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The cache on a suspect computer often plays a central role in determining the "knowing" element in a child-porn case. An example likely will come in the pending U.S. v. Scott J. Wells case in Missouri, where investigators claim to have found images of child pornography or erotica (which, by law, is not porn) on the thumb cache in Wells' laptop.
That, however, does not help the feds much, by itself. Rather they must prove that Wells took "affirmative actions" to obtain the images, causing them to appear on his cache, and that he knew they were there -- exerting "dominion and control" over them. Our review of the complaint/affidavit in Wells (embedded at the end of this post) indicates the government will have a tough time with this element of the case.
Courts around the country have wrestled with the "cache conundrum," with one case coming from the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington) in a case styled U.S. v. Kuchinski (2006) Here is how a cache entered the picture in Kuchinski:
We have made it plain that a person does knowingly receive and possess child pornography images when he seeks them out over the internet and then downloads them to his computer. In fact, we have declared that, “[i]n the electronic context, a person can receive and possess child pornography without downloading it, if he or she seeks it out and exercises dominion and control over it.” Romm, 455 F.3d at 998; see also United States v. Tucker, 305 F.3d 1193, 1204 (10th Cir.2002).Thus, Kuchinski properly concedes that he did knowingly receive and possess the 110 images that he downloaded. But he was charged with many more-an additional 13,904 to 17,984 images, which appeared in his cache files. That makes a substantial difference to the calculation of his [Sentencing Guidelines] range.
The court then dives into the murky waters of trying to define a cache and its role in a computer setup:
According to the evidence before the district court, when a person accesses a web page, his web browser will automatically download that page into his Active Temporary Internet Files, so that when the site is revisited the information will come up much more quickly than it would have if it had not been stored on the computer's own hard drive. When the Active Temporary Internet Files get too full, they spill excess saved information into the Deleted Temporary Internet Files. All of this goes on without any action (or even knowledge) of the computer user. A sophisticated user might know all of that, and might even access the files. But, “most sophisticated-or unsophisticated users don't even know they're on their computer.”
Much of the above also appears in our discussion of this area in Romm, 455 F.3d at 997-1001. There we also pointed out that “the cache is a ‘system-protected’ area, which the operating system tries to prevent users from accessing by displaying a warning that access involves an ‘unsafe’ system-command.” We also noted that a user, who knows what he is doing, can go forward and get access to the cache files anyway. In the case at hand, there was no evidence that Kuchinski was sophisticated, that he tried to get access to the cache files, or that he even knew of the existence of the cache files.
The court found other evidence to uphold Kuchinski's convictions on receipt and possession charges. But it found that evidence related to the cache supported a reduction in Kuchinski's sentence:
There is no question that the child pornography images were found on the computer's hard drive and that Kuchinski possessed the computer itself. Also, there is no doubt that he had accessed the web page that had those images somewhere upon it, whether he actually saw the images or not. What is in question is whether it makes a difference that, as far as this record shows, Kuchinski had no knowledge of the images that were simply in the cache files. It does.
In so doing, we opined that “to possess the images in the cache, the defendant must, at a minimum, know that the unlawful images are stored on a disk or other tangible material in his possession.” We relied upon a case wherein the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals had declared that the defendant was properly found guilty where he knew that child pornography images would be sent to his “browser cache file and thus saved on his hard drive.”Tucker, 305 F.3d at 1204. As the court put it: “Tucker, however, intentionally sought out and viewed child pornography knowing that the images would be saved on his computer. Tucker may have wished that his Web browser did not automatically cache viewed images on his computer's hard drive, but he concedes he knew the web browser was doing so.”
We were also at some pains to distinguish Romm's situation from one where it could be argued that “the cache is an area of memory and disk space available to the browser software, not to the computer user.” United States v. Gourde, 440 F.3d 1065, 1082 (9th Cir.2006) (en banc) (Kleinfeld, J., dissenting). In Romm, 455 F.3d at 1001, we noted that we were confronting a different situation because Romm did have both knowledge of and access to his cache files.
U.S. v. Wells, in our view, should not make it to trial. But if it does, look for cache issues to be front and center.
|RUPosters Web site|
The Web site RUPostersfeatured the jailing of Legal Schnauzer, complete with my mugshot from the Shelby County Jail, in a piece dated January 13, 2014. The headline is "Блогера из Алабамы посадили в тюрьму за ряд скандальных публикаций о местной элите." For those who need a little translation on that, it comes to roughly "Alabama blogger jailed for row of scandalous publications about local elite."
|Rob and Bob Riley|
More than 200 bloggers and journalists around the world are languishing in prisons for their publications and convictions. Most of them - the inhabitants of the developing world, one way or another angered their own government. Among them, for example, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi , who was sentenced to death for "insulting Islam" and "cyber-terrorism."However, there are glaring examples in the West.
Meet Roger Schuler, a 57-year-old resident of Alabama, the only blogger in the Western Hemisphere who was imprisoned for his work and literally turned the concept of "freedom of speech" inside out. Roger has been the blog Legal Schnauzer for political investigations, scandals and intrigues for several years now . In fact, Schuler can be called a kind of “American Navalny”, only with a “yellowish” tinge, because in his publications there are very juicy details about the lives of the characters.
A blogger has repeatedly sued the political and legal elite of his state, without ceasing to disclose either the corruption schemes of those in power, or the connections of federal judges with the secret gay community. But in 2013, another series of publications ended for him with an indefinite term of imprisonment. That in itself is a blatant fact for the United States, where they are so proud of the freedom and rights of citizens.
It all started with the fact that Schuler published in his blog a series of posts in which he accused the local lawyer, Republican Robert Riley, Jr. of the immoral way of life. Referring to his own sources, the blogger argued that Riley had a relationship with the woman "on the side", which ended in an abortion. By itself, the news is not unique, if you do not take into account the fact that Robert Riley is the son of the former governor of Alabama and planned to run for the US Congress. It should be noted that for the Republican candidate for congressmen, such publications can put an end to a political career, since the party is in favor of nepotism and abortion.
In general, immediately after the announcement of the abortion, Roger Schuler had problems. At first, the governor’s son and his mistress obtained an injunction - a local judge, without going into too much detail, forbade Roger to publish any “slanderous” material about future congressman Riley and his colleagues (mistress) Liberty Duke.
Naturally, the blogger did not stop publishing (and did not delete the old materials), because he was sure that he was fully protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution . However, in October 2013, the local sheriff’s department entered the game, arresting Shuler during a car search for "disrespect for the law" and police resistance.
Immediately after his arrest, an information campaign began against him - a number of Republican bloggers accused Shuler of spreading rumors and “cyberbullying”. The goal is quite obvious - Robert Riley had to show Schuler as an ordinary custom slanderer who has nothing to do with journalism.
In November, a second trial of a blogger took place, in which the local judge made a condition: either Schuler deletes all publications about Riley concerning abortion and adultery, and also pays $ 34,000 in legal costs, or remains behind bars for an indefinite period. Naturally, such a decision was not aimed at restoring justice, but at keeping Schuler behind bars as long as possible. Most likely, until the elections are over or until he decides to remove the unfortunate materials. At the moment, Roger Schuler is still in custody, refusing to comply with the requirements of the court. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called Schuler "the only prisoner journalist in North America."
In general, looking at this whole story, it becomes obvious that the so-called "freedom of speech," as well as the right to privacy in the United States, are very vague and amorphous concepts. On the one hand, none of the public people in the USA have any guarantees that their personal lives are protected, which often ruins not only careers, but also families. On the other hand, it turns out that even the regional power in America has a very wide toolkit for closing unwanted information from the public eye, and the famous American Bill of Rights is just a historical exhibit that has long lost its relevance.
The article includes a few inaccuracies, but considering the language and cultural barriers involved, I'd say the Russian writer provided a crisp, insightful analysis. By the way, I've been putting up with misspellings of my last name pretty much my whole life, so it seems appropriate that they would get it wrong in Russia, too.
hott_griff, а быть Алексеем Навальным в России, в принципе очень удобно. Можно с утра до вечера поливать государство грязью, пилить какие–то обвинительные "расследования"основанные на допущениях и "аналитических утверждениях"вместо доказательств — и тебе за это особо ничего не и будет. Это же не Штаты, где такой американский Навальный слегка наехал на сына бывшего губернатора Алабамы (ну, как "наехал", всего–то о его любовнице написал) — и тут же... хоба... наручники, суд, обвинения в клевете. А потом и дабл хоба: судебный запрет на публикации, каталажка. Да не понарошку — на 15 суток с цветами и толпой поклонников на выходе, как у Алексея в тоталитарном Мордоре, а по–взрослому. Сразу на полгодика. Для острастки. Ибо американская демократия и свобода слова, это вам не хрен собачий.
I ran that through a translation Web site and came up with this:
hotel_griff, and to be Alexei Navalny in Russia, in principle, very convenient. From the morning until the evening to water the state of the mud, cut some indictment of "investigation" based on assumptions and "analytic statements" instead of evidence — and you for that nothing will. This is not the States where such an American Navalny slightly ran over the son of the former Governor of Alabama (well, as "hit", just something about his mistress wrote)–and then... hoba... handcuffs, court, libel charges. And then double hub: judicial ban on publication, the Slammer. Yes, not for fun-for 15 days with flowers and a crowd of fans at the exit, like Alexei in a totalitarian Mordor, and in an adult way. Once in half a year. For a thrill. For American democracy and freedom of speech, this is not a fucking dog.
I can't help but chuckle at that because our Russian friend seems so sarcastic and snarky, in a way that is almost "un-American." I've highlighted the few segments I kind of understand. As for the rest, it makes for fun reading, across the oceans, even if we are not so sure what the guy is trying to say.
Why would that matter in a child-porn prosecution? Well, we will go into specifics in upcoming posts, but the main reason is this: In the postmodern digital world, child-pornography images (and images of other kinds) can appear on a computer without the user's knowledge -- or without him taking any steps to acquire them. Images also can be stored on a computer -- in various places, most likely a thumb or browser cache -- without the user having any idea they are there.
To obtain a conviction, the government must show the accused "knowingly" received, possessed, or distributed "contraband" -- unlawful images of child pornography. That task is made easier if it can be shown the accused is a sophisticated user -- who knows how the guts of a computer work.
That certainly would exclude your humble blogger, along with many computer users -- including the defendant in the Missouri case of U.S. v. Scott J. Wells. The feds' complaint/affidavit in the Wells case provides little or no evidence that the accused is the kind of user who would know how to enter the bowels of his laptop and exert "dominion and control" over images he might or might not know were even there. (The complaint/affidavit is embedded at the end of this post.)
Our review of the court file indicates that is one of several reasons the government has an exceptionally weak case against Wells. In fact, it's a prime reason Wells should be acquitted, the charges probably should be dismissed, and he likely should never have been charged or detained (for almost two years).
This issue has arisen in numerous child-porn cases, across state and federal jurisdictions. Our research indicates state and federal child-porn laws share much in common, with identical language often turning up in both. A classic example of "sophisticated-user" analysis providing a turning point in a child-porn case is Barton v. State of Georgia (2007). Here are the key facts:
Following a jury trial, Edward Ray Barton was convicted of 106 counts of sexual exploitation of children. On appeal from the trial court's denial of his motion for a new trial, Barton asserts that the State failed to prove his knowing possession of child pornography. He further claims that the trial court erred in allowing a computer forensic analyst to testify as to the age of persons depicted in images found on Barton's computer. Finding that the State failed to prove knowing possession of child pornography, as charged in the indictment, we reverse. . . .
. . . the evidence shows that, after the Walker County Sheriff's Department began investigating allegations of child molestation against Barton,1 his wife provided authorities with Barton's laptop computer. Upon conducting a forensic examination of that computer, law enforcement retrieved 156 images they believed met the definition of child pornography stored on the computer's hard drive. Barton was indicted for sexual exploitation of children with respect to 106 of those images. Specifically, Barton was charged with “knowingly possess[ing] ” child pornography in violation of OCGA § 16-12-100(b)(8), which makes it unlawful “for any person knowingly to possess or control 2 any material which depicts a minor or a portion of a minor's body engaged in any sexually explicit conduct.”
How did the government seek to prove it's case. The process sounds a lot like what probably will happen in U.S. v. Wells:
At trial, the State sought to prove Barton's knowing possession of child pornography via the testimony of Special Agent Ben Murray of the United States Secret Service, a forensic computer analyst. Murray testified that all computers will store pictures or other information viewed over the internet on the computer's hard drive, in temporary internet file folders. There is nothing that such a user can do to prevent the computer from storing such items. Murray also explained that not everything stored in a computer's temporary internet file folders results from the affirmative conduct of a computer user. Rather, even those images which “pop-up” on a computer screen, even though neither sought nor desired by the computer user, are stored on the computer's hard drive. Furthermore, despite the fact that they are stored on the hard drive, Murray testified that no one using the computer can retrieve information stored in the temporary internet file folders without special forensic software. No such software was present on Barton's computer.
Murray testified that each of the pornographic images on Barton's computer was stored on the hard drive of his computer, in temporary internet file folders. This meant that Barton had viewed the pictures over the internet, but had taken no affirmative action to save them on his computer. Barton could not access or alter the pictures found stored on his computer's hard drive. Murray further testified that Barton had viewed all of the images within two separate time periods, totaling slightly less than four hours, on December 2 and 3, 2003. He offered no testimony as to whether the images resulted from some affirmative action by Barton, represented “pop-ups” which appeared on Barton's computer, or both. Although Murray could not tell how long Barton had spent viewing each individual image, or how long he had kept those images open on his computer, he could say that Barton had never opened any image more than once.
How did Special Agent Murray's testimony fly with the Georgia Court of Appeals? You might say it crashed and burned:
Barton argues that this testimony was insufficient to establish his knowing possession of child pornography because: (1) he took no affirmative action to store the images on his computer; (2) he was unaware that the computer had automatically saved those images to the hard drive; and (3) he had no ability to retrieve or access those images. Reluctantly, we must agree.
(Note: The last sentence, highlighted above, shows the presumption of guilt that defendants often face in child-porn cases. Why would a judge be "reluctant" to properly apply the facts and the law? Such a statement is hard to comprehend, displays flagrant prejudice against Barton, and suggests someone on the Georgia court is a smart-ass.)
These decisions differ as to whether possession requires that a defendant take some affirmative action to download or save internet images onto his computer. None of those decisions, however, found that a defendant may be convicted of possessing child pornography stored in his computer's temporary internet file folders, also known as cache files, absent some evidence that the defendant was aware those files existed. Several of those courts specifically found that there can be no possession where the defendant is unaware that the images have been saved in the cache files, reasoning that such ignorance precludes a finding that the defendant could exercise dominion or control over those images. . . . (“[T]o possess the images in the cache, the defendant must, at a minimum, know that the unlawful images are stored on a disk or other tangible material in his possession.”); . . . (knowing possession of child pornography in this context requires the prosecution to show that the defendant intentionally sought out and viewed such materials with the knowledge that the images would be saved on his computer).
Here, the State's brief fails to address the issue of Barton's knowledge, and we find that at trial the State failed to meet its burden on this issue. The sole witness on this issue-Agent Murray-testified that Barton took no affirmative action to save these images to his computer, a conclusion supported by the fact that all of the pictures were stored on the cache drive as “thumbnails. . . . ” (citing expert testimony that “if only the ‘thumbnail’ image appeared on a hard drive, this would indicate that no one ever [attempted] to download the [image]”). Murray offered no testimony indicating that Barton was aware that the computer was storing these images, but instead established only that these files were stored automatically, without Barton having to do anything. Murray also testified that Barton would have been unable to view or access these images without using software that was not present on Barton's computer. Thus, there was no way that Barton could have learned of the cache files in the normal course of using his computer. Nor did the State present any circumstantial evidence that would have allowed the jury to infer Barton's knowledge of these files-i.e., they did not show that Barton was an experienced or sophisticated computer user who would have been aware of this automatic storage process. In short, the State presented no evidence that Barton was aware of the existence of the files at issue, and in doing so, they failed to prove that Barton knowingly possessed these images.
Will the government be able to prove Scott Wells knowingly possessed child-porn images. Our review of the case file suggests the answer is no. If the trial involves an honest judge and a competent jury -- both big "ifs" -- Wells should be acquitted. In our view, it would be a grave injustice if the case goes to trial.
|Virginia Emerson Hopkins|
Hopkins dismissed "The Jail Case" -- and wrongfully denied our Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment -- on two primary grounds: statute of limitations and state immunity. Let's take a look at her actions on those two issues. (All relevant documents to this post -- our complaint, Hopkins' dismissal order, our Rule 59 motion, two amendments to it, and Hopkins' Rule 59 order -- are embedded at the end of this post. The case currently is on appeal before the 11th Circuit.):
Statute of Limitations
(A) The ticking clock and the face of the complaint -- Shockingly, Hopkins does make at least one correct citation to law, and it comes on page 6 of her dismissal order: "“Dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on statute of limitations grounds is appropriate only if it is apparent from the face of the complaint that the claim is time-barred.” La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc.,358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004).
Just because Hopkins occasionally can make a correct statement of law, that does not mean she can correctly apply it to our case. Please hold that thought; it's important, and we will come back to it.
(B) What's that you're saying? -- Hopkins primary justification for dismissing our claim on statute of limitations grounds can be found on page 15 or her order: "Claims based on arrest and/or imprisonment pursuant to legal process accrue on the date of such arrest. Wallace v. Kato, 549U.S. 384, 397, 127 S. Ct. 1091, 1100, 166 L. Ed. 2d 973 (2007) (holding that the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim seeking damages for false arrest begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process)."
The second segment of Hopkins' sentence is a fairly accurate paraphrase of the Kato holding, as it applies to certain CRIMINAL cases. But was mine a criminal case -- in reality and on the face of the complaint? No, I was falsely arrested an imprisoned based on a civil case, for alleged defamation.
(C) What does Kato really say? -- We spell this out on page 8 of our Rule 59 motion:
For false imprisonment and its subspecies false arrest, "[t]he ... cause[ s ] of action ... provid[ing] the closest analogy to claims of the type considered here,"Heck v. Humphrev, 512 U.S. 477, 484, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383, the statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged false imprisonment ends. sec, e.g., 4 Restatement (Second) of Torts§ 899."
The general rule in Kato is clear: The clock starts ticking on the statute of limitations when the alleged false imprisonment ends. There is no shortage of other authority that says the same thing.
(D) A matter of authority -- What do other authorities say on the accrual of the statute of limitations in a case alleging false arrest/false imprisonment? The issue already has been decided in the Northern District of Alabama, from a case styled James v. City of Birmingham (ND of AL, 2012):
"The running of the statute of limitations on false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule-dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned: 'Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends."'Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389 (quoting 2 H. Wood, Limitation of Actions§ 187d(4), p. 878 (rev. 4th ed. 1916).
What do you know, a judge in the Northern District of Alabama -- U.S. Magistrate John E. Ott can discern the actual law and apply it correctly. Maybe Hopkins could learn from him. She also could learn from reading other authorities, such as 4 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899, which we cite on pages 2-4 of our first amendment to the Rule 59 motion:
“For false imprisonment, the statute [of limitations] begins to run only when the imprisonment ends, since the period of imprisonment is treated as a unit." Restatement (Second) of Torts;§ 899, (1979). See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389, 127 S. Ct. 1091. "The running of the statute of limitations on [common-law] false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule — dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned.").
Hopkins also could learn from When Statute of Limitations Begins to Run Against Action for False Imprisonment or False Arrest, 49 A.L.R. 2d 922 (2010), M.C. Dransfield, which we cite on page 4 of the first amendment:
For false imprisonment in particular, the authorities overwhelmingly hold that a cause of action for false imprisonment accrues on the discharge from imprisonment.
My discharge from imprisonment was on March 26, 2014, and our complaint was filed on March 26, 2016, meeting the two-year statute of limitations. It can't be seriously argued that our claims are untimely, but Hopkins tries anyway, even though she can make no accurate, valid citation to law that supports her ruling. Hence, she shrugs and says, "We just disagree."
(E) Land of confusion -- Why is there any confusion abut this? There shouldn't be, for anyone who has integrity and can read. But we probably can thank the late SCOTUS justice Antonin Scalia author of the Kato decision, for any confusion that surrounds this issue. While Scalia was revered on the right, the truth is that he was a shallow thinker, a poor writer, an enemy of civil and human rights, and a pawn for law enforcement and corporate America.
In the Kato opinion, Scalia cites the holding noted in items (C) and (D) above. But then, as was his tendency, he muddies the waters, with this (citations omitted):
The running of the statute of limitations on false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule — dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned: "Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends." Thus, to determine the beginning of the limitations period in this case, we must determine when petitioner's false imprisonment came to an end.
Reflective of the fact that false imprisonment consists of detention without legal process, a false imprisonment ends once the victim becomes held pursuant to such process — when, for example, he is bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on charges.
For good measure, here is the summary holding in Kato:
Held: The statute of limitations upon a § 1983 claim seeking damages for a false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is followed by criminal proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process.
What does Scalia's muddled writing tell us? The petitioner (Wallace) in Kato was charged with a crime, and his arrest was followed by criminal proceedings, and he eventually was detained "pursuant to legal process." Scalia even gives examples of such legal process -- and they include being bound over to a magistrate or arraigned on charges.
None of that happened in my case because I was not arrested for a crime. There was no arraignment, I was not bound over to a magistrate, and there was no legal process. That takes us back to item (A), where Hopkins states (correctly) that a lawsuit can be dismissed on statute-of-limitations grounds only if it is "apparent from the face of the complaint that it is time-barred." That also takes us back to item (B), where Hopkins claims the statute of limitations began to run when I was held "pursuant to legal process."
But was there ever "legal process" in my case? Were there any criminal proceedings following my arrest on alleged "civil contempt" -- any arraignment, any appearance before a magistrate? The answer is no because I was not arrested for a crime. Even more importantly, the face of our complaint -- which you can see under the Factual Allegations section in Hopkins' order, starting at No. 25, never says I was subjected to criminal proceedings or legal process of any kind.
Why? Well, this was a criminal proceeding -- the very thing Scalia mentioned in Kato -- and I was not arrested for a crime. To bring it closer to home, Hopkins claims I eventually was held pursuant to "legal process," but I was not -- and the face of our complaint never says I was. Hopkins finding that our complaint is time-barred is based on what lawyers call "assuming facts that aren't in evidence."
Hopkins' claim that deputy Chris Blevins is immune from lawsuit for breaking into our home, beating me up, dousing me with pepper spray -- all for a non-criminal matter -- is, to borrow a crude phrase, "batshit crazy." And we make that clear in the second amendment to our Rule 59 motion, beginning on page 1:
The Alabama Supreme Court . . . 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.
Alabama law goes even further:
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.
Did the cops ever meet their burden of proving they were immune because they acted within the line and scope of their employment? Nope. Has there ever been any discovery on that issue, and has the cops' lawyer asked for discovery, which he should know is due, by law? Hell, no.
Do cops have a right to enter your home to make a non-criminal arrest? The answer is "absolutely not." Did the Alabama cops grossly violate my civil rights by beating me up inside my home? They absolutely did:
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.”
Alabama law, per Ex parte Alabama Department of Youth Services, 880 So. 2d 393 (Ala. Supreme Court. 2003), spells out exceptions to immunity for law-enforcement officers:
Youth Services goes on describe exceptions to immunity for law-enforcement officers: “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the foregoing statement of the rule, a State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity: (1) when the Constitution or laws of the United States, or the Constitution of this State, or laws, rules, or regulations of this State enacted or promulgated for the purpose of regulating the activities of a governmental agency require otherwise; or (2) when the State agent acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.
Did Blevins and his thug colleagues act "maliciously,""in bad faith,""beyond his authority"? No one could seriously argue otherwise.
Hopkins' claim that the Alabama thugs are protected by immunity is preposterous -- probably enough to make Vladimir Putin wobbly. No wonder Hopkins took the lazy, easy route and played the "We Just Disagree" card. That's how crooked judges roll.
Let's close this out on a high note, with Dave Mason performing an acoustic version of 'We Just Disagree' -- with help from Rick Derringer (Edgar Winter, Steely Dan), Mark Farmer (Grand Funk Railroad), and Johnne Sambataro (Firefall):
|Michael and Robin Fiola|
In the pending Missouri case of U.S. v. Scott J. Wells, charging documents indicate prosecutors have spent little or no time considering all the ways suspect images could have arrived on Wells' computer without his knowledge.
As for Michael Fiola, he was issued a Dell laptop in 2006 for his job as an investigator with the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents. Unknown to Fiola, the computer was infested with viruses, leading to criminal charges that almost ruined his life. From an ABC News report, titled "A Misconfigured Laptop, a Wrecked Life":
When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts issued Michael Fiola a Dell Latitude in November 2006, it set off a chain of events that would cost him his job, his friends and about a year of his life, as he fought criminal charges that he had downloaded child pornography onto the laptop. Last week, prosecutors dropped their year-old case after a state investigation of his computer determined there was insufficient evidence to prove he had downloaded the files.
An initial state investigation had come to the opposite conclusion, and authorities took a second look at Fiola's case only after he hired a forensic investigator to look at his laptop. What she found was scary, given the gravity of the charges against him: The Microsoft SMS (Systems Management Server) software used to keep his laptop up to date was not functional. Neither was its antivirus protection. And the laptop was crawling with malicious programs that were most likely responsible for the files on his PC.
Fiola had been an investigator with the state's Department of Industrial Accidents, examining businesses to see whether they had worker's compensation plans. . . . He's become a spokesman for people who have had their lives ruined by malicious software. He now works as an insurance salesman in North Scituate, Rhode Island.
A 2009 Associated Press report asked the question: "Could a computer virus frame you for child pornography?" The answer, as Michael Fiola knows, is yes:
Of all the sinister things that Internet viruses do, this might be the worst: They can make you an unsuspecting collector of child pornography. Heinous pictures and videos can be deposited on computers by viruses — the malicious programs better known for swiping your credit card numbers. In this twist, it’s your reputation that’s stolen.
Pedophiles can exploit virus-infected PCs to remotely store and view their stash without fear they’ll get caught. Pranksters or someone trying to frame you can tap viruses to make it appear that you surf illegal Web sites.
Whatever the motivation, you get child porn on your computer — and might not realize it until police knock at your door.
If you are like me, that segment contains some of the scariest information you've seen in a while. An enemy, a prankster, a true pedophile can invade your computer via a virus and remotely fill it up with unlawful child-porn images. Sheesh. Fiola, in fact, hardly is alone in facing such a nightmare, as AP reports:
An Associated Press investigation found cases in which innocent people have been branded as pedophiles after their co-workers or loved ones stumbled upon child porn placed on a PC through a virus. It can cost victims hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove their innocence.
Their situations are complicated by the fact that actual pedophiles often blame viruses — a defense rightfully viewed with skepticism by law enforcement.
“It’s an example of the old ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse,” says Phil Malone, director of the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “The problem is, sometimes the dog does eat your homework.”
What exactly happened in the Fiola case? AP explains:
In 2007, Fiola’s bosses became suspicious after the Internet bill for his state-issued laptop showed that he used 4½ times more data than his colleagues. A technician found child porn in the PC folder that stores images viewed online.
Fiola was fired and charged with possession of child pornography, which carries up to five years in prison. He endured death threats, his car tires were slashed and he was shunned by friends.
Fiola and his wife fought the case, spending $250,000 on legal fees. They liquidated their savings, took a second mortgage and sold their car.
An inspection for his defense revealed the laptop was severely infected. It was programmed to visit as many as 40 child porn sites per minute — an inhuman feat. While Fiola and his wife were out to dinner one night, someone logged on to the computer and porn flowed in for an hour and a half.
Prosecutors performed another test and confirmed the defense findings. The charge was dropped — 11 months after it was filed.
The damage, however, was done -- and it might be irreparable:
The Fiolas say they have health problems from the stress of the case. They say they’ve talked to dozens of lawyers but can’t get one to sue the state, because of a cap on the amount they can recover..
“It ruined my life, my wife’s life and my family’s life,” he says.
The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, which charged Fiola, declined interview requests
Here is information that should make all of us rest easy at night:
Pedophiles can tap viruses in several ways. The simplest is to force someone else’s computer to surf child porn sites, collecting images along the way. Or a computer can be made into a warehouse for pictures and videos that can be viewed remotely when the PC is online.
But pedophiles need not be involved: Child porn can land on a computer in a sick prank or an attempt to frame the PC’s owner.
The inconvenient truth? The modern computer world is like "The Wild, Wild West," with all sorts of potential danger lurking under those keyboards:
“Computers are not to be trusted,” says Jeremiah Grossman, founder of WhiteHat Security Inc. He describes it as “painfully simple” to get a computer to download something the owner doesn’t want — whether it’s a program that displays ads or one that stores illegal pictures.
It’s possible, Grossman says, that more illicit material is waiting to be discovered.
“Just because it’s there doesn’t mean the person intended for it to be there — whatever it is, child porn included.”
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Sessions' most recent tussle with the language came Saturday when he addressed the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. From an article at Alabama Political Reporter (APR):
Sessions said that he was very proud of what he accomplished while he was Attorney General.
“No cabinet department did more to advance the Trump agenda than the Justice Department,” Sessions said.
Sessions said that he worked to make the DOJ less political. “It was time to end the politicization of the Department of Justice.”
Let's break that down into two parts:
(1) Sessions says the Department of Justice (DOJ), on his watch, did more to advance the Trump agenda than any other cabinet department -- even though long-standing rules hold the DOJ is to operate independently of the White House.
(2) Sessions claims he made the DOJ less political.
Statement No. 2 came mere seconds after Sessions admitted having worked to advance a political agenda in the nation's chief law-enforcement agency.
The notion that Sessions might be "out of it" mentally arose recently with the release of The Threat, a book by former FBI Director Andrew McCabe. From a recent report at Newsweek:
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions regularly and casually used shocking racist sentiments while serving in President Donald Trump's cabinet, according to a new book written by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
In his memoir—titled The Threat—McCabe paints a picture of an attorney general who struggled to understand the workings of government, was unable to stay on top of his busy schedule and blamed almost all the country’s problems on immigration, Washington Post reporter Greg Miller wrote in his review of the book.
In one particularly shocking exchange, Sessions reportedly told McCabe the FBI was a better organization when “you all only hired Irishmen.” Drawing on archaic and offensive stereotypes, he clarified, “They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos—who knows what they’re doing?”
McCabe's portrayal of Sessions gets even more alarming:
Sessions’ views on race were described as “reprehensible” and constantly aimed to link immigration to crime, Miller reported. The attorney general “believed that Islam—inherently—advocated extremism,” while discussions about specific criminal suspects always began with the question, “Where’s he from?” quickly followed by, “Where are his parents from?”
Not only was Sessions outwardly ignorant about ethnic minorities, he also apparently struggled to keep up with the most basic demands of his job. The former Alabama senator—whom Trump reportedly once branded “mentally retarded” and a “dumb Southerner”—had “trouble focusing, particularly when topics of conversation strayed from a small number of issues.”
McCabe also noted that electronic tablets used to deliver the daily presidential brief to Sessions came back with no sign that he had even entered the passcode to view the important document. He not only failed to read other intelligence reports but also got confused between classified material and information he read in newspaper clippings.
Is Jeff Sessions out of touch with reality? Consider these words from APR's report on the speech in Birmingham:
“President Trump is making great appointments to the judiciary,” Sessions added. “We need another four years of good Trump judicial appointees.”
If that line doesn't make you guffaw, I'm not sure what will. A review of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings to the U.S. Supreme Court suggests Trump can't even nominate a decent human being, much less a good judge.
Growing up, my parents taught me the basic values of fairness and following the rules. I think these values were common in households all across our state and country.
In today’s society, those two basic values need to be applied to the ongoing debate about illegal immigration.
In terms of fairness, we have people who are going through the legal process to enter our country, which takes time and effort, only to have people skip that entire process and just walk across our border illegally. That goes against the basic value of fairness.
Also, we are a nation built on laws, but currently illegal immigrants openly disregard the rules and laws of our country. By not holding them accountable, we are further encouraging a culture where the rule of law does not matter.
Immigrants disregard our laws? Has Byrne considered public officials from his own party in Alabama? In recent years, we've had a governor (Robert Bentley), speaker of the House (Mike Hubbard), and chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (Roy Moore) forced out of office due to corruption charges.
As for Donald Trump, Byrne claims to agree with the president on almost all issues. But how does that square with Byrne's supposed concerns about "fairness"? Wouldn't it be fair for Trump to fulfill his campaign promise to have Mexico pay for a border wall, rather than U.S. taxpayers? And Byrne actually believes Trump abides by the rule of law? Perhaps Byrne needs to share that insight with Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
That should fly about as well as Jeff Sessions' claim to have been a non-partisan attorney general.
USA Today published an article about Jacob Wohl's boasts at 6:14 a.m. CST yesterday, under the headline "This 21-year-old tweeted lies about Robert Mueller and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now, he’s eyeing the 2020 election." A few hours later came stories, like this one from engadget.com, under the headline "Twitter bans right-wing activist Jacob Wohl over fake accounts." Sub-title of the engadget article: "It's not a good idea to admit you want to manipulate elections."
In what should be a surprise to no one, the bumbling Wohl is aligned with Ali (Akbar) Alexander, the slimy GOP operative who has a history as a felon and troller for gay sex at grindr.com. Akbar has bragged of his connections to Alabama, via governors (Riley, Bentley, or both) and the legal tribe, likely the Alabama State Bar. Adding to this carnival of GOP clowns, Wohl and Akbar are aligned with Laura Loomer, a loon who is famed for handcuffing herself to Twitter headquarters in New York after having her account suspended.More on a recent Wohl-Loomer-Akbar expedition in an upcoming post.
Wohl, an ardent Trump supporter, first came to our attention last November when he was found to have created false online posts that Robert Mueller was the target of sexual-harassment allegations. The FBI reportedly is investigating that episode. Alabama political insider Jill Simpson said at the time that Wohl was connected to Akbar and his National Bloggers Club. As usual, Simpson proved to be right -- Wohl is aligned with Akbar, and we will have more on that shortly.
USA Today quoted one legal expert who says Wohl is playing a dangerous game by publishing admittedly false narratives designed to affect political outcomes:
Stanford Law School professor Robert Weisberg said Wohl’s actions could be construed by a federal prosecutor as wire fraud, obstruction of justice or conspiracy – or as possibly violating various state statutes – but likely fell into a legal “gray zone.”
|Ali Akbar mugshots|
How did Wohl cross the line with Twitter? USA Today,in a followup yesterday afternoon to its earlier post, explains:
Twitter announced that it is permanently suspending Jacob Wohl, a 21-year-old Internet hoaxer and supporter of President Donald Trump, following the publication of a USA TODAY article in which he boasted of using the social media platform to spread lies and disinformation.
In the article published Tuesday morning, Wohl disclosed what he claimed were his plans to create “enormous left-wing properties,” including Facebook and Twitter accounts, before the 2020 presidential election in order “to steer the left-wing votes in the primaries to what we feel are weaker candidates compared with Trump.”
Throughout the day, Twitter users had messaged the platform's CEO, Jack Dorsey, demanding that the company take action against Wohl.
In announcing the suspension Tuesday afternoon, Twitter said in a statement: “The account was suspended for multiple violations of the Twitter Rules, specifically creating and operating fake accounts.”
Is Wohl a tad reckless, even dim? Consider this from USA Today:
According to Twitter, after Wohl bragged of his intentions to violate its rules against the creation of fake or misleading accounts, the company scrutinized his activity on the platform and found he already created multiple fake accounts.
|Ali Akbar at Grindr|
When asked the name of the "future think tank," Wohl declined to provide it, saying he planned to use it in a "clandestine manner."
Among accounts that were suspended was that of Surefire Intelligence, Wohl's operation that played a central role in his scheme to disgrace Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the days before the midterm elections.
|Robert "Luv Guv" Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
How is Bentley planning to get around that provision in his plea agreement? The answer to that is not clear (although Zeigler has ideas), but the language in the deal Bentley struck with prosecutors is more broad than most Alabamians probably remember. Here is how al.comreported the key terms in an article dated April 10, 2017:
Bentley, as part of the deal, was expected to:
* Resign immediately and leave public life.
* Plead guilty to two campaign violations: converting campaign contributions for personal gain and failing to report campaign contributions.
* Serve one year of probation.
*Perform 100 hours of unpaid community service as a physician.
*Repay the $8,912 his campaign spent on the legal fees of former aide Rebekah Mason, whose involvement with Bentley led to the charges against him.
*Forfeit all the money in his campaign account, which is currently $36,912. The money will go into state coffers.
In response, the state attorney general's office will not pursue other felonies against Bentley, including those referred for prosecution last week by the Alabama Ethics Commission.
Bentley might already have violated the first provision -- the one about leaving public life -- by attending the National Governors Association meeting last weekend in Washington, D.C. From a report at al.com:
Bentley tweeted out a photo showing him at the meeting with his “governor colleagues, former and current.”
“Looking forward to working with them and (the National Governors Association) as states tackle tough issues facing our country in trade, (criminal justice) reform, healthcare and jobs,” he tweeted.
Those attending the meeting heard from President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet secretaries and representatives from foreign countries.
Sounds like Bentley already has returned to public life, doesn't it? Is the Alabama Attorney General's Office supposed to enforce the "Luv Guv's" plea agreement? If so, are Steve Marshall and Co. asleep at the switch?
Al.com reported last August that Bentley was considering a return to politics, perhaps in a U.S. Senate run against Democrat Doug Jones. Reporter Leada Gore even noted the roadblock in Bentley's way:
Former Governor Robert Bentley, who resigned in 2017 as part of plea deal related to ethics and campaign finance violations, isn't ruling out a return to public life.
In an interview with political site Yellowhammer, Bentley was asked if would consider returning to public office, possibly in the U.S. Senate race against Democrat Doug Jones in 2020.
"I love serving the people of this state. Serving as governor was the greatest honor of my life. I have a heart for our people and I believe we are all called to serve one another in some capacity. I found public service was a way to do that. I believe what is missing in public service today is loving the people that you serve and wanting to help those who need help, especially those who are less fortunate and really have nothing. If God shows me a new avenue where I can do that, I'll do it."
The deal that led to Bentley's exit might make that impossible, however.
In his plea with the Alabama Attorney General's Office, Bentley agreed to "not seek or serve in any public office."
Does Bentley plan to ignore the terms of his plea agreement? Well, he is shameless enough to have traveled to D.C. with a cozy companion, Rebekah Caldwell Mason, with whom he has shared all kinds of intimacies -- involving her boobs, nether regions,and perhaps "other parts." From Jim Zeigler's Facebook post yesterday -- under the headline "Bentley takes Rebecca Mason to Washington as he lines up support for U.S. Senate run." (Zeigler, by the way, also is considered a possible U.S. Senate candidate in 2020.):
She was Gov. Robert Bentley's senior policy adviser and believed to be the 'acting governor' in decision making. Now, she is the manager of Dr. Bentley's dermatological clinic in Tuscaloosa.
But last weekend, Mrs. Rebecca Mason was the ex-governor's escort to Washington. As an ex-governor, Bentley was invited to a national governor's conference. And the two of them went.
Many of the nation's governors were in Washington for the conference and breakfast with President Donald Trump. Bentley used the conference to go and line up national support for an expected run for the U.S. Senate next year.
The issue of Bentley's seedy behavior while serving as governor likely hits close to home for Zeigler, in part because he filed the initial ethics complaint that led to Bentley's exit.
Zeigler also provides a possible explanation for how Bentley might skate around the terms of his plea agreement:
Bentley resigned as governor in 2017 and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations. He signed a plea agreement that stated he would not run for pubic office again. In January Bentley obtained clearance from the prosecutor to run for a federal office even though his plea agreement stated he would not run for office. The U.S. Senate is a federal office.
State Auditor JIm Zeigler, who had filed the initial ethics complaint that led to Bentley's departure, said: "It is unbelievable that Bentley is doing this. Bentley was a problem for Alabama as governor, and he would be a continuing problem as U.S. Senator. While I do not believe Bentley can be elected, there are still some Alabama voters who think Bentley was a good governor that got a raw deal.. I was there, and neither of those things are true. He was not a good governor, and he got off easy."
Bentley served no jail time.
Zeigler has formed an exploratory committee eyeing his own possible run in 2020 for the seat now held by Democrat Sen. Doug Jones. The deadline to file candidacy is this November and the primary is March 3, 2020.
|Jacob Wohl ant Laura Loomer|
Jacob Wohl and fellow right-wing loon Laura Loomer held a press briefing last week at CPAC in Washington, D.C., claiming U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) married her brother and engaged in student-loan fraud in order to attain legal-immigrant status and run for Congress. Wohl and Loomer have launched a petition to have Omar removed from the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Conservative media outlets have targeted Omar since she ran for the Minnesota Legislature in 2016. The allegations intensified when, in 2018, she became the first Somali-American to be elected to Congress.
The Wohl-Loomer allegations came after the pair joined Ali (Akbar) Alexander -- a fellow GOP fraudster, who has felonies on his criminal history, a record of trolling for gay sex at grindr.com, and self-proclaimed ties to Alabama's political and legal establishment -- on an "investigative mission to Minneapolis, designed to produce dirt on Ilhan Omar. Here is how USA Today described Wohl's role in the Omar inquiry:
He flew to Minnesota last week to “investigate” the rumor that Somali-American Rep. Ilhan Omar married her brother, a mission for which he tried to fund-raise $25,000 from his online followers. Wohl’s trip to the heartland devolved into bizarre tweets in which he suggested that Minneapolis was so overrun by Somali jihadists that he had to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with a team of “security professionals.”
How was the press briefing received outside the right-wing bubble? Mediaite.com reports that Wohl and Loomer were widely mocked on Twitter -- in an article titled "Twitter Mocks Jacob Wohl’s Weird Press Conference Outside of CPAC: ‘I Can’t Stop Laughing At This’"
Did the right-wing Three Musketeers come up with damning information against Omar? That's hard to say. This is from a report on the press briefing at spectator.org:
Rep. Ilhan Omar “married her brother and she defrauded the United States,” Jacob Wohl said Thursday afternoon in a press conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Announcing the result of a recent investigation by the website Culttture that took a crew of conservative activists to the freshman Democrat’s Minnesota district, Wohl presented the findings of their investigation in an eight-page report concluding that Omar’s marriage to her brother, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, was “part of a nefarious attempted immigration scheme… in the service of two federal felonies: immigration fraud and student loan fraud.”
If such an eight-page document contained any substance, you might expect right-wingers to have plastered it all over the Web. But we can't find it anywhere, not on Scribd, not on culttture.com
-- a site Ali Akbar founded. Culttture provides a brief article about he press briefing, but we see no sign of the supposedly explosive report. One journalist wrote on Twitter that the report was marked "Privileged and Strictly Confidential." A press release is deemed "confidential"? I've been in professional journalism for more than 35 years, and I've never heard of that one.
A video of the press conference can be found at Culttture, but it appears to contain little of substance. Wohl claims the allegations are supported by "public records, bank records, utility bills, you name it . . . " but we see no sign of such public records in the report. (Note: Ali Akbar does not speak at the briefing, but he can be seen during a scan of the slim crowd at 9:59 on the video.)
How goofy has the right wing's "youth movement" become? We invite you to check out an Ali Akbar video -- at the link below -- about threats and security measures associated with the Minnesota "investigation." Never mind that evidence suggests it was nothing more than a glorified fund-raising effort.
Ali Akbar on Periscope about "Little Somalia" trip to Minneapolis
We will give the final word to Vox's Jane Coaston, who penned a superb analysis of the Jacob Wohl phenomenon and his most recent press-conference disaster:
To begin with the facts of how we even arrived at this moment: Wohl was at CPAC this week alongside Jack Burkman, a Republican lobbyist with a shady past, to provide evidence of a supposed scandal involving Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). They, along with a host of other people on the internet, claim that Omar’s ex-husband Ahmed Elmi is actually her brother and that she married him to help him get US citizenship.
This conspiracy theory is largely nonsensical. First and foremost, there is no evidence Elmi is Omar’s brother. Elmi is a British citizen whom Omar married in 2009 before separating from him in 2011. There is no evidence that Elmi and Omar are related in any way.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly legal for a US citizen to petition US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to bring a brother or sister to the United States, making it entirely unnecessary to marry one’s own sibling to do so.
Importantly, Elmi never received US citizenship (he moved back to England following their separation), meaning that if, under some bizarre circumstance this conspiracy theory were true, the entire reason for the marriage — getting Elmi US citizenship — never actually materialized.
So, why is Wohl targeting Omar, as he did Special Counsel Robert Mueller? Coaston has the answer:
Why Wohl chose Omar as a target for this operation is fairly obvious — like Mueller, she is deeply unpopular with many, to put it mildly. To her critics, she has used anti-Semitic tropes and made anti-Semitic comments. And not to mention that she is deeply opposed to President Trump, and as part of the midterm wave that gave Democrats control of the House in 2018, she received lots and lots of mainstream media attention — but the right argues, little criticism.
But where many conservatives saw a big problem, Wohl and a few others saw an opportunity, in a conspiracy theory that wove together two favored hobbyhorses of the far-right: immigration and Islam. Wohl and right-wing activist Laura Loomer (best known for handcuffing herself to Twitter’s New York headquarters to complain about being banned from the service) traveled to Minnesota in late February to find the truth about Omar.
They went with Ali Alexander, a Republican operative and founder of the MAGA-centric website Culttture, which is meant to track the activities of MAGA figures like Loomer and Wohl (the inspiration for the website came from, according to Alexander, an LSD trip.)
But first, they needed funding. On the Culttture site describing the “Investigate Ilhan Omar Fund,” the page states that if donors contributed $25,000 to the Fund, the money would support Wohl and his allies so that they could “go to Minneapolis and Washington D.C. to conduct a meticulous investigation into Ilhan Omar in order to ascertain the truth of the allegations against her. The Democratic Media Complex won’t!”
In other words, the anti-Omar campaign is a grab for money and attention -- one that is woefully short on substance. How bad was the press conference, after Wohl and Co. had braved the perils of snowy Minnesota? Writes Coaston:
But after facing down the many dangers of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Wohl’s CPAC press conference — which was meant to, according to the press release sent to reporters, provide “clear evidence” that Omar committed immigration fraud by marrying her brother and “should face felony charges” and be expelled from Congress — was a dud.
Rather than focusing on Wohl’s purported findings, reporters spent more time asking Wohl about the collapse of Wohl and Burkman’s previous scheme to falsely accuse Robert Mueller of sexual assault, a plot that backfired so badly that the FBI got involved. And the “investigation” in which Wohl and Burkman had taken part in resulted in a “confidential” document that revealed absolutely nothing.
Jacob Wohl and his gang appear to be experts at hosting press conferences that prove to be duds.
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason|
We reported last week that Bentley had traveled to a national governors conference in Washington, D.C., with Rebekah Caldwell Mason -- the former aide with whom he had an extramarital affair that ended his marriage of 50 years. We noted, however, that news outlets had described the plea agreement in varying terms -- and we had not seen the agreement -- so there was some doubt about what it actually says. That doubt no longer exists.
The agreement was reached on April 10, 2017 -- signed by Bentley, his lawyer William Athanas, Special Assistant Attorney General Eleanor Brooks, and Deputy Attorney General Matt Hart -- and at least two news outlets (Alabama Political Reporter and the Andalusia Star) posted links to the document at that time. We have embedded the plea agreement at the end of this post, and there no longer can be any doubt about what it says.
Item No. 4 in the plea agreement reads:
4. The Defendant will not seek or serve in any public office.
Item No. 6 reads:
6. The Defendant will waive any and all objections to venue and his right to appeal any issue.
Item No. 7 reads:
7. By signing this document, the Defendant represents that he is an adult; is competent to enter into this agreement and plead guilty; is satisfied with the work of his attorney; has been advised of his rights by his attorney; and that he intelligently, knowingly, and voluntarily agrees with the terms of the Plea Agreement.
In a Facebook post last week, State Auditor Jim Zeigler reported the following:
In January Bentley obtained clearance from the prosecutor to run for a federal office even though his plea agreement stated he would not run for office. The U.S. Senate is a federal office.
Who was "the prosecutor" who might have discussed such a clearance with Bentley? Brooks and Hart no longer are with the Alabama Attorney General's Office, so the answer to that question most likely would be the AG himself, Steve Marshall -- whom Bentley appointed to office. (And yes, that is a foul odor you are smelling.) If such a clearance was provided, it clearly violates the terms of the plea agreement. But then gain, Marshall clearly violated Alabama's PAC-to-PAC transfer law, but no one has held him accountable for that.
What are the take-home points from items No. 4, 6, and 7 above?
1. Bentley agreed to not seek, much less serve in, "any public office," which clearly covers both state and federal positions.
2. Bentley waived any right to appeal or contest terms of the agreement. If he had doubts about item No. 4, he should have raised them before affixing his signature to the document.
3. Bentley acknowledged that he is a competent adult, that he understood the agreement, and reached it with the advice of legal counsel, with which he was satisfied. Again, if Bentley had doubts about item No. 4, he should have notified his attorney and sought clarity from prosecutors. Bentley's signature indicates he knew what he was signing.
Alabama Political Reporter's article from two years ago leaves little doubt what the plea agreement says:
According to the plea agreement, Bentley will also pay back $8,912.40 to his campaign committee’s bank account, and then he will turn over the $36,912 left in his account to the state. He has agreed never to run for office again, has waived his rights to appeal and has promised to perform 100 hours of community service.
Bottom line: Regardless of what Bentley might be planning -- or any "clearance" Steve Marshall might have provided -- Alabama's "Luv Guv" is blocked from seeking any public office, at any level.
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Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), a subscription Web site, has written extensively about payments to settle allegations of child-sex complaints against Trump, dating to 1989 -- with Cohen, as Trump's "fixer," apparently at the heart of several negotiations. Most recently, in mid January of this year, Madsen published an article titled "Why is Trump so afraid of Cohen's testimony?" (We have followed Madsen's reporting with several posts here at Legal Schnauzer -- from Jan. 16, 2019; May 3, 2018; Dec. 13, 2017.) Writes Madsen:
Donald Trump's former personal lawyer and "fixer" Michael Cohen had a rather poignant response to a focused question during his testimony before the House Government Oversight Committee on February 27.
Cohen responding to a question from Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) about the "catch and kill" operations that were conducted by National Enquirer publisher David Pecker on individuals bringing sexual-assault allegations against Trump. Cohen revealed that Pecker "spent money" to hide alleged affairs during the 2016 campaign.
Raskin specifically asked, "So David Pecker had done this in other cases of other mistresses or women?" Cohen replied, "Other circumstances, yes," adding, "Not all of them had to do with women." Cohen appeared to add the final statement to emphasize the matter of allegations against Trump not merely being limited to women. WMR has reported on Trump's past sexual allegations involving underage girls -- involving him and convicted child sex assaulter Jeffrey Epstein -- and boys.
WMR is aware that during the 2016 campaign, pressure was brought by legal representatives for Trump on two women who alleged that Trump raped them when they were 13- and 12-years old, respectively.
It appears no one asked a followup question during the public portion of Cohen's testimony. But Madsen reports that the subject of Trump and child molestation is ripe for investigation:
Cohen's reference to the catch and kill tactics involving Pecker and Trump, some of which predated Cohen's hiring by Trump in 2007, and Cohen's comment that "not all of them had to do with women" may be a reference to the following list of out-of-court settlements reached by Trump with minors:
Madsen then lists six cases where Trump allegedly reached out-of-court settlements with minors. We have reported on those cases here. They involve three girls and three boys, all 10 to 13 years old at the time of the alleged assaults. From a Madsen preview of Cohen's testimony, published in January 2019:
While Cohen will avoid certain subjects still under investigation by Department of Justice special counsel Robert Mueller, he may provide some insight into the types of embarrassing things he "fixed" for Trump, before they ended up in scandalous court trials. This may include Cohen assisting Trump in paying off victims of Trump's sexual assaults over the years.
In addition to Stephanie Clifford, aka porn actress "Stormy Daniels," and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, Cohen reportedly helped settle a number of rape cases involving Trump. WMR received a list from a reputable Republican source of these settlement claims, all of which involve male and female minors.
Most rational people, it seems, would realize that such a signed document was binding and rock steady. So, why is Bentley apparently planning a 2020 run for the U.S. Senate -- which certainly seems to qualify as "any public office," the kind Bentley agreed not to seek? (The plea agreement is embedded at the end of this post.)
Is Bentley irrational, a man whose clouded "Christian thinking" has left him unable to determine right from wrong? Has Bentley convinced himself that he is among God's "chosen ones" -- the elect -- so he doesn't have to worry about accountability? Has Bentley's ability to grope former political aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason in delicate places convinced him he has super powers?
We don't have definitive answers to those questions at the moment. But we have discovered an element to the Bentley quagmire hat might be illuminating.
In April 2016 -- one year before Bentley's resignation as governor -- we reported that GOP guru Karl Rove had been grooming Bentley as a possible candidate for vice president. Based on a report from D.C. investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, Rove was desperate to keep Donald Trump from the White House and thought Bentley might be part of a team that could make that happen. With his kindly "Dr. Welby" demeanor, Bentley might have been seen as the anti-Trump -- a white version of Ben Carson, M.D., who was making political inroads at the time.
Never mind that Carson performed brain surgery, and Bentley was mostly a Dr. Pimple Popper. In Rove's quirky mind, the white coat and "M.D." after the name probably were seen as magical. This is from our 2016 report:
Republican political guru Karl Rove was promoting Alabama Governor Robert Bentley as a possible vice-presidential candidate in 2016, but those plans imploded from recent revelations about Bentley's extramarital affair with a former senior adviser, according to a new report from a Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist.The Clinton people had to be thrilled to know Karl Rove was willing to give them advice. ("Hey, Karl, we'll get back to you on that, OK.") And given that Trump, with just a little help from Vladimir Putin, bested both Cruz and Hillary Clinton . . . well, maybe Rove isn't such a guru after all. Shouldn't a GOP brainiac have seen the "Putin Putsch" coming?
Wayne Madsen reports today that Rove's reputation as a strategic wunderkind took a huge hit with the stillborn presidential campaign of Jeb Bush. Now. Bentley's sex scandal involving Rebekah Caldwell Mason has raised even more questions about Rove's judgment.
The Bentley revelations are part of an article titled "Rove backing Cruz and Hillary at same time." Sources tell Madsen that Rove is desperate to keep Donald Trump from getting the GOP nomination--or from becoming president.
With that in mind, Rove is backing Ted Cruz in an effort to generate a brokered convention and cost Trump the nomination. If that doesn't work, Rove reportedly is planning to offer advice to the Clinton campaign to help overcome Trump in the general election.
|Robert Bentley and Rebekah Mason|
The value of Rove's political acumen has plummeted in GOP circles since the collapse of the Jeb Bush campaign. Another political decision by Rove is also subject to ridicule. In the lead up to Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley's successful re-election campaign in 2014, Rove and his acolytes, who view Alabama as a personal political fiefdom, convinced Bentley that he would be a highly-sought-after vice presidential running mate in 2016.
To prepare for a spot on the national ticket, Bentley's chief adviser, and, as it turned out his reputed mistress, Rebekah Mason, a married mother of three, began acting as Bentley's fashion adviser. Among other makeovers, Mason advised Bentley, a former dermatologist, to ditch his trademark khaki trousers for Brooks Brothers suits.
Rove's plans for Bentley now lie in ruins as Bentley faces impeachment over his alleged affair with Mason. A leaked conversation in which the evangelical Bentley refers to Mason's breasts and buttocks has all but ended the governor's statewide political career, let alone any hope for national office.
Has Bentley, in the upside-down world of Trump's creation, convinced himself that he still has political appeal? Has Rove -- having gotten George W. Bush "selected" president twice, despite a DUI arrest and reports of high-level drug use -- decided Bentley can be rehabilitated? If Trump is indicted or impeached, might Bentley finally get to serve as the "anti-Trump," salving the wounds of the GOP base?
As Madsen sees it, Bentley might not be the only one in need of rehabilitation:
Rove earned the nickname "Turd Blossom" from George W. Bush for Rove's supposed knack for finding success in political adversity. However, Rove has recently become more "turd" than "blossom" in Republican circles.
The same might be said of "Luv Guv" Bentley.
|Cindy Yang and Donald Trump|
Adam Schefter said on ESPN that Kraft isn’t the most famous person — there’s someone else whose name hasn’t surfaced yet who’s better known than Kraft.
“I’m also told that Robert Kraft is not the biggest name involved down there in South Florida,” Schefter said.
There’s no word on who the biggest name is, and it’s unclear why the authorities in Florida would name Kraft publicly but not name this bigger name. But it appears that this story is going to get significant traction, and not go away quietly as Kraft would surely prefer.
As photos continue to surface of Yang with Republican personalities and political figures, evidence mounts that she is a significant figure in the party's fund-raising circles. Reports the Miami Herald:
A Chinese-American massage-parlor entrepreneur arranged for a group of Chinese business executives to attend a paid fundraiser for President Donald Trump in New York City at the end of 2017, according to a source who was present at the event.
Cindy Yang, whose family owns a chain of South Florida day spas where prostitution is said to have taken place, also runs a Florida-based consulting business called GY US Investments that promises to introduce Chinese investors into the president’s orbit.
Yang was present at the Dec. 2, 2017, fundraiser, held at Cipriani restaurant in Manhattan, according to a photograph that circulated in Chinese-language media at the time. The source, who asked for anonymity to discuss the private fundraiser, said Yang identified herself as an official at the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee founded in the summer of 2016. . . .
Reports in Chinese-language media said nearly 100 Chinese people attended the New York fundraiser in December 2017, out of roughly 400 total guests. The event was hosted by the Republican National Committee. Officials at Trump Victory and the RNC did not immediately respond to requests for comment Saturday.
Could this point to more unlawful activity connected to Trump? The answer is yes:
Foreign visitors may attend fundraisers as long as they don’t pay their own entry. But only citizens and permanent residents are allowed to donate to U.S. political campaigns. It would be illegal for foreign nationals to reimburse a U.S. citizen for paying their way into a fundraiser. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has been examining whether money from abroad influenced the 2016 election. There is no evidence that Yang or her businesses are part of that investigation. . . .
Since the New York event, Yang has advertised her ability to introduce Chinese investors to the president, his family and his advisers.
On the Chinese-language website for GY US Investments, Yang claimed to be hosting a “conference for international leadership” at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private resort in Palm Beach, on March 30. The guest speaker is advertised as Elizabeth Trump Grau, the president’s sister. Trump Grau could not be reached.
“It is the first time for Chinese to play the leading role [at] Mar-a-Lago,” the website claimed.
How did Yang come to rise in GOP circles? That is not fully clear, although a Saturday article at Mother Jones provides considerable insight:
Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.” But the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.” (The same day the Herald story about Yang broke, the website stopped functioning.)
Yang seems to reside in a world very different from the one she occupied previously. Reports the Herald:
Yang’s consulting business and new-found political relevance were a far cry from her previous main line of work: Running a chain of Asian day spas in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
Online commenters on adult-themed and other websites have stated that spas owned by Yang and her family — which operate under the brand name Tokyo Day Spas — have offered sex. Allegations of prostitution at the spas have been reported to at least two local police agencies in South Florida, according to law enforcement records obtained by the Herald, although no charges appear to have been brought against Yang or the spas as a result of those tips.
Here are just a few photos that have surfaced since Friday of Cindy Yang with Republican luminaries:
|U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz and Yang|
|Donald Trump Jr. and Yang|
|Sarah Palin and Yang|
|A food tray at an Alabama jail|
In recent years, the dreadful food served at correctional facilities has sparked riots in at least three states. The unrest has come as multiple studies show the poor fare served at prisons and jails comes with high economic and social costs that could easily be reduced.
The issue is big news in Alabama, where several sheriffs have been exposed for essentially starving inmates to help pay for their personal projects. It hits close to home because I had to survive on jail food for five months (Oct. 2013 to March 2014) after being "arrested for blogging" and tossed in the Shelby County (AL) Jail.
I lost roughly 25 pounds on a jail-food diet, and I tended to clean my plate at most meals -- there just wasn't much to clean. According to a recent report at Mother Jones, inmates around the country know hunger is a major part of the incarceration experience:
Jose Villarreal remembers going to bed hungry most nights during his 10 years in solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison. Dinner might consist of mashed potatoes, bread, and a slice of processed meat—never with salt, and always cold. Shouting through air vents between their cells, his neighbors would count the number of vegetables on their trays: eight string beans one day, 26 peas the next. “It became almost a joke,” Villarreal recalls.
This low-nutrient fare is typical of many corrections systems, which calibrate menus to meet budget demands and minimum calorie counts. Prices per meal range from about $1.30 to as low as the 15 cents that Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio once bragged about spending. The high-starch meals are often served up by scandal-plagued private companies. Meats are typically processed, and fresh fruit is rare, in part because it can be turned into booze.
To supplement tasteless grub, prisoners turn to the commissary, says Kimberly Dong, a Tufts University assistant professor researching prisoner health. This behind-bars bodega stocks items like Fritos and ramen, which inmates mix together to concoct dishes such as “spread,” a San Francisco County Jail specialty often made from noodles topped with hot chips, cheese sauce, and chili beans.“It’s like a carrot and a stick,” Villarreal says of the choice between commissary and facility-provided food. “But even the carrot is dipped in poison.”
I've already noted that my own health has not been the same since, on the evening of Oct. 23, 2013, Alabama deputies unlawfully entered our home, beat me up (without showing a warrant, stating they had a warrant, or even stating their reason for being there -- over a 100 percent civil matter), doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me to jail. Inmates around the country have felt the impact of jail and prison food. From Mother Jones:
This uninspiring diet is likely taking a toll on inmates’ health. It’s not just that prisoners are 6.4 times more likely to be sickened from spoiled or contaminated food than people on the outside, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined in 2017. Prison food can damage their long-term wellness. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 44 percent of state and federal prisoners have experienced chronic disease, compared with 31 percent of the general population, even after controlling for age, sex, and race. Chronic illnesses common among prisoners—high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart problems—are linked to obesity, which is in turn associated with highly processed, high-carb jailhouse fare. And because inmates disproportionately come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, they’re already more likely to experience chronic disease than the general public, so prison grub can exacerbate preexisting conditions.
Prisoners aren't the only ones who pay for being exposed to crappy food; taxpayers pay, as well:
Corrections facilities often cut corners on food in an effort to save money. But this may cost taxpayers more in the long run. According to a 2017 analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative, after staffing, health care is the public prison system’s largest expense, setting government agencies back $12.3 billion a year. Outside prisons, there’s ample evidence that improving diets can shrink health care spending: One study of food stamp recipients found that incentivizing purchases of produce while reducing soda consumption could save more than $4.3 billion in health care expenses over five years. Extrapolating from these numbers, similar changes for America’s 2.3 million prisoners could save taxpayers more than $500 million over the same time period.
As for Jose Villareal, he is now out of prison, but he does not feel well, and he can't do much about it:
A year and a half after his release, Villarreal still isn’t sure what is medically wrong with him. Lacking health insurance, he hasn’t seen a doctor since he got out, but he traces his damaged eyesight and trouble sleeping in part to a prison diet that made him physically less resilient: “If I had better, nutritious food, I think it would have helped me.”
How did this happen? Well, it centers around Dorial Green-Beckham ("DGB"), who might be the finest athlete Missouri ever has produced. Like Carol, Green-Beckham has been exposed to the hideously crooked and incompetent "justice system" in Missouri. In fact, they both have been on the receiving end of dubious rulings from Greene County Circuit Judge Jerry Harmison, an appointee of scandal-plagued and departed GOP governor Eric Greitens.
Harmison cheated Carol last spring, finding her guilty of misdemeanor "assault on a law enforcement officer,"even though the "victim" (deputy Jeremy Lynn) admitted in a written report and in sworn testimony that he initiated contact with Carol -- meaning, as a matter of law, Carol could not have committed the offense.
Green-Beckham appeared before Harmison last week on a prosecution motion to revoke his probation in a DUI case, following his recent arrest on a marijuana possession charge. That might seem like a fairly straightforward court matter. But officers from the Springfield Police Department turned it into a scene from a Three Stooges movie. Harmison, as he showed in Carol's case, apparently believes prosecutors and law-enforcement officers can do no wrong, so he ruled against Green-Beckham -- sentencing him to 90 days in jail -- even though overwhelming doubt surrounds the drug charge that led to the probation revocation.
We will have more details about the DGB court fiasco in a moment, but first, we have established he and Carol share the "distinction" of being cheated by the same crooked judge in Missouri and by the same inept law-enforcement community. So, how does all of this connect to Nick Saban and Bama's recruiting machine? Well, I will admit it's a stretch, but hang in there with me on this.
Dorial Green-Beckham, while playing at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, set a national high-school record for receiving yardage. At 6-6, 225 pounds, with world-class speed, Green-Beckham was ranked the No. 1 college-football recruit in the nation for 2012. DGB was such a scintillating prospect that Nick Saban his own self recruited him -- and as we know from watching Bama rack up national championships like many folks get parking tickets, Nick doesn't recruit just anyone, only the best.
Green-Beckham wound up spurning Saban -- along with Auburn, Arkansas, Texas, Ohio State, and just about every powerhouse in college football -- to sign with his home-state Missouri Tigers. Green-Beckham had two fairly productive season at Mizzou before being dismissed from the program after a couple of brushes with the law. He transferred to the University of Oklahoma but never played for the Sooners before entering the 2015 NFL draft.
The Tennessee Titans drafted Green-Beckham in the second round, and on June 1, 2015, the Titans signed him to a 4-year, $5.6-million contract with $3.0 million guaranteed and a $2.3-million signing bonus. As a rookie with Tennessee, Green-Beckham played 16 games with 549 receiving yards and four touchdowns. After one season, the Titans traded DGB to the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom he appeared in 15 games, with 392 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 2016. The Eagles waived him in summer 2017, and Green-Beckham, despite possessing all of the attributes that should make him a star, has struggled to get a foothold in the NFL. He has not played the last two seasons.
|Judge Jerry Harmison and Green-Beckham attorney|
Before his most recent legal troubles, Green-Beckham reportedly had attracted attention from teams in the Canadian Football League. I would like to see him get his life straightened out and hook up with a college basketball program, where I suspect he quickly would become a star. He might even develop into an NBA prospect, although 6-6 is considered an "in between" height for pro hoops -- sort of a forward and sort of a guard.
Any hoop dreams DGB might hold will be difficult to achieve while he's in jail. What kind of process led to his current incarceration? Calling it a joke would be kind.
(To be continued)
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The prostitution story has become a political story since revelations that the founder of targeted massage parlors (Cindy Yang) has been active in fundraising for Donald Trump and the Republican Party.
The Herald examined search warrants to determine how the sting operation started and how it led to the arrest of 26 men, including Kraft, so far. From the newspaper's account:
It began in October with a tip from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and a Google search of a massage parlor review site called Rubmaps.com. By the middle of March, at least 12 bank accounts had been frozen, 26 men were charged with soliciting prostitution and the two women accused of running the establishment were under house arrest, wearing ankle bracelets, and had to pay more than $500,000 to get out of jail.
But it’s what happened between those dates and what the search warrants don’t fully explain that gave the takedown of a nondescript little strip mall massage parlor in Jupiter, Florida, its international prominence: the charging of a billionaire football team owner.
Later, came a bizarre ancillary development, when it turned out that the former owner of the spa was a woman who took selfies with President Donald Trump, Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis and a host of other Republican luminaries.
The sting operation began about five months ago, and at one point, police watched as a golf party of eight entered the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, FL. From the Herald:
According to recently released search warrants from the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, Jupiter police were tipped off to suspected illicit activity at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter on Oct. 18. The agency had received a tip from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, which by then was well into a prostitution and human trafficking investigation that would result in the closing of 10 spas and the arrest of hundreds of johns.
By Nov. 6, police were surveilling the Jupiter massage parlor from the outside. In just over a week, police said they saw more than 80 men enter the business, including one golf party of eight, and stay for no longer than 45 minutes. By Nov. 14, according to the warrant, the state Department of Health was called in to take a look. It reported that the spa had beds and dressers and that women appeared to be living there.
How did police gather evidence? In some cases, it was messy:
A woman tossing trash into a bin out back caught the attention of police. Police searched the trash bin and after piecing torn-up paper back together, determined it was a spreadsheet listing names, times and type of payments, and whether they were cash or credit.
Also inside a plastic bag, according to police: “Several plastic napkins which were wet and appeared to be covered in [semen].”
Before long, cops were closing in on the massage parlor customers:
By Jan. 10, police began following customers as they left the premises and stopped them for various traffic infractions, the search warrant claims. Almost all the men had the same story: They paid about $70 for a back massage and when that was done, a masseuse would work on their genitals until they climaxed.
What about the placement of cameras, which reportedly caught Kraft in action:
On Jan. 17, Jupiter police said they used a “tactical ruse” to get everyone out of the spa. What type of ruse they used is not explained. But detectives said they were able to enter the spa and place surveillance cameras in four of the massage rooms and the main lobby.
That’s also when police first came into contact with Hua Zhang, 58, and Lei Wang, 45, the two women who police say ran the enterprise.
Two days later, a visit to the spa by the 77-year-old owner of the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots would eventually generate national headlines for Orchids of Asia. Police say Robert Kraft first visited the spa on Jan. 19. The next day, less than 10 hours before his team was to kick off the AFC Championship game in Kansas City more than 1,400 miles away, Kraft visited once again, according to police documents.
Police say they knew it was Kraft because he handed over his license during the traffic stop of his white Bentley on Jan. 19. When he visited the next day, he was in his blue Bentley, police say. They also claim to have his encounter inside the spa on surveillance video. Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution. He has since pleaded not guilty.
Questions already are being raised about police tactics in the case:
Attorney Eric Schwartzreich, who represents one of the customers charged, took issue with the “Sneak and Peek” warrants that were initially authorized as part of the Patriot Act, when federal agents were chasing down suspected terrorists. He also said “it certainly raises eyebrows” that all the men committed driving infractions after leaving the spa.
|Orchids of Asia in Jupiter, FL|
Richard Kibbey is a Stuart attorney representing about 30 clients — some of whom were arrested, others who visited spas, and some who were not. Like Schwartzreich, he has concerns that just about every person arrested was stopped for a traffic infraction. He has also petitioned the court not to release any of the video from inside the spas until discovery is made public.
“Up until yesterday [Monday], not much material had been released, so it was difficult to be specific on challenges,” he said. “But no one has been found guilty of anything yet. It’s premature to release it.”
We do know, however, that the case involves some financial oddities:
The search warrant also led police to at least nine accounts at Bank of America and J.P. Morgan that have since been frozen. The warrants claim that at least 14 envelopes were found at Bank of America containing $10,000 each.
Where did all of that cash come from? That is one of many questions still to be answered.
|Dorial Green-Beckham mugshot|
As my wife, Carol, and I know from firsthand experience, Circuit Judge Jerry Harmison tends to buy anything crooked cops and prosecutors throw at him -- and that's why Green-Beckham inow is behind bars. But was Harmison's ruling based on facts and the law? We don't have access to the full court file, but news accounts suggest there is enough doubt to choke a rhinoceros on the marijuana-possession charge that caused DGB's probation in a DWI case to be revoked.
How goofy is the justice system here in the Southwest Missouri Ozarks, once perhaps best known as the home to Jed Clampett and his family of hillbillies, before they moved to Beverly Hills? Even Jed likely would have been amused by the DGB charade, had he heard about it while lounging around his "cement pond."
When Green-Beckham was arrested last December on the drug charge, the headline in USA Today was "Ex-NFL WR Dorial Green-Beckham arrested with pound of marijuana, police say." The headline in the local Springfield News-Leader was pretty much the same -- "Dorial Green-Beckham caught with pound of pot after drug raid in Springfield, police say." So, it's established that cops caught DGB with a pound of pot, right? Well, not exactly.
First, I should note that I'm a novice when it comes to matters involving marijuana and the like -- except for my reporting on MJ cases involving my nephews -- Blake Shuler and Noah Shuler. But my research indicates a pound is quite a bit of pot.
While I'm hardly an expert on pot, I apparently know a lot more than the loons in the Springfield Police Department. This is from a local newspaper account of Green-Beckham's recent probation-revocation hearing, written by reporter Harrison Keegan:
. . . testimony provided more details about the December drug arrest. Police initially said Green-Beckham was found with a pound of marijuana and officers discovered an additional 7 pounds of marijuana at the house.
On [March 8], however, officers said Green-Beckham had less than 35 grams of marijuana in his pocket when he was arrested, but investigators believe he was also responsible for an additional one pound of marijuana found inside the house.
Green-Beckham was not the target of the drug-related search warrant.
Let's allow that to sink in for a moment. OK, what does the above tell us?
(1) Cops said last December -- to the accompaniment of blaring headlines -- that Green-Beckham was found in possession of a pound of marijuana.
(2) Now, roughly three months later, cops say Green-Beckham had less than 35 grams. "Oops, our bad," say the cops.
(3) How much less than 35 grams did DGB possess? Was it 5 grams, 2 grams, 1 gram? Cops don't seem to have an answer. We probably would have no reason to believe them if they pulled an answer out of their collective fannies?
(4) What happened to the 7 pounds of marijuana that was originally in the house? Did cops smoke it, eat it, sell it? We don't know, but it apparently had nothing to do with the guy who now is in jail.
(5) Cops now say they "believe" DGB is responsible for 1 pound of pot found inside the house. Why do they "believe" that? DGB did not reside in the house, and cops claim he was not the target of the search warrant. Is Dorial Green-Beckham now behind bars based on what clueless cops "believe" but cannot prove?
|DGB with the Philadelphia Eagles|
Why does 35 grams seem to be a magic number for Springfield cops? It's probably because the city code, section 78-261, is called "Possession of thirty-five grams or less of marijuana." That probably is the code section under which Green-Beckham was arrested.
Harmison's actions in the DGB case are no surprise to Carol and me. We saw Harmison over and over ignore cops' inconsistent statements, even outright perjury. He apparently took much the same approach to the DGB case. (Motions re: perjury, inconsistent testimony, and court errors in the Carol Shuler case are embedded at the end of this post.)
How ugly might the incarceration of Dorial Green-Beckham be? I will admit that I am a cynic toward law enforcement, but I don't think it takes a huge leap of imagination to consider the following: Green-Beckham's pro football career has been pretty much a flop, so far, but he still is a wealthy guy, especially by Springfield, MO standards. When the Tennessee Titans signed DGB in 2015, he received $5.3 million in guaranteed money and a signing bonus.
It's safe to say that DGB probably has enough money to last a lifetime, if he handles it wisely, and he's the most celebrated black guy in Springfield, MO -- maybe in the city's history. In an area known for its right-wing politics, it's not hard to find people here with less-than-progressive views on race -- and that likely is especially true among law enforcement.
Given cops' inability to keep their story straight, is it possible they did target Dorial Green-Beckham and even planted a baggie of weed on him? We might never know the whole truth, but that scenario would not surprise me one bit.
The 2003 case of Julian Green in the UK received international news coverage and might be the best-known example of virus-borne child porn wreaking havoc on someone's life. In about the same time frame, Julie Amero was trying to fulfill the thankless task of being a substitute teacher, in Norwich CT, when students saw pornographic images popping up on her school-issued laptop. The images apparently were of adult porn, but Amero still faced criminal charges that took years to resolve.
Could a virus, pop-up ad, or spam be responsible for images that are central to the pending Missouri child-porn case of U.S. v. Scott J. Wells? It's too early to say, but if that proves to be the case, Wells will not have been the first person to be put through hell because of a computer virus linked to porn. From a New York Times piece on the Julian Green case:
One evening late in 2001, Julian Green's 7-year-old daughter came upstairs from the computer room of their home in the resort town of Torquay, in western England, and said, ''The home page has changed, and it's something not very nice.''
When Mr. Green checked the machine, he found that the family PC seemed almost possessed. The Internet home page had somehow been switched so that the computer displayed a child pornography site when the browser software started up. Even if he turned the machine off, it would turn itself back on and dial the Internet on its own.
Mr. Green called the computer maker and followed instructions to return his PC to a G-rated state. The pornography went away, but the computer still often crashed and kept connecting to the Internet even when ''there was no one in the blinking house,'' he said.
The call to customer service, it turned out, hardly was a solution:
But Mr. Green's problems were only beginning. Last October, local police knocked on his door, searched his home and seized his computer. They found no sign of pornography in his home but discovered 172 images of child pornography on the computer's hard drive. They arrested Mr. Green.This month, Mr. Green was acquitted in Exeter Crown Court after arguing that the material had been gathered without his knowledge by a rogue program created by hackers -- a so-called Trojan horse -- that had infected his PC, probably during innocent Internet surfing. Mr. Green, 45, is one of the first people to use this defense successfully.
While a case that played out in the British legal system sets no precedent in the United States, legal experts say the technical issues raise two troubling possibilities. For one, actual child pornographers could arm themselves with a new alibi that would be difficult to disprove. Or, unknowing Web surfers could find themselves charged with possessing illegal material that a lurking software program has acquired.
''The scary thing is not that the defense might work,'' said Mark Rasch, a former federal computer crime prosecutor. ''The scary thing is that the defense might be right,'' and that hijacked computers could be turned to an evil purpose without an owner's knowledge or consent.
''The nightmare scenario,'' Mr. Rasch said, ''is somebody might go to jail for something he didn't do because he was set up.''
How bad can this be for the wrongfully accused?
Mr. Green was eventually exonerated, but his life has been turned upside down by the accusations. His ex-wife went to court soon after his arrest and gained custody of their youngest child and his house. Mr. Green, who is disabled because of a degenerative disk disease, spent nine days in prison and three months in a ''bail hostel,'' or halfway house, and was allowed only supervised visits with his daughter.
''There's some little sicko out there who's doing this,'' Mr. Green said, ''and he's ruined my life. I've got to fight to get everything back.''
He said he had no clue how the rogue software showed up on his computer. ''I never download anything. and as far as I knew, no others had,'' he said.
While the Green case was resolved relatively quickly, the Amero case in Connecticut dragged on for about four years. From a report at Wired:
Accused of letting impressionable students see pornographic pictures as she browsed the web in her classroom, former Connecticut school teacher Julie Amero dodged felony charges last Friday by agreeing to plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge and surrendering her state teaching credentials, according to the Hartford Courant.
But if a soon-to-be released forensic report about her hard drive is accurate, Amero's guilty plea is hardly justice – since the school computer had adware, the anti-virus software on the computer had been discontinued, and the technical testimony at her trial was amateurish and flawed.
In January 2007, she was convicted of four felony pornography charges and faced up to 40 years in prison.
Computer-forensics experts came to Amero's aid, attempting to correct what they feared a court had botched. From an article at the Hartford Courant:
The state of Connecticut spent two years investigating before it won a speedy conviction of Julie Amero -- the infamous Norwich porn teacher -- this January.
But it was never as tidy as the Norwich Public Schools, the Norwich police, the state of Connecticut and the Norwich Bulletin newspaper made it seem.
In truth, Amero, a clumsy computer novice, was the victim of malicious software that took over the PC in the classroom where she was substituting on Oct. 19, 2004. Since Amero's arrest, the state has refused to even consider this possibility.
Then, a few weeks ago, as Amero faced sentencing, Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith filed a startling motion in Superior Court:
"The state has not completed a full examination of all the issues which may affect its position at the sentence hearing."
Translation: We were wrong. We are trying to figure a CYA way out of this mess.
How did the truth come out. The Courant explains:
Thankfully, a team of computer security experts from throughout the country, drawn to the case by outraged Internet bloggers and a handful of journalists, has presented Smith and his bosses with the truth.
Amero didn't click on the porn. Software that might have blocked the porn was months out of date. Critical evidence was mishandled. School and police computer "experts" who testified were woefully ignorant about computer security and porn spyware to the point that their testimony was blatantly false.
The state's case began unraveling soon after the hapless jury voted to convict. A firestorm of pressure -- from university professors and software executives to programmers -- forced repeated postponements of Amero's sentencing.
But never underestimate public officials when they are cornered. When Amero is finally sentenced, expect a deal that keeps the egg off the many faces behind this sham trial.
Inevitably, Amero will be exonerated. We all deserve an apology for this insulting case.
As the Courant predicted, the case ended with a whimper, as Amero pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
It's too early to say if Osborne, from Florence, AL, will face criminal charges -- perhaps along with others. But it's possible the deceptive Dry Alabama scheme was the deciding factor in U.S. Sen. Doug Jones' (D-AL) upset victory over Republican Roy Moore. If it's proven that Doug Jones (D-AL) knew about the Dry Alabama scheme, that would suggest he obtained a U.S. Senate seat by fraud -- and it could become one of the biggest political stories of the year.
Both Jones and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall have called on the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate, and there has been no news on that front for almost 10 weeks. Jones also has called for an investigation that goes beyond Congress, perhaps to the Department of Justice. At this point, our research indicates Osborne and Co. probably received poor legal advice -- causing them to engage in an ill-conceived scam that might cost them dearly.
How does Mueller enter the picture? In July 2018, he indicted 11 Russians on charges of meddling with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Many of the charges were brought under 18 U.S.C 371, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States (also known as "Conspiracy to Commit An Offense Against the United States."). From the Mueller indictment:
(Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States)
1. In or around 2016, the Russian Federation (“Russia”) operated a military intelligence agency called the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (“GRU”). The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions.These units conducted largescale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The indictment lays out the case, with 78 paragraphs of factual allegations, concluding on page 27 with this:
All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.
Are the factual allegations identical to what apparently happened in the Dry Alabama scheme? Of course not, but they don't have to be, under the broad language of Sec. 371. Here is how it reads:
If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.
Note the words "for any purpose." Language does not get much broader than that. And the gist of the Mueller indictment is that two or more persons in Russia conspired to interfere with a U.S. federal election -- the 2016 presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
In a 1924 case styled Hammerschmidt v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed issues related to defrauding the United States:
To conspire to defraud the United States means primarily to cheat the Government out of property or money, but it also means to interfere with or obstruct one of its lawful governmental functions by deceit, craft or trickery, or at least by means that are dishonest.
That passage probably explains Robert Mueller's repeated use of the word "interfere" in the indictment against Russians. What about words like "deceit,""trickery," etc. In a variety of articles from news outlets across the country, Matt Osborne pretty much admits that Dry Alabama was an effort to trick would-be Roy Moore voters into changing their votes or not voting at all.
Osborne and his associates might wind up escaping criminal scrutiny, and Doug Jones might find a way to cover up the smell from Dry Alabama. But they would have been wise to take a closer look at the law and refuse to get in the muck to begin with.
The caller was Dothan-based blogger Rickey Stokes, publisher of Rickey Stokes News (RSN). I check in on Stokes' site periodically and have written several posts about it over the years. (See here and here.) But his post about the phone call to Claud Neilson escaped my attention -- perhaps because it was published on March 24, 2014, and I still was incarcerated then, with my release coming two days later, on March 26.
One of the ironies of my five-month stay in jail is that it's been almost five years since my release, and I'm still discovering reporting on it for the first time. I was doing a Google search on something the other day and up popped the Stokes-Neilson story. My reaction? "Alleluia, someone actually had the balls to confront Neilson about his actions in my case -- and I didn't even know about it."
(Note: I recently discovered the story of my incarceration prompted coverage and commentary in Russia.)
To my knowledge, Stokes is the only reporter -- non-traditional or otherwise -- who thought to interview Neilson about his decision to incarcerate a journalist, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law.
I'm aware of only one other journalist who interviewed a central con artist in my story of incarceration. That was Sara Rafsky, of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), who questioned Alabama lawyer and GOP slime bag Rob Riley about the defamation lawsuit in which he and co-plaintiff Liberty Duke sought my arrest. When pressed, Riley lied his ass off, claiming there was law to support the actions he and Duke had taken. Riley, of course, could not cite any such law because none exists.
Since October 23 in Shelby County Jail Because He Will Not Remove Article," and here is how he sets the scene:
Is the Judge lawful and correct, or is he abusing the very Constitution he was sworn to uphold?
A "civil' lawsuit has had a Shelby County man in the Shelby County jail since October 23, 2013. The lawsuit filed by FORMER ALABAMA GOVERNOR/NOW LOBBYIST BOB RILEY'S SON Rob Riley ( Attorney ) against Roger Shuler of Shelby County.
Shuler operated The Legal Schnauzer web site. Shuler wrote articles against Riley and Attorney General Luther Strange and made accusations they were having extra marital affairs. Riley and the female who was alleged to be seeing Strange filed civil lawsuits against Shuler.
Shuler was arrested on October 23, 2013 by Shelby County Sheriff Deputies. Shuler was arrested for Resisting Arrest and two counts of contempt of court. Shuler had a $ 1,000 bond on the Resisting Arrest and two no bonds on the "civil' contempt of court.
CALL TO SHELBY COUNTY JAIL
Today I called the Shelby County Jail. The person who answered said Shuler has two no bonds. My question was how long could Shuler be held on civil contempt. The person said " hold as long as the Judge wants to."
The "Judge," of course, was Claud Neilson, and Stokes was not afraid to call and put him on the spot. Stokes misspelled my name several times in the post, and I cleaned that up in the excerpt above. But, by God, Rickey Stokes proves he is a bulldog of a reporter, and he's got a "pair" -- which is more than can be said for most mainstream media (MSM) types in Alabama.
Stokes shows that he's tough enough to put a hard question to a state judge, and he's smart enough not to fall for the judge's shameless answer. In fact, Stokes is not afraid to use some colorful language to describe Neilson's action -- and believe you me, I appreciate it.
(To be continued)
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