate of Reynolds, 946 So. 2d 450 (Ala., 2006): “A defendant initially bears the burden of demonstrating that he was acting in a function that would entitle him to immunity.” In this case, the defendants hold the burden of proving they were acting within the line and scope of their employment, and they have not come close to doing that, making dismissal on this issue improper.

    Because the burden is on the deputies to prove they were operating within the line and scope of their employment, Alabama courts have held that immunity issues, such as those present in the Jail Case, cannot be determined without discovery. From our Second Amendment to the Rule 59 Motion:

    In fact, the Alabama Supreme Court has held that a determination on immunity for deputies cannot be made without discovery, so again, dismissal is improper and outside the law. From Ex parte Haralson, 853 So. 2d 928 (Ala., 2009): “The Court cannot conclude, at this early stage of the proceedings, without evidence showing that at the time of the accident, [the deputy] was acting within the line and scope of his employment, that [the deputy] is entitled to immunity.” No such evidence has been produced in the instant case, so the Shelby County sheriff officials are not entitled to a finding in their favor on immunity. At this early point in the proceedings, they definitely are not protected by any form of state immunity.

    Blevins was wearing a uniform and driving a patrol car at the time he entered our property, so he had to be within the "line and scope" of his employment, right? Not necessarily, as these words from the Haralson opinion show. The case involved allegations that Officer Rufus Haralson caused a motor-vehicle crash that injured Lubie W. Griffith:

    Deputy Haralson argues that he is entitled to immunity under the holding of Parker with respect to the performance of his official duties. In his reply brief to this Court, Deputy Haralson contends that he was "operating a [sheriff's department] vehicle, in uniform, and on sheriff's department business" at the time of the accident. However, the record presently contains no evidence as to whether Deputy Haralson was acting in his official capacity as a deputy sheriff at the time of the accident. As Griffith argues in her brief:

    Virginia Emerson Hopkins
     "There is no testimony to support that [Deputy Haralson] was in `hot pursuit' of a suspect, creating [a] roadblock while working on an accident report, or some other official duty that would require a deputy to be on an interstate highway. Furthermore, he was not even within the boundaries of his authorized jurisdiction, Lowndes County."

    We cannot conclude, at this early stage of the proceedings, without evidence showing that at the time of the accident he was acting within the line and scope of his employment, that Deputy Haralson is entitled to immunity. No State officer, such as a deputy sheriff, can avoid tort liability simply by claiming that his "`mere status as a [S]tate official cloaks him with the [S]tate's constitutional immunity.'"Phillips, 555 So.2d at 83 (quoting Barnes v. Dale, 530 So.2d 770, 781 (Ala.1988)); see also Mitchell, 598 So.2d at 806.It is conceivable that Griffith could prove facts that would show that at the time of the accident Deputy Haralson was on a personal errand or otherwise had departed from the line and scope of his employment. If so, Griffith "may possibly prevail" on her claims. See Nance, 622 So.2d at 299. Given the question presented by this mandamus petition—whether the trial court should have dismissed Griffith's claims against Deputy Haralson on the ground that he is entitled to State immunity—we conclude that Deputy Haralson has not shown that he has "`a clear legal right ... to the order sought.'"Butts, 775 So.2d at 178 (quoting Ex parte United Serv. Stations, Inc., 628 So.2d at 503).

    Blevins and Co. have not shown a "clear legal right" to the order sought either, but Hopkins gave  them one anyway. The Shelby County officers' actions were particularly egregious because they unlawfully entered our home to make an arrest. This violates U.S. Supreme Court precedent, as shown in our Second Amendment to Rule 59:

    Speaking of warrants, the U.S. Supreme Court’s finding in Payton v. New York, 455 U.S. 537 (1980)prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest. The deputies’ entry into the Shulers’ home was warrantless and nonconsensual and did not involve a criminal arrest, much less a felony arrest.”

    State law, at Code of Alabama 36-22-3(4), spells out the duties of sheriffs and their deputies -- and it shows officers in the Jail Case were operating way outside the line and scope of their employment. From our Second Amendment to Rule 59:

    We already have evidence that Curry, Blevins, and Valenti acted outside the line and scope of their employment in the Shuler case. Code of Alabama 36-22-3(4) states: “It shall be the duty of sheriffs in their respective counties, by themselves or deputies, to ferret out crime, to apprehend and arrest criminals and, insofar as within their power, to secure evidence of crimes in their counties and to present a report of the evidence so secured to the district attorney or assistant district attorney for the county." The duties of a sheriff and his deputies are described fully as involving crime – to “ferret out crime,” “apprehend and arrest criminals,” and to “secure evidence of crime.”

    The relevant Alabama statute states in three places that, generally, the duties of sheriffs and deputies involve dealing with crime. Were Blevins and Co. dealing with crime when they broke into our home and beat me up? Not in the slightest:

    In the instant matter, there was not even a whiff of a criminal allegation against Roger Shuler. He was targeted because of a complaint that was 100 percent civil – a bogus defamation claim brought by defendants Rob Riley and Liberty Duke, and their various lawyers. He was targeted because of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited as unlawful prior restraints under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. (See Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 1931.) Nothing in Sec. 36-22-3(4) suggests it is within the deputies’ line and scope of employment to break into a citizen’s home, beat him up and douse him with pepper spray, and arrest him on a totally non-criminal matter – while never stating his purpose for being on the property (a violation of state law, under Code of Alabama 15-10-2) and never showing or stating that he possessed a warrant.

    Blevins and Co. certainly have not shown, so far, that they were acting in the line and scope of their employment, in a manner that might merit state immunity. Sec. 36-22-3(4) suggests they are going to have a hard time proving that in the future -- assuming Hopkins or another judge in the Northern District is capable of acting with integrity.

    The latest case law we can find from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals shows the Alabama deputies will not be entitled to immunity at any point in the Jail Case. And a long line of Alabama case law shows that they cannot be immune for intentional wrongdoing.


    (To be continued)



















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    Tripp Vickers, at lectern
    An official with the Alabama State Bar has promised to investigate allegations that a member of his staff interfered with our "Jail Case." What kind of investigation does Douglas McElvy, acting general counsel of the bar, have in mind? It's apparently the kind where I do all of the work.

    The issue began when Fultondale attorney Greg Morris, who attempted to help us with a Rule 26 scheduling meeting, contacted the bar's Center for Professional Responsibility with a question related to our case. That office includes a general counsel (who now is Roman Shaul, taking over on a full-time basis for McElvy), plus three assistants -- Tripp Vickers, Jeremy McIntire, and Mark Moody. Morris was not certain with whom he spoke (his best guess was McIntire), but when I talked with McElvy via phone, he said any ethics question would almost certainly have gone to Vickers or McElvy himself.

    Did McElvy seem to take the matter seriously? Not exactly, as I indicated in a May 29 post:

    I recently called the state bar office and asked to speak to Jeremy McIntire, the individual a Birmingham-area attorney identified as making statements that strongly suggested the attorney should not get involved in our Jail Case and could even come to some form of harm if he remained engaged. The attorney was "75 to 80 percent sure" he spoke with McIntire, not one of the other two assistant general counsels -- Tripp Vickers or Mark Moody.

    When I spoke with McIntire by phone, he denied having talked with the attorney. When I asked if he could check with Vickers or Moody, he declined to do so. When I asked why, he rudely informed me that it's "not my job."

    I wound up speaking with Acting General Counsel Douglas McElvy, who immediately went into whitewash mode -- saying he found it almost impossible to believe that a member of his staff would interfere in a pending court case. I informed McElvy that I had the evidence in a word-for-word format, so he invited me to send a written complaint (which I did), and he promised to investigate.

    I responded promptly with a written complaint to McElvy, and it was pretty much a summary of what I had told him on the phone. Here it is, dated May 21, 2018:

    Mr. McElvy:

    This is a followup to our phone conversation of early last week. I am a journalist and publisher of the Legal Schnauzer blog. I also am a litigant in two pending federal cases -- Roger Shuler, et al v. Jessica Garrison, et al (Case No. 2:16-cv-00695-VEH) and Roger Shuler, et al v. Liberty Duke, et al (Case No. 2:16-cv-00501-VEH).

    I have a statement from Fultondale attorney Greg Morris that a member of your staff interfered in the Duke case, and evidence indicates similar interference took place in the Garrison case, plus 3-4 other federal matters over the past six to eight years. This interference apparently has taken the form of pressuring or persuading judges to rule against my wife, Carol, and/or me.

    Morris was assisting me in the Duke matter and says he contacted a member of your staff with a question about an affidavit he was preparing. Morris said he was 75-80 percent certain he spoke with Jeremy McIntire. You stated in our phone conversation that Morris likely spoke to Tripp Vickers. For now, we will assume it was Vickers, and here are just a few of the statements that Morris attributes to your staff member (in Morris' voice):

    * The State Bar tells me, "Do not use [the affidavit]; it may just make your matters worse."

    * I said I feel strongly about all I've written, [but the bar said], "You'd better not go [with the affidavit]. If the judge wants to hear from you, she will call you in."

    * [The bar said] Tell Roger, "No, no you don't have permission," You stay away from that, If the judge wants to hear from you, she'll let you know.

    * I don't know what they are going to do to you, Roger. I can't imagine why they have such a hard-on. But the bar is telling me, "Greg, do not get any further involved -- you're not helping yourself and you're probably not helping Mr. Shuler."

    I have these statements, and more, in a word-for-word format from Mr. Morris. As you can see, they blatantly interfere with my right to counsel and my relationship with counsel. On an even more serious note, the apparent interference with judges points to obstruction of justice, misprision of a felony, wire fraud, honest-services fraud, and maybe more -- all pointing to RICO.

    You asked for specifics, so that you could conduct an investigation of these matters, and I've provided specifics above. Your statements during our phone conversation suggest you are not likely to conduct a serious inquiry, so I am expecting a whitewash. If corruption continues in the above-styled cases, I will know it has been a whitewash.

    As I stated in our phone conversation, I take this with the utmost seriousness. My constitutional rights -- and those of my wife -- have been trampled. I've long suspected back-channel interference with my court cases -- going back years before you joined the Alabama State Bar staff -- and Mr. Morris' statements now give me a good idea about the origins of that interference.

    I believe criminal acts are involved here, and I intend to do everything in my power to make sure the appropriate parties are held accountable. You are welcome to investigate on your end, but I'm not going to be in waiting mode on my end. I intend to move forward on all appropriate fronts.

    If you wish to notify me of your findings, I ask that you do so by 5 p.m. next Monday (5/28/18).


    Regards,


    Roger Shuler

    I gave McElvy roughly one week to complete his investigation -- and I was flexible on that point -- which I thought was plenty of time, given that he only needed to interview three people in his own office. In fact, based on McElvy's own words, he likely only needed to interview one person, Tripp Vickers.

    So, how did McElvy respond to my complaint? By essentially asking me to do his job for him, in an email dated May 29:

    Mr. Shuler,

    Thank you for your email. Please forward to me the statement from attorney Greg Morris which you quote in your email. Please also forward the evidence which you allege “suggests that the bars of Alabama and Missouri are colluding to be sure we are cheated in two states . . . ” You also reference other evidence that “interference took place in the Garrison case…” and other federal matters. Please forward all evidence you believe implicates the Alabama Bar in any misconduct. I am unaware of any such misconduct.

    Douglas McElvy

    Notice that McElvy was asking me for information -- on top of what I already had provided -- while giving no indication that he had questioned anyone on his end. I brought this to his attention.

    Mr. McElvy:

    I'm not sending you any statement that is covered by attorney-client privilege, and I'm not sending you any evidence that could be subject to civil or criminal proceedings later. I've given you an opportunity to investigate from your end, and that's up to you. Your statements to me by phone indicate you are not serious about investigating this matter, so you're not getting any further help from me. I've given you plenty to go on, and your email doesn't indicate you've even questioned anyone on the bar staff. I would suggest that's where your inquiry needs to start.

    Have you questioned Mr. Vickers and Mr. McIntire and Mr. Moody? If you have, and they are honest, you should have all the information you need.


    I received no reply from McElvy, so I followed up two days later, on May 31:

    I take it you haven't found out who spoke with Greg Morris? It shouldn't be that hard. Have you even bothered to ask?

    You want more assistance from me, but you haven't even found the most basic evidence that is right under your nose?

    Again, I received no replay from McElvy, which means the bar has done nothing in two-plus months to address my concerns. The bar's directory indicates Roman Shaul has taken over as full-time counsel, so this issue now will land in his lap -- and Tripp Vickers' lap, since the current evidence suggests he's the one who took Greg Morris' call.

    If the bar thinks it can stick its head in the sand, and this problem will go away . . . well, that's not going to happen.


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    Regina Newsome's vehicle after
    being vandalized.
    The wife of Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome recently was the victim of vandalism and theft from her vehicle while it was parked at a fitness center in Vestavia Hills, according to  report at banbalch.com.

    Regina Galiulina Newsome apparently was targeted while at Lifetime Fitness for a tennis lesson, according to her Facebook page. The incident, on July 30, came nine days after former Balch Bingham partner Joel Gilbert was convicted of bribery in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal. It also came after reports of a possible RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) lawsuit related to Balch's efforts to essentially steal Burt Newsome's lucrative collections practice and ruin his law business.

    Was Regina Newsome targeted in an effort to intimidate her husband into forgoing a RICO lawsuit that could expose some prominent political figures -- including former U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (now Trump attorney general) and Luther Strange, plus Strange's one-time mistress and  campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison?

    Just yesterday, we learned from excellent reporting at Mother Jones, that Sessions and his office coordinated their attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Superfund case, working more closely with Balch than was previously known. Does that mean Sessions, too, could be connected to the intimidation campaign against Burt Newsome and his wife? That certainly is a reasonable question to ask.

    This all hits close to home because I was the victim of an even more outrageous intimidation effort. In fall 2013, I essentially was kidnapped from our Birmingham home -- deputies unlawfully broke into our home (without stating they had a warrant or showing a warrant) and beat me up and arrested me on a civil matter, with not even of whiff of a criminal allegation. It was related to my reporting on this blog about the "close relationship" of GOP politico Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, so I essentially spent five months in the Shelby County Jail for blogging -- apparently the only U.S. journalist in history to be so targeted. The bogus arrest caused us to lose our home of 25 years to a wrongful foreclosure.

    Ironically, both my arrest and the Regina Newsome smash and grab came as concerns about possible RICO cases against right-wing political figures were circulating in news accounts.

    We have no doubt Strange and Garrison were involved in my arrest, plus the theft of our home, and we would not be surprised if Jeff Sessions and his protege, U.S. Judge Bill Pryor, also were involved. We have pending federal-court cases -- The Jail Case and The House Case -- in both matters.

    Attacking someone's wife is not a new tactic for these thugs. Riley and Duke sued my wife, Carol, for defamation -- even though she had nothing to do with my blog at the time. Deputies tried to arrest Carol the same night they broke into our garage and arrested me -- and they made several more visits to our home, trying to arrest Carol, after I was in jail. Each of those efforts failed, and Carol remained free to contact the press and turn my arrest into a national story. 

    What happened in the Regina Newsome vandalism/theft case? It's peculiar on several levels, as banbalch.com reports:

    With a RICO civil suit on the horizon and the conviction of Balch and Bingham equity partner Joel I. Gilbert on six federal counts, maybe it was time to take a look at the matter again with fresh eyes.

    Who knows.

    Then yesterday, two thugs targeted the wife of Burt Newsome who had gone to her gym. Video surveillance of the incident shows the suspects driving around allegedly specifically looking for Newsome’s vehicle.

    After seeing the actions by the thugs, law enforcement’s first question to Mrs. Newsome was, “Do you have any enemies?”

    Signs abounded that this was a planned, coordinated attack:

    The suspects who were in a vehicle with no license plates sought out and then simply broke into and only Newsome’s vehicle. Highly unusual, the incident occurred in a parking row near the visible entrance of the fitness club, a rarity.

    The thugs had not even looked in the car before busting the window out. Her purse was stolen, yet none of the credit cards were used or attempted to be used. Nothing else in the car (phone charger, etc.) was taken. The purse was hidden under the passenger seat.

    What were these thugs looking for? Her mobile phone? Her personal information?

    Or were they simply sending a message of intimidation or fear?

    All that was missing was a horse’s head.

    Notice the reference above to a looming RICO case. Is that the reason Regina Newsome was targeted? Based on personal experience, I'd say the answer is yes. Someone concocted a scheme in fall 2013 that made it look like I was pushing for a RICO lawsuit, on behalf of progressive activist Brett Kimberlin, against the right-wing National Bloggers Club, led by GOP and Karl Rove-affiliated felon Ali (Akbar) Alexander. It all grew from comments left at the Web site Breitbart Unmasked, by someone calling himself "RogerS."  Conventional wisdom in right-wing circles was that I was "RogerS," and this was just days before my arrest. In fact, I was not RogerS, and I had no involvement in the Kimberlin matter.

    Burt and Regina Newsome
    The Regina Newsome attack sounds like the work of organized criminals. Borrowing on reporting at banbalch.com,we've helped show that Luther Strange and Jessica Garrison have ties to the effort to undermine her husband's law practice. Quoting banbalch.com:

    We have reached out to federal authorities and have asked them to investigate U.S. Senator Luther Strange’s involvement in alleged corruption and the trampling of the Civil Rights of Burt Newsome, a father of four young children who was wrongly targeted, falsely arrested, and defamed by one of Strange’s most ardent financial and political supporters, the embattled law firm Balch Bingham.
    Strange has received tens of thousands of dollars from Balch Bingham or political action committees funded by Balch Bingham partners. Strange’s top political advisor and former campaign manager, Jessica Garrison, was “of counsel” at Balch until this past spring, a known revolving-door for political operatives.

    What revolts us most is as Alabama Attorney General, Strange gave a helping-hand—just a year ago—to an alleged criminal conspiracy that trampled the Civil Rights of Burt Newsome, a father of four young children who was railroaded with a capital R.

    According to court filings, Newsome, a small-town attorney in Alabama, was falsely arrested and defamed by the alleged co-conspirators including Balch Bingham which allegedly had a financial objective: to obtain Newsome’s lucrative banking collections business.

    In April of 2014, the criminal case against Newsome collapsed and was eventually expunged from court records. But almost a year later after the expungement, in June of 2016, another judge, with allegedly no knowledge of the details of the case, reversed the expungement and opened the contents of a case that no longer existed, declaring that the previous judge (since retired) had erred.

    Incredibly, Newsome was allegedly barred by court officials from filing a brief or petitioning the court at that time.

    Raising eyebrows and expanding the web of possible collusion, two months later, in August of 2016, then-Attorney General Luther Strange filed a brief in support of the resurrected expungement, citing and regurgitating the order signed by the new judge.

    Observers could not understand why his office would ever get involved in a matter like this, especially since the brief looked like a simple “cut and paste job.” The reason was Balch Bingham and other co-conspirators wanted to use the false criminal accusations in a civil case that the co-conspirators looked like they were losing against Newsome.

    Someone on the Alabama legal/political scene has a habit of going rogue when they feel threatened by a RICO lawsuit. Evidence suggests they did it in my kidnapping and incarceration. I suspect some of the same people are responsible for the trashing of Regina Newsome's vehicle.

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    Jerry Harmison Jr.
    My wife, Carol, unlawfully has been found guilty of "assault on a law enforcement officer" in Missouri, but she has not been convicted,  under state law. If that causes you to scratch your head, join the crowd.

    It all flows from Judge Jerry Harmison Jr.'s decision to give Carol a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS), with two years of unsupervised probation and a $10 payment to a crime victims' fund. (Do you see irony in Carol being forced to pay into a crime victims' fund, when she was the victim here -- brutalized by Greene County deputies during an unlawful eviction in September 2015 and left with an arm broken so badly that it required trauma surgery and roughly six months of physical therapy?) The idea behind an SIS is that the case will be removed from the record if Carol abides by terms of her probation.

    But Harmison's introduction of an SIS into the 21-month clown car of a case against Carol complicates matters. The case already includes the alleged "victim," Officer Jeremy Lynn, admitting both in a written incident report and on the stand at trial that he initiated physical contact with Carol by grabbing her as he burst into our apartment. That means Carol could not have committed the offense, as described under Missouri statute. Harmison's judgment includes Lynn's statement at trial, reflecting Carol's innocence, but this is a judge --appointed by Eric Greitens, the governor who was forced from office under a cloud of scandal -- who does not let facts and the law influence his thinking. (Judgment is embedded at the end of this post.) Harmison found Carol guilty while never once mentioning the definition of the offense, found at the controlling statute, RSMo 565.083.

    What about those complications we mentioned? For one, there is no final judgment in Carol's case, which means there is nothing to appeal -- and since there is no punishment, beyond what amounts to a $10 fine, this case is pretty much a nothing-burger, a "brilliant" use of taxpayer resources. But now we learn Carol is not even convicted, which makes Harmison's actions look even more goofy.

    That comes from a case styled Yale v. City of Independence 846 S.W. 2d 193 (1993) The holding:

    The City contends that these repeated legislative efforts indicate that in all cases the term "conviction" should now include guilty pleas and findings of guilt regardless of the disposition of the case. We disagree. These statutes represent an awareness by the general assembly that the term "conviction," standing alone, does not include a plea or finding of guilt where imposition of sentence is suspended and that such a disposition is not one to which collateral consequences attach. These statutes apply only in certain specific instances. Had the legislature intended to define "conviction" to include the disposition of suspended imposition of sentence in all cases, it would have done so.

    By "collateral consequences," the court appears to be referring to the small matter of punishment for those who violate terms of their probation. The Supreme Court of Missouri is saying such consequences do not "attach" when an SIS is involved. That means Carol is on probation, but she cannot lawfully be punished for violating it.

    I told you this situation was goofy.

    This outcome also throws a wrench into the apparent plans of Missouri law thugs to "preclude" Carol's upcoming federal civil-rights lawsuit, which also will include claims from yours truly. Preclusion in civil rights cases under 42 U.S.C.1983can only apply to final state judgments -- and there has been no such judgment in Carol's case. Preclusion also can apply only where a party had a "full and fair" opportunity to litigate at the state level, with the party being convicted in the matter. Well, Carol had no opportunity (much less a "full and fair" one) to litigate many of the issues that will appear in our civil-rights case -- and Carol, as a matter of Missouri law, was not convicted, even though the court docket shows a guilty finding. No kidding. (See Motion for Acquittal and Motion to Set Aside or Vacate Judgment, which are embedded at the end of this post.)

    The Yale case launched when a city firefighter, Ronald Yale, pleaded guilty to a felony charge and wound up losing his job because the city personnel manual authorized termination for "conviction" of a criminal offense. Yale appealed, arguing that his termination was unlawful because he received an SIS, and thus, was not convicted under state law. The Supreme Court of Missouri agreed with him. From the opinion:

    Ronald Yale appeals an order of summary judgment dismissing his wrongful discharge action. We granted transfer to consider whether a plea of guilty to a felony charge followed by a disposition of "suspended imposition of sentence" constitutes a "conviction" under the City of Independence personnel manual, the provisions of which authorize termination of employees convicted of a felony. The judgment is reversed and remanded.

    On November 4, 1988, Yale pleaded guilty to one count of sodomy, a class B felony. The court suspended the imposition of sentence and placed Yale on probation for five years. Shortly thereafter, the City of Independence dismissed Yale without pay from his position as a firefighter, subject to further termination proceedings. The city personnel board, following a hearing, recommended that Yale's termination be upheld pursuant to the City's personnel manual, which authorized termination for the "conviction of a felony, criminal offense, or crime of moral turpitude." The manual did not define the term "conviction."

    The high court found that a conviction does not include a case where an SIS is applied:

    The precise issue of whether the disposition of suspended imposition of sentence constitutes a conviction apparently has never been addressed by this Court. This question has been discussed, however, in several appellate court decisions, most notably, Meyer v. Missouri Real Estate Comm'n, 238 Mo.App. 476, 183 S.W.2d 342 (1944). In that case, the Missouri Real Estate Commission sought to revoke the license of a broker who had pleaded nolo contendere to seven charges of embezzlement and who subsequently received a suspended imposition of sentence along with a three-year term of probation. The Meyer court noted that the term "conviction" is subject to more than one meaning depending upon the context in which it is used. . . .  For example, where the term is used in its common law sense to designate a particular stage of a criminal prosecution triable by a jury, the term "conviction" may merely include "the confession of the accused in open court, or the verdict returned against him by the jury."

    However, when the term refers to a determination of guilt from a prior proceeding, and bears directly upon the status or rights of an individual in a subsequent case, there is a different meaning. In these situations in which collateral punitive consequences may attach, a "conviction" is not established, nor is a person deemed "convicted," unless it is shown that a judgment has been pronounced upon the verdict. 

    The court found that, because of the SIS, no judgment was pronounced against Yale, and he therefore was not convicted. The same concept applies in Carol's case. The following passage from Yale has profound consequences for Carol's case:

    It is well-settled that a suspended imposition of sentence is not a final judgment. State v. Lynch, 679 S.W.2d 858, 860 (Mo. banc 1984); Meyer, at 345. The word "sentence" in legal terms means "a judgment or final judgment." . . . Where imposition of sentence has been suspended, there can be no judgment. See also State v. Bachman, 675 S.W.2d 41, 45 (Mo.App.1984).

    Let that last highlighted sentence sink in. Not only is there no final judgment in Carol's case, there is no judgment at all. How does the scoreboard now read in State of Missouri v. Carol Tovich Shuler?

    (1) The state got no final judgment;

    (2) The state got no judgment at all;

    (3) Carol is on probation, but she can't be punished for violating it;

    (4) Carol's entire punishment amounts to a $10 fine, and that likely is not lawful;

    (5) Carol was not convicted.

    (6) The guilty finding against Carol, with no judgment and no conviction, can not preclude her federal civil-rights claims.

    By my account, the state is trailing 0-6 on the scoreboard in this charade of a case.

    The alert reader might check item No. 3 above and ask, "Is Carol's probation lawful? Is it valid if she can't be punished for violating it?"

    Those are darned good questions, and our research led us to some stunning answers. Along the way, we dealt with a U.S. Supreme Court case that originated in Alabama. How's that for irony?


    (To be continued)














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    Joseph and Don Siegelman
    Why did U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala sit on the Siegelman FOIA case for roughly 10 months before springing into action that brought the case to a close in February 2018? It's almost as if something happened in February that prompted Haikala to rip off three slap-dash rulings, ending with the case being dismissed in a fashion that almost certainly was contrary to law.

    As it turns out, something did happen in February -- and if that caused Haikala to dismiss the FOIA case, it speaks to political payback and provides another example of hideous corruption in Alabama's federal courts.

    Here is the really disturbing question: What if Haikala was taking signals from one or more "power brokers," someone who had an interest in making sure the truth about the Don Siegelman prosecution remains under wraps? What if the power broker was thinking ahead to concerns about the outcome of what likely will be the most bitterly contested race -- at least behind the scenes -- in Alabama's midterm elections of November 2018.

    The peculiar handling and outcome of the FOIA case suggests something foul is in the air. And that almost always happens when politics and the federal judiciary intermingle in Alabama.

    So, what happened in February that might have sparked action in the FOIA case? News broke on Feb. 9 that Joseph Siegelman had qualified with the Democratic Party to run as attorney general. Ironically, that's the same date Haikala -- after letting the matter lie dormant so long that many people probably forgot out it -- issued the first of three rulings that swept the case out the door, almost under cover of darkness. The docket shows Haikala's other rulings came on Feb. 23 and 28 -- and, boom, the FOIA case was gone, after many Alabamians likely had forgotten it ever arrived.

    Joseph Siegelman brought the FOIA case, long before announcing his AG candidacy, seeking Department of Justice (DOJ) documents from his father's prosecution -- especially documents related to the dubious recusal of then U.S. attorney Leura Canary. Various attorneys connected to Don Siegelman had been seeking such documents, via FOIA, for roughly 12 years. The most recent effort, in the form of Joseph Siegelman's federal lawsuit, ended with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) turning over requested documents -- but they were so heavily redacted due to claimed exemptions under FOIA -- as to be virtually useless.

    Haikala did nothing to make OPR turn over information in a readable format. Was someone unhappy that Joseph Siegelman decided to run for attorney general? Were Haikala's hurried and nonsensical rulings on the FOIA matter a form of political payback? Was someone pulling the judge's strings, meaning Haikala is corrupt and accomplishing little other than to add to the sewer-like qualities of Alabama's justice system?

    If the answer to that last one is yes, the power broker in question probably is named Doug Jones, as in the U.S. Senator who upset Roy Moore last December to claim Jeff Sessions' old seat. Consider the evidence we've already presented:

    (1) Doug Jones is a "Democrat" (in name only) who once served as Don Siegelman's defense attorney, so a reasonable person might expect him to support Joseph Siegelman for AG. But that is not the case -- and Jones and Don Siegelman had a heated discussion on the issue in February, just before the senior Siegelman had emergency heart surgery. In fact, Don Siegelman's surgery was on Feb. 9, the same day his son qualified as an AG candidate and Madeline Haikala made her first ruling that would lead to dismissal of the FOIA case.

    (2) Jones made it clear that he supported Bradley Arant lawyer Chris Christie, who was Joseph Siegelman's opponent in the Democratic primary. Another Christie supporter was Sirote Permutt lawyer Barry Ragsdale, who defended former federal judge Mark Fuller as he faced wife-beating charges. Fuller, of course, railroaded the Don Siegelman prosecution, causing the former governor and codefendant Richard Scrushy to unlawfully spend roughly six years each in prison.

    (3) Alabama Democrats don't like to hear this, but evidence strongly suggests Doug Jones is more loyal to the Bob Riley wing of the Republican Party -- which includes such luminaries as Jeff Sessions; Bill Canary; Luther Strange; and Bob's oily son, Rob "Uday" Riley -- than he is to any Democratic causes. After all, Jones and Rob Riley teamed up on a federal HealthSouth lawsuit, which allowed them to take home a hefty chunk of $51 million in attorney fees. That probably is the No. 1 reason Jones could afford a Senate run.

    (4) Could Joseph Siegelman, as Alabama AG, pose a threat to Doug Jones, Rob Riley, and their political allies? The answer is yes -- if the younger Siegelman is serious about cleaning up his home state, which badly needs cleansing. Doug Jones took a number of curious actions as Don Siegelman's defense lawyer -- including charging him $300,000 without even taking the case to trial. And Rob Riley played a central role in setting up the baseless Siegelman prosecution, which led to Bob Riley becoming two-term governor of Alabama -- with the help of Siegelman votes disappearing overnight in GOP stronghold Baldwin County, flipping the 2002 election.

    (5) It's not clear how the Obama administration (Democrats) came to appoint a federal judge who clearly does not abide by Democratic principles, such as respect for the rule of law, due process, and equal protection. Doug Jones has touted his connections to Obama  VP Joe Biden, so perhaps Jones pushed for Haikala's nomination, even though she came from a conservative, pro-corporate law firm (Lightfoot Franklin), and like Jones himself, is more or less a Republican in disguise. Does Haikala owe here judicial seat to Doug Jones, and is that why he might have had her ear on the Siegelman FOIA matter?

    Joseph Siegelman defeated Chris Christie in the June primary and is set to face incumbent Steve Marshall, who has the support of the state's white conservative elites -- and that group probably includes Doug Jones. A determined younger Siegelman in the AG's chair might lead to investigations that could expose the truth behind his father's prosecution -- and it could spell big trouble for Doug Jones, Rob Riley, and their allies.

    Given the ugliness in Alabama politics over the past 25 years or so, this much is certain: Powerful white elites, both Republicans and Democrats, see Joseph Siegelman as a threat, and they will pull out all the stops to make sure he does not become the chief law-enforcement officer of Alabama. That includes the strong possibility that, if the race appears to be remotely close, it will be stolen for Steve Marshall, who is likely to protect the corrupt status quo.

    If the Siegelmans are committed to a Joseph Siegelman victory, they had better develop a rock-solid plan to prevent election theft. Our bet is that they will definitely need it.

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    Chris Blevins
    Alabama law on state immunity for sheriffs and deputies has a murky quality to it. But upon digging into the subject, you realize it boils down to two pretty clear concepts:

    (1) Under Alabama's outdated and racist constitution of 1901, and subsequent case law, sheriffs and their "alter egos" (deputies), are immune from lawsuits for negligent acts;

    (2) Immunity does not protect sheriffs and deputies for acts of intentional wrongdoing -- the kind alleged in our Jail Case.

    Senior U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins, who unlawfully dismissed our complaint in the Jail Case, apparently can't grasp those concepts -- even when they are melted down into a simple format, as we've done above. Actually, Hopkins probably can grasp the subject but she is so riddled with Richard Shelby/Jeff Sessions/George W. Bush corruption -- from buying her judicial seat via donations to those GOP scoundrels -- that she simply cannot apply the law properly.

    To simplify things even further, the U.S. Eleventh Circuit issued a 2010 published opinion that states the current law on immunity for law-enforcement officers in Alabama -- in language that is about as clear as you ever will find. We have cited that law in our Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment, plus two amendments to that motion, which currently are pending before Hopkins. We will see if she can get it right this time, although I don't advise anyone to hold his breath. (Hopkins dismissal order and our Rule 59 motion -- plus amendments -- are embedded at the end of this post.)

    Case law outlining the two central points noted above goes back at least 30 to 50 years -- and probably much further. On point No. 1, this is from our Rule 59, Second Amendment:

    On multiple occasions, the Alabama Supreme Court has held:“A sheriff is an employee of the State and, as such, is immune from suit, in his official capacity, for negligent performance of his statutory duties.” (See Alexander v. Hatfield, 652 So. 2d 1142, Ala., 1994 and Parker v. Amerson, 519 So. 2d 442, Ala., 1987.) The Shulers’ allegations go way beyond negligence to intentional violations of state, federal, and constitutional laws. The Shelby County sheriff officials have not, and cannot, show they are immune from such acts of malice, fraud, and bad faith – which are way beyond their authority, as described by Code of Alabama.

    As for point No. 2 above, here is this from the Rule 59, Second Amendment (with lengthy citations omitted):

    Further, the Alabama Supreme Court held in Spring Hill Lighting v. Square D. Co. Inc 662 So.2d 1141 (Ala. 1995): “Clearly, a state officer or employee is not protected by § 14 when he acts willfully, maliciously, illegally, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law." The court in Spring Hill Lighting went on to state: “Because this action can proceed only on allegations of intentional wrongdoing, the defendants are not protected by immunity.” The Shulers have alleged repeated acts of intentional wrongdoing, so the defendant officers are not protected by immunity.

    So far, Hopkins essentially has found that it was A-OK for Deputy Chris Blevins to intentionally break into our home without a warrant, without stating his grounds for being there, shoving me to a concrete floor three times, dousing me with pepper spray, and hauling me off for a five-month incarceration -- without the slightest hint of a felony allegation, or any criminal allegation at all. That, of course, is preposterously contrary to the law cited above. Nothing that Blevins did was negligent; it was intentional in nature, so he and his cohorts are stripped of immunity's cloak.

    Virginia Emerson Hopkins
    By the way, I am opposed to immunity for sheriffs and deputies under any circumstances. The whole goofy notion is based in Sec. 14 of Alabama's antiquated constitution, and that is one of many reasons the state desperately needs constitutional reform, not to mention tax reform. If the state in November were to elect Democrat Walt Maddox as governor, that might push us toward a modern and fair constitution. But until something like that happens, we are left to deal with a constitution that holds Alabama back with every day that passes.

    Perhaps the best statement of Alabama's current law is found in a case styled Phillips v. Thomas, 555 So. 2d 81 (Ala., 1989). From that case, with lengthy citations omitted (citations are included in court documents below):

    This Court has recognized that a state officer or employee may not escape individual tort liability by "arguing that his mere status as a state official cloaks him with the state's constitutional immunity." Clearly, a state officer or employee is not protected by § 14 when he acts willfully, maliciously, illegally, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.

    What about the Eleventh Circuit case that provides the most recent and clear-cut statement on immunity for Alabama law-enforcement officers? We will examine that in an upcoming post.


    (To be continued)
















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    Eric Greitens
    Have Russian interests been involved in abuse that has been directed at my wife, Carol, and me for 10-plus years? Carol and I are relatively small fry, so the question might seem absurd at first glance. But we know Russians tried to influence public opinion in the Philando Castille case in Minnesota, where deadly police force had the potential to spark racial unrest. We also know public officials in our former home state, Alabama, have been dallying with Russian interests for years; the most recent example involving U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who led a Republican delegation to Russia with the apparent purpose of sparking Arctic drilling and possible meddling in 2018 midterm elections.

    Now, we've learned that our current "home state," Missouri, has been led by a governor who sought Russian cash and influence. We're talking about Eric Greitens, who resigned in May amid a whirlwind of scandals.

    First, it's a matter of public record that one strong Greitens supporter is Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott, who orchestrated an unlawful eviction that ended with deputies breaking Carol's arm and bringing bogus criminal charges against HER, the victim of police brutality. And how is this for curious timing? Greitens was inaugurated on Jan. 9, 2017, and Carol was arrested for "assault on a law enforcement officer" on Jan. 30, 2017. A Greitens appointee, Greene County Judge Jerry Harmison, found Carol guilty even though the deputy "victim" admitted in an incident report (and on the stand, at trial) that she did not commit the offense -- that he caused physical contact with her, not the other way around.

    Hmmm, almost sounds like Arnott was waiting for a signal from his favorite governor before moving forward with a baseless arrest. And sounds like Harmison handled the case corruptly to help provide cover for Arnott.

    Did Arnott's "favorite governor" have ties to Russians and other foreign interests? The answer is "without a doubt."

    One of Greitens' many scandals involved his efforts to seek campaign donations from foreigners. That, of course, is illegal, but it did not stop Greitens. From an article at the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune:

    During the first months of 2015, Gov. Eric Greitens actively sought donations from foreigners for his campaign — contributions that would be illegal under federal law — according to testimony given to a legislative committee.

    Michael Hafner, a political consultant who worked for Greitens from January through March 2015, testified that the campaign team was working with people Greitens met while studying at Oxford University in the late 1990s.

    “It was a road that I was never comfortable going down because I know in the American political system, foreign contributions are not allowed in American political races,” Hafner said in an interview Thursday. “I don’t know what happened after I left.”

    The testimony raises troubling questions about whether the proliferation of “dark money” groups — political organizations that don’t disclose donors — has allowed illegal foreign money into U.S. politics, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said during a visit to Columbia.

    Did Greitens attempt to have specific ties to Russia? Yes, indeed, via U.S. Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who has been described as a favorite of Russian President Vladimir Putin. From an article at the Kansas City Star, again focusing on former Greitens consultant, Michael Hafner:

    Michael Hafner, a longtime GOP consultant who worked on Greitens’ campaign early on, told lawmakers that the governor directed him to “have conversations with donors who intended to raise significant amounts of money and … conceal the identity of those donors.”

    Hafner said that at the governor’s urging, he spoke with Monu Joseph, a California-based venture capitalist who wanted to discuss how to bundle donations and conceal the identity of donors by funneling them through LLCs, according to a transcript of Hafner’s March testimony to a special House committee.

    During the campaign, Greitens touted his commitment to transparency and blasted candidates who relied on support from political action committees to obscure their financial backers.

    Notice that Monu Joseph is based in California, and that puts him close to Dana Rohrabacher:

    Hafner told the committee that he and Joseph specifically discussed raising money from foreign nationals, which would violate a federal law that prohibits campaigns from knowingly accepted money from foreign nationals. . . .

    Lawmakers asked Hafner about a campaign document that showed Greitens would be traveling to Hong Kong during the exploratory phase of his campaign.

    Dana Rohrabacher
    The committee released a heavily redacted version of the document that shows that Greitens planned to to meet in Hong Kong with a person who had donated to his charity, The Mission Continues.
    The person, whose name is redacted, pledged to donate $50,000 to the campaign.

    The document, which includes a call sheet of charity donors, recommends asking Joseph for $15,000 during the campaign’s exploratory phase and notes that he has a connection to U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who has faced scrutiny because of his ties to Russia.

    Rohrabacher's ties to Russia, amid the Robert Mueller investigation, reportedly have put his re-election at risk:

    The Russia investigation has shown few signs of having an impact in this year’s congressional elections, but there’s a House race in Orange County, Calif., where Vladimir Putin looms large.

    In fact, the congressman running for reelection there says he once arm wrestled the Russian president.

    Rep. Dana Rohrabacher easily stands out as one of the most pro-Russia voices in the Republican Party. During the 2016 campaign, Politico called him ‘Putin’s favorite congressman.’ The New York Times reported that Russia viewed him as an intelligence source, even giving him a Kremlin code name. Rohrabacher’s story about arm wrestling Putin involves a few rounds of drinks in the 1990s and settling an argument over who won the Cold War.

    Members of Congress and those hoping to become members of Congress are generally more focused on bread and butter domestic issues — such as health care, the economy and the environment.

    But Rohrabacher is different. Opponents on his left and right are leveraging his long-standing calls for closer relations with Russia as one of the primary issues in their campaign, now that Russian attempts to influence American politics are a flashpoint.

    Rohrabacher won the Republican primary in June and will face Democrat Harley Rouda in November's general election. The Rohrabacher seat widely is seen as one Democrats could pick up in the House-- with Russia being a key issue.

    How might all of this connect to Carol and me? That, of course, remains unclear. But this much is clear: We have practiced aggressive journalism in two states -- Alabama and Missouri -- where key politicos are known to have ties with Russia. And the Philando Castille case proves that Russian meddling is not limited to those with fame or political power.

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    If U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) ever had any coattails, their expiration date already must have passed.

    Jones pushed for Montgomery attorney and lobbyist Peck Fox as chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, but the executive committee on Saturday stuck with incumbent Nancy Worley. Is that a signal party leaders do not trust Jones? Do they see his upset win over Roy Moore in a 2017 special election for Jeff Sessions' old seat as a fluke, driven largely by a Republican-inspired dirty-tricks campaign? Are they uncomfortable with Jones' longstanding ties to some of the GOP's creepiest scoundrels -- including Rob Riley, Bill Canary, Karl Rove, Bill Pryor, and Jeff Sessions himself? Are they troubled that Jones is likely to vote for Trump U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, while working behind the scenes to defeat Democratic attorney general candidate Joseph Siegelman?

    The answer to all of those questions might be yes, according to retired Alabama attorney (and prominent whistle blower/opposition researcher) Jill Simpson. Insiders on both sides of the aisle are aware that Jones is a back stabber, with zero sense of loyalty -- given that he left multiple knives between the shoulder blades of former Democratic governor Don Siegelman. Simpson says. From her Facebook post over the weekend:

    I am not a fan of Nancy Worley because I don't think she speaks out enough on wrongdoing of Republicans in our state, but I am way more not a fan of Jones, as progressive folks know he won his seat promising all kinds of bad deals to the Republicans. . . . We need a good young progressive Democrat to run the state party, and neither choice really looked good here, as I don't think it a wise idea to hand the party over to Doug Jones, who plays both sides and is too close to the corrupt Alabama Gang. It appears the Democrats have let it be known their dissatisfaction with him after this vote. I feel for the folks who had to pick which way to go, as neither was a great choice. I might add I think it would be a real mistake to let Doug and his DINO [Democrat In Name Only] bunch take over as Nancy Worley is way more progressive than Doug.

    Worley had the support of Joe Reed, vice chair for minority affairs, and that was enough to overcome Jones' candidate, Peck Fox. The intrigue might just be starting, says Simpson:

    The good news is it appears the Joe Reed/ Nancy Worley bunch see the true colors of Doug Jones, as he is behind the plan to overthrow their leadership -- and he did it in a very sneaky way, just like he screwed the Siegelman bunch. The Alabama Resistance has been entertained, hearing all about Jones' overthrow attempt from folks who watched Doug and Rob Riley try to take over the Democrats. We had wondered at the Resistance how long it was going to take for DNC folks to figure that out. I suspect next we will see the Jones bunch attempt to bring criminal charges against Worley,  as he wants control of the party, and we know he plays pretty dirty. Also, I suspect Nancy's bunch might try to get rid of him next election, as they see he is way too close to the Republicans.

    Simpson says Jones' behind-the-scenes "yapping" to then Alabama attorney general Bill Pryor helped launch the Don Siegelman political prosecution and did inestimable harm to the state's Democratic Party. Could Saturday's failed takeover attempt prompt Jones to become a Republican? Simpson says that would not surprise her:

    Doug's yapping to Pryor and taking Siegelman out killed the Democratic party in Alabama for nearly 16 years, so in no way do I believe he should be in charge of that party. As a reward for all Doug did to Don Siegelman, the Republicans supported Doug running as a conservative DINO for Senate, but I suspect before long, one of the sides is going to have serious buyer's remorse. 
    My hope is that Doug feels enough Democratic pressure that he does not vote for Trump's far-right SCOTUS candidate, Brett Kavanaugh. But I suspect he may very well try to use Saturday's event as a reason to switch parties and vote for Kavanaugh. If he does not, I doubt he gets re-elected. But Republicans tell me they know the tricks he and Rob Riley pulled on Don Siegelman and don't want him in their party, as they could never 100 percent trust him; they know how disloyal he is. 
    This is really entertaining to all of us on the left, who see Doug Jones clearly as a man motivated by his greed and desire to be powerful, at the expense of folks like Don Siegelman. We think Jones might finally have been caught in his deceit.

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    Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court
    Headline: West Virginia House panel votes to impeach entire state Supreme Court


    When I read the above Yahoo! headline, my first thought was, "This has to be from The Onion. No way it could be real." In fact, the headline seemed so out of left field that it made me LOL.

    Is it possible for a state high court to be so corrupt that the whole bunch deserves to be tossed out of office? After 11 years of writing this blog about judicial chicanery, I know the answer is, "Yes, absolutely." Is it likely that any authoritative body would hold such a high court accountable." Sadly, the answer to that question is "Absolutely not."

    Stunningly, it turns out, the West Virginia story is real. In fact the state House of Delegates meets today to consider articles of impeachment the judiciary committee already has adopted. If the full House approves the articles, the state Senate will conduct a trial.

    This could be a rare step forward for justice in a country where too many courts are permeated with crookedness, dishonesty, and an utter lack of transparency. Legal Schnauzer is one of the few news sites that devotes serious journalism to the unlawful acts of corrupt judges, and we have been attacked relentlessly -- even thrown in jail -- for it.

    I see only one downside to the events in West Virginia: The justices are in deep doo-doo for essentially being thieves. I would prefer they be held accountable for the kind of bogus rulings too many American courts routinely produce -- and far greater legal minds than mine agree that is a problem.

    What's at the heart of the West Virginia story? The judiciary committee has charged justices with "maladministration, corruption, incompetency, neglect of duty in certain high crimes and misdemeanors." That sounds serious. Here are details, from a report at Talking Points Memo (TPM):

    The West Virginia House of Delegates is taking the extraordinary step of considering the impeachment of the entire state Supreme Court in a scandal over $3.2 million in office renovations.

    The Republican-led House was meeting Monday to discuss 14 articles and make recommendations for the four remaining justices. Any articles approved by the House would be tried by the Senate.

    Suspended Justice Allen Loughry is under federal indictment and named in eight impeachment articles, including allegations he lied about taking home a $42,000 antique desk and a $32,000 suede leather couch. Other articles involve upgrades of the offices of justices Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Beth Walker.

    The fifth justice, Menis Ketchum, retired and agreed to plead guilty to a federal wire fraud count involving the personal use of state-owned vehicles and fuel cards.

    Were these grifters also issuing bogus opinions? I'd say you can count on it. Will they be held accountable for that? Don't hold your breath. Such an inquiry would require a lot of work, and it's unlikely West Virginia legislators want to devote that much effort to the scandal.

    That's unfortunate because stealing is bad, but the issuance of crooked rulings is, by far, the No. 1 way judges cheat the public, at every level -- municipal, state, and federal. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Consider these words from a 1989 speech by the late Monroe Freedman, a Hofstra University law professor who was considered the father of legal ethics as a subject for academic study:

    "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.”

    -- Monroe H. Freedman, founder of legal ethics

    If Monroe Freedman knew the situation was dire in 1989, imagine how bad it is today -- almost 30 years later.

    We applaud the West Virginia legislators for taking action against thieving judges. The lawmakers could do the entire country a huge favor by going beyond that to examine the crooked rulings these "justices" likely were churning out.

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    Billy Long
    The Congressman from our current home district is among five Republicans who might become ensnared in an insider-trading scandal that broke last week.

    U.S. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was indicted last Wednesday and already is ensnared. U.S. Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), who has represented Missouri's 7th Congressional district since 2011, purchased the stock in question, worked closely with Collins to advance its cause, and could wind up in deep doo-doo as a result.

    At least four other House Republicans -- Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, John Abney Culberson and Mike Conaway of Texas, and Doug Lamborn of Colorado -- invested in Innate Immunotherapeutics, an obscure Australian biotech company that was working on a possible treatment for multiple sclerosis. When a key drug trial failed, Collins (an Innate board member) received early word and notified his son and other family members, and phone records showed they offloaded their shares to avoid $768,000 in losses.

    Collins announced Saturday that he is ending his bid for re-election. What about the other Innate stockholders in Congress? None are known to be under investigation, and some still own the stock. Long, however, joined with Collins to take legislative action that apparently was designed to help enrich both of them. From an article at TheDaily Beast:

    Collins, who denies any criminal wrongdoing, isn’t the only one who risks being wrapped up in controversy surrounding the company.

    As The Daily Beast reported last year, Collins authored four bills that would likely have benefited the company. Two of them, separate versions of the same bill introduced in the 114th and 115th Congresses, had just one co-sponsor: Rep. Billy Long (R-MO), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, which has oversight over the Food and Drug Administration. While no one has accused him of any legal wrongdoing, Long also held stock in Innate. Long signed on to both pieces of legislation the day they were introduced. The first was filed in December 2016, and didn’t make it out of subcommittee before the session ended.

    Then in January, Long bought between $15,000 and $50,000 in Innate stock, apparently as part of a Fidelity retirement account. In July, Collins once again introduced his bill, which would have expedited FDA approvals for treatments such as Innate’s, and Long was once again an immediate co-sponsor.

    Long’s office didn’t respond to questions about whether his Innate holdings might constitute a conflict of interest. A spokesperson would only say that the congressman “did not learn of Innate Immunotherapeutics through a colleague, but rather when it became a daily topic on the nightly news in January of 2017,” a timeline that suggests that Long, not a financial brokerage, made the decision to purchase Innate stock.

    Collins was the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and Democrats likely will see the Collins indictment as an opportunity to push GOP corruption as an issue in the 2018 midterm elections:

    Democrats see an opportunity to revive the "culture of corruption" message that helped them win the House in 2006. Nancy Pelosi repeated almost the identical talking points [last week] that she used 12 years ago to link GOP candidates to Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff, and Mark Foley.

    "The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today," said Pelosi, who could become speaker again. "The American people deserve better than the GOP's corruption, cronyism and incompetence."

    A Web site called showmeprogress.com already is blasting Billy Long on his home turf, 
    referring to him as a "charter member of the Party of Corruption":

    When GOP Rep. Billy Long (R-7) first ran for Congress there were whispers that, in today’s parlance, he was more than familiar with the swamp that his idol, Donald Trump – evidently facetiously – promised to drain. With the arrest of New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins for insider trading, the swamp gas miasma around Long has thickened. Collins has been stripped of his position on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and he is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee. The question is why isn’t Rep. Long under similar investigation – or maybe he is and we just don’t know about it?

    Long’s staff is of course denying that Long had any insider info from his colleague Collins with whom he coordinated to pass legislation that would enhance both their financial bottom lines . . .

    Certainly, we know that Rep. Long is inclined to go easy when it comes to forestalling corrupt behavior, as would befit a guy with a reputation for being on the make. Remember Long’s 2017 vote to gut the Cardin-Lugar anti-corruption rule, “a major bipartisan law that helps safeguard trillions of dollars of payments to the U.S. and governments around the world.”

    However, given that most GOPers in the House voted the same way, – the party of corruption perhaps? – I’m not holding my breath and would recommend that you also refrain to do so if you expect to see Long perp-walked out of Congress. The law got Collins fair and square, looks like Long may weasel out – and his fellow GOPers will probably be just fine with that -particularly those who may be equally guilty of conspiring with Collins to line their personal pockets.

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    Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason
    A wrongful-termination lawsuit from the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) seeks information about donors to a fund that Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley allegedly used to pay his mistress, according to a report today at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

    Bentley's  extramarital relationship with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason led to his resignation as governor in April 2017. Spencer Collier's lawsuit recently produced deposition testimony in which Bentley acknowledged discussing criminal investigations of myself and Donald Watkins, the two online journalists who wrote extensively about the Mason scandal for roughly seven months before the mainstream media took serious notice. Bentley also claimed in the deposition that his fondling of Mason in state facilities did not constitute inappropriate workplace behavior.

    Collier's legal team, led by Montgomery attorney Kenneth Mendelsohn, now has filed a motion to compel, seeking to force Bentley to produce documents about donors to the nonprofit Alabama Council for Excellence in Government (ACEGOV), which is alleged to have been a slush fund for paying Mason. (The motion to compel is embedded at the end of this post.) Collier specifically seeks information about donations that were intended to affect the criminal prosecution of former House Speaker Mike Hubbard. From the APR article by Bill Britt:

    A motion to compel disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley to provide donors and contributions to the political nonprofit that paid his girlfriend was filed in Montgomery Circuit Court on Monday in the wrongful terminations suit brought by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier.

    Collier is seeking information on donations to ACEGOV a 501(c)(4) set-up to promote Bentley’s political agenda by then-General Counsel Cooper Shattuck in February 2015.

    One prominent question is whether donations to ACEGOV were intended to influence the state’s felony case against Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard.

    Collier was fired from his position at ALEA after he refused to lie to prosecutors in the Hubbard case as Bentley had ordered him to do.

    Collier's firing, reports Britt, grew from the efforts of Hubbard attorney Lance Bell to arrange for Montgomery lawyer and radio host Baron Coleman to file a complaint, accusing prosecutor Matt Hart of leaking grand-jury information. (An affidavit about Bell's actions, from current ALEA secretary Hal Taylor, is embedded at the end of this post.) Hubbard trial judge Jacob Walker III dismissed the Coleman complaint, but Collier says Bentley fired him largely for writing an affidavit stating that Hart was not under ALEA investigation because of the Coleman document. From the motion to compel:

    Unbeknownst to Collier at the time but confirmed by Bentley in his deposition, Bentley and his staff had been meeting with Hubbard’s lawyers, legislators who were friends of Hubbard and individuals identified in Hubbard’s indictment to discuss Bentley removing Assistant AG Hart from the Hubbard case or appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the AGO. Contrary to what we all learned in 6th grade Civics Class about Separation of Power, Bentley seriously considered trying to use his Office to remove Hart from the Hubbard case. It was only later that someone advised Bentley that he did not have that power.

    This likely is the strongest statement to date about coordination between Hubbard's team and Bentley's office during the criminal trial. That coordination, and related financial transactions, might have played a central role in Collier's termination. Bentley stated in his deposition that Homewood attorney Rob Riley was among several Republicans pressuring the governor to intervene in the Hubbard case. Bill Britt provides more background:

    Among ACEGOV expenditures was a payment of $2,500 per month plus expenses to Bentley’s paramour, Rebekah Caldwell Mason’s, company, RCM Communications, Inc., who is also a defendant in Collier’s lawsuit. Bentley testified that Mason was also being paid through his 2014 Campaign, even two years after the election.

    In Montgomery, ACEGOV was widely known as the “girlfriend fund,” because it was used to pay Bentley’s former special advisor, Mason.

    “The fact that a portion of these contributions were used by ACEGOV to pay Bentley’s girlfriend, a co-defendant in this case, is clearly relevant to this case,” states Collier’s motion. “The requested information goes directly to the pattern and practice claims, the potential bias between Bentley and Mason and punitive damages.”

    Collier argues he is entitled to know if any money funneled to Mason through ACEGOV came from Hubbard supporters, which would go to Bentley’s motive to destroy him.

    In essence, it’s believed that ACEGOV was a honey hole to curry favors with Bentley who then may have acted to benefit donors.













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    Doug Jones
    U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) could find himself blocked from running as a Democrat for re-election in 2020 if he votes to confirm Donald Trump's nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), an Alabama political insider says. The state Democratic Party blocked former Congressman Artur Davis from running as a Democrat for the Montgomery County Commission in 2015, and Jill Simpson says a similar fate could await Jones if he votes to place Brett Kavanaugh on the nation's highest court.

    Alabama Democratic Party leaders have an obscure administrative tool they can use against candidates who stray too far outside party boundaries. It was used against Artur Davis, and Doug Jones could find it staring him in the face, blocking his path to re-election as a Democrat.

    Jones was met with heckling over the Kavanaugh issue when he conducted a town hall on Monday night at Birmingham's Parker High School. A woman tossed a pair of stuffed lips toward Jones and said he could "kiss my ass" if he votes to confirm Kavanaugh. Jones has said he is undecided on the Kavanaugh vote.

    Simpson -- an opposition researcher, whistle blower, and retired attorney -- said heckling might be the least of Jones' worries if he votes for Kavanaugh. Jones rode into office last December largely on the votes of progressive Democrats -- especially minorities and women -- and he courted them by touting his role as a prosecutor in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing case. The anger and feeling of betrayal among those voters will be palpable, Simpson says, if Jones votes for Kavanaugh -- a strong right-winger, former George W. Bush administration official, and longtime friend to GOP henchman Karl Rove.

    In fact, Simpson says Jones' failed attempt to overthrow the Nancy Worley and Joe Reed leadership team on the Alabama Democratic Party was designed to have Jones-friendly leaders who would not fight back if he sides with Republicans on key national issues. Simpson wrote the following on a recent Facebook post:

    I have a feeling Alabama Democrats are starting to wake up to the fact Doug Jones isn't one bit loyal to the large number of Democratic folks who sent him to D.C., who worked so many hours under the leadership of Nancy Worley and Joe Reed to get him elected. That is apparent because of Jones' recent actions to overthrow their leadership, showing he is not the least bit grateful for their help; otherwise he would say he'd never consider voting for Brett Kavanaugh. 
    Jones knows the Democratic Party, as it currently is organized, will seek to remove his behind from running in the future in the party, just like they did to Artur Davis when he betrayed the party. If Jones votes against our interest in D.C. and votes for Kavanaugh,  Joe Reed and Nancy Worley have the skill to take him off the ballot next election; they have pretty much done that with Artur Davis in the past, keeping him off a ballot after his Republican flip flop in the Siegelman case years back. 
    Doug's big plan is to circumvent rules that the candidates must be real Democrats, who don't support far-right extremists for the Supreme Court, and I am hearing people in state leadership believe he is trying to install people at the leadership level who would accept his betrayal of Democrats by voting for Trump's nominee.  If Jones does that, he deserves being forever removed from running again as a Democrat, and we are going to need Nancy Worley and Joe Reed, as they had to do this same kind of deal with Artur Davis -- and they did it successfully.

    The tool that could block Jones' re-election is called the Radney Rule. Artur Davis learned a painful lesson about the Radney Rule in 2015:

    Former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis is taking the state Democratic party to court. The party has rejected Davis’ bid to run as a Democrat again.

    The Alabama Democratic Party has the Radney Rule, which prevents a candidate from switching parties if that candidate has supported another party over the last four years.

    In 2012 Davis ran as a Democrat for governor and lost in the primary. Davis then campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

    The state chairwoman of the Democratic party says that is enough to bar Davis from running as a Democrat.

    "He has definitely supported Republicans and he has definitely worked on the behalf of Republicans within the last four years. So the Radney Rule applied," Alabama Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Worley said.

    A judge dismissed Davis' lawsuit in November 2015, and Davis has been pretty much a political non-entity ever since. (The court opinion is embedded at the end of this post.) Could such a fate await Doug Jones? Well, Jones never has switched parties and openly supported Republicans, as Davis did.
    But Jones has longstanding alliances when some of the state's scummiest Republicans -- including Rob Riley, Jeff Sessions, Bill Canary, Bill Pryor, and Karl Rove. The language of the Radney Rule -- and the court opinion interpreting it -- is broad. That means Doug Jones could be playing with fire.

    Artur Davis
    Jill Simpson writes at Facebookthat Doug Jones and Rob Riley essentially have been trying to take over both of the state's political parties. She says the Kavanaugh vote, and its repercussions, could sink those efforts:

    As of now, this helps folks see that Doug Jones was never what he pretended to be in the first place -- and it explains Doug's actions, and his indecision, on the Kavanaugh matter. The lust for power of Doug Jones and Rob Riley, and their desire to control both parties of elites, is what messed up Alabama politics for nearly the past 20 years; it is an ongoing saga of deceit and corruption that is unfolding now before the public, on this Kavanaugh matter, and it's going to come to an end, one way or the other, on this vote.  
    The time has arrived where both political parties want to end these two-faced political games played by Rob and Doug, who seek to confuse voters on where they stand. Both sides now agree the public deserves to know where politicians stand. Jones is going to be forced with the Kavanaugh decision to pick one side or the other. But either way, citizens will figure out that Doug is a two-faced jerk, as they watch him act like a snake in the grass, squirming around trying to figure out what the f___ to do from being exposed as a liar to both Republican or Democrats. Seeing Doug Jones exposed as a two faced jerk is a win for all in this state if it causes his political career to end pretty quickly.
    Doug Jones and Rob Riley have wreaked havoc in our state for far too long, playing both sides -- and that is over with. This one choice of who goes on the Supreme Court ends any control they ever had, as folks see them clearly now. 
    You will see me on the Progressive Democrat side demanding daily that Doug vote against Kavanaugh, and you will see state Republican chair Terry Lathan demanding he vote for Kavanaugh. Either way Doug votes, he has to choose which group of voters he serves. There will be consequences for however he votes. We have cornered this two-faced jerk, trying to play both sides. In the end, what matters is that we stop Doug Jones and Rob Riley from ever trying to control both of our state parties.






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    Chris Blevins
    Alabama has recognized so many forms of legal immunity over the years that it causes mass confusion for anyone trying to get a grip on the subject. In my research, I've encountered probably 8-10 (maybe more) forms of immunity that can apply to Alabamians. Some are based on state law, some on federal law, and some . . . heck, I don't know where they come from.

    A 2010 opinion from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) helped cut through the clutter by proclaiming that Alabama now recognizes only two forms of state immunity -- and it's clear neither affects the Shelby County law-enforcement types who are defendants in our "Jail Case." (Various forms of federal immunity, of course, still apply in Alabama, but those are not a factor in the Jail Case.)

    U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins wrongly dismissed our state-law claims against former Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry and deputies Chris Blevins, Jason Valenti, and Mike DeHart. How do we know Hopkins got it wrong? Well, we spelled it out in two previous posts. (See here and here.) And a case styled Grider v. City of Auburn, 618 F.3d 1240 (11th Cir., 2010)provides even more clarity. (Hopkins' judgment, and our Rule 59 motion -- plus our two amendments to the motion -- are embedded at the end of this post.) From the Grider ruling:

    “As for Plaintiffs' state-law claims, Alabama recognizes two types of state-law immunity: "state-agent immunity" and "discretionary-function immunity. Brown v. City of Huntsville, 608 F.3d 724 (discussing Alabama's two types of state-law immunity). First, state-agent immunity under Alabama's common law protects state employees, as agents of the State, in the exercise of their judgment in executing their work responsibilities."Ex parte Hayles, 852 So.2d 117, 122 (Ala.2002). In Ex parte Cranman, 792 So.2d 392 (Ala. 2000), a plurality of the Alabama Supreme Court restated and clarified the scope of Alabama's state-agent immunity doctrine, which may apply to all Defendants.”

    State-agent immunity, according to Grider, does not apply to the law-enforcement defendants in the Jail Case. Discretionary-function immunity, however, does apply. From Grider:

    “Second, there is statutory, discretionary-function immunity for law enforcement officers in Alabama. Brown, 608 F.3d at 741. Specifically, § 6-5-338 of the Alabama Code contains a provision immunizing law enforcement officers from tort liability for conduct within the scope of their discretionary law enforcement duties. Ala.Code § 6-5-338(a) (1994) "Every peace officer ... shall have immunity from tort liability arising out of his or her conduct in performance of any discretionary function within the line and scope of his or her law enforcement duties."Wood v. Kesler, 323 F.3d 872, 883 (11th Cir. 2003).

    Does discretionary-function immunity provide absolute protection for law-enforcement officials? Absolutely not, as the Grider court makes clear, citing a case styled Ex parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392 (Ala., 2000). From Grider: (Citations omitted, but they are included in court documents below.)

    Cranman's test for state-agent immunity also governs whether law enforcement officers are entitled to statutory, discretionary-function immunity under § 6-5-338(a). This includes the Reynolds burden-shifting framework, first requiring the defendant law enforcement officer to show that he was acting within the ambit of his discretionary functions and then shifting the burden to the plaintiff to show "bad intent"— that the officer acted willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, or beyond his or her authority — in order to defeat the officer's discretionary-function immunity. ("The restatement of State-agent immunity as set out in Cranman, now governs the determination of whether a peace officer is entitled to immunity under § 6-5-338(a)."). Thus, Plaintiffs can pierce both state-agent immunity and discretionary-function immunity by showing that Defendants . . . acted "willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law."

    Can we show in the Jail Case that Blevins and Co. acted in such a fashion -- maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, etc.? Given that Blevins broke into our home, without a warrant, and beat me up while making an arrest that involved no criminal allegations, much less felony allegations . . . I would say there is no doubt we can prove the officers acted in a manner that removes the cloak of state immunity.



    (To be continued)















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    NBC's Chuck Todd (left) reacts to Rudy Giuliani's proclamation
    that "truth isn't truth"
    Rudy Giuliani might have dropped the most memorable (and absurd) statement of the Trump era yesterday when, in reference to a possible interview involving the president and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he said "Truth isn't truth."

    The statement almost drew a guffaw from Chuck Todd, host of MSNBC's Meet the Press. (The Todd/Giuliani interview is embedded at the end of this post.) Richard Painter, Trump critic and former White House ethicist under George W. Bush, said such attempts to distort the truth are a sign of totalitarian leadership in the making. Here is Painter from an interview with Al Sharpton yesterday on MSNBC's AM Joy. (See YouTube video, starting at the 23:20 mark.):

    This is a rehash of what Kellyanne Conway said when she talked about "alternative facts." There is such a thing as objective truth. And those on the extreme left and extreme right have consistently attacked the notion of objective truth. This is the way Hitler talked in his political campaigns. This is a distortion of the truth, combined with extreme racism and extreme religious bigotry. It is very dangerous for our country. The White House is not going to fix this problem. It is up to the United States Congress to address it. The Constitution has an impeachment clause. The Congress is not investigating. It is their obligation to hold hearings. . . . They aren't doing anything; they are sitting on their rear-ends, griping about Hillary Clinton's emails and the FBI. I hope voters throw every last one of them out the door.

    We have come to admire Painter as a rare voice of Republican reason and integrity. But we know from firsthand experience that distortion of the truth did not start in the United States with Donald Trump's rise to power. We've seen it in Jeff Sessions' Alabama and Eric Greitens' Missouri -- especially in courtrooms, where the equivalent of  "truth isn't truth" might be "facts aren't facts and law isn't law."

    We could give at least a half dozen examples, but let's focus for now on the case that started our legal headaches -- the criminal trespassing case we brought against Mike McGarity (the troublesome neighbor and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama employee) who threatened to sue us for attempting to protect our own property rights and refused to stay off our yard despite what he admitted were repeated warnings.

    Ron Jackson, former Shelby County district judge, found McGarity "not guilty" of the offense, even though he admitted to committing it. We're not kidding -- the guy was acquitted after admitting he was guilty as charged, and that gave McGarity grounds to sue us for a disfavored tort called malicious prosecution. It essentially refers to a case, either criminal or civil, that is brought without probable cause (or probable grounds). We had not only probable cause, we had actual cause, so no reputable attorney would have filed such a case. But McGarity managed to get a disreputable attorney -- William E. Swatek, with his long disciplinary history via the Alabama State Bar -- and that lawsuit cost us tens of thousands of dollars, led to us being cheated out of jobs, me being kidnapped and thrown in jail, my wife Carol's arm being broken, etc.

    How badly were the facts, law, and truth distorted in our criminal trespassing case against McGarity? We addressed that in a post from October 2016:

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

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

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

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

    The "Giuliani moments" came when the case hit the courtroom:

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

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

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

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

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

    How nutty can this stuff get? Imagine O.J. Simpson admitting in court that he killed Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, only to have Judge Lance Ito rule, "In this case, I'm going to acquit." Judge Jackson did the equivalent of that in our case -- proving that he lives in GiulianiVille, a land where "truth isn't truth,""facts aren't facts," and "law isn't law":

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

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

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

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

    We suspect Richard Painter has his history in order when he says efforts to distort objective truth are a sign of a totalitarian government. But our experience teaches that such efforts are not limited to Donald Trump or the presidency. Our courts -- at every level -- appear to be infested with them. We've seen that in an up close and personal way.






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    Burt and Regina Newsome
    Someone is conducting a coordinated terrorism campaign against Birmingham attorney Burt Newsome and his family. Like much that is wrong with Alabama, it appears connected to big businesses -- and the large law firms who cater to them. For us here at Legal Schnauzer, the whole thing smells both foul and familiar.

    Roughly three weeks ago, one or more thugs targeted Newsome's wife, Regina, for a smash and grab on her vehicle while it was parked at a Vestavia Hills fitness center. Now, someone has sent a threatening package to the Newsome home -- in the form of five sets of luggage and numerous items of clothing.

    What is threatening about that? Well, some curious numbers are involved -- and the "gift" of luggage, of course, sends the message that someone is (or should be) going somewhere. We'll let banbalch.com, which broke the story, explain:

    You would think the thugs behind the alleged targeted break-in of the vehicle driven by Burt Newsome’s wife were beyond stupid in this day of high-definition video surveillance and phone tracking software.

    But now come the real sick, idiots who sent the Newsome family a threatening package: Five pieces of luggage and numerous clothing outfits. There were approximately three dozen outfits for mom and the young Newsome children.

    The message was crystal clear: get ready to pack and leave town.

    The full message is not clear, but banbalch.com makes some educated guesses -- and notes that the scheme should leave useful evidence behind. As for the curious numbers, the Newsomes are a family of six -- a father, a mother, and four children. The five sets of luggage suggest someone is, or might be, missing:

    Were they threatening the family? The father, Burt Newsome? Was he going to be injured, killed or murdered? Or were the wife and children going to “disappear” on a permanent vacation?

    All done through an online retailer, the purchase can be tracked using IP addresses and metadata. Even a hacker’s digital trail can be traced.

    Our sources tell us at least two law enforcement agencies are investigating the threat, and the online retailer is probing the matter, too.

    How did Burt Newsome run afoul of someone with evil intent -- and more power than brains? We explained, in our post about the smash-and-grab incident:

    Regina Galiulina Newsome apparently was targeted while at Lifetime Fitness for a tennis lesson, according to her Facebook page. The incident, on July 30, came nine days after former Balch Bingham partner Joel Gilbert was convicted of bribery in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal. It also came after reports of a possible RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) lawsuit related to Balch's efforts to essentially steal Burt Newsome's lucrative collections practice and ruin his law business.

    Was Regina Newsome targeted in an effort to intimidate her husband into forgoing a RICO lawsuit that could expose some prominent political figures -- including former U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions (now Trump attorney general) and Luther Strange, plus Strange's one-time mistress and campaign manager, Jessica Medeiros Garrison?

    It has been widely reported that Sessions is closely tied to Balch Bingham, and the firm long has been one of his largest financial backers. Earlier this month, Mother Jones reported that Sessions and his office coordinated their attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the Superfund case, working more closely with Balch than was previously known. Does that mean the terror campaign against the Newsome family could go right to the top of the U.S. Department of Justice? If Jeff Sessions feels threatened by a possible RICO lawsuit from Burt Newsome, the answer could be yes.

    How does all of this hit close to home here at Legal Schnauzer? Well, we know a thing or two about what it's like to be targeted by Alabama's white-collar business/legal thugs -- who seem to spend much of their time drunk on entitlement and power. Here is background from our smash-and-grab post:

    This all hits close to home because I was the victim of an even more outrageous intimidation effort. In fall 2013, I essentially was kidnapped from our Birmingham home -- deputies unlawfully broke into our home (without stating they had a warrant or showing a warrant) and beat me up and arrested me on a civil matter, with not even a whiff of a criminal allegation. It was related to my reporting on this blog about the "close relationship" of GOP politico Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, so I essentially spent five months in the Shelby County Jail for blogging -- apparently the only U.S. journalist in history to be so targeted. The bogus arrest caused us to lose our home of 25 years to a wrongful foreclosure.

    Ironically, both my arrest and the Regina Newsome smash and grab came as concerns about possible RICO cases against right-wing political figures were circulating in news accounts.

    We have no doubt Strange and Garrison were involved in my arrest, plus the theft of our home, and we would not be surprised if Jeff Sessions and his protege, U.S. Judge Bill Pryor, also were involved. We have pending federal-court cases -- The Jail Case and The House Case -- in both matters.

    You will notice that the attacks on my wife, Carol, and me resulted in us losing our home and being forced to leave town, now living like refugees in Springfield, Missouri -- where I grew up, but where we certainly do not want to be now. As banbalch.com notes, the luggage scam sends a signal that perhaps the Newsomes would be wise to "leave town." That makes me think some of the people who have attacked Carol and me also are involved in targeting the Newsomes.

    Robert Stacy McCain and
    Ali (Akbar) Alexander
    Thugs used a combination of a kidnapping (and bogus incarceration) with a wrongful foreclosure to force us out of town, as we explained in a January 2017 post:

    We timely paid on our home for 23-plus years, and only ran into a crunch after both of us were cheated out of our jobs. Chase Mortgage had granted us a forbearance to work out the payment issues, and we were moving toward resolution, when I was arrested -- beaten and doused with pepper spray inside my own home and stashed in the Shelby County Jail for five months. By the time of my release on March 26, 2014, our house already had been declared in default, and any realistic chance to save our house had been lost.

    How did RICO figure into our situation? I'm still not sure how that happened, but various online entities combined to create a narrative (a false one, BTW) that  I was pushing for a RICO lawsuit against a group of right-wing bloggers.  Here are specifics:

    Someone concocted a scheme in fall 2013 that made it look like I was pushing for a RICO lawsuit, on behalf of progressive activist Brett Kimberlin, against the right-wing National Bloggers Club (NBC), led by GOP and Karl Rove-affiliated felon Ali (Akbar) Alexander. It all grew from comments left at the Web site Breitbart Unmasked, by someone calling himself "RogerS."Conventional wisdom in right-wing circles was that I was "RogerS," and this was just days before my arrest. In fact, I was not RogerS, and I had no involvement in the Kimberlin matter.

    How is this for irony?

    (1) Our research indicates RogerS made his debut at Breitbart Unmasked, suggesting a RICO lawsuit against the NBC and certain of its members, on Oct. 16, 2013;

    (2) I was arrested on Oct. 23, 2013, one week later;

    (3) In a post dated Oct. 24, 2013 -- the day after my arrest -- a blog called Patterico's Pontifications (written by an NBC member) apparently was the first to suggest publicly that I was RogerS;

    (4) Who was first to write about my arrest? That never has been clear, but NBC member Robert Stacy McCain (The Other McCain) likely broke it, either at his blog or at American Spectator. McCain's Wikipedia page notes that he "resides on the Atlantic Seaboard." Does that mean he makes it a regular practice to check arrest records for Shelby County, AL? That would seem odd, so perhaps a GOP insider, connected to the bloggers' club, knew my arrest was coming and gave McCain a tip?

    This much is certain: Talk of RICO lawsuits makes bad guys nervous, and it can lead them to take unlawful and irrational acts. It is becoming more and more clear that is what drove -- at least in part -- my arrest and incarceration, plus the loss of our home. I suspect it also is driving the terror campaign against Burt Newsome and his family.

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    Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, and Michael Cohen

    In perhaps the worst 24-hour period for the presidency in U.S. history, the Donald Trump administration yesterday was laid bare as a hothouse for grifters. Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was found guilty of financial crimes, and the president's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, reached a plea deal in which he admitted to discussing or making hush payments to two women who alleged they had extramarital affairs with candidate Trump. Cohen stated that he acted at the "direction of the candidate" for "the principal purpose of influencing the [2016 presidential] election" -- indicating Trump engineered a federal crime, a violation of campaign-finance laws.

    No one should be surprised that this whole sordid tale has tentacles that reach Alabama, which often has been Ground Zero for conservative-driven corruption for more than 20 years -- dating at least to Karl Rove's effort to turn the Alabama Supreme Court over to the GOP in 1994.

    How bad was Donald Trump's Tuesday? Perhaps no one put it more succinctly than U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who stated on Twitter:

    White House looks increasingly like a criminal enterprise with the convictions today of President Trump’s former campaign manager and personal lawyer—and the inclusion of the President as an unnamed, unindicted co-conspirator in the Cohen plea agreement.

    What about Alabama ties to this sleazefest? Let's start with reports that Trump is enraged at Rudy Giuliani for failing to accept an attorney-general appointment, causing former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to take the job and leading (in Trump's mind) to the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel. From a report at mediate.com:

    As Robert Mueller‘s investigation continues to loom over the White House, a new report suggests that President Donald Trump is blaming Rudy Giuliani for allowing the Russia probe to become such a headache for his administration.

    Vanity Fair‘sGabriel Sherman reports that several Trump administration officials have told him that the president has become increasingly panicked over the Mueller probe, resulting in an increased frequency of his tweetstorms on the subject. One adviser says that recent developments have especially caused Trump to rage more and more over Jeff Sessions‘ recusal from investigations on Russia.

    Giuliani’s performances on television have been decidedly mixed since coming on board as the president’s attorney. Despite that, however, Trump — according to this new report — thinks Giuliani would have been effective in the attorney general role that he offered the former New York mayor.

    From Vanity Fair:

    According to a person to whom the conversation was described, Trump loudly said to his lawyer: “It’s your fault! I offered you attorney general, but you insisted on being secretary of state. Had I picked you, none of this would be happening.” (The White House declined to comment.)

    As for Manafort, Alabama political insider Jill Simpson said his ties to the state go back at least 12 years and efforts to win a U.S. Air Force refueling-tanker contract for European interests with ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Among the Alabama conservative heavyweights involved in that effort were former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, former Gov. Bob Riley, and former Business Council of Alabama president Bill Canary. Writes Simpson, on her Facebook page:

    I have been after Manafort's bunch since I first came forward in fall of 2006, with how his firm with Rick Davis and the Alabama Gang ( the Riley and Sessions bunch) were working to sell our EADS refueling tanker to Putin through Oleg Deripaska. In 2008 Wayne Madsen helped me as an opposition researcher to get out the story of what they we're doing, and, folks, we are never letting up.

    Yesterday's events could lead to more Alabama-related news, related to Chattanooga money man Franklin Haney and his efforts, with help from Michael Cohen, to get a stalled nuclear reactor off the ground in north Alabama. Writes Simpson:

    I am hopeful that this results in Cohen telling on everyone involved in the nuclear deal in Scottsboro, Alabama. I am hopeful we learn how the Riley-Sessions Republican money man, Franklin Haney -- working for the Alabama Gang Crime Family -- tried to give Cohen $10 Million to get $5 billion from the U.S. government. Plus, Cohen could tell  how the idiots tried to sell access to the facility to Qatar, so that Qatar could become a full-blown nuclear power. 
    Many of us in the Alabama Progressive Democratic Resistance have spent years tracking Cohen's buddy, Felix Sater, and his deals with AmCham Russia -- which is tied to the Riley-Session deals with Oleg Deripaska and EADS. 
    U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and the whole legislative gang running for national office from Alabama . . . well, we have been watching as they have tried to help put this nuclear-power plant deal through. One has to wonder why state attorney general Steve Marshall is not investigating that matter?

    It's possible that no American has lived through a news cycle quite like the one we saw unfold yesterday. Charles P. Pierce, of Esquire, provides perspective:

    Nobody can deny that this already is the single most awesome infrastructure week ever.

    For a long moment on Tuesday afternoon, the Deputy Finance Director of the Republican National Committee (Michael Cohen), and the president*'s longtime fixer, was copping a plea; the president*'s former campaign manager was getting slugged for bank fraud; the president* himself was off to another wankfest, this time in West Virginia; and the folks at Hardball went to the electric Twitter machine and told us that Omarosa has another secret audiotape to reveal on that show Tuesday night.

    I lived through Watergate. I lived through the Saturday Night Massacre, when it looked like the Constitution was being barbecued over an open flame. There never was anything like this.

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    Foster Friess
    An endorsement from Donald Trump was not enough to keep a billionaire backer of conservative causes from losing in Tuesday's Republican primary for governor of Wyoming. On a national level, the story suggests Trump's coattails might have grown flimsy. Closer to home, the story resonates because a growing body of evidence suggests the moneyed candidate in question -- perhaps unknowingly -- has contributed to corruption in Alabama's "justice system."

    Foster Friess -- a financial backer of Karl Rove's Crossroads America, Rick Santorum's political campaigns, and the Daily Caller Web site -- finished second to state treasurer Mark Gordon, who will face Democrat Mary Throne in November's general election.

    How has Friess possibly contributed to corruption in Alabama? That would be through the National Bloggers Club (NBC), an umbrella group for mostly obscure right-wing bloggers. Ali Akbar, a felon who went on a six-year spree of crime and fraud, somehow became head of the NBC -- and that largely explains Friess' unsavory impact on Alabama's already toxic political and legal environment.

    How did Akbar, with multiple criminal convictions and a documented taste for seeking gay sex via the Grindr geosocial networking app, come to represent those hallowed GOP family values?  Perhaps Foster Friess asks himself that question from time to time, as he counts his billions. (Note: Akbar seems to be in the process of changing his name to Ali (Akbar) Alexander. That might be a wise move for a convicted felon and Grinder devotee, who has expressed a desire to run for public office.)

    For now, our interest is in Akbar's apparent connections to two attacks on Alabama progressives:

    (1) My kidnapping and five-month incarceration in 2013-14 for the "crime" of  blogging about mostly GOP-related corruption in Alabama's legal and political arenas;

    (2) False allegations of misconduct (related mostly to a serious neck injury) against whistle blower, opposition researcher, and retired attorney Dana Jill Simpson, which caused her to be placed on inactive/disability status with the Alabama State Bar.

    What makes Akbar (and perhaps the NBC) a suspect in these two instances. We are still researching the specifics, but we know this much:

    (1) Akbar threatened Simpson, bragging online that he was going to come to Alabama, "dine with the Governor and then spend the afternoon cashing in favors with Alabama lawyers."

    (2) Akbar was pissed at Simpson because she had written a letter to Obama campaign counsel Robert Bauer, in which she revealed Akbar's homosexual relationship with GOP guru Karl Rove.

    (3) Akbar was pissed at me for reporting on the Simpson letter, and threatened a baseless lawsuit, via a Montgomery attorney and radio host named Baron Coleman.

    Ali (Akbar) Alexander, Foster Friess, and
    Robert Stacy McCain
    (4) Akbar's statement about "cashing in favors with Alabama lawyers" appears to be a reference to the Alabama State Bar. (What better way to seek favors from lawyers than through the state bar?)  It suggests Akbar has the pull to get the Alabama State Bar to improperly target certain individuals -- such as Jill Simpson and me. How could that be, how could Akbar have such ties?

    (5) As already noted, Akbar has used the legal services of Baron Coleman. Tripp Vickers, assistant general counsel with the State Bar, once worked with Coleman at the Montgomery law firm of Sasser, Sefton, and Brown.

    (6) Vickers directed the dubious process that brought Simpson's legal career to a halt. As for me (and my wife, Carol), evidence we've collected so far indicates Vickers was involved in interfering with at least one of our pending federal lawsuits, per a statement from Fultondale attorney Greg Morris.

    We still are gathering facts on all of this, which could lead to a RICO lawsuit. This much seems clear: Foster Friess might never become governor of Wyoming, but he soon could have reason for concern about events in Alabama. It seems someone has used Friess' financial resources to conduct some seriously underhanded business.

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    John McCain and Sarah Palin
    One could not scroll through cable-news networks the past two days without seeing a tribute to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who died on Saturday of brain cancer. Most of the tributes focused on McCain's status as a long-term senator, a one-time GOP presidential nominee, and perhaps America's most famous prisoner of war. Much of the programming portrayed McCain as a "maverick," a man of honor who placed integrity over political considerations.

    The McCain story, however, was not as pristine or heroic as the tributes would have you believe. From his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate, to his "improper relationship" with a female lobbyist, to his unseemly cash-driven dances with Russian and gaming interests, McCain frequently showed dreadful judgment and ethics that were more than a little shaky.

    In fact, McCain engaged in an apparent cover-up that had a profoundly negative impact on the already toxic political culture of Alabama. McCain's tendency to be a poor judge of character and competence was on full display in Alabama during the run-up to his 2008 run for the White House.

    McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as a VP running mate might go down as the most glaring gaffe in American political history -- and Laura McGann, of Vox, writes that the decision led to the current Republican Party turmoil swirling around Donald Trump:

    The party of Donald Trump began almost 10 years ago to the day, when John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to join his ticket.

    It’s one of the most important moments of McCain’s career. He proved willing to empower a demagogue when he thought doing so would improve his political fortunes, exactly the sin so many of his colleagues in the Republican Party have committed since Trump won their party’s nomination. . . .

    Palin’s big moment in front of a national audience was at the Republican National Convention. Her big opener was to ask the crowd: “What’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull?” Her answer: “Lipstick.”

    Her showdown with Joe Biden at the first vice presidential debate was the most anticipated moment of the campaign. The debate began with a handshake between the two candidates and Palin asking Biden, “Hey, can I call you Joe?” It went downhill from there. She stumbled through or garbled talking points on basic policy questions, weaving in half a dozen references to “maverick” and “a team of mavericks.” The event drew 70 million viewers — the largest audience for a vice presidential debate in history.

    Palin’s run solidified the Republican Party’s comfort with a candidate who would say absurdities. When Katie Couric wanted to know what newspapers she read, Palin answered, “Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.”

    Even though McCain and Palin were bested by Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Palin inspired a slew of copycats, unleashing a political style and a values system that animated the Tea Party movement and laid the groundwork for a Trump presidency.

    During the 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama, The New York Times reported that McCain had been involved in an "inappropriate relationship" with a female lobbyist name Vicki Iseman. From The Times:

    Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

    A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

    When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

    Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

    The Times report hardly was a model of journalistic clarity. We called it "wishy-washy, at best, never directly stating that McCain and Iseman had an affair." We also noted it made ample use of anonymous sources , a common journalistic practice for which Times reporter Campbell Robertson bashed me after Alabama political thugs had me kidnapped and incarcerated for five months over a case of alleged defamation (which never was proven in court) involving the relationship between GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke.

    Iseman wound up suing The Times, and the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement.

    As for Russia, McCain engaged in dubious dalliances with the nation's oligarchs some 10 years before the Trump crime family made it "fashionable." Considerable evidence suggests McCain's tough talk on Russia was mostly for show. The 2008 McCain campaign used the services of Paul Manafort, the former Trump adviser who now is a convicted felon, and the candidate met twice with Oleg Deripaska, the Russian aluminum magnate who has alleged ties to organized crime. From an article at circa.com:

    McCain actually met twice with Deripaska, a Russian businessman and Putin ally whose visa was blocked by the United States amidst intelligence community concerns about his ties to Moscow. The meetings were arranged by Manafort and his lobbying firm partner Rick Davis, who later would become McCain's campaign manager, according to interviews and documents. Deripaska, a metals magnet, is president of United Company RUSAL, and is considered to be one of the richest men in the world worth an estimated at $5.1 billion, according to Forbes.My sense is that Davis and Manafort, who were already doing pro-Putin work against American national interests, were using potential meetings with McCain --- who didn't know this and neither did we until after the fact -- as bait to secure more rubles from the oligarchs,” John Weaver, one of McCain’s top advisers at the time, told Circa in an interview this month.

    Davis was McCain's campaign manager in both 2000 and 2008. Manafort, who was Trump's campaign manager for a brief time, resigned in August 2016, over questions of prior work with Ukrainian political parties.

    John McCain boards a yacht in Montenegro.
    Deripaska would show up by McCain a second time, during an official trip to Montenegro, another place where the Davis-Manafort firm was offering advice.
    Deripaska and Davis joined McCain and other officials at a dinner hosted by the country’s government in August 2006, and some of the attendees went on to take a cruise aboard a yacht where drinks and pastry were served in honor of McCain’s 70th birthday.

    The yacht’s host was another lobbying client, Raffaello Follieri, a young Italian who gained fame by dating the American actress Anne Hathaway. In 2008, shortly before McCain lost the presidential election, Follieri pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud and money laundering.

    Why would McCain meet twice with a Russian billionaire who has been described in the press as a mobster? McCain aides have spent years skirting that question. But when the United States issued sanctions earlier this year against dozens of Russian oligarchs, there was little room for doubt that Deripaska is an unsavory character. From a report at The Hill:

    Among those hit by the penalties was Oleg Deripaska, a billionaire aluminum magnate who once had ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

    According the Treasury Department, the sanctions on Deripaska, 50, were prompted by allegations of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegal wiretapping, extortion and racketeering.

    Less than two months before the 2008 presidential election, The New York Times reported on McCain's longstanding ties to the gaming industry. From our post, providing a summary on the issue:

    Those of us in Alabama already know about Republicans and their sleazy ties to gambling. But what do we learn specifically about McCain from today's Times piece and the investigative work of reporters Jo Becker and Don Van Natta Jr.?

    * He has gambled at least once a month for most of his adult life, and weekend betting marathons in Las Vegas have been regular events;

    * Only six members of Congress have received more financial support from the gaming industry than McCain--and five of those are from the gambling-rich states of Nevada and New Jersey;

    * Mr. "Fiscal Responsibility" McCain, has voted twice for casino tax breaks that have cost the government $326 million over 12 years;

    * Sig Rogich, a Las Vegas GOP kingmaker, raised some $2 million for McCain;

    * Several McCain associates benefited financially from the [Jack] Abramoff investigation. John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist, made $100,000 over four months in 2005 for serving as a consultant to a tribe caught in the inquiry.

    All of this does not come as a surprise to us here at Legal Schnauzer. The marriage between Republican greed and big gaming dollars has infected Alabama politics for years.

    One of the ugliest chapters in John McCain's professional life involved Alabama and gaming. That will be the focus of an upcoming post.

    Until then, we could use a comic break. A video below of the classic Saturday Night Live skit about the Palin-Biden debate (featuring Tina Fey as an unforgettable Sarah Palin) is just the ticket.

    That's where Jason Sudeikis, as Joe Biden, uttered these famous words:

    "Look, I love John McCain. He's one of my dearest friends. But at the same time, he's also dangerously unbalanced. I mean let's be frank, John McCain -- and again, this is a man I would take a bullet for -- is bad at his job and mentally unstable. 
    "As my mother would say, 'God love him, but he's a raging maniac' -- and a dear, dear friend."

    (To be continued)




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    John McCain and Bob Riley
    (From Selma Daily)
    Since his death on Saturday, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) largely has been portrayed in the press as a heroic figure, a man of exceptional integrity in the swampy confines of  our nation's capital. But numerous examples can be found of McCain acting with poor judgment and shaky ethics. One of the most glaring examples involves a former Alabama governor and the gaming industry -- and McCain's actions helped ensure Alabama would be a political sewer for years to come.

    We're talking about Gov. Bob Riley (2003-11), the raging GOP hypocrite who claimed to be against gambling but rode into office on a wave of laundered Indian gaming dollars -- and a little overnight election theft. As chairman of the Senate committee investigating the Jack Abramoff scandal, McCain had evidence that Riley was involved but chose to keep that out of his report -- keeping attention away from the Alabama governor and largely letting him skate, even though he was one of the scandal's primary beneficiaries.

    McCain released the "Gimme Five" report on the scandal in September 2006, but roughly 17 months later, Sam Stein of Huffington Post reported that McCain covered up an email that showed Riley's involvement. (The email, between Abramoff and partner Michael Scanlon, is embedded at the end of this post.) This is from a February 2008 Legal Schnauzer post about the HuffPo scoop:

    Huffington Post obtained a copy of a 2002 e-mail in which Abramoff explains to an aide what he would like to see Riley do in return for the "help" he received from Abramoff's tribal clients:

    An official with the Mississippi Choctaws "definitely wants Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation," Abramoff wrote, including his announcing that anyone caught gambling there can't qualify for a state contract or something like that."

    McCain and his staff had access to this information before issuing their report--showing a direct link between Abramoff and Riley. But McCain's committee sat on the information.

    What impact did this have on Alabama politics. It likely changed the course of state history in the 2000s:

    Stein notes the political implications of the committee's failure to expose the Abramoff-Riley connection. Word leaked prior to the 2002 election that [Don] Siegelman was under federal investigation, and he lost the Alabama gubernatorial race to Riley by fewer than 3,000 votes.

    Riley took office in January 2003 and won re-election in 2006, while McCain kept the Abramoff connection safely under wraps.

    Would the prosecution that landed Siegelman in prison have ever happened if McCain had not provided cover for Riley? That is one of many interesting questions raised by Stein's story.

    Stein showed in a follow-up post that McCain did more than just protect Riley. He financially backed the Riley campaign and received an endorsement from the governor in return. From a March 2008 Legal Schnauzer post on the subject, quoting Stein:

    And yet, McCain took steps beyond merely protecting Riley from his Abramoff probe. Despite knowing that there were questions surrounding the ethical conduct of the Alabama governor, McCain actively supported his campaign. McCain's Straight Talk America PAC contributed $10,000 to Riley's re-election coffers. The Arizona senator attended Riley's inauguration and touted him as having "every potential to be a national figure."

    Why take these steps? For starters, the two men do have past history. While they clashed on the topic of campaign finance reform, they served together in Congress on the Joint Armed Services Committee. And months before the 2006 campaign, they traveled together to Iraq. There are personal ties as well. McCain's Alabama legal advisor, Matt Lembke, was a Riley confidant during his controversial 2002 race against then Gov. Don Seigelman (who has since been arrested on a highly-controversially, politically tainted, corruption charge). Troy King, meanwhile, was appointed the state's attorney general by Riley and now serves as McCain's Alabama chairman.

    McCain thought Bob Riley had the potential to be a "national figure"? This is from the same guy who went on to pick Sarah Palin as his VP running mate. In retrospect, Riley is not keeping such great company here. Here is more about McCain's possible calculations in protecting Riley:

    Stein reports that McCain might have had his own career in mind when he took steps to protect Riley:

    Around the time that McCain sat on the Abramoff email and was making donations to Riley's gubernatorial campaign (as well as other Alabama GOP officials), the governor was signing into law legislation that moved Alabama's 2008 primary from June 3 to February 5 (Super Tuesday). At the time, the move made the state - alongside South Carolina - a southern barometer for any Republican White House candidate. Since then, however, other states followed Alabama's lead, diminishing its impact. And following Riley's re-election, much talk in political circles centered on him being a viable vice presidential choice.

    All told, there was a political balance in Alabama which McCain likely did not want to disturb."If you are fixing to run for president, you don't want to step in the own [shit] you've created," said a source close to the Riley-Abramoff-Siegelman case. "You don't want to be the guy who is known for the downfall of Bob Riley."




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    Mike Hubbard
    When an appellate court issues a ruling in a high-profile criminal matter, the finding itself usually is the big news. But that is not the case in Michael Gregory Hubbard v. State of Alabama.

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals on Monday upheld convictions on 11 of 12 ethics-law violations against Hubbard, former speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. That should not have been a surprise to anyone -- although Hubbard lawyer Bill Baxley claimed to be "shocked" -- given the mountain of evidence pointing toward Hubbard's guilt. But the primary question in this case was: What in the world took the court so long?

    A jury of Hubbard's peers in Lee County convicted him on 12 of 23 counts in June 2016. Yes, that is more than two years ago. Hubbard filed his first appellate brief in May 2017, which is roughly 15 months ago. Yes, courts can be slow, but they aren't that slow.

    A number of observers have speculated that the all-Republican appellate courts -- perhaps with the assistance of the right-leaning Alabama State Bar -- were stalling on the Hubbard ruling until after the 2018 midterm elections in November. The thinking apparently was that not even an Alabama court could be so shameless as to overturn all of the convictions in the Hubbard case -- so, with an affirmance virtually a given, Republican leaders feared that releasing the appellate ruling before November could damage GOP hopes at the ballot box.

    (What's that you're saying? American courts are supposed to be above such unseemly political considerations? Hah, your mind must be stuck in another place and time. Alabama courts are the place where integrity went to die, and courts in many other states aren't much better.)

    So, we are left with this question: If the Hubbard ruling was delayed by political considerations, why did the Alabama legal hierarchy change directions and release the 160-page opinion now, as the calendar has not even hit Labor Day?

    That suggests something happened to change certain privileged white, conservative minds. What could that have been? Well, others have been engaging in speculation about the Hubbard delay for months, so I feel entitled now to join the fray.

    Hubbard is a card-carrying member of the Riley Inc. political machine, so former Gov. Bob Riley and his cronies (including oily lawyer/son, Rob Riley) probably want to see the former speaker get off. Is that because of a deep and abiding affection for Hubbard. Probably not. A number of political insiders have stated that Hubbard, if he actually is headed to prison, is likely to dish enough dirt to make sure a number of politicos go down with him. Thoughts of a bitter and talkative Hubbard in an orange jumpsuit could be causing indigestion in some quarters.

    Alabama appellate courts (and the Alabama State Bar) are infested with Jeff Sessions/Bob Riley butt-sniffers who would have no problem helping a crook like Hubbard go free. But we get the impression that the right-wing legal gangsters who have turned Alabama into a justice cesspool are reluctant to draw attention to themselves right now. And that probably explains release of the Hubbard ruling this week, as opposed to, say, early 2019.

    I have a guess or two about what might have raised enough concern -- even fear -- to cause Alabama legal elites to stop sitting on the Hubbard ruling -- and here they are:

    (1)  The Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen Connection -- Manafort, Donald Trump's former campaign chair, was found guilty last week of financial crimes. Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney, reached a plea agreement on the same day involving campaign-finance violations. Could those events be causing consternation in Alabama legal circles?

    Well, both men have connections to Alabama -- Manafort via his work with Sessions and other pro-business types in a failed attempt to land an Air Force refueling tanker contract, an effort that had ties to Russian oligarch and reputed mafioso Oleg Deripaska; Cohen via his efforts to help Tennessee businessman Franklin Haney get a stalled nuclear plant in northeast Alabama off the ground.

    It's likely Manafort and Cohen will reach an agreement to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Trump-Russia investigation, and federal agents already have raided Cohen's home and office to seize documents. Could all of that direct Mueller's attention to Alabama and the possible corrupting influences of Russian interests on the state's corporate, political, and legal climate? Did such concerns cause the Hubbard ruling to be issued sooner rather than later?


    (2) Joseph Siegelman and the Fear of God -- We have posited that some of the state's conservative elites (including a Democrat or two) are not too keen on Joseph Siegelman's run for Alabama attorney general. That's because certain elites played roles in the political prosecution of Joseph's father, former Gov. Don Siegelman. Joseph Siegelman is not even 30 years old, but he won the Democratic primary and will face the GOP incumbent Steve Marshall in November. Marshall appears to be the clear favorite, but if Joseph Siegelman were to pull an upset and take office with a mindset to extract retribution from those who caused his father to unlawfully spend more than six years in federal prison . . . well, that could cause sleepless nights for a few prominent Alabamians.

    On top of that, Marshall was appointed by Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley, the state's hideously corrupt former governor -- and that was a deal that caused even some Republicans to wretch; it could be a major turnoff for large blocks of voters.

    Also, the peculiar death of Marshall's wife, Bridgette Gentry Marshall, in late June still has not been fully put to bed. One gets the sense that a scandal -- involving his wife's death or some other issue -- could bite Marshall between now and November 6. If that were to happen, it could throw the election in Siegelman's direction and lead to a clean-up effort the state desperately needs, but certain elites are determined to avoid.

    Are my theories far-fetched? Maybe. Are they completely out to lunch? I don't think so.

    Jill Simpson -- whistle blower, opposition researcher, and retired attorney -- probably knows more than any other human about the corrupting influences that plague Alabama's public infrastructure, and she shared her thoughts about the Hubbard decision in a Facebook post.  Simpson seems to be on a wavelength not all that far from my own:

    I figure Hubbard will appeal this case to the Alabama Supreme Court, but hats off to the Alabama Appeals Court for going ahead and deciding -- and maybe the Supreme Court will decide quickly, affirming the convictions against Hubbard, and we can all see him locked up. 
    It is time for lying Mike Hubbard to go to jail. Mike sent out over a million emails lying about me as the Siegelman witness, plus mail circulars that even made it to my family home, to my sick, elderly mother before she died. It was full of lies about me ,told by Rob Riley and Mike Hubbard. 
    I spent many years after that event seeing that all of the stories of Hubbard's wrongdoing came out in the press. I worked behind the scenes to see the stories told on his corruption within the Republican Party. Moral of the story: Lie about me. and I am going to out your misdeeds. 
    The Alabama Resistance and I were viciously attacked by the same gang of thugs that went after [Hubbard prosecutor] Matt Hart and Roger Shuler, who saw the stories told on their bad behavior. These Alabama Gang thugs were run by Jeff Sessions, Billy Canary, Rob Riley, Baron Coleman, Ali Akbar, Stacy McCain, and [Hubbard lawyer] Lance Bell, with help from Tripp Vickers and Mark Moody at the Alabama Bar.

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