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

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    Angela Zorich home in St. Louis County

    A Missouri woman's federal lawsuit against St. Louis County and four of its police officers, over a SWAT raid of her home that included the shooting death of the family dog, settled yesterday for $750,000.

    The case was heard in front of a jury, and in the end, the county opted to settle with the Zorich family for $750,000. After the county agreed to settle, Angela Zorich stated:

    "They know what they did wrong. That money sends a message. The trial showed exactly what happened.”

    According to press reports, officers appeared at Angela Zorich's house wearing body armor and carrying M4 carbine rifles. Why the overwhelming show of force. Zorich had failed to pay her gas bill. No kidding -- and no wonder St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger wrote the following in a June 25 article about the early stages of the trial, which seemed to focus around Kiya, a 4-year-old pit bull that was fatally shot:

    Kiya's dead, but this case isn't really about her.

    In a court case that's expected to last about a week and a half, what will really be on trial is the militarization of the St. Louis County Police Department.

    That department, Zorich's attorneys said in opening statements, has a policy that it's tactical operations unit -- the SWAT team -- executes all search warrants, even when just checking on a house where the gas bill has gone unpaid. Applying massive force in such a case is a violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, said attorney Nicole Matlock (of the St. Louis firm Dobson and Goldberg).

    "What could possibly have justified (Officer Robert Rinck) deciding to call in the (tactical operations) team?" she asked jurors.

    St. Louis County is not the only part of Missouri with a militarization problem in its police force. The Zorich raid, in April 2014, is reminiscent of our experience with the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO), which raided our duplex apartment in September 2015 for an eviction that was unlawful on at least 10 grounds -- including the fact that no judge had signed off on a final order, allowing the eviction to proceed. The only such document in the case file is described multiple times as "interlocutory," which means non-final -- especially since a court date already had been set to consider various issues raised in the case.

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm.
    Without authority from a judge, six to eight Greene County officers (including Sheriff Jim Arnott) burst into our home, wearing body armor, and Deputy Scott Harrison pointed an assault rifle directly at my head. Deputy Jeremy Lynn grabbed my wife Carol, slammed her face-first up against a wall and pounded her head multiple times into the wall. The frantic episode ended with an officer wearing a blue shirt -- we call him "Mr. Blue Shirt" because the GCSO has refused to identify him -- slamming Carol butt-first to the ground and yanking on both of her arms in a violent upward and backward motion.

    Our pet cat survived the raid unscathed, but Carol was not so fortunate. Her left arm was shattered just above the elbow in what is called a comminuted fracture (breaks in two or more places) -- the kind of injury normally associated with trauma, such as a car wreck. Carol needed roughly eight hours of trauma surgery at Cox South Medical Center, during which a number of complications had her life on shaky ground.

    As if our experience was not filled with enough outrage, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson filed criminal charges against CAROL -- claiming she had assaulted a law-enforcement officer, even though the officer in question (Jeremy Lynn) admitted he initiated contact with Carol, which means, under Missouri law, she could not have committed the alleged offense. For good measure Greene County Judge Jerry Harmison allowed officers to unload a cornucopia of false, inconsistent, and perjurious statements to find her guilty -- punishing her with what amounted to a $10 fine and a suspended imposition of sentence (SIS), which means the whole sham eventually should be cleared from her record.

    Angela Zorich
    We have a pretty good idea of the terror inflicted on the Zorich family, and like them, we intend to file a federal civil-rights lawsuit in the very near future -- not only against Greene County and its officers, but against landlord Trent Cowherd, and at least two lawyers (Craig Lowther and David Shuler, my brother) who helped orchestrate the whole thing.

    As for the Zorich case, how could an unpaid utility bill turn into a matter for the police? The best explanation we can find comes from a court ruling that was issued just before the case headed to trial last week. Writes U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia L. Cohen (citations omitted):

    In early 2014, Plaintiff lived in a single-family home with her husband, three adult sons, a six-year-old daughter, and three dogs, including a pit bull named Kiya. At that time, (Robert) Rinck was an officer with the St. Louis County Police Department's Problem Properties Unit ("PPU"). Plaintiff's neighbor, who was an investigator for Laclede Gas Company and an acquaintance of Rinck, had called the police department several times to complain about Plaintiff's dogs barking. On April 23, 2014, the neighbor called Rinck to inform him that the gas company had suspended Plaintiff's natural gas service.

    Before visiting Plaintiff's residence, Rinck "ran" Plaintiff's address in the County's Crime Matrix program to determine whether any residents of the home had arrest/criminal histories or outstanding arrest warrants. Rinck's search revealed that Plaintiff's husband, Michael, and her three sons, Joseph, Zacariah, and Isaiah, had criminal histories, which included arrests for violent offenses, and that Plaintiff and her sons had outstanding arrest warrants. Rinck also reviewed a list of all calls for police service to Plaintiff's address, including a report that Plaintiff's pit bull attacked a neighbor's dog.

    Kiya, the pit bull
    On Friday, April 25, 2014, Rinck and two problem property specialists from the County's Department of Public Works went to Plaintiff's house for the purpose of investigating whether the property was safe for occupancy. The County Police Department's other problem properties officer, Officer Rehagan, met Rinck and the property specialists at the residence. When Rinck knocked on the front door and loudly announced himself, the door opened inward. Someone inside the house slammed and locked the front door, and Rinck heard a male voice shout, "fuck you." Rinck knocked several more times, but no one answered the door.

    Officer LaChance responded to Rinck's call for assistance and informed Rinck that he was familiar with the Zorich family. According to LaChance, residents of Plaintiff's house were "hostile and combative with the police." Rinck also spoke to one of Plaintiff's neighbors, who complained about Plaintiff's barking dogs and the "loud and offensive language and behavior of members of the Zorich family" and informed Rinck that an infant and a four-or five-year-old girl might reside there. The neighbor allowed Rinck and the housing specialists to enter his backyard for the purpose of inspecting Plaintiff's property, and they observed that Plaintiff's deck "appeared to be in imminent danger of collapse." Rink also observed the lock on the natural gas meter. Before leaving the property, Rinck placed a problem properties notification sticker on Plaintiff's window.

    Later that day, Plaintiff "googled" the PPU and found a phone number, which she called.  The first woman Plaintiff spoke to informed her "there was no indication of any issues at her address in the computer" and directed her to an employee named Kim. Plaintiff left Kim two messages requesting return telephone calls.

    Plaintiff called the number again the following Monday, April 28, 2014, and spoke to someone who instructed her to call either Rehagan or Rinck directly. Plaintiff first called Rehagan, who informed her that the PPU needed to inspect the interior of her house because they had received an anonymous report that her electricity and gas were off. Plaintiff replied that only her gas was off and, when Rehagan insisted that her electricity was off, Plaintiff said "That's bullshit," and Rehagan terminated the call. Plaintiff called Rehagan back to apologize, and Rehagan advised her to call Rinck.

    Plaintiff then called Rinck, who informed Plaintiff that he was investigating her home for lack of gas service and that someone in her house had said "fuck you" to him. Rinck did not mention the condition of the exterior deck. When Rinck advised Plaintiff that he wished to "meet at the property and conduct an inspection," she responded, "Well, I'll have to talk to my husband." Rinck told Plaintiff that "the investigation would continue."

    How does an unpaid gas bill become a matter for police? Why is it up to cops to help determine if a property is safe for occupancy? Why do they need a SWAT team to make such a determination? How in the hell does any of this happen?

    Thankfully, the Zorich family received $750,000 worth of justice for the ordeal. In my view, the figure should have been higher.

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    Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump

    Saturday's arrest of billionaire hedge-fund manager Jeffrey Epstein could mark the beginning of a nightmarish scenario for Donald Trump, reports a D.C.-based investigative journalist. An indictment against Epstein was unsealed this morning in New York, and the case is expected to be the lead story on cable-news networks throughout the day.

    According to a special Sunday edition of the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), "things just became much worse for Donald Trump." Writes Madsen:

    Billionaire Wall Street hedge fund financier Jeffrey Epstein was arrested by federal authorities on July 6 at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. Epstein was returning on his private jet from a trip to Paris. After his arrest, Epstein was taken to the Metropolitan Corrections Center in Manhattan while awaiting arraignment in federal court at Foley Square on July 8. Epstein's old friend, Donald Trump, was spending the weekend at Trump's Bedminster, New Jersey gold club, 44 miles from the Teterboro airport where Epstein was arrested.

    How could this spell deep trouble for Trump, beyond his friendship with Epstein? Madsen provides insights:

    Epstein, who, according to a joint report by WMR and the Justice Integrity Project in Washington, allegedly raped a 12-year old girl named Maria and a 13-year old, Katie Johnson, the latter a pseudonym, has been charged by federal prosecutors in New York with one count of sex trafficking and one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The 1994 rape, according to more than one witness, not only involved Epstein but his then-close friend, Trump. The incident is said to have occurred at a midtown Manhattan mansion owned by retail billionaire Les Wexner, who owns, among other store chains, Victoria’s Secret, a prominent employer of underage female models. The 12-year old rape victim had been abducted in 1993 from a street corner in Waterbury, Connecticut and provided to a child sex trafficking ring.

    Epstein's legal travails even have tainted the Trump administration:

    In 2008, Epstein beat federal charges of underage sexual trafficking of minor girls by agreeing to a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, then headed by Trump’s current Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, and the Florida Attorney General’s office. The arrangement was called the “deal of a lifetime” by supporters and critics. Had the deal not been drawn up, federal sex trafficking charges brought against Epstein that were contained in a 52-page indictment, could have imprisoned him for life.

    Epstein pleaded guilty to state charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor and agreed to serve 13 months, with unsupervised daytime work release, in an isolated wing of the Palm Beach County Stockade. He also was required to register as a sex offender. Epstein also agreed to pay restitution to his victims. In return, the federal government and state of Florida agreed to a lifetime moratorium on future prosecutions of Epstein or any of his other associates and friends. 
    Various reports have named Epstein longtime mentor Les Wexner; the Duke of York, Prince Andrew; Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, as well as Trump, among the “friends and associates” of Epstein covered by the NPA. Several of Epstein’s victims, including Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who was an underage “towel girl” at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, sued Epstein, charging that their rights under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) had been violated by Acosta’s NPA.

    A crack in the Epstein case came about five months ago:

    In February, US Judge for the Southern District of Florida Kenneth Marra ruled, against strong opposition from the Justice Department, that the Acosta NPA violated the CVRA rights of Epstein’s victims and he has been deliberating on whether to vacate the agreement. Justice Department attorneys in Miami have been arguing that the 2008 NPA with Epstein must stand. . . .

    Over the last several months, the Miami Herald has run a series of exposes, written by reporter Julie K. Brown, exposing further details of the NPA and have identified more of Epstein’s victims. 
    The U.S. Attorneys Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) filed the most recent criminal charges against Epstein. The charges were contained in a sealed indictment and cover sex trafficking between 2002 and 2005 and occurring in Palm Beach and New York City. 2002 is the year that Trump said of Epstein, “I’ve known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.”

    Trump seemed to find humor in Epstein's behavior at one time, but that might not be the case anymore, reports Madsen:

    What is most interesting is the fact that the SDNY’s Public Corruption Unit (PCU) is handling the case against Epstein. This has raised eyebrows among experienced former federal prosecutors because it indicates that the Epstein case may involve malfeasance in office by government officials. Also, one of the SDNY prosecutors handling the Epstein case in Maureen Comey, the daughter of former FBI director James Comey, who Trump fired in 2007 during a fit of rage. Ms. Comey, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has been with the SDNY since 2015 and is with the Office’s Violent and Organized Crime Unit. . . .
    There have been a number of other legal cases involving Epstein in recent months. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has been investigating the role of Acosta in hammering out the NPA with Epstein’s lawyers, who, at the time of the agreement, included Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr, Dershowitz, and famed Miami celebrity attorney Roy Black. Ironically, even as OPR is investigating the legitimacy of the NPA, Justice Department lawyers are arguing in federal court in Miami that it is inviolable and must stand. Also, on July 3, US Second Circuit Judge Jose Cabranes, speaking on behalf of a three-judge panel, ruled that the Justice Department must unseal and produce some 2000 pages of documents dealing with the Epstein NPA. It is believed the documents contain damaging information on Epstein’s friends and associates, including his top aide, Ghislaine Maxwell, the daughter of the late British publisher Robert Maxwell. Robert Maxwell has been linked to Russian Jewish mob boss Semion Mogilevich, who, in turn, has been linked to Trump’s real estate and casino businesses. In December 2018, Epstein concluded a last-minute deal with Bradley Edwards, a south Florida attorney representing Epstein’s victims and who had been sued by Epstein. The financial out-of-court settlement resulted in Epstein’s victims not having to testify in court.

    The Epstein story has a strong international element, especially in Great Britain. Writes Madsen:

    The involvement of British citizen Maxwell and Prince Andrew in the Epstein matter is drawing attention to another recent story concerning top secret cables sent to London from Washington by British ambassador to the United States Kim Darroch. Among the recipients of Darroch’s cables was Mark Sedwill, the British national security adviser and Cabinet Secretary. Darroch warned in one dispatch to London that, with Trump, “we could also be at the beginning of a downward spiral, rather than just a roller coaster: something could emerge that leads to disgrace and downfall.”

    With the FBI involved in the renewed criminal probe of Epstein that links to Maxwell and Prince Andrew, the British ambassador would have, as a matter of course, been briefed by federal authorities on prominent UK citizens being in legal extremis in the United States. In addition, one of the cooperating witnesses for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump campaign interlocutor with Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, George Nader, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport early last month on charges of transporting child pornography into the United States from abroad. How much does Nader know about Trump administration involvement in wider child sexual exploitation and trafficking? Time will tell but the clock has just started moving much faster.

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    Birmingham Superfund site

    Some of the biggest names in Alabama politics might be breathing a sigh of relief now that the North Birmingham Superfund scandal seems to have blown over. But several of them could be developing tightness in the sphincter if recent developments prove the scandal remains very much alive, as reported at banbalch.com (BB).

    What could bring the Superfund scandal roaring back to life? According to a recent post at BB, the answer is a lawsuit that former Drummond Co. executive Dave Roberson filed in March against Balch and Bingham and others who helped make him the fall guy in last summer's criminal trial. From a recent BB post titled "Roberson planning to sing like a canary":

    Facing 30 months in federal prison, bankruptcy, the loss of the family home, and the insurmountable emotional toll he and his family have suffered, ex-Drummond Commpany executive Dave Roberson is prepared to talk with federal prosecutors about the intricate details of the North Birmingham Bribery Scheme.

    Roberson never testified in his criminal trial and has never told anyone outside legal counsel about the meticulous and unsettling details.

    What could turn the tables and revive the Superfund matter? Roberson's attorney in the civil matter is Burt Newsome, who has seen Balch and Bingham attempt to steal his lucrative collections practice, take threatening actions against his wife and family, and pay a Jefferson County judge, apparently to make unlawful rulings in what BB calls "The Newsome Conspiracy Case."

    Newsome, it appears, will not be playing softball with Drummond, Balch, or any of the other political predators involved in the Superfund scandal. Writes BB Publisher K.B. Forbes:

    Just a few months back, Balch and Bingham and Drummond Company were not concerned because Roberson’s criminal lawyers were paid by Drummond and Balch’s grip on Jefferson County including federal probes was solid.

    But all that changed when Roberson hired Burt Newsome as his civil lawyer. Newsome, who allegedly was wrongly targeted, falsely arrested and defamed by Balch and Bingham, is running circles around the Balch posse.

    U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town has been intentionally avoided and overlooked due to his ties to former U.S. Senator Luther Strange, Balch’s biggest stooge.

    Instead, Roberson’s civil lawyer is working with federal investigators in Washington, D.C. and Capitol Hill senior staff. circumventing the political cronyism and corruption of Birmingham.

    Newsome is conducting an end run around compromised local U.S. attorney Jay Town? Yikes, that could strike fear into the hearts of certain Alabama crooks, who once enjoyed the cover provided by Mr. Town and like-minded prosecutors. Reports Forbes:

    And who should be worried?

    Our sources say management members at Alabama Power, Drummond Company, Thompson Tractor, and Balch and Bingham—corporate supporters of the AstroTurf and money laundering entity Alliance for Jobs and the Economy that funneled over $360,000 in bribes to disgraced State Representative Oliver Robinson—appear to have possibly given incomplete testimony or even perjured themselves.

    More interesting now are the five-figure campaign contributions (to investigators: alleged bribes) paid to Balch’s biggest stooge Luther Strange and ex-Governor Robert “Luv Guv” Bentley after signing the multiple ghost-written letters to the EPA against the North Birmingham expedited clean-up efforts.

    The ghost-written letters were allegedly drafted by convicted felon and Balch-made millionaire Joel I. Gilbert.

    We can think of several other Alabama politicos who might have reason to worry if the lid is ripped off the Superfund scandal:

    * Jeff Sessions --  The former U.S. senator and Trump attorney general pocketed hundreds of thousands of campaign-contribution dollars from Balch and Drummond during  his 20 years in Congress. Sessions also intervened to oppose Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action in the Superfund bribery scandal -- and he did so just weeks after conferring with Balch lawyers.

    * Richard Shelby -- Alabama's senior U.S. senator joined with other state scum suckers to send a letter to the EPA condemning the use of the “air deposition theory” at the 35th Avenue site.

    * Luther Strange -- The former U.S. senator and state AG sent detailed letters to the EPA in October 2014 and January 2015 opposing its efforts in North Birmingham. Drummond gave Strange a $25,000 campaign contribution less than a week before the first letter and another $25,000 donation a month after the second.

    Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Richard Shelby
    * Jabo Waggoner -- The long-time state senator in 2015 successfully introduced a resolution opposing the EPA actions at the 35th Avenue Superfund site. According to the Justice Department, the measure was in fact authored by Balch’s Joel Gilbert.

    * Gary Palmer -- The Republican U.S. representative joined with Sessions and Shelby to send a letter to the EPA condemning the use of the “air deposition theory” at the 35th Avenue site. Attached to the letter was a copy of Waggoner’s ghostwritten resolution. In July 2016, according to an EPA spokesman, officials from the agency briefed staffers for Sessions, Shelby, and Palmer regarding the status of the 35th Avenue site.

    *Jessica Medeiros Garrison -- The long-time GOP operative, and one-time campaign manager and mistress for Luther Strange, has worked all around the Superfund scandal without (so far) being fully exposed. Reports Mother Jones: "[Jeffrey] Wood, [Ed] Haden, and other Balch lawyers spearheaded high-profile legal fights with the Obama-era EPA. Wood and Haden represented Republican members of Congress in a 2016 court filing siding with West Virginia as it fought EPA carbon emission standards at coal power plants. The lawsuit appeared to be coordinated by coal behemoth Murray Energy and the fossil fuel industry-funded Republican Attorneys General Association. RAGA’s executive director at the time, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, was simultaneously an attorney at Balch from 2011 through 2016. She has also worked for Sessions."

    Public documents suggest Garrison has dropped out of Luther Strange World and aligned on with the Gaty Palmer Universe. We have received several reports that the Palmer-Garrison relationship has become quite personal, going well beyond political and professional issues. Palmer has a trail of sexual-harassment complaints, dating to his days at the Alabama Policy Institute, so a Palmer-Garrison match might be a natural. We are researching that matter for a possible series of posts.

    * Doug Jones -- Most of the Superfund Sleaze has involved Republicans, but U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) largely has avoided scrutiny, even though he served as attorney for the money-laundering foundation of former State Rep. Oliver Robinson, who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Drummond and Balch. Prosecutors stated that Robinson, Roberson, and Gilbert developed a bribery contract through Balch, and Jones was serving as Robinson's lawyer during that general time period. Did Jones assist in preparing the contract, did he review it, does Jones have ties to Balch and Bingham that might cause him to become active in such a transaction? Would Oliver Robinson enter into such a contract without checking with his personal attorney?

    Here is what Alabama political insider Jill Simpson wrote on Facebook in December 2017, noting Jones' propensity for working with unsavory characters:

    Doug Jones did the legal work for corrupt black politician Mr Robinson's foundation that accepted bribes from Republican law firms and Drummond folks for toxic tort committed against the black community in Birmingham. Just looks to me like another corrupt republican deal Doug was involved in plus for years he has acted like he was for the black community but he doesn't fool me. I still remember hearing from old FEMA and Pentagon guys as a young storm gypsy stories sitting around a beach fire about how Doug Jones represented one of the head guys for the Klan, Tom Posey, and how that guy was trading airplane loads of guns and getting dope in the Contra deals and dumping on black communities all over our state -- and how Doug got him off, and the fellow was guilty as sin.

    Does Doug Jones, in fact, have some ugly ties to Balch and Bingham -- perhaps a "special friend" with ties to the law firm? We have been working on that story for several months and expect to have it nailed down soon. It could throw a major wrench into Jones' hopes for re-election in 2020.

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    Documents related to the North Birmingham Superfund scandal suggest former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange accepted a bribe to send a letter opposing the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) clean-up efforts.

    Strange might not be the only Alabama politico to dip his toe into criminal waters, and a Birmingham-based blog's reporting on the matter has set off hysteria among the state's officialdom and legal elites, especially in Washington, D.C. and likely Montgomery and Birmingham, too. Former Drummond executive David Roberson, and attorney Burt Newsome reportedly are working the ropes to spill all of the ugly details to the U.S. Department of Justice.

    As for Strange, let's consider the timeline of his dubious actions, as reflected in documents embedded at the top of this post:

    (1) An email that Balch and Bingham lawyer Joel Gilbert sent to the Alabama AG's Office, requesting Strange's opposition to the EPA -- Oct. 13, 2014;

    (2)  A draft of the letter, written by Gilbert, opposing EPA action -- dated Oct. 8, 2014;

    (3) Contribution detail, in the amount of $25,000, from Drummond Co. to Luther Strange Campaign Committee -- Oct. 17, 2014;

    (4) A copy of the letter, on official letterhead of Alabama AG's Office (and signed by Strange), sent to EPA administrator Heather McTeer Toney -- dated Oct. 23, 2014.

    What does all of this mean? Let's turn to K.B. Forbes, editor of banbalch.com, for analysis. From a post titled "Scary Canary! Panic as Roberson–the Missing Link– Considers Singing to Feds":

    Our sources in Washington, D.C. tell us there has been panic since our post a week ago about ex-Drummond executive Dave Roberson who is now considering singing like a canary to federal investigators.

    Venable, the prestigious law firm out of Baltimore, that tried unsuccessfully to prevent the indictments of Balch and Bingham partners Steven McKinney and Joel I.Gilbert, is now out and about, hot on the trail. Our sources could not tell us who has contracted them (Balch? Drummond?).

    Our website traffic confirms the sheer depth of the panic: we had record traffic on Monday and Tuesday of last week, quadruple the typical traffic and extremely unusual just days before a national holiday.

    Why the panic? Forbes provides insights:

    And what so upsets Drummond, Alabama Power and Balch and Bingham if Roberson were to squeal?

    Could it be payments for official acts? The signing of ghost-written letters in exchange for campaign cash? The confirmation of alleged corruption and an alleged bribery ring?

    Ex-U.S. Senator Luther Strange, Balch and Bingham’s biggest stooge, appears to face a real criminal problem of his own. Allegedly provoked by Balch, he involved himself in the North Birmingham EPA matter even though Strange had no authority to do so. At the time, the Governor had delegated the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to handle all issues related to the North Birmingham EPA matter.

    * On October 13, 2014, convicted felon and Balch-made millionaire Joel I. Gilbert sent Luther Strange, then the Alabama Attorney General, a draft letter about the North Birmingham EPA matter.

    * Four days later, on October 17, Strange accepted a $25,000 contribution from Drummond Company.

    * Six days later after the money was deposited, Strange signed the ghost-written letter and dispatched it on his official letterhead to the EPA on October 23, 2014.

    What about other Alabama politicos -- generally of the GOP variety -- who might be hearing a freight train comin' around the bend? We will address their issues in an upcoming post.

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    Riley Jackson lawyers: Dealing in deceit

    Which opposing party is attempting the most brazen legal chicanery in our pending appeal of "The Jail Case" before the U.S. Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta? The "honor," in what should be a surprise to no one, goes to the Rob Riley defendants and their esteemed counsel from the Birmingham firm of Stott and Harrington.

    How does the Riley scam work? Well, let's take it step by step.

    Our lawsuit, focusing primarily on my unlawful arrest and incarceration for blogging in Shelby County, Alabama, is timely on at least two grounds: (1) Accrual of the statute of limitations  (SOL) in a civil-rights case is governed by federal law, which holds that the SOL in a case involving false arrest and imprisonment does not begin to run until the imprisonment ends. My imprisonment ended on March 26, 2014, and "The Jail Case" lawsuit was filed on March 26, 2016, inside the two-year window under Alabama law; (2) A legal concept called "equitable tolling" extends the SOL in cases where a party is hampered by a legal disability.

    In our case, the disability in question is the broken arm that my wife, Carol, suffered at the hands of deputies in Greene County, Missouri, during an unlawful eviction. Carol's broken arm, which came just as we were about to file our notice of appeal and original brief in "The Jail Case," was a comminuted fracture that required eight hours of trauma surgery and involved a number of possible complications that could have been life threatening. It also required about six months of intensive physical therapy, and during that time, I pretty much became Carol's full-time caregiver.

    If that does not qualify as a legal disability that prompts equitable tolling, I'm not sure what would. But the Riley defendants were not having it. Since they had no real legal argument, they decided to distort reality, with the assistance of their lawyers from Stott and Harrington. Here is how we described it in our reply brief (embedded below, with our appellants' brief):

    Perhaps the most blatant outrage in the Riley response brief involves the Shulers’ claim re: equitable tolling, due to Carol Shuler’s broken arm – broken by law-enforcement thugs in Missouri. Riley states: “It is nonsense to suggest that an injury to Carol Shuler should extend the statute of limitations date for a claim of abuse of process which belonged only to Roger Shuler. Carol Shuler was not a party in the underlying Shelby County court action upon which the abuse of process claim was based.”

    We invite you to examine a couple of documents (here and here) from the underlying court action in Shelby County. The first is an amicus curiae memorandum from the Alabama office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), showing that Judge Claud Neilson's actions in ordering my arrest and incarceration were wildly unlawful. Under "Respondents" near the top of the motion, you will notice the name Carol T. Shuler. That's my wife, the one who had her arm broken. Her name is present because she was a party to the case, put there by the Riley defendants themselves, who included her in their lawsuit.

    Stott and Harrington
    The second document is Rob Riley's Motion for Contempt. Again, the name Carol T. Shuler appears among Respondents. And Riley even goes so far as to seek her arrest.

    How do the Riley defendants, and their Stott and Harrington lawyers, then reach the conclusion Carol was not a party in the Shelby County court action? That defies explanation, and here is our reaction in the replay brief:

    Carol Shuler was not a party? Really? Are the Riley defendants and their lawyers monstrous liars or are they too lazy to check the public record? The Riley lawyer does not even know who his client sued? Carol Shuler most certainly was a defendant in the underlying court action, and a simple search on Alacourt.gov shows that (if Riley hasn’t caused the record to be sealed). In fact, the Riley defendants specifically sought Carol Shuler’s unlawful arrest and incarceration, just as they did with Roger Shuler; their law-enforcement cronies just weren’t able to kidnap her. This blatant false statement in a legal brief should call into question all of the so-called arguments Riley attempts to pass off as legitimate.

    Both the Riley defendants and the Stott-Harrington lawyers are "officers of the court," so this sham argument probably constitutes fraud on the court. We will be studying that issue and considering how to respond as we await findings from the Eleventh Circuit.

    (To be continued)

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    A singing Canary, Luther Strange, Dave Roberson
    (From banbalch.com)

    Former attorney general and U.S. senator Luther Strange might not be the only Alabama politico with a bribery problem in his future. If former Drummond Co. executive David Roberson "sings like a canary" for federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., members of the Alabama Congressional delegation might join Strange in the cross hairs, according to a recent report at ban.balch.com.

    On top of that, the CEO of Alabama's most powerful corporate entity might be under federal scrutiny.The fallout from the North Birmingham Superfund Scandal emits an overwhelming stench of "pay to play politics" -- one U.S. attorney Jay Town did not even try to fully resolve in last summer's criminal trial.

    Writes K.B. Forbes, publisher of the Ban Balch Web site: (Related documents are embedded at the end of this post.)

    The vast majority of the U.S. Congressional delegation from Alabama may have their own crisis, too. Even though none of these members of Congress represent the North Birmingham area, they jointly signed a letter to the EPA, allegedly provoked, too, by Balch.

    * On October 30, 2014, a ghost-written letter drafted by Balch and Bingham and signed by six members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama was dispatched. That same day, Congressman Robert Aderholt reported receiving $5,000 from Alabama Power, according to FEC filings.

    * A week before, Drummond Company gave Congressman Bradley Byrne $5,000 on October 22, while forking out another $5,000 to Congressman Mike Rogers on October 24.

    * Balch and Bingham sweetened the money trail by tossing $2,000 to Congressman Aderholt on October 28, 2014.

    * At various times in October, Congressman Mo Brooks received $2,000 total from Balch and Bingham, $2,500 from Drummond, and $5,000 from Alabama Power.

    * Congresswoman Martha Roby reported a $4,000 contribution from Alabama Power on election day, November 4, 2014—five days after the letter was mailed out.
    Over $30,000 was used to grease the wheels.

    For those of you keeping score at home, that's Aderholt, Byrne, Rogers, Brooks, and Roby on the Greasy-Palm Sleaze Train for Balch and Bingham. They are all white and Republican -- but Oliver Robinson, a black Democrat, sits in jail. Just when you think Alabama "justice" can't get any uglier or racist . . .

    Mark Crosswhite
    What about that powerful CEO? We're talking about Mark Crosswhite of Alabama Power. Writes Forbes in a post titled "Is Alabama Power's Crosswhite in DOJ's cross hairs?"

    In Alabama, the plantation mentality wants everyone to stay in their place and to accept the injustice or unsavory conduct—quietly.

    Even if you are a success story and not from the gentry class, the people with the plantation mentality won’t accept you, especially if you are African-American.

    If ex-Drummond Vice President of Government Affairs David Roberson sings to the feds, who will be hurt the most in this evolving Greek tragedy?

    Alabama Power.

    And who would be in the DOJ’s cross hairs? Most likely Mark Crosswhite, the current CEO of Alabama Power and a former long-time Balch and Bingham partner.

    How does Crosswhite fit in with the plantation mentality? Forbes explains:

    In 2016, two-years after he was named Alabama Power’s CEO,Crosswhite told al.com, “”For years I had been deeply involved in helping with the decision-making process, in offering recommendations, courses of action, but I was never involved in the final decision-making and when the chance came to cross over from the legal side to the business side that is why I did it.”

    So Crosswhite likes to make decisions. Final decisions.

    Might the feds be interested in some of Crosswhite's final decisions? Forbes says the answer is yes:

    Investigators may ask:

    * Did Crosswhite make the final decisions, courses of action in regards to the corrupt AstroTurf entity Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE) that laundered money to bought-and-paid for politician Oliver Robinson?

    * Did Crosswhite make the final decision to send Balch lobbyist Jeffrey H. Wood (working on behalf of Alabama Power) up onto Capitol Hill to get the inside scoop on the North Birmingham suppression effort?

    * Did Crosswhite make the final decision to support the effort to suppress and discourage poor African-Americans in North Birmingham from testing their toxic and contaminated property?

    * Was Crosswhite in any way “deeply involved” in the decision to have Balch and Bingham target and harass GASP, the tiny but vocal environmental group?

    * Did Crosswhite know at any time that AJE money was going to bribe Oliver Robinson directly?

    * Did Crosswhite make the final decision, the alleged deal that prevented federal prosecutors from calling anyone from Alabama Power in the North Birmingham Bribery Trial last year?

    Could it be that Mark Crosswhite bit off more than he can chew? Writes Forbes:

    Crosswhite, we are told, loves to be the most powerful man in Alabama.

    He relished the ouster of Bill Canary from the Business Council of Alabama last summer (which Crosswhite spearheaded).

    But the foolish plantation mentality of Alabama has no standing before a federal grand jury or congressional hearing.

    Crosswhite, who has deep roots in Alabama from the early 19th century according to his bio, should be furious at Balch and Bingham for exposing Alabama Power to possible criminal and civil RICO actions because of the ego of Schuyler Allen Baker, Jr.—a dinosaur partner at Balch.

    Schuyler’s sheer stupidity of fighting to the death against Burt Newsome, a commoner not from the gentry class of Mountain Brook, has wrecked havoc on the firm. Newsome is also representing David Roberson in his $50 million civil lawsuit against Balch and Drummond Company.

    Fighting those with a plantation mentality, Newsome has refused to remain silent and subservient. And even many of the powerful are respecting Newsome for not taking it on the chin.

    In the forthcoming weeks, Balch’s most important client and former partner may feel the scorching heat of the U.S. Department of Justice simply because Balch wouldn’t bring closure with a commoner.

    Stupidity at its highest. Even a seasoned decision maker like Crosswhite would agree.

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    Jeffrey Epstein and his temple on
    Little St. James Island (from Wayne Madsen Report)

    Donald Trump apparently is telling the truth about having a "falling out" with convicted pedophile and accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein -- although it was over a real-estate deal and not any concerns from Trump about Epstein's taste for sex with underage girls. Since Epstein's arrest on July 6, the scandal has developed tentacles that reach to China; Israel; Virgin Islands; Russia a ranch near Stanley, New Mexico; and vacation spots in the Michigan lake country, near Traverse City.

    All of this comes from reporting over the past four days at D.C.-based Wayne Madsen Report (WMR). Let's take a look at some of the latest on a scandal that threatens a sitting U.S. president and VIPs from around the world:

    Breaking News: Donald Trump actually tells the truth!

    Trump is not lying, Madsen reports, when he speaks of a falling out with Epstein. Here's how Madsen describes it:

    Trump’s relationship with Epstein did not falter over Epstein’s continued sexual molestation of underage girls but was caused by a dispute over Palm Beach real estate. The early 1990s was a time when Trump and Epstein allegedly engaged in orgies with girls as young as 12- and 13-years old at Epstein’s Manhattan mansion-townhouse. In 2002, Trump said that Epstein was a “terrific guy” who liked beautiful women on the “younger side.” Trump did not criticize Epstein but offered him praise.

    In 2004, Epstein, who was still close to Trump, showed him a foreclosed Palm Beach mansion, called Maison de L'Amitié,that Epstein was planning to purchase for $36 million. Trump, without telling Epstein, bought the property for $40 million through a limited liability corporation called Trump Properties LLC. Since Trump Properties had no money, the deal was totally financed by Deutsche Bank, which has apparently taken over from the defunct BCCI as the new “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.”

    Perhaps as a result of new scrutiny of Trump’s business, as well as social ties to Epstein, Trump lashed out at those probing Deutsche Bank in a July 11 morning tweet:

    “The Fake News Media loves the narrative that I didn’t use many banks because the banks didn’t like me. No, I didn’t use many banks because I didn’t (don’t) need their money (old fashioned, isn’t it?). If I did, it would have been very easy for me to get . . . And remember, a bank that I did use years ago, the now badly written about and maligned Deutsche Bank, was then one of the largest and most prestigious banks in the world! They wanted my business, and so did many others!”

    The Epstein  scandal quickly produces international shock waves

    Epstein's ties to Israel form a fascinating angle to the story, and Madsen reports that underage girls were not the only victims in Epstein's perverse network:

    Reporter and author Vicky Ward was told that before his Senate confirmation hearing to be Labor Secretary, Acosta had replied to White House staff interviewers that he had struck the sweetheart federal and state of Florida non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with Epstein because the pedophile “belonged to intelligence,” that Acosta was “above his pay-grade” and needed to “back off.” Based on Epstein’s close circle, which includes billionaire retail magnate Les Wexner, a strong supporter of Israel; the late Mossad asset, publisher Robert Maxwell; Maxwell’s daughter, Ghislaine Maxwell; Israel’s uncompromising lapdog, attorney Alan Dershowitz; and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the “intelligence” masters for Epstein is Mossad. Epstein fits the bill of Mossad’s Talmudic motto, “Through Deception Thou Shalt Wage War.” Sexual blackmail of politicians and other important people has always been firmly part of Mossad’s playbook. And while Epstein’s prurient interests involved young girls, WMR has been informed by well-positioned sources that others within Epstein’s trafficking network produced underage males for select Epstein’s “clients.”

    Speaking of Israel, Epstein's Little St. James Island includes a structure that appears to be a temple of some sort, perhaps a synagogue. What kind of activities took place there? That remains unclear, writes Madsen:

    Little St. James is a 78-acre island located southeast of the coast of St. Thomas. Between 2009 and 2013, Epstein had a temple built in the southwest corner of the island. The blue and white stripe color scheme and gold dome on the structure strongly hint that it is a synagogue of some nature. However, the building is no ordinary synagogue. On the roof is a statue of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, along with statues of two crested birds that appear to be cockatoos. A statue of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom and strategic warfare, was also reported on the grounds around the temple. The Jewish religion prohibits the worship of idols, so Epstein’s temple is some sort of strange hybrid of a Greco-Roman-Judaic nature. The door on the temple’s building has a medieval lock designed to keep people confined in the structure.

    The presence of a number of underage girls on the island at various times -- some girls as young as 12 -- suggests that the “temple” was used for some sort of bizarre sexual rituals. The temple and other structures on the island are only visible from the air, since access to the island is severely restricted. Some reports claim the gold dome and statues on the roof of the temple have been removed. Epstein also owns the nearby larger island of Great Saint James. Locals and tourists who once visited Great Saint James now avoid it like the plague. Local construction workers, who were hired to build Epstein’s island mansion, temple, and helipad, were required to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and, almost to a person, are silent about what they have witnessed on the island, derisively nicknamed “Pedo Island” by the locals.

    Little Trouble in Big China

    Roughly five days after Epstein's arrest a prominent Chinese businessman was arrested on child-molestation charges in Shanghai. How did that happen so quickly, and what could be the ramifications? Writes: Madsen:

    On July 11, Shanghai prosecutors charged Wang Zhenhua, the chairman of SeaZen Holdings Co. Ltd., a major Chinese real estate developer, and Future Land, a Hong Kong developer, with child molestation. Another man, identified only as Zhou, were arrested after the mother of a girl from Jiangsu province said Zhou took her daughter to a Shanghai five-star hotel, where she was molested by Wang and Zhou. Zhou first coaxed the girl by taking her to Shanghai Disneyland. Wang was also politically connected and served on the advisory board for the Shanghai municipal government. The government announced that Wang had been expelled from the body after his arrest. The fact that a billionaire pedophile, who likely had gotten away with molesting young girls for some time, would have been taken down so soon after Epstein’s arrest gives rise to the possibility that among Epstein’s papers have been discovered the names of powerful politicians and businessmen around the world. An FBI tip-off to the Shanghai police directly or through INTERPOL, may have resulted in policed surveillance of Wang and his associates. And in what could pose additional problems for Trump, the portfolio of SeaZen Capital Partners LLC includes properties around Trump properties in Palm Beach County, Florida, ground zero for Epstein and a Chinese intelligence blackmail and influence-peddling operation that involves Mar-a-Lago, billionaire members of Mar-a-Lago, and Trump golf courses.

    From the Great Southwest to the Upper Midwest

    The public probably thinks of the Epstein scandal arising mostly out of New York City and Palm Beach, Florida. But as Madsen reports, its tentacles reach far into more remote locations:

    The U.S. Virgin Islands government is not the only one suspected of consorting with Epstein, who was required to check in with local authorities as a registered sex offender. Epstein was of no interest to authorities in New Mexico, where he maintains the high-desert Zorro Ranch, just east of the Sandia Mountains in Stanley. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said he will push for legislation to require anyone with a sex trafficking conviction to register as a sex offender in New Mexico. At least one of Epstein’s underage victims said she was abused by Epstein at the Zorro Ranch. Epstein bought the ranch property from former Governor Bruce King, who died in 2009. Balderas’s predecessor as Attorney General, Gary King, who is also Bruce King’s son and an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, claimed he returned Epstein’s campaign donations. Gary King’s family continues to own land around the Zorro Ranch, where Epstein also built an airplane hangar and runway. Former Governor Bill Richardson said he gave Epstein’s contributions to his political campaigns to charity.

    Epstein also owned the Jeffrey Epstein Scholarship Lodge at Michigan's Interlochen Center for the Arts, a fine-arts children's boarding school and camp near Traverse City, Michigan. Epstein stands accused of raping then-15-year old Jennifer Araoz at the camp and grooming 13-year old Maria Farmer to be one of his sex slaves.

    (Trivia: What recurring character in our Legal Schnauzer story has curious ties to New Mexico? Why, that would be Birmingham attorney and grease ball Rob Riley. Gee, I wonder how Riley developed his connections in New Mexico. Hmmmm.)

    A possible Epstein plea deal and ties to organized crime in Russia

    What could an Epstein plea deal mean for compromised VIPs around the globe. Madsen writes:

    As Trump did not cut ties with Epstein over Epstein’s sexual consorting with minors but over a real estate deal, a significant question remains: Since Epstein faces, perhaps, the rest of his life in prison, he is in a position to negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors if he provides them names of others involved in what Epstein’s indictment by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) calls a global “vast network” of victims. Epstein may not have been a billionaire, on paper, but he had access to billions of dollars, much of which -- as is the case with Trump – came from Deutsche Bank. What congressional and SDNY prosecutors are keenly interested in is: What is the amount of Russian oligarch and organized criminal syndicate money that was laundered by Deutsche Bank for businessmen like Trump and Epstein.

    The Epstein story is so smarmy that we could use some humor to help break up the perversity. The Israeli angle reminds us of the classic Adam Sandler comedy "You Don't Mess with the Zohan." Here are some highlights. Enjoy:

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    Chris Blevins, an Alabama thug with a badge

    The Alabama deputy-thugs who broke into our Birmingham home, beat me up inside my own house, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me for a five-month imprisonment in the Shelby County Jail -- all over 100 percent civil issues, with no whiff of criminal allegations -- originally claimed in court documents they enjoyed state immunity to commit such acts. Even more outrageous, oily U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins agreed with them, dismissing excessive-force and related claims on immunity grounds.

    But what happened when we pointed out in a Motion to Reconsider, and subsequent documents, that Alabama law holds one claiming state immunity must prove he was acting within "the line and scope of his employment." -- meaning no determination on such an issue can be made at the early dismissal stage, without discovery?

    Well, the deputy-thugs, led by Chris Blevins and Jason Valenti (who threatened to break my arms, on my own driveway) apparently did not like that notion too much, so they decided to focus on some other form of "get out of jail free card" -- namely qualified immunity.

    That does not work for them either, as we will show here in a moment, but let's consider this question first: What does it mean that the cops abandoned their state-immunity issue so quickly? We can think of two answers:

    (1) They want to avoid discovery at all costs because it will reveal the extent of their thuggishness, and who ordered it;

    (2) They essentially are admitting that they were not acting within the "line and scope of their employment." That suggests they were on a special assignment, to assault and arrest a troublesome blogger, that had nothing to do with their official duties as agents of the state.

    We addressed the Blevins' defendants state-immunity claims in our reply brief (embedded at the end of this post, along with our appellants' brief):

    The Blevins defendants’ state-immunity argument fails because they have not established that they were operating within the line and scope of their employment at the time of Roger Shuler’s arrest. The trial court erred regarding the burden of proving a defendant is entitled to state immunity. Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins put the burden on the Shulers, writing: “Plaintiffs do not dispute that the defendants (Sheriff Curry, Deputy Sheriff Blevins, and Deputy Sheriff Valenti) were acting in the course and scope of their employment when the complained-of touching allegedly occurred.” The Alabama Supreme Court, however, has adopted a burden-shifting framework for establishing a right to immunity, per Ex parte Estate of Reynolds, 946 So. 2d 450 (Ala., 2006): “A defendant initially bears the burden of demonstrating that he was acting in a function that would entitle him to immunity.” In this case, the defendants hold the burden of proving they were acting within the line and scope of their employment, and they have not come close to doing that, making dismissal on this issue improper. 
    Blevins’ immunity argument especially fails because Alabama law holds that no determination can be made on such an issue at the motion to dismiss stage, without discovery. From Ex parte Haralson, 853 So. 2d 928 (Ala.,2003): “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.

    Our reply brief also showed the cops do not enjoy qualified immunity either:

    Blevins’ qualified immunity argument fails per Ex parte Alabama Department of Youth Services, 880 So. 2d 393 (Ala. Supreme Court. 2003, which holds: “a State agent shall not be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity: (1) when the Constitution or laws of the United States, or the Constitution of this State, or laws, rules, or regulations of this State enacted or promulgated for the purpose of regulating the activities of a governmental agency require otherwise; or (2) when the State agent acts willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.

    The Shulers’ complaint is filled with allegations that deputies violated clear constitutional rights and did so “willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith.” The deputies clearly acted outside the scope of their employment. Code of Alabama 36-22-3(4) states: “It shall be the duty of sheriffs in their respective counties, by themselves or deputies, to ferret out crime, to apprehend and arrest criminals and, insofar as within their power, to secure evidence of crimes . . . . In the instant matter, there was not even a whiff of a criminal allegation against Roger Shuler. He was targeted because of a complaint that was 100 percent civil – a bogus defamation claim brought by defendants Rob Riley and Liberty Duke, and their various lawyers. Shuler was targeted because of a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited as unlawful prior restraints under more than 200 years of First Amendment law. (See Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697, 1931.) Nothing in Sec. 36-22-3(4) suggests it is within the deputies’ line and scope of employment to break into a citizen’s home, beat him up and douse him with pepper spray, and arrest him on a totally non-criminal matter – while never stating his purpose for being on the property (a violation of state law, under Code of Alabama 15-10-2) and never showing or stating that he possessed a warrant.

    These issues become particularly profound when you consider that Americans enjoy a Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, especially inside their homes -- as the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear:

    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.” Bottom line: The Shelby County deputies violated at least two rulings of the nation’s highest court – rulings that invoked the First and Fourth Amendments – and the force used (for an unlawful arrest) was illegal, per Jackson v. Sauls, 206 F. 3d 1156 (11 th Cir., 2000). (". . . if a stop or arrest is illegal, then there is no basis for any threat or any use of force, and an excessive force claim would always arise but only collaterally from the illegal stop or arrest claim.")

    On the evening of Oct. 23, 2013, I had a constitutional right to pull our car into our garage without worrying that Chris Blevins (or any other thug with a badge) would enter, and after being told to get out, beat me up and arrest me over a matter that was not a felony and was not even criminal in the slightest.

    This post has focused on the facts and law related to the Blevins defendants and shows they have no defense for their thuggish actions. But perhaps the most important point involves a real-world reality: The Blevins defendants cannot withstand discovery because it will show they were not acting in the "line and scope of their employment," and it will show who ordered them to arrest me for blogging.

    (To be continued)

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    John Merrill

    America's moral core is rotting because of a "preoccupation with homosexual activities" and "the wife swap (TV) shows," according to Alabama 2020 U.S. Senate hopeful John Merrill.

    That's the same John Merrill, currently Alabama's Republican secretary of state, who admitted in 2015 to an extramarital sexual encounter with a Tuscaloosa woman named Millie Brinyark. We wrote multiple posts about Merrill's indiscretion, including this one under the title "Alabama Sec. of State Merrill admits to extramarital sexual encounter, but denies receiving oral sex." (That headline, BTW, is legit, not from the Onion; more on that in an upcoming post.)

    Did anyone in Alabama's right-leaning press, in their coverage of Merrill's comments about gays and wife-swap shows, mention his relationship with Millie Brinyark? Nope. Did any of them mention long-running reports about his affair with a woman who runs a real-estate development company in Huntsville? Nope, but we are working to nail down that story and hope to have it ready for publication in the near future.

    In a deposition for a divorce case styled Brinyark v. Brinyark, Millie Brinyark provided graphic descriptions of her interactions with Merrill. Here are samples from a post where Legal Schnauzer broke the story on Jan. 29, 2015. First, Brinyark admits in the deposition that she and a teacher/coach named Mike Evans, were "groping each other" behind closed doors during school hours. Then the questions turn to another married man with whom Ms. Brinyark was chummy:

    Q: Have you gotten yourself involved with any other married man?

    A: Yes

    Q: Who?

    A: John Merrill.

    What about specifics? The deposition provides plenty:

    Q: Did you consider the fact that when another man touches what I will call your body, particularly your private parts, that's being unfaithful to your husband?

    A: Yes.

    Q: And Mike Evans did that, didn't he?

    A: Yes.

    Q: And John Merrill did that too, didn't he?

    A: Yes.

    Q: And you allowed them to do that?

    A: Yes.

    Then, we have one of the greatest question-answers in the history of depositions:

    Q: And when you were touching their body, and putting your hand in their crotch, and touching their penis, did they tell you they didn't like that?

    A: No.

    I still break out laughing at that one. But the steamy stuff was just beginning. From our January 2015 post:
    Men often are the aggressors in these situations, and that appears to be the case with Merrill. The deposition mentions that he is a politician, running for office:

    A: John came to talk to me, and he came again and talked to me, and then I met with him that Sunday afternoon, and he had--he had been very sexual in his conversations and --

    Q: Toward you?

    A: Yes.

    Q: In an inappropriate manner?

    A: Yes.

    Q: In what way?

    A: Just that he talked about he had to have sex all the time and --

    Q: He wanted to have it with you?

    A: Uh-huh.

    Merrill has to "have sex all the time"? Gee, how does the guy find time to serve as secretary of state? How could he possibly serve as U.S. senator? Here's more from our post that broke the Brinyark scandal:

    How physical did things get?

    Q: Did he touch, caress, and/or kiss your breasts?

    A: Yes.

    Q: Did you do the same for him?

    A: Yes.

    Q: So you touched his unexposed penis?

    A: Yes.

    Q. And did either one of y'all have oral sex with the other?

    A: Yes.

    Q: How many times?

    A: Just once.

    Q: Both for each other?

    A: No.

    Q: Him for you--did he commit or perform oral sex on you?

    A: No.

    Q: You performed oral sex on him?

    A: Yes.

    So, Merrill, while married, once happily accepted a BJ from someone not his wife? But he now portrays himself as an expert on moral rot in our society? Think I'm going to choke from all the H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y emanating from this story. It seems Merrill wants the rest of us to live in downtown Mayberry, while his life is like something out of Showtime After Dark.

    Millie Brinyark and family
    What exactly did Merrill say over the weekend about gays, wife swapping, and old-timey TV shows. This is from a report at The Hill:

    Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill (R), a 2020 Senate candidate, says that Americans are too “preoccupied with homosexual activities” and “the wife swap shows,” ruining everything from TV to the country’s moral direction.

    Merrill, one of multiple Republicans looking to challenge Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) made the comments over the weekend at a town hall event in Dekalb County, according to the Yellowhammer News.

    As he took questions from attendees, one asked about the culture shift and how the country’s principles have allegedly been eroded, prompting Merrill to point to what is being shown on TV, among other things.

    “We’re too interested in seeing how this family’s finding a way to mess on this family or to see how people are trying to date on TV, or having wife-swapping on TV. That’s what we watch. When we push back against that, and we quit allowing it to be in our homes — that’s how those changes have occurred because we’ve allowed them to slowly but surely come into our lives,” he said.

    “How have we allowed it to happen? There are no more good TV shows on like ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Virginian,’ ‘Andy Griffith,’ ‘I Love Lucy.’ We don’t have those shows anymore. We’re too interested in homosexual activities,” Merrill said.

    “We’re too interested in seeing how this family’s finding a way to mess on this family or to see how people are trying to date on TV, or having wife-swapping on TV. That’s what we watch. When we push back against that, and we quit allowing it to be in our homes — that’s how those changes have occurred because we’ve allowed them to slowly but surely come into our lives,” he said.

    Once Merrill found a few scapegoats for America's supposed decline, he couldn't top talking about it. He doubled down with his themes in an interview with al.com on Monday night:

    In a phone interview Monday night, Merrill confirmed his remarks to AL.com.

    “The foundational principles which we have grown up as a nation are no more,” the secretary of state and Senate candidate said. “There’s no more TV shows like ‘Gunsmoke’ or ‘Bonanza’ or ‘The Virginian’ or ‘I Love Lucy’ or ‘Andy Griffith.' [I] said people are too interested in homosexual activities. They’re too interested in the wife swap TV shows and the shows that are not morally uplifting. That’s the problem.”

    Asked to explain what he meant, Merrill said, “I meant what I said. People are too interested in anything that is not uplifting, edifying. They’re too busy being preoccupied with homosexual activities and the wife swap shows."

    He declined to give examples of how Americans are too preoccupied with “homosexual activities.”

    Merrill said there are no longer shows “that are based on biblical foundations. ...Shows that promote family and culture with a father, a mother and children based on biblical teachings and biblical principles on which our nation was founded."

    Did anyone in the audience at Fort Payne ask Merrill how "biblical principles" informed his actions with Millie Brinyark? The answer appears to be no, suggesting Merrill must be counting on Alabama voters to be stupid, forgetful -- or both. Did Merrill fall on his sword and mention the Brinyark peccadillo himself? Nope, must have slipped his mind.

    That's understandable, given the Alabama mainstream press largely has provided a cover-up on the story -- one that is pretty darned embarrassing for the journalism profession.

    (To be continued)

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    John Merrill

    The claims of Alabama U.S. Senate hopeful John Merrill that a preoccupation with "homosexual activities" and the "wife swap TV shows" is causing moral rot in America raises a host of discomfiting questions.

    Is Merrill's steaming pile of hypocrisy, given his 2015 admission to an "extramarital sexual encounter," the smelliest part of this story? Or maybe it's the Alabama press' willingness to provide cover for a white Republican by failing to mention Merrill's own indiscretions in coverage of his bromide about old-timey television shows? Or is it the explanation Merrill gave to a newspaper's panel of four journalists in 2015 that was so flimsy it stretched credulity to the breaking point?

    How did Merrill explain his dalliance with a woman named Millie Brinyark to higher-ups at al.com (The Birmingham News)? We would describe it as "off-the-charts goofy." But the assembled journos, casting inquisitiveness and healthy skepticism aside, seemed to swallow it, as fishermen like to say, "hook, line, and sinker."

    After we broke the Merrill-Brinyark story on January 29, 2015 -- he was then, as he is now, Alabama's secretary of state -- Merrill met with members of the al.com staff in an apparent effort to squirm out of trouble. Here is how we described it in a post dated February 5, 2015:

    Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill admits to having an extramarital sexual encounter but denies it included oral sex, according to an article published yesterday afternoon at al.com.

    Merrill, a Republican with solid backing from business and religious organizations, also admitted to recommending the woman, Millie Brinyark, for a school-related job. But Merrill denied making the hiring decision, even though the job apparently was in a program he once managed. . . .

    What is Merrill's version of the sexual encounter? Here is how al.com describes it:

    Merrill said the woman called him and asked to meet on Sunday, Sept. 12 (2010), at a condo owned by her brother. (In her deposition, the woman said Merrill asked her about getting together that Sunday, but acknowledged that she suggested the location, saying she had to go there anyway to return a parking pass.). That is where the encounter happened that Merrill and the woman describe differently.

    Merrill told reporters: "Basically, when I walked in, we started talking. She kissed me, I kissed her back. Then she started unbuttoning my shirt, and after that, she started to become more aggressive, and she actually did some other things in trying to engage me in some physical activity with her, which I declined, and I indicated to her that I was not going to do that.

    "I stopped, and I said, 'I need to go, I'm not going to be here anymore'."

    How did Merrill skirt Brinyark's graphic description, in a divorce-case deposition (under oath), of their encounter? Given that Merrill is a long-time chum of Birmingham attorney and former Alabama first son Rob Riley, it should be no surprise that his explanation is a tad hard to believe. From our February 2015 post:

    The al.com article raises numerous questions, but perhaps the most staggering one is this: Why would a woman admit--under oath and penalty of perjury--to providing a man with oral sex, when she really didn't? Even Merrill can't seem to explain that one, especially considering that Brinyark's deposition reportedly was taken less than two weeks after the sexual encounter. From the al.com article:

    Asked why the discrepancy exists between his version and what the woman testified to 10 days after the incident, Merrill said:

    "I don't know, I don't know that I ever will know. But I do know this - I'd know if that (oral sex) had happened. I would know that, and I know it didn't."

    Raise your hand if you think Millie Brinyark would admit, under oath in a divorce case, that she provided a BJ to a man other than her husband, when she really didn't. I suspect there aren't too many raised hands out there.

    Millie Brinyark
    As for the journalism on the Merrill story . . . well, it's been dreadful. We wound up breaking the Brinyark story after al.com's Kyle Whitmire admitted he was sitting on it. From a Legal Schnauzer post of January 2015:

    Secretary of State John H. Merrill (R-Tuscaloosa) is the Alabama politician whose extramarital affair was revealed in court documents but went unreported in the mainstream press.

    Kyle Whitmire, a reporter for al.com, admitted in a column on Tuesday that, prior to the 2014 general election, he had court documents that provided details about an unnamed public official's affair. The quality of the information was not in question because it involved sworn testimony in a deposition. Whitmire said it was "as close as it comes" to having a "story cold," but he "stuck it away," apparently not even consulting an editor about it. Whitmire hinted that other reporters in the mainstream press had received the information and ignored it.

    Merrill, a Republican ally of former governor Bob Riley and a friend of Riley's son Rob, went on to handily win the secretary of state race over Democrat Lula Albert-Kaigler. Would Merrill have won if Whitmire had revealed the contents of court documents in his possession? That's hard to say. But multiple sources told Legal Schnauzer yesterday that the documents in question are from a divorce case in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court styled Bryan Scott Brinyark v. Mildred Murphree Brinyark.

    Sources sent us copies of Millie Brinyark's deposition in the case, dated September 22, 2010, and Merrill's name is front and center. Ms. Brinyark, a former teacher, admits to allowing the married Merrill to touch her "private parts" and that she performed oral sex on him.

    How small a person is John Merrill, this guy who wants to represent Alabama in the U.S. Senate? He actually had the audacity to blame his 2015 troubles on a "smear campaign." And al.com journos apparently were dim-witted enough to believe him. From Legal Schnauzer:

    According to al.com, Merrill claims to be the victim of a "smear campaign" by unnamed individuals who widely circulated portions of the deposition to the press, politicians, members of his church, and others. How can it be a smear campaign when it involves public documents, about testimony that Merrill largely admits is true? The al.com journalists apparently did not ask Merrill that question.

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    Scott J. Wells

    An indictment, as a matter of law, is about specific allegations that a crime was committed and a grand jury's determination that the accused committed it. Yes, a recitation of the elements in a particular statute often is part of an indictment. But that, alone, is not sufficient. The true bill, which is the grand jury's written decision, must provide specifics about the offense so the accused can prepare a defense against it.

    Why then does the indictment in the child-pornography case against Missouri resident Scott J. Wells contain not a single word of specifics about what he allegedly did? How can Wells defend himself when the indictment does not tell him what unlawful actions he supposedly took -- in this specific case, not in a general sense? (The indictment is embedded at the end of this post.)

    The answer: Wells cannot prepare a defense based on an indictment that is so woefully deficient it must be dismissed. Will Brady Musgrave, the third court-appointed lawyer to represent Wells, file a motion to dismiss the indictment, end this hoax of a case, and free his client from more than two years of detention that is unsupported by probable cause? In fact, we've already shown the feds have charged Wells with an offense that would be physically impossible for him to commit -- and the case should be dismissed on that ground, too.

    Let's take a look at the indictment in U.S. v. Wells. There isn't much too it; it's one long run-on sentence that quotes directly from the relevant statute [18 U.S.C. 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1)]:

    Beginning on an unknown date, at least as early as December 15, 2016, and continuing through March 22, 2017, said dates being approximate, in Greene County, and elsewhere in the Western District of Missouri. SCOTT JAMES WELLS, the defendant knowingly received and distributed any visual depiction that had been mailed and shipped and transported in interstate commerce, and which contains materials which had been so mailed and shipped and transported by any means, including by computer, the production of which visual depiction was of such conduct, all in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1).

    Two key points:

    (1) If you click on the link above to the statute, you will see that the true bill against Scott Wells pretty much tracks the language exactly -- like a student copying off the smart kid's paper in math class. Is there any allegation in it that specifies an offense that Scott Wells committed? I can't find a single word. If any reader can find a specific offense involving Scott Wells, please let me know. Without even the hint of specifics, the indictment is deficient and due to be dismissed.

    Brady Musgrave
    (2)  The grand jury apparently glossed over the feds' criminal complaint, which alleges Wells uploaded two separate image files at exactly the same time, down to the second. That, of course, is physically impossible, meaning the grand jury had insufficient evidence before it to return an indictment.

    What does federal law say about the sufficiency of an indictment? From Hamling v. United States, 418 U.S. 87 (1974):

    "Undoubtedly the language of the statute may be used in the general description of an offence, but it must be accompanied with such a statement of the facts and circumstances as will inform the accused of the specific offense, coming under the general description, with which he is charged."

    In other words, reciting the language of the statute is fine, but it's not enough. The accused must be informed of a specific offense -- but the Wells grand jury failed to do that. Why does this matter? Let's consider the language from United States v. Hess, 124 U.S. 483 (1888):

    The statute upon which the indictment is founded only describes the general nature of the offence prohibited; and the indictment, in repeating its language without averments disclosing the particulars of the alleged offence, states no matters upon which issue could be formed for submission to a jury. The general, and, with few exceptions, of which the present is not one, the universal rule, on this subject, is, that all the material facts and circumstances embraced in the definition of the offence must be stated, or the indictment will be defective. No essential element of the crime can be omitted without destroying the whole pleading. The omission cannot be supplied by intendment, or implication, and the charge must be made directly and not inferentially, or by way of recital. . . .

    The absence of all particulars of the alleged scheme renders the count as defective as would be an indictment for larceny without stating the property stolen, or its owner or party from whose possession it was taken.

    "It is an elementary principle of criminal pleading, that where the definition of an offence, whether it be at common law or by statute, `includes generic terms, it is not sufficient that the indictment shall charge the offence in the same generic terms as in the definition; but it must state the species; it must descend to particulars.' . . .  The object of the indictment is, first, to furnish the accused with such a description of the charge against him as will enable him to make his defense, and avail himself of his conviction or acquittal for protection against a further prosecution for the same cause; and, second, to inform the court of the facts alleged, so that it may decide whether they are sufficient in law to support a conviction, if one should be had. For this, facts are to be stated, not conclusions of law alone. A crime is made up of acts and intent; and these must be set forth in the indictment with reasonable particularity of time, place, and circumstances."

    Can the prosecutors in Wells seek to amend the indictment to clean up the mess they have made? In general, no. Fromjustice.gov:

    The general rule is that indictments cannot be amended in substance. "An amendment to an indictment occurs when the charging terms of an indictment are altered."United States v. Cancelliere, 69 F.3d 1116, 1121 (11th Cir. 1995). This follows from the fundamental distinction between the information and the indictment . . . which must be returned by a grand jury. If the indictment could be changed by the court or by the prosecutor, then it would no longer be the indictment returned by the grand jury. Indeed, in Russell v. United States, 369 U.S. 749, 769 (1962), the Court pointed out that a consequence of amending the indictment is that the defendant "could then be convicted on the basis of facts not found by, and perhaps not even presented to, the grand jury which indicted him.""Thus, the Fifth Amendment forbids amendment of an indictment by the Court, whether actual or constructive."United States v. Wacker, 72 F.3d 1453, 1474 (10th Cir. 1995).

    So, the feds are stuck with their deficient indictment in Wells. If attorney Brady Musgrave does his job -- and U.S. Magistrate David P. Rush has a hint of integrity -- the charges against Wells will be dismissed, and his incarceration of more than two years should end, pronto.

    The whole sordid story suggests chief prosecutor James J. Kelleher, and perhaps others in the Western District of Missouri, should be criminally investigated for allowing such a patently bogus case to be move forward.

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    John Merrill

    Just when you are convinced hypocrisy is John Merrill's most unattractive quality, along comes evidence that his hubris is off the charts.

    Merrill, a Republican U.S. Senate hopeful for 2020, made national news last week when he declared America is experiencing moral rot because of a "preoccupation with homosexual activities" and "wife-swap TV shows." Merrill went on to claim the loss of TV shows from yesteryear -- such as "Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza" -- has caused the country's broken moral compass to spiral off a cliff.

    Merrill's latest salvo involves coverage of the U.S. National Women's soccer team, which won the World Cup with the assistance of several key members who are gay. In essence, Merrill seems to be claiming that Americans, in 2019, can't handle knowing that Megan Rapinoe is openly gay.

    Where does hypocrisy enter the picture? Well, Merrill made these comments at a GOP gathering in Fort Payne (home to the famed country band Alabama) in the state's northeast corner (DeKalb County). Merrill went into familiar self-righteous, Bible-thumping, right-wing mode even though he admitted in 2015 to an "extramarital sexual encounter"with a Tuscaloosa woman named Millie Brinyark, who stated in a divorce-case deposition (under oath) that she provided Merrill, currently Alabama's secretary of state, with oral sex -- among other services.

    As you can see, Merrill is a "do as I say, not as I do" sort of character -- the kind Alabama has a special talent for producing. But, by golly, he's an arrogant prick, too -- and that leads us to hubris.

    Yellowhammer News,in its coverage of Merrill's comments at Fort Payne, reported that he is needed in the U.S. Senate to help "save the republic." We're not joking -- and that comment is ironic because Merrill's own party controls the White House, the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Supreme Court, state appellate courts, most federal courts in the Deep South, and pretty much every branch of Alabama government.

    In other words, Merrill is part of the team that is leading us straight to hell, but Merrill (and Merrill alone) can save us. A guy has to be pretty full of himself to make a statement like that. But that's what John Merrill said -- when he took a moment from his self-appointed TV-reviewing duties. From the Yellowhammer News report:

    Merrill pledged that he and his wife Cindy were willing to face the scrutiny of what is likely to be a very competitive statewide campaign.

    “One of my friends asked me, he said, ‘John, are you prepared to go through what you’re going to have to go through if you run for the United States Senate,’” Merrill said. “He asked me this on the Sunday before the Tuesday. He said, ‘Are you prepared for the attacks that you’ll face and that Cindy will face? Are you prepared to stand up and fight against that? Is it worth it to you to go through what you’re going to have to go through and pay the price to make it happen? Is it worth it?’”

    “’And I said, ‘Ron, let me ask you a question,’” he continued. “He said, ‘OK.’ I said, ‘Is the republic worth it? Is the republic worth it? It is worth it to me. And I know it is worth it to y’all and that’s why there is a room full today because y’all understand it. We have got to stand and push back, and continue to fight and support the president and to make these changes that we have to make in order to protect and defend our country as we have known it to be or it will cease to be that way.”

    I've got to hand it to Merrill in one regard. He does not seem to be a big fan of Donald Trump. In fact, he insinuates that Mr. Cheeto Face is putting our republic at risk. I agree with Merrill on that one, so it will be interesting to see if he runs a full-blown anti-Trump campaign -- and if it plays well in bloody red Alabama.

    Heck, even "AOC and The Squad" surely agree that Trump is flushing  our democracy down the toilet. But they should sleep easier tonight -- as should all of us -- knowing that John Merrill stands ready to save the republic.

    (Note: If you are looking for intellectual consistency, you won't find it with John Merrill. While he seems to be admitting, at first glance the republic is going down the tubes on Trump's watch, he also told his audience in Fort Payne that "We have got to stand and push back, and continue to fight and support the president . . . So, Merrill declares, Trump is part of the solution, not the problem. Whew, glad we got that worked out.)

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    Scott J. Wells

    How has Missouri resident Scott J. Wells been held behind bars for more than two years, even though he has never gone to trial, he's been convicted of nothing, and the child-pornography charges against him involve allegations that are physically impossible for him to have committed? I have a two-pronged answer to that question: (1) Bad law; (2) Bad people enforcing the law.

    As Legal Schnauzer recently passed its 12th birthday, our over-arching theme has been: The law, in many cases, makes sense, but the people who enforce it (lawyers, judges, prosecutors, cops) tend to be crooked, incompetent, or both. In the Scott Wells case, both the law itself and the people enforcing it are of dubious character.

    Wells has been in prison or jail since spring 2017 because of 18 U.S.C. 3142 ("Release or detention of a defendant pending trial"). In a society where an accused is considered innocent until proven guilty and is entitled to a speedy trial, I suspect Scott Wells has been treated in a wildly unconstitutional fashion. In fact, all or part of Sec. 3142 probably would be overturned if a few members of Congress had the temerity to challenge it in this "tough on crime" era.

    Wells has been deprived of a speedy trial because the first two court-appointed lawyers assigned to defend him -- David Mercer and Shane Cantin -- did almost nothing on the case. We attended a pretrial hearing yesterday and saw no sign that the third court-appointed attorney, Brady Musgrave, will spring into action (seeking to have the case lawfully dismissed) at any point before the August trial date.

    Sec. 3142 is long and unwieldy, so we will try to focus on its key elements. First, it allows the prosecution to seek a detention hearing and order. The judge is supposed to make a determination on detention or release based on four primary factors:

    (1) The nature and circumstances of the offense charged, including whether the offense is a crime of violence, involves alleged sex trafficking of children, terrorism, a minor victim, or a controlled substance, firearm, explosive or destructive advice;

    (2) The weight of the evidence against the person;

    (3) The history and characteristics of the person, including his character, physical and mental condition, family ties, length of residence in the community, past conduct, criminal history, history relating to drug or alcohol abuse, and record of appearing at court proceedings;

    (4) The nature and seriousness of the danger to any person or the community that would be posed by the person's release.

    How does Wells score on this four-point checklist? Based on available information, he scores well. Re: item No. 1, there is no evidence that Wells was connected to any controlled substance, firearm, or destructive device. The issues about a "crime of violence" and "a minor victim" come under the heading of bad law and poor investigative work. 18 U.S.C. 3156 includes possession and distribution of child pornography as "crimes of violence." The law on sexual abuse and exploitation repeatedly refers to "contact offenses," where an adult makes inappropriate and unlawful physical contact with a minor. When the allegation is that an accused merely viewed an image of child pornography -- and maybe did not even do so knowingly or intentionally -- how can that involve violence? Some might consider the conduct deplorable or disgusting, but it's not violent. As for "a minor victim," that is a matter of simple arithmetic: Is the alleged victim under the age of 18? Nothing in the criminal complaint suggests investigators know the ages of any alleged victim. They make several references to "minors," but they provide zero evidence about anyone's age.

    As for item No. 2, the weight of evidence against Scott Wells is zero. He became a target because of a Facebook "CyberTip" about a suspicious image that had been uploaded to his account. But the criminal complaint states that Wells uploaded two different images at the exact same time (to the second), which is physically impossible and cannot form probable cause for his arrest or the search of his home.

    As for item No. 3, Wells has plenty of family ties in the community and has lived in Springfield, MO, for most (maybe all) of his life. The only criminal history I've found involved the child sexual abuse case, where a conviction was overturned due to ineffective assistance of counsel provided by my brother, attorney David Shuler. I'm unaware that Wells has any significant history with drug or alcohol abuse or failing to appear at court proceedings.

    David P. Rush
    As for item No. 4, it's hard to see how Wells can be a danger to anyone. He is virtually blind in one eye, and because of a benign brain tumor he's had since childhood, requires a walker to remain upright and mobile. He was rolled into yesterday's hearing in a wheelchair.

    The detention process in U.S. v. Wells appears to have involved three documents -- (1) The government's Motion for Pretrial Detention and Hearing pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3142(e) and (f), from chief prosecutor James J. Kelleher; (2) The court's minute entry for the preliminary hearing and detention hearing; and (3) The court's order regarding detention, from U.S. Magistrate David P. Rush.

    All three documents contain statements that are deceptive, inaccurate, nonsensical -- or some combination of the three. We will examine those documents in an upcoming post.

    We should note, for now, that the record contains no indication that Federal Public Defender David Mercer, who was representing Scott Wells at the time, filed any written response to the government's detention motion. It's not even clear that Mercer made any substantive oral argument at the hearing to keep his client free. Wells' two subsequent attorneys -- Shane Cantin and current counsel Brady  Musgrave -- have made no effort to free their client, even though there are ample grounds for doing so.

    (To be continued)

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    Robert Mueller

    The most significant Robert Mueller news did not come yesterday when the former special counsel testified before two Congressional committees about his investigation of the Russia-Trump scandal. It came two weeks ago when a respected law professor showed the Mueller Report is riddled with errors, both of fact and law.

    Jed Shugerman, a professor of law at Fordham University, wrote an article at the Daily Beast (dated July 10, 2019), titled "Mueller Missed the Crime: Trump’s Campaign Coordinated With Russia." Sub-title on the article was "The special counsel will testify before Congress (in two weeks). He needs to answer for historic legal and factual errors."

    We see no signs that any Democrat at yesterday's hearing questioned Mueller in a way that clarified the errors in  his report. And according to Shugerman, the errors were many; in fact, Shugerman published a blog post yesterday morning that outlined at least 10 major errors in the Mueller Report.

    How did these errors affect the public's ability to understand possible Trump-era criminality? Here's how Shugerman puts it in the Daily Beast article:

    Ever since the release of the Mueller Report, countless commentators have implored everyone to just #ReadtheReport. The problem is not who is reading it—the problem is the report itself, and its many errors.
    Jed Shugerman
    Robert Mueller made a significant legal error and, based on the facts he found, he should have identified Trump campaign felonies. Mueller’s errors meant that, first, he failed to conclude that the Trump campaign criminally coordinated with Russia; second, he failed to indict campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates for felony campaign coordination . . . third, the 10 acts of felony obstruction in Volume II fell flat among the general public because it lacked compelling context of these underlying crimes between the campaign and Russia. On top of these errors, the former special counsel said he deliberately wrote the report to be unclear because it would be unfair to make clear criminal accusations against a president.
    The bottom line is that the Mueller Report is a failure not because of Congress or because of public apathy, but because it failed to get the law, the facts, or even the basics of writing right. When Mueller testifies before Congress on July 24, he should be pressed on all of this.

    Perhaps Mueller's biggest error involves his analysis of coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Writes Shugerman:

    The DOJ’s initial appointment explicitly tasked Mueller with investigating campaign “coordination,” and it is not too much to ask that he get the law of “coordination” right. The report stated that “‘coordination’ does not have a settled definition in federal criminal law. We understood coordination to require an agreement—tacit or express.”

    However, Congress purposely sought to prevent such narrow interpretations: in 2002, it passed a statute directing that campaign finance regulations “shall not require agreement or formal collaboration to establish coordination.” The Federal Election Commission established the regulations for the implementation of the statute: “Coordinated means made in cooperation, consultation or concert with, or at the request or suggestion of, a candidate,” with no need to show any kind of agreement.

    Outside spending for coordinated communications is an in-kind contribution, and foreign contributions are completely prohibited. And Congress made the criminal penalties unmistakably clear: “Any person who knowingly and willfully commits a violation of any provision of this Act” commits a crime. The Supreme Court upheld these limits in McConnell v. FEC with crucial observations about the functional role of suggestions, rather than agreements: “[E]xpenditures made after a wink or nod often will be as useful to the candidate as cash.” (The Trump-Russia) timeline is full of suggestions far more explicit than winks and nods.

    As the Supreme Court acknowledged, this is not about bribery and quid pro quo; it’s about outsourcing a consistent campaign messaging and expenses to known allies. It seems Mueller did not hire any legal experts with experience in campaign finance regulation. Given that this investigation was about campaign crimes, this appears to be a revealing oversight with serious consequences.

    House Democrats yesterday seemed to alternate between praising Mueller as a "legal giant" and asking about various allegations of obstruction of justice by the Trump team. Lost in the shuffle were the myriad errors Mueller made regarding coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign. Embedded below is Shugerman's summary of those errors, many of which were not adequately addressed in yesterday's hearings -- because Democrats were too busy fawning over Mueller, and Republicans . . . .well, they are just worthless.

    Yesterday's hearings were mostly a waste of time. Jed Shugerman's analysis of the Mueller Report definitely is worth your time.

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    Jeffrey Epstein and Donald Trump

    Accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, who was found earlier this week semi-conscious in his jail cell with injuries to his neck, might have been the target of an attempted hit, according to a D.C.-based investigative journalist.

    As Vanity Fair recently reported, the number of elites (especially in Manhattan and Washington, D.C.) Epstein could finger for alleged child-sex crimes is "staggering." In other words, a lot of powerful people would rest more comfortably if Epstein were dead. With that as a backdrop, the Wayne Madsen Report writes that the judge who placed Epstein in an insecure environment has ties to organized crime. Madsen even notes that at least one member of the jail population has a history of alleged involvement with gangland-style killings. Writes Madsen:

    It really does not matter whether the presiding federal judge in the Jeffrey Epstein underage sex trafficking case, Richard Berman, opposed bail for the Wall Street hedge fund mogul because Epstein represents an extreme flight risk or not. What matters is that Berman failed to make adequate provisions for Epstein’s safety inside the Manhattan Correctional Center (MCC). On July 24, Epstein was discovered by guards in his cell "nearly unconscious in a fetal position.” Epstein was said to have “marks” on his neck consistent with a suicide attempt or put there to give the impression by someone else that he attempted suicide.

    What is apparent with Epstein’s so-called “attempted suicide” in the Park Row jail is that some very powerful interests do not want to see Epstein come to trial in New York. These individuals, who include Donald Trump, would rest much easier if Epstein died either by suicide, murder, or murder made to look like suicide. It matters very little if Epstein died while ensconced under tight restrictions at his Upper East Side mansion or in the MCC with access to him by other inmates.

    Judge Berman's failure to separate Epstein from the general prison population is curious. That is especially true because the population includes former Briarcliff Manor, Westchester County police officer Nicholas Tartaglione, who was arrested in December 2016 and charged with the “gangland-style” execution of four men -- Hector Gutierrez, Martin Luna, Miguel Luna and Urbano Santiago -- involved in a cocaine distribution racket. Tartaglione, apparently also involved in the racket, allegedly carried out the mob-style hit at the Likquid Lounge in Chester, New York. Writes Madsen:

    Former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, who was fired by Trump early in his administration, said of Tartaglione, “While all murders tear at the fabric of our communities, when the alleged perpetrator of a gangland-style, quadruple homicide is a former police officer, that strikes at the heart of civilized society.” What better person to use to either murder Epstein or communicate a threat to him to keep his mouth shut than someone like Tartaglione. Briarcliff Manor, coincidentally or not, is the home of the Trump National Golf Club.

    Tartaglione, who also worked as a police officer in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and Pawling, hails from Otisville, New York. Those out to protect Trump may have killed two birds with one stone. If an assault of Epstein was meant to send a clear message to him to keep his mouth shut, it also may have sent a similar message to former Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen, who happens to be prisoner 76318-054 at the Federal Correctional Institution in -- Otisville.

    Tartaglione fits the profile of a potential mob hit man, Madsen reports:

    While MCC officials questioned Tartaglione about Epstein’s injuries, with which he denied having any involvement, it should be remembered that the former cop is exactly the type of people the mob uses to carry out hits in prison. Recall that infamous mob boss Whitey Bulger, an FBI informant, CIA MK-ULTRA mind control program participant, and Irish Republican Army arms trafficker, was beaten to death in his cell at the Hazelton federal penitentiary in West Virginia on October 30, 2018. Bulger’s eyes were practically gouged out and tongue cut off with a prison-made shiv. The Federal Bureau of Prisons, which would have had a say in Epstein’s incarceration pending trial, has a dismal record on protecting inmates like Bulger, and now, Epstein.

    Could Epstein's injuries be traced to the White House? Madsen addresses that question -- and others:

    It only stands to reason that Trump, fearful of his longtime and very close relationship with Epstein being exposed, along with all of the details of child rape by the two, would rely on a Mafia hitman, already in jail, to silence Epstein. In fact, knowing that most correctional centers are woefully understaffed, it would be easier to carry out a hit on Epstein in the MCC rather than under closely supervised house arrest.

    There is also the question of why Tartaglione, who faces federal murder charges that could result in the death penalty and who is being held without bail pending trial, was transferred from the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn to the MCC in Manhattan. In March 2017, Gerard Benderoth, a retired New York Police Department officer, reportedly shot himself to death in Haverstraw, New York, after being pulled over by FBI agents. Oddly, Haverstraw had phoned from his car the town’s police department, from which he retired in 2015, to inform them he was being pulled over. The FBI agents reportedly wanted to question Benderoth about his connections to Targaglione and the Westchester County cocaine smuggling ring.

    A crooked judge appears to be at the center of the Epstein story. Writes Madsen:

    Why would Epstein’s trial judge Berman place the accused in such jeopardy in the MCC? It is germane to look at Berman’s background. From 1979 to 1986, Berman served as the corporate counsel for Steve Ross, born Steven Jay Rechnitz, the founder of Abbey Rent a Car. Abbey later merged with Kinney Parking Company, owned by Jewish mob bosses Manny Kimmel and Abner Zwillman. After mob boss Dutch Schultz’smurder in 1935, Zwillman took over Schultz’s rackets and quickly became known as the “Al Capone of New Jersey.” Ross’s Kinney Parking became Kinney National Services in 1962. In 1969, Kinney bought Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, the film and record company and changed its name to Warner Communications, with Ross becoming CEO in 1972. In 1989, Warner merged with Time. In the late 1980s and before his death in 1992, Ross began negotiations that later landed the FIFA World Cup in the United States in 1994. Ross died at age 65 from a massive heart attack and was succeeded by Gerald Levin, who would later wrest control of CNN from its founder, Ted Turner. FIFA, which maintained offices in Trump Tower, has long been linked to international criminal syndicate activities.

    The public has a strong interest in keeping Epstein safe, Madsen writes:

    While few care what happens in the long run to a pedophile like Epstein, there is a great need to keep him healthy to stand trial and hopefully name all of his cohorts in his sex trafficking, including all of the VIPs like Trump, Bill Clinton, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, and others. However, Judge Berman, by placing Epstein in the midst of at least one mob hit man, should immediately recuse himself from the Epstein case.

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    Jill Simpson, the retired Alabama lawyer who testified before Congress regarding the political prosecution of former Democratic governor Don Siegelman, is fighting breast cancer -- and that, plus business downturns for her husband, Jim March, have put them in a tight financial spot. They need help from Legal Schnauzer readers, as Jim explains in the video above.

    Both Jill and Jim have been powerful and effective voices for honesty and integrity in government -- with Jill providing regular commentary here at the blog on matters of law and politics. Her Facebook page provides some of the most insightful analysis on public affairs you are likely to find at any social-media outlet.

    What are some of Jill's contributions to public awareness on matters of national and international impotance? She has unmasked Karl Rove as a political thug and criminal in a way that perhaps no other American has. She was among the first political observers to note the influence of Russian oligarchs and mobsters with our government -- especially in Alabama, over a $40-billion Air Force tanker-refueling project that stood to be partially constructed in Mobile. Many Americans probably first heard the name Oleg Deripaska due to Jill's research about the Putin crony's alliance with Jeff Sessions on the tanker deal -- which ultimately went to U.S.-based Boeing over the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. (EADS).

    Jill Simpson and Jim March
    Jim, a former political operative and election-integrity expert, now works as a truck driver -- and he has seen  certain sectors of the industry struggle recently. Jim already has taken steps to move to a more profitable trucking sector -- car hauling -- but he and Jill still face a serious financial crunch in the near term.

    I've known Jill almost from the day Legal Schnauzer started in June 2007. I know Jill and Jim to be a smart, courageous couple, who care deeply about their country and the democratic process. In fact, they were part of a nationwide effort that likely ensured Republicans would not steal the 2008 presidential election. Those who are glad Barack Obama spent eight years in the White House probably should thank Jill and Jim because they played a significant role in making that happen

    In short, Jill and Jim face a shortfall of $2,000 to $2,500 -- as Jim explains in the video. He also explains how Schnauzer readers can help. After watching he video, we hope you will consider making a contribution. Details on contributing ate at the summary below the video at Jim's YouTube channel.

    Thank you.

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    Scott J. Wells

    How clownish was the process that caused Missouri resident Scott J. Wells to be detained for more than two years on federal child-pornography charges, even though the government's own narrative shows it would have been physically impossible for Wells to commit the alleged offenses? The process is spelled out in three documents (all embedded at the end of this post) -- and they show the proceedings would have had to improve considerably to be a dumpster fire.

    Perhaps the nuttiness best shines through in the middle document below -- a "Minute Sheet" prepared by U.S. Magistrate David P. Rush for a combined preliminary/detention hearing. Get a load of Rush's words under the "Preliminary Hearing" heading:

    Court takes notice of the court file, which includes a signed affidavit in support of the complaint. No evidence presented with regard to probable cause. Court finds probable cause and orders the matter held for grand jury or other proceeding.

    If you did a double take upon reading that, you aren't alone. A federal judge actually writes that the prosecution presented no evidence regarding probable cause, but he found probable cause anyway. Those are your taxpayer dollars at work, folks.

    It doesn't get any better from there. All three documents contain gross deception, falsehoods, and nonsense. Consider the first document embedded below -- United States Motion for Pretrial Detention and for a Hearing Pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3142(e) and (f). In item 6(b), the document states:

    In relation to the weight of the evidence supporting the charges in the Complaint, Facebook initiated SyberTip 16099575 on December 21, 2016, and CyberTip 16533142 on January 15, 2017, regarding a user uploading and sending a file containing child pornography. Law enforcement traced the account back to the defendant  and executed a search and seizure warrant at the defendant's residence. A forensic preview examination on the defendant's laptop computer revealed 60 images of child pornography.

    The government conveniently leaves out several critical points:

    (1) The Facebook CyberTips did not involve just one image file; it involved two -- and the feds' criminal complaint states that Wells uploaded both at the same exact same time, down to the second. That, of course, is physically impossible to do. That means there was no probable cause to search Wells' residence, and anything obtained there was the fruit of an unlawful search.

    David P. Rush
    (2) The feds' criminal complaint provides zero evidence that Wells knowingly possessed the 60 images referenced above.

    (3) The feds provide no evidence that anyone in the images was a minor (under age 18). In fact, the complaint does not mention the age of anyone.

    The government resorts to more deceit in item 6(c):

    In relation to the history and characteristics of the defendant, the defendant is unemployed and lives at home with his mother and father, who are in their 70s. On August 19, 2004, Wells was convicted of sexual misconduct, statutory sodomy, incest, and child molestation in the Circuit Court of Greene County, Missouri, case number 31302CF5509. On November 17, 2004, the Circuit Court granted Wells' motion for a new trial due to ineffective assistance of counsel, and vacated Wells' convictions. On July 5, 2006, Wells pleaded to four counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

    What does the government conveniently leave out?

    (1) Wells' convictions were not overturned just because of ineffective assistance of counsel (by my brother, Missouri attorney David Shuler). It also involved at least one accusing witness being caught in a clear lie under oath.

    (2) Judge Don Burrell could have, and probably should have, dismissed the child molestation case against Wells altogether. But he threw the state a bone and granted a new trial, with Wells entering an Alford plea to endangering the welfare of a child. An Alford plea, by definition, generally means that the defendant did not actually commit the offense in question, but is pleading to dispense with the matter and avoid the dangers of trial for both sides. We've seen nothing in the record that remotely suggests Scott Wells actually endangered the welfare of a child.

    (3) As for Wells' employment status, the government fails to mention -- and the public defender probably did not even mention it -- that he is virtually blind in one eye and must use a walker to remain upright and mobile due to a benign brain tumor he's had since childhood. Yep, sure sounds like a danger to society.

    Let's return to the second document embedded below -- Judge Rush's Minute Sheet. Under "Detention Hearing," it states:

    The Court takes note of its own file , including the Pretrial Services Report prepared by the USPPTS Officer. The Government has filed a Motion for Detention Hearing (Doc. 2) Arguments made regarding Defendant's custody. The Court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the Defendant is a danger to the community. Accordingly, the Court finds an adequate basis for detention and will issue a written order.

    Rush finds "clear and convincing evidence" that Wells is "a danger to the community"? How? It certainly is not in the government's Motion for a Detention Hearing. And the criminal complaint describes an offense Wells could not have committed if he wanted to. On top of that, Rush finds in the same Minute Sheet that he has no evidence of probable cause before him. Yet, he magically determines that Wells is a danger to the community. I almost want to guffaw upon reading this garbage.

    As for the third document embedded below -- Rush's order regarding detention -- consider these

    The factors to be considered by the Court in determining whether the defendant should be detained pending trial are enumerated in section 3142(g). The Court has already noted that this case involves a minor victim.The evidence at the hearing established that the weight of the evidence against the defendant is overwhelming.

    The evidence is "overwhelming"? This is the same judge who stated in his own Minute Sheet that the hearing involved no evidence with regard to probable cause. This guy can't keep his story straight. On top of that, Rush notes the allegations involve a "minor victim." The criminal complaint, however, does not list the age for any alleged victim. Without evidence that the victim was under 18 years of age, there is no proof the offense involved a minor.

    It seems clear Rush did not read the criminal complaint closely -- if he bothered to read it at all. The judge's actions in the case should be enough to shock the conscience, but I've seen this tired act from numerous judges before. They rely on a somnolent mainstream press to make sure that documents like this usually never make the light of day.

    At a pretrial conference last week, Wells' third court-appointed lawyer, Brady Musgrave gave no indication that he intended to seek dismissal of the charges based on a criminal complaint and indictment that both are deficient. He also showed no signs of filing a pretrial motion to suppress evidence that was the product of an unlawful search not based on probable cause.

    It all suggests to me that Rush, chief prosecutor James J. Kelleher, and all three of Wells' court-appointed attorneys (David Mercer, Shane Cantin, and Brady Musgrave), are conspiring to cheat Scott Wells and trample his constitutional rights. If my guess is on target, this is criminal behavior (obstruction of justice, misprision of a felony, deprivation of rights under color of law) and should result in an investigation that would send several law-degree types to prison for quite a stint -- if we had a justice system that was remotely functional.

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    Mark Crosswhite

    Federal entities have been asked to investigate a possible secret deal that kept Alabama Power executives from testifying in last summer's North Birmingham Superfund bribery trial, according to a post at banbalch.com.

    K.B. Forbes, co-founder/executive director of the nonprofit Consejo de Latinos Unidos (CDLU) and publisher of Ban Balch, says Alabama Power was the only contributor to a money-laundering scheme not to have a representative called at the Superfund trial. The public certainly has an interest in knowing why Jay Town, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, failed to call CEO Mark Crosswhite or anyone else from Alabama Power. Forbes is seeking answers, and he has turned to Washington, D.C., to find them. From a post yesterday at Ban Balch:

    Earlier this month we reported how Alabama Power’s CEO Mark Crosswhite could possibly be under scrutiny by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Now we, the CDLU, are taking it a step further.

    We are asking the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice and the House Judiciary Committee to review the alleged secret deal that prevented federal prosecutors from calling anyone from Alabama Power in the North Birmingham Bribery Trial last year.

    Why does the absence of Alabama Power from the bribery trial -- which resulted in convictions for former Drummond Co. executive David Roberson, former Balch Bingham partner Joseph Gilbert, and a guilty plea from former State Rep. Oliver Robinson -- emit a foul odor? For one, the trial never touched some of the creepiest Balch-connected swamp creatures in Alabama politics. Two, it's hard to see how justice could have been done when the chief prosecutor left Alabama Power out of the equation. Forbes explains:

    Alabama Power donated $30,000 to the corrupt AstroTurf entity Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE) that laundered money to bought-and-paid for politician Oliver Robinson.

    Yet Alabama Power was the only donor to AJE not to testify in the criminal trial that convicted Balch-made millionaire and equity partner Joel I. Gilbert.

    Alabama Power is the sister-wife, siamese twin of embattled law firm Balch and Bingham.

    David Roberson, with the help of Birmingham attorney and Balch victim Burt Newsome, has filed a lawsuit that promises to pull the mask off behind-the-scenes efforts to protect some of Alabama' s most well-known power brokers and Balch stooges -- Luther Strange, Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, Robert Bentley, Gary Palmer, Jessica Medeiros Garrison, and more. It appears we certainly can add Mark Crosswhite to that list. Writes Forbes: 

    As the most powerful man in Alabama, Crosswhite and other top executives at the utility are all former Balch partners.

    But even the most powerful individual for one of the largest employers in Alabama cannot be above the law.

    Pulling strings, at the end of the day, helps no one except investigators.

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    Scott J. Wells
    The federal child-pornography case against Missouri resident Scott J. Wells could come down to a simple question: Did Wells ask anyone to send him images of child pornography?

    We already have shown the Wells case should be dismissed, and never should have been brought, based on a number of grounds, which include: (1) The government has charged Wells with an offense that would be physically impossible to commit; (2) The feds do not even allege that Wells took some of the most common actions that prove "knowing" receipt or distribution of child porn -- such as use of file-sharing programs or subscriptions to Web sites that sell unlawful images (also known as contraband). (3) The feds launched their search of Wells' home, leading to his arrest, based on two images sent from Facebook to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC); although the images sound almost identical, and Wells has said a Tennessee woman named Kara Adkins sent it to him unsolicited, and he sent it back when he realized it appeared to be a naked photo of Adkins' daughter, whom Wells understood to be 19 years old (not a minor); (4) There is no evidence in the government's criminal complaint -- embedded at the end of this post -- that Wells knowingly downloaded and saved the Adkins image, or any other unlawful image to his computer.

    As for the number of images found on a computer in a child-porn case, the criminal complaint in U.S. v. Wells suggests the following: (1) The government repeatedly -- and apparently incorrectly -- uses the term "upload" to describe Wells' actions, which indicates he did not download (or save) anything improper to his computer; (2) The government based its search on two (maybe one) images, and courts have found in U.S. v. Miller, 527 F. 3d 54 (3rd Cir., 2008) that 11 images were not enough to be relevant for purposes of probable cause in a child-porn investigation. From our April 2019 post about the Miller case:

    In Miller, the appellate court found: "The second factor, the number of images of child pornography found, likewise does not weigh in the government's favor in light of the overwhelming number of adult images that were found. The government presented evidence pertaining to only twenty of the 1200-1400 images found on the zip disk, and the District Court subsequently determined, in the process of sentencing Miller, that only eleven of these images constituted child pornography. Miller contended that he was unaware of the existence of these images . . .

    As you can see, these cases can become fairly involved. But many of them, including U.S. v. Wells, can be resolved with a simple question: Did the accused ask anyone to send him child porn, did he seek it ought in any way and download it to his computer to take "control and dominion" over it, did he take "affirmative actions" to seek out unlawful images. Several court cases spell out the law on this. One is U.S. v. Kuchinski (9th Cir., 2006), which held:

    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)

    Another such case is U.S. v. Stulock (8th Cir, 2002), which held:

    After a bench trial, Stulock was convicted of knowingly receiving the child pornography videotape, but he was acquitted on the charge of knowingly possessing child pornography. The possession charge specified only the images found in the browser cache.  The district court explained that one cannot be guilty of possession for simply having viewed an image on a web site, thereby causing the image to be automatically stored in the browser's cache, without having purposely saved or downloaded the image.

    A review of the government's criminal complaint -- embedded below -- shows little or no evidence that Scott Wells asked to receive child-porn images, sought them out in any way, or took "affirmative actions" to assert "dominion and control" over them.

    This adds to the evidence that the Wells case, by law, must be dismissed. But prosecutors (led by James J. Kelleher), apparently wanting to avoid the embarrassment and possible legal repercussions of bringing a baseless case, have dug in their heels and seem to be determined to proceed, whether they have a legit case or not. And Brady Musgrave, Wells' third court-appointed lawyer, has made it clear he has no intention of filing any pretrial motions that would actually defend his client.

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    Doug Jones

    U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), who rode a wave of support from black voters to upset Republican Roy Moore in a 2017 special election, accepted a campaign donation from a Birmingham law firm that tried to block cleanup of toxic pollutants heavy industry had pumped into a predominantly black neighborhood.

    Jones' June report to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) shows he received $5,000 from Balch and Bingham LLP Federal PAC, according to a recent report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR). That's the same Balch and Bingham that was a central player in the North Birmingham Superfund scandal, with former partner Joel Gilbert convicted of bribery in a federal trial last summer.

    APR reports much of Jones' campaign support is coming from outside Alabama:

    U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama is drawing contributions from Democratic donors from all over the country in his bid for re-election in 2020.

    Senator Jones reported to the Federal Election Commission a final cash balance at the end of June of $4,259,540.86 in cash on hand after a busy first half of 2019. . . .

    Jones has several individual contributors. Barbara Hostetter of Boston, Massachusetts has contributed $11,200 to Jones. Hostetter is not employed. Kevin Rowe of Santa Fe, New Mexico contributed $2,800 to Jones. Rowe is the owner of K. Rowe Investments. Daniel Seymour of Weston, Connecticut has donated $5,400 to Jones including a $2,800 donation. Seymour is a portfolio manager with Paloma Partners. Penny Pritzker of Chicago, Illinois has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Pritzker is the Chairman of PSP Partners. Ashley McDermott of New York City has donated $2,800 to Jones. McDermott is a self-employed activist. Allen Pinny of Pebble Beach, California has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Pinny is not employed. Charles Miller of Pebble Beach, California has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Miller is retired. Jeffrey Bayer of Woody Creek, Colorado has contributed $4,000 to Jones. Bayer is employed in real estate by Bayer Ventures. Philip Purcell of Park City, Utah has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Purcell is an executive with Continental Investors. Randy Gori of Edwardsville, Illinois has contributed $5,600 to Jones. Gori is an attorney employed by Julian Gori. Amy Fowler of Rhinebeck, New York has committed $5.600 to Jones. Fowler is a self-employed author. All of these leading contributions to Jones were earmarked by ACTBLUE. According to original reporting by the Yellowhammer News, 78 percent of Jones’ contributions come from outside of Alabama.

    Where does Balch and Bingham enter the picture? APR provides the answer:

    Jones reported 351 contributions from other committees. The biggest of these contributions include: AFLAC PAC $10,000, UBS Americas Inc. PAC $5,000, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama $10,000, All for our Country Leadership PAC $10,000, Keystone America PAC $10,00, Victory NOW PAC $5,000, Balch and Bingham LLP Federal PAC $5,000 . . .

    How alarming is the pollution problem in North Birmingham? An article from al.com helps explain:

    The pollution in the north Birmingham neighborhoods of Collegeville, Harriman Park and Fairmont has been around for more than 100 years. The controversy surrounding the cleanup of that pollution is much newer.

    Sandwiched between two coking plants, and surrounded by other industrial facilities and heavy rail lines, these neighborhoods have long borne the environmental brunt of the city's steel-making success, but since 2014, a legal battle is being waged between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Alabama and the five nearby industries identified as "potentially responsible parties" to the pollution over who should pay to clean up 100 years of industrial residue.

    North Birmingham Superfund site
    The current activities at the Superfund site involve contaminated soil. The dirt in the yards of many area residents has accumulated levels of toxic material high enough to meet or exceed removal limits set by the EPA. . . .

    Soil that was removed was laden with contaminants including arsenic, lead, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like benzo(a)pyrene. All are strongly linked to human health problems, and benzo(a)pyrene is classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

    The cleanup will be ongoing for some time yet. . . . The EPA has identified 235 additional parcels of land that meet the criteria for removal. . . .  At current pace, the removal operations will be complete in about three more years.

    The total cost of the cleanup is expected to be $20 million. . . .

    The potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are: the United States Pipe and Foundry Company (seen above), Walter Energy (now ERP Compliant Coke), Drummond, Alagasco, and KMAC Services.

    Who wanted to make sure industry, especially Drummond Co., did not pay its share of the cleanup costs? That would be Balch and Bingham, the outfit that now supports Doug Jones' U.S. Senate campaign. The Balch scheme involved apparent bribery of state officials and almost the entire Alabama Congressional delegation, as we wrote in a recent post (with original reporting from banbalch.com):

    On October 30, 2014, a ghost-written letter drafted by Balch and Bingham and signed by six members of the U.S. House of Representatives in Alabama was dispatched. That same day, Congressman Robert Aderholt reported receiving $5,000 from Alabama Power, according to FEC filings.

    * A week before, Drummond Company gave Congressman Bradley Byrne $5,000 on October 22, while forking out another $5,000 to Congressman Mike Rogers on October 24.

    * Balch and Bingham sweetened the money trail by tossing $2,000 to Congressman Aderholt on October 28, 2014.

    * At various times in October, Congressman Mo Brooks received $2,000 total from Balch and Bingham, $2,500 from Drummond, and $5,000 from Alabama Power.

    * Congresswoman Martha Roby reported a $4,000 contribution from Alabama Power on election day, November 4, 2014—five days after the letter was mailed out.

    Over $30,000 was used to grease the wheels.

    By accepting campaign cash from Balch, Doug Jones essentially has aligned himself with a law firm that tried to cover for industries that poisoned black neighborhoods. Specifically, Jones has aligned himself with a firm that apparently sees no problem with toxins such as arsenic, lead, or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons like benzo(a)pyrene (a known carcinogen) infiltrating black neighborhoods. This isn't the first time Jones has stabbed his black supporters in the back. He also supported legislation that limited their opportunities to achieve home ownership, according to a report from Michael Harriot at theroot.com. Title of the 2018 article is Doug Jones and the Democratic Party Just Screwed Black Voters ... Again:

    My grandmother, a slight woman whose values still trickle down through four generations, and who radiated love and wisdom as if she were our family’s own self-contained solar system, once showed me the scars on her legs from being bitten by a police dog and instructed me to “trust a white man as far as you can throw him.”

    While that ancient African proverb now seems like a bit of reverse racism, Alabama’s black voters, in all their egalitarian forgiveness and goodwill, ignored it this past December when they cast their ballots for Doug Jones, sending him to the Senate chambers to represent them.

    Sure, he was a white man, they reasoned, but he wasn’t like the others. Even with his problematic campaign, he was one of the good ones. He would remember what black voters did for him. How could he not recognize that the only reason he is now referred to as “Sen. Doug Jones from the state of Alabama” is the black vote? After all, he’s a Democrat. How could he forget who put him there?

    In return, Doug Jones and the Democratic Party, once again, have thrown black people to the wolves.

    How did Jones and his fellow conservative Dems screw black supporters? Harriot explains:

    Politico magazine reports that on Wednesday, the Senate passed a bank-deregulation bill that rolls back many of the regulations imposed on banks and lenders. The bill passed with the support of the Trump administration, Republican senators and 17 Democratic senators—most of whom are considered to be moderate or conservative Dems. The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.

    For more than a decade I have been trying to push the idea that blackness has evolved past its murky racial and cultural definition. As a college macroeconomics instructor, I taught a class, Race as an Economic Construct, that advocated examining race through the lens of data and numbers. (The science of economics is not limited to the production and distribution of goods, services and wealth.)

    One of the easiest ways to illustrate this point is with the history of black home ownership. Home ownership is the biggest builder of wealth in America and is still affected by the history of segregation, Jim Crow and redlining. It fuels every indicator of discrimination in this country and is one of the best examples of the manifestation of white supremacy.

    Housing discrimination relegated African Americans to homogeneous, poor black communities with underfunded, segregated schools. Poorer schools create the education gap. The education gap creates employment disparities. Underemployment creates poverty and the phenomenon called “black-on-black crime.” Poverty leads to the inability to acquire affordable housing, which relegates black people to low-income communities, which leads to underfunded schools, which leads to more crime and so on. It is a vicious circle.

    How central is this issue to the black experience in America? Harriot explains:

    It is all about homeownership.

    We have always known this. The Root has routinely reported on the difficulties black people encounter when buying a home. A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting, along with Reveal News, uncovered how U.S. banks systematically prevent blacks and Hispanics from becoming homeowners.

    JPMorgan Chase paid $55 million in January to settle charges that it discriminated against black and Latino borrowers. In 2011, Bank of America handed over $335 million for making its minority customers pay more than its white customers for the same loans. A federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo alleges that the bank has discriminated against Philadelphia’s black and Latino borrowers since 2004.

    It is an indisputable fact that many banks treat their black customers unequally. The only reason we know this is that banks are required to report demographic data on most mortgage loans. That data is publicly available to anyone who wants to look at it.

    Among other things, the legislation passed by the Senate on Wednesday strips away for some banks the requirement to report the race, ethnicity and gender of their mortgage customers. Under the new proposal, only the largest banks will have to report demographic data, which means that it will be impossible to find out if the other banks discriminate. If the law passes, these banks will be able to deny black customers without fear of repercussion or lawsuits.

    The Democratic Party could have singled out that provision to the public and made a fuss. They could have called it racist (because it is racist), which would have made the legislation lose support. They could easily have refused to vote for this bill unless that specific provision was stripped away.

    Sen. Doug Jones from the state of Alabama voted for it.

    Michael Harriot was way ahead of the curve on this one, understanding that Doug Jones doesn't give a damn about the black voters who put him in office. By accepting campaign cash from Balch and Bingham, Jones just adds more evidence to the pile.

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