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

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    Gerald Bard Tjoflat

    How does a federal judge get away with unlawfully ruling on cases where he has a financial stake in one of the parties? Gerald Bard Tjoflat, an 89-year-old geezer from the Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford era, still serves on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida), and his hatchet job on "The House Case" -- where we lost of our home of almost 25 years in Birmingham via a wrongful foreclosure -- provides a classic example of how ethically bankrupt our federal courts have become.

    One of the basics of American law is this: A federal judge automatically is disqualified from hearing a case in which he or an immediate family member has a financial interest. But our research shows Tjoflat has been hearing such cases for decades -- almost always ruling in favor of his own pocket book.

    That was the situation in "The House Case," where one of the defendants was Chase Mortgage, which held the mortgage on our home. We are aware of at least one other such case, involving an alleged wrongful foreclosure, where a three-judge panel led by Tjoflat ruled against a Daphne,, AL couple named Karun and Ursula Jackson -- while ruling in favor of the Jacksons' mortgage company, Bank of America (BOA).

    How does this happen? The decision on whether to hear a case often is left to the crooked judge himself -- with little or no oversight waiting in the wings. We invite you to follow us on the money trail for details about how Gerald Bard Tjoflat has made a habit of scamming the American people, especially those who live in the Deep South.

    The money trail begins with Tjoflat's financial disclosure forms, One of the most recent disclosure forms we can find on the Web for Tjoflat is from 2012. It shows he has investments in the following entities:

    (1) Alliance Bernstein Global Techology (Mutual Fund)

    (2) Columbia Marsico Focused Equities Fund (Mutual Fund)

    (3) Manulife Financial (401K)

    (4) Quaker Strategic Growth Fund (Mutual Fund)

    (5) Merrill Lynch Wealth Management (401K)

    (6) Rogers, Towers, Bailey, Jones and Gay P.A.(401K)

    What holdings are included in these financial instruments? Let's take a look:

    (1) AllianceBernstein (AB) Global Technology -- This instrument now is called the AB Global Thematic Growth Fund, and a 2014 document from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) shows it has a forward currency exchange contract with JPMorgan Chase Bank. In 2017, AB picked long-time JPM Chase executive Seth Bernstein as its CEO

    (2) Columbia Marsico Focused Equities Fund -- A report from Kiplinger's says two of this fund's largest positions are in JPMorgan Chase and Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark. This fund also is intimately connected to Bank of America, with founder Thomas Marsico buying the firm back from BOA in 2007, seven years after selling it to the No. 2 U.S. bank.

    (3) Manulife Financial (401K) -- Manulife, based in Toronto and operating as John Hancock in the United States, issued a $750-million U.S. public offering in 2017. JPMorgan Securities LLC acted as one of the joint book-running managers for the offering.

    (4) Quaker Strategic Growth Fund -- According to MarketWatch, JPMorgan Chase is among this fund's top 10 holdings. According to mutualfunds.com, Bank of America also is among the fund's top holdings.

    (5) Merrill Lynch Wealth Management -- According to brightscope.com, Bank of America is the largest fund in this plan.

    (6)  Rogers, Towers, Bailey, Jones and Gay P.A. -- This appears to be a retirement fund for a Florida-based law fim, and information about the fund does not appear to be publicly available.

    The public record is clear: Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat's finances are tied up with JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America -- and it's hard to imagine he does not know it. Does that keep him from hearing cases involving those two parties? Nope. Does it keep him from ruling in favor of those two parties? Definitely not -- and we have the evidence to prove it.

    (To be continued)

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    Burrell Behavioral Health
    I threatened to shoot any Missouri sheriff's deputy who attempted to evict Carol and me back in 2015, according to the statements of two Burrell Behavioral Health employees in a 911 call they made. Mental-health workers might get their jollies from spreading such rubbish, but when the story is not true -- and this one wasn't, on multiple grounds -- it becomes a problem, both for the patient and the entity that violated his rights to medical confidentiality.

    In this instance, I obviously knew the Burrell employees' statements were untrue, but I only heard the 911 call via limited discovery we received in the bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" case brought against my wife, Carol.

    Had the Burrell folks bothered to check their own records, they would have learned: (1) My lawyer-brother, David Shuler, called a Burrell supervisor and concocted the "threaten to shoot" story without providing any evidence that I actually said that; in fact, David is one of the last people on earth with whom I would discuss such a subject, or any subject of substance; (2) Records from my caregiver, a psychiatric nurse named Matt Charles, show I never made such a statement to him, and he repeatedly describes me as "not having suicidal or homicidal thoughts."

    We learn about a level of coordination between my brother and certain Burrell employees that is downright devious. The Burrell personnel had every reason to know my brother was lying, and they had no lawful grounds to speak to him anyway.

    How did Burrell case manager Joshua Davis and social worker Kathryn Mays (she was whispering in Davis' ear throughout the 911 call) come up with such a tale? For one, they admit near the end of the 911 call that my "relatives" (which is shorthand for David) called Burrell with the allegation that I had threatened to shoot eviction-minded cops. (Video of the 911 call is embedded at the end of this post.)

    They also admit that someone at Burrell talked to David, even though we had rescinded our release that allowed them to communicate with any of my family members. We did that after Mays reported to us that David called and claimed I had asked him to call her. I never asked David to call her, and we knew then that he was pulling the kind of con games for which lawyers have become known.

    In other words, we had reported David as an unreliable source of information about us, but Burrell personnel apparently took his words as gospel and placed the 911 call. That caused Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) deputies to arrive for our eviction with a squadron of officers (6 to 8, at least), armed with assault rifles, handguns, and all sorts of weaponry that could have gotten us killed.

    Did Davis and Mays intentionally spread false information via the 911 system? They say in the call that Mays had last seen me during an appointment with Matt Charles on August 4, 2015 -- and I threatened on that date to go all Rambo against cops. They also claim I had a gun, even though (at the time) I had never owned a gun, other than a BB gun I received as a Christmas gift when I was about age 12.

    Now, let's compare the Davis/Mays 911 statements against Matt Charles' notes in my medical records from that appointment on 8/4/15 (five days before our eviction):

    Progress Note

    MRN: 151401

    PATIENT: Roger Shuler

    DATE OF BIRTH: 11/25/56

    Date of service: 08/04/15

    Time of service: 10:10 am. to 10:33 a.m.

    Service Code: 9214


    Follow-up for medication management


    Patient reports that he has been feeling okay since his last visit. He states that "nothing much has changed." He reports that his mood has been good and he has been sleeping well at night. He denies having suicidal or homicidal thoughts. He denies any problems with anxiety or panic. He denies hallucinations.

    Patient continues to be preoccupied with legal issues. He states that his current landlord has been causing problems for him and his wife. He states that their lease recently expired, and they have not signed a new lease. He is under the impression that the lease was to go month to month at this point; however, he is not certain his landlord is going to want him to stay there. [Note: I had the month-to-month "impression" because that's what the lease said.] He is concerned that his mother and brother have "said things about me and my wife" to the landlord and that they are going to try to evict him.

    Patient has some difficulty describing the details of the situation. Patient continues to perseverate on the issues that occurred in Alabama. He reports that he is unwilling to go through another situation such as that, where he was "harassed by the police and their goons." He states that he would protect himself if this ever were to occur again. He is very evasive when asked about what he means by "protecting himself." 

    Does Matt Charles say I threatened to shoot anyone? No. Does he say I had a gun? No. Does he say my brother, David Shuler, had called Burrell with the "threaten to shoot" story? Yes, he does -- in an update the next day, 8/5/15 -- as we reported in an earlier post. Does he note any evidence to suggest David's story is remotely true, or that Burrell had any lawful grounds to communicate with David? Nope.

    For the most part, I think Matt Charles gives a pretty fair summary of things at that time. But I do take issue with at least three items. It's possible that the medical-records process at many facilities is much more sloppy, and much less accurate, than most of us would like to think:

    (1) Charles states: "Patient has some difficulty describing the details of the situation." Given adequate time, I had no problem describing "the details of the situation," as I've done on this blog numerous times. As you can tell from the time stamp on Charles' notes, our meetings usually lasted 15 to 20 minutes. I did not have time to go into great detail about a complex tenant-landlord situation, and I don't recall Charles asking for a lot of details. I did make it clear that the the planned eviction was unlawful, but did Charles seem interested in details about the law? Not that I could tell, and I didn't have time to tell him anyway.

    (2) Charles states: "[Patient] is very evasive when asked about what he means by 'protecting himself.'" This came near the end of our session, and I did not have time to go into details. Also, I was -- in my view -- being honest, not evasive. I didn't know what we could do to protect ourselves, but Charles' own account indicates it did not involve a gun or shooting anyone. I think it's axiomatic that a homeowner (or renter) is entitled to protect himself against unlawful intruders, which the cops were going to be, in this instance. If I'd had more time, I likely would have tried to explain the legal options we had, including filing a notice of appeal that would have put an automatic stay on execution. In fact, that is what we did, but cops ignored the stay and evicted anyway -- breaking Carol's arm in the process.  In other words, the cops acted just as unlawfully as we had feared they would.

    (3) Charles states: "Patient continues to perseverate on the issues that occurred in Alabama." Perseverate is a fancy verb that means "to repeat or prolong an action, thought, or utterance after the stimulus that prompted it has ceased." In my case, a simple way of saying it would be that I "continued to think about certain key events in Alabama after they had happened." As regular readers know, those events included my unlawful arrest (for blogging) and incarceration of five months, the loss of our home of 25 years to a wrongful foreclosure, and a forced move to Missouri (where certain of my family members proved they had developed into backstabbers.) Does Matt Charles think we are supposed to have a robotic reaction to such jarring events? We are supposed to snap our fingers and forget about trauma that creeps into our lives? After all, I already had been diagnosed with PTSD (by a physician) for a reason. Matt Charles left Burrell a few months after this appointment, but I really would like to ask him, "What does your use of the term 'perseverate' mean? Do you think it's abnormal to continue thinking about traumatic, life-altering events after they happened -- even when the victim knows the events happened way outside the law? Is the war veteran supposed to 'switch off'' memories of horrific scenes he might have witnessed?" As for me, I would be concerned about the sanity (and maybe the honesty) of anyone who claimed they could switch off thoughts about such events.

    Charles describes me throughout his notes as "not homicidal," so I'm not sure why the "protecting himself" comment would raise concerns about any activity outside the law. And, in fact, the record is clear that Carol and I acted within the law 100 percent.

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    Jeannine Dorroh
    Jeannine Dorroh lives in Birmingham, AL, and is a senior accountant at Southern Research (SR). She lives in Broken Bow South, the same Shelby County neighborhood where Carol and I lived for 25 years.

    Dorroh was pulling her vehicle out of the neighborhood one morning when she looked to her left and saw Mike McGarity, our neighbor with a lengthy criminal record, strike me in the back with a roadside sign. Dorroh's window was rolled up, and I didn't want to scare her by walking up to her vehicle after she had seen such an unusual event. I mouthed the words, "Did you see that?" and she nodded her head yes.

    As I was walking away from the neighborhood entrance/exit, I noted her license-plate number and wrote it down as soon as I got home. I called the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, and a deputy soon arrived at our house to take a report of what McGarity had done. The deputy said he had spoken with McGarity and received a radically different version of events from mine.

    I rolled up my sweatshirt to show him the bleeding welt on my back. "I didn't put that there myself," I said. I also informed the deputy of an eyewitness and gave him the license-plate number I had jotted down.

    We obtained a copy of the deputy's report a few days later, and it included Jeannine Dorroh's name and address, which was a couple of streets over from ours. I called her one evening, explained who I was, and she was kind enough to state what she saw and express concern about my well-being. I told her I was going to be OK, but explained our difficulties with McGarity in the past, and this was just an extension of those.

    Mike McGarity
    I tape-recorded the conversation and have her statement, word for word. (A video with our phone conversation is embedded at the end of this post.) When you hear her voice, and learn about her background, it becomes clear this is a highly intelligent woman who is used to dealing in details. I would put her word up against Mike McGarity's any day of the week. Here is how our conversation began:

    Roger Shuler (RS): I was the guy I think you saw get hit in the back with the sign the other morning . . . .

    Jeannine Dorroh (JD): I told the officer what I saw. He came to my house and I gave my statement.

    RS: We've had problems with this guy, he lives next door to us . . . It's a long-running thing; It's not been much fun.

    JD: I looked out the window (of my vehicle) and I saw you two conversing, and all of a sudden you were walking away, and the other gentleman hit you in the back of the head. (He actually struck me in the upper back, but from Dorroh's vantage point, it probably looked like the blow landed on the back of my head.) I was shocked when I saw that. First, I thought you were joking, and then I saw it wasn't a joke. Then, you came up to my window, and said, "You saw that?," and I said, "Yes, yes I did. . . .

    RS: I appreciate you being honest about it.

    JD: Are you OK?

    RS: I've got quite a welt on my back. If you have a second, I can tell you what caused the whole deal. . . . As you know weeds grow high down there, and it's hard to see, and people put up signs that aren't supposed to be there. It's against the law to put a sign in a state right-of- way, and it makes it hard to see when you pull out. So I went down there to remove the signs, and he followed me. He follows me and my wife. He started putting the signs back up, and I said, "Mike, those signs are gong to come down. It's against the law, and I can't see around them. He started saying, "I'm going to fight you" and called me names, and I shot back a thing or two, but didn't threaten him, and I started walking away, and you saw what he did.

    With Jeannine Dorroh's help, we've established what really happened. We've also learned that McGarity resorted to his natural instincts and lied to the deputy who took a report. That's not a surprise to Carol and me because we've seen McGarity lie under oath in court.

    Jeannine Dorroh pretty much puts the kibosh on McGarity's efforts to sell a phony story. We will address that issue in an upcoming post.

    As we've reported previously, McGarity works in operation services at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBSAL), and he has a lengthy criminal record, which includes at least eight convictions. (All convictions that we have found are misdemeanors, although several are offenses that involve  violence or sex.) In this most recent incident, McGarity committed a felony assault and filed a false report with a law-enforcement officer, although neither was prosecuted. (More on that in upcoming posts.)

    Does BCBSAL care that one of its employees engages in such unsavory and dangerous behavior, while having a sketchy record that pre-dates his employment at the company? We posed several questions about McGarity -- including whether he disclosed his criminal history on his job application -- to Koko Mackin, vice president of corporate communications at BCBSAL. She has not responded to our queries.

    We take that to mean the company does not care about such issues.

    (To be continued)

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    Judge Carole Smitherman

    An Alabama judge could face a petition to remove her from office for her handling of a lawsuit where she appears to have favored a large, scandal-plagued law firm in downtown Birmingham that reportedly attempted to steal the lucrative collections business of a solo practitioner, according to reports at banbalch.com.

    Burt Newsome -- the solo attorney who allegedly was targeted, falsely arrested, and defamed in a scheme designed to allow Balch and Bingham to swipe his business and ruin his law practice -- has filed a 100-page appellate brief with the Alabama Supreme Court. It is unmasking details that might turn a common man's stomach and become Exhibit A of just how seedy Alabama's "justice system" can get.

    Bad actor No. 1 in what banbalch,com calls "The Newsome Conspiracy Case," is former Balch partner Clark A. Cooper, who apparently led the effort to undermine Newsome's law practice. Writes K.B. Forbes at banbalch.com:

    Balch and Bingham partner Clark A. Cooper, who was abruptly fired on March 3, 2017,  by the embattled law firm, appears to have been the spearhead of the conspiracy that targeted and defamed Burt Newsome, a successful attorney who serviced banks, in an alleged attempt to steal his business.

    The defamation occurred after a staged arrest in which Newsome’s mugshot was allegedly distributed via email to several bank executives on a Saturday afternoon by Cooper.

    According to Newsome’s appellate brief filed with the Alabama Supreme Court, Cooper looks like a habitual liar who tells half-truths and contradicts his own testimonials.

    Need more specifics? Forbes provides them:

    Balch  and Bingham likes to boast that they have over 200 attorneys throughout the Southeast. Why in heaven’s name did Balch target a one-man office, sole-practitioner attorney in Shelby County who services banks?

    In 2012, Burt Newsome was minding his own business, and had not a shred of animosity towards Balch and Bingham.

    Was Balch and Bingham really that desperate?

    Clark A. Cooper, the Balch and Bingham partner who allegedly spearheaded the conspiracy against Newsome in an attempt to steal his successful business servicing banks, appears to have falsely claimed that Newsome’s bar license was in jeopardy to banking executives in 2013.

    Cooper, who was fired by Balch in March of 2017, allegedly sent emails to banking executives with Newsome’s mugshot on a Saturday afternoon, two-days after Newsome’s staged arrest, writing, “Not sure how this will affect his law license.”

    Newsome had been set up in a staged arrest, yet 48-hours later Cooper appears to have already found Newsome guilty.

    Cooper reportedly has been reduced to selling mattresses. But before this seemy mess is over, Judge Carole Smitherman might be the biggest loser. Reports Forbes:

    Clark Cooper
    Balch and Bingham’s trail of rotting carcasses may have one more soon: Judge Carole Smitherman.

    A petition for the removal of Balch’s biggest stooge from the bench is a realistic option now that it is known she dispatched 44 retaliatory orders in the Newsome Conspiracy Case all based on a counterfeit order.

    Judge Smitherman, who sealed the Newsome Conspiracy Case for over 500 days to allegedly hide criminal acts and perjury, engaged in what appears to be judicial fraud.

    She held the counterfeit order as the central pillar in a case, and demonstrated lop-sided bias for Balch and Bingham.

    Entities linked to Balch and Bingham and the alleged co-conspirators in the Newsome Case funneled over $30,000 in campaign contributions to her and her husband, State Senator Rodger Smitherman. Shockingly, the Senator sat in on numerous secret hearings of the Star Chamber, where the Newsome Conspiracy Case was heard.

    Judge Smitherman stupidly trusted Balch and Bingham, who allegedly have made her now look like the most corrupt, dumbest, and most worthless jurist in the State of Alabama.

    What about the counterfeit oder and its central role in the scheme to ruin Burt Newsome? Forbes provides details:

    Burt Newsome, the attorney who allegedly was wrongly targeted, falsely arrested, and defamed by Balch and Bingham and other co-conspirators has filed a 100-page appellate brief with the Alabama Supreme Court, and it is a devastating indictment of the Keystone Cops at Balch and Bingham.

    The cornerstone of all defendants’ legal arguments, the 44 retaliatory orders signed by the Queen of the Star Chamber, Judge Carole Smitherman, and the order for summary judgement against Burt Newsome is all based on a counterfeit order.

    A fake, bogus, 100% fictitious order.

    And where did the counterfeit order come from?

    When Newsome was wrongly arrested in 2013 in a staged arrest by the son of a long-time Alabama Power executive, Newsome vigorously fought the phony criminal charges against him.

    In April of 2014, the bogus criminal case collapsed and was dismissed with prejudice.

    On February 19, 2015, Newsome filed a request to have the staged criminal case and records expunged, and was granted that petition in September of 2015, since “neither the district attorney nor the victim filed any objection to the Petition for Expungement within 45 days,” according to the judge’s order.

    Almost a year later, in the summer of 2016, the legal representatives of the co-conspirators in the Newsome Conspiracy Case presented to Judge Smitherman the counterfeit order stating that the expunged criminal case had been resurrected from the dead while making all sorts of scurrilous and false accusations inside the fabricated order against Newsome.

    The counterfeit order was allegedly “signed” by another judge in Shelby County, who had no knowledge of the case, without a hearing, without any supporting transcripts, and most importantly never, ever filed in the state judicial information system.

    Forbes provides perspective on the chicanery that seems to blossom and thrive in the Birmingham metro legal community:

    The counterfeit order is worse than the ghost-written letters of the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal because it is blatant judicial fraud.

    The bogus criminal case against Newsome remains expunged and even the Alacourt electronic records system declares that “no case detail available.”

    We always have said the secretive and unconstitutional Star Chamber where the Newsome Conspiracy Case was tried was possibly hiding criminal acts and perjury.

    Judge Smitherman and her husband State Senator Rodger Smitherman received over $30,000 in “contributions” from entities linked to Balch and Bingham and the co-defendants at key intervals during the case.

    The Queen of the Star Chamber is not only a Balch and Bingham stooge; she is a fool, an utter fool who engaged in judicial fraud.

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    Baron Coleman

    Alabama lawyer and talk-show host Baron Coleman, who is making a bid to become one of the most insufferable pricks in the right-wing mediasphere, has lost his radio gig in Montgomery roughly one month after calling a female political figure a "whore" and a "bitch" and hinting he might burn her "damned house to the ground."

    Coleman's departure is the good news. The bad news is that, according to a Coleman post on Facebook, he has another radio gig already lined up -- and it starts today, on WRBZ (95.6 FM and 1250 AM). Citizens of Montgomery, which might be the most corrupt city per capita in the United States, should be ashamed their community has media executives and sponsors who are willing to give voice to a bomb-throwing hack like Coleman.

    Word of Coleman's exit from his News and Views program at Montgomery's WACV (93.1 FM, 9 a.m. to noon, weekdays) came via a Facebook post last Thursday, according to a report from Yellowhammer News (YH) The post was dated Sept. 12, not even a month after we reported on August 13 about his profane tirade against Becky Gerritson, executive director of the Eagle Forum of Alabama -- all because she dared disagree with him about medical marijuana (he's for it, she's against it). Here is how Coleman announced his exit from WACV:

    As of this afternoon, I no longer work at Bluewater Broadcasting or News Talk 93.1FM WACV.

    The on-air staff and sales professionals at Bluewater are some of the finest people in the world. I've had an amazing experience at Bluewater for the past five years, but it's time to move on.

    I'll be making an announcement very shortly (days, not weeks) about my next step, but I'll be available to you again in the same format in the very near future.

    In the meantime, I'm on Facebook and available by text, phone, or email if you need me.

    Notice that Coleman makes no attempt to apologize to Gerritson or admit the words he directed at her were horrifically inappropriate. YH sought comment from Bluewater executives, who shrugged off the whole episode and gave no indication that Coleman deserved to be fired. Reports YH:

    Yellowhammer News also reached out to Bluewater Broadcasting president and general manager Rick Peters, who downplayed Coleman’s departure but revealed Coleman’s sometimes co-host political consultant Jack Campbell and station host Joey Clark would be taking the time slot.

    “No big whoop,” Peters said in a statement to Yellowhammer News.“Irreconcilable differences. It’s a free country. People come and go. Been through it a hundred times. Baron’s a good broadcaster and will do fine for himself. Jack Campbell, who’s been there from the beginning will continue with News and Views. Joey Clark will be joining the show from 9-noon.”

    Peters says it's "no big whoop" that one of his on-air "talents" called a woman a "bitch" and a "whore" and suggested her house could mysteriously burn to the ground. Sounds like Bluewater has stringent standards for the broadcasters it puts on the air.

    Here is how Coleman announced his new landing spot in the Montgomery market:

    The last couple of days have been wild.

    I made the choice to leave Bluewater and WACV after more than five years. And to put a rest to any rumors, nobody was fired and it had nothing to do with any controversies or news stories from the past months or years.

    I left Bluewater on my own accord and my own terms.

    It was just time.

    And, in the end, this is a better move for me, for David Mowery, for my family, and for everyone involved in the program.

    I hope you’ll find the new show on WRBZ at 95.5 FM or 1250 AM, the WRBZ station app, the TuneIn Radio app, or online at wrbzradio.com.

    It will be the same show. The same advertisers. The same intellectually honest and philosophically consistent content.

    You’ll still be informed and entertained.

    Even the hours are the same: Nine to Noon.

    I’ll see you on Monday.

    Again, no hint of remorse for his vile attack on Becky Gerritson. No sign of an apology to Bluewater for violating about every rule of broadcasting decorum while behind its microphone.

    That's real Southern conservative "manhood" right there. And that might to go the real story about Baron Coleman. His verbal assault on Gerritson shows he is a non-talent as a broadcaster. We already have seen signs that he is a half-wit as a lawyer, one who keeps political company with felons and Grindr devotees like Ali (Akbar) Alexander.

    But those are mere quibbles when compared to the deeper story on Baron Coleman. The sad truth? He's a rotten human being. How do we know? His own words tell us.

    (To be continued)

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    Brett Kavanaugh and Donald Trump

    Democratic presidential candidates are calling for the impeachment of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the wake of a New York Times report over the weekend about new allegations of sexual misconduct in Kavanaugh's background.

    Those who have followed this blog from its earliest days know the latest on Kavanaugh might be a national (even international) story, but it hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer.

    Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, and Julian Castro were among 2020 presidential hopefuls who called for Kavanaugh's impeachment, claiming the new revelations provide fresh evidence that he lied under oath to Congress in his confirmation hearings last fall. From a report at CNBC:

    2020 presidential contenders including Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke on Sunday called for the impeachment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh after an article in The New York Times surfaced a previously unreported allegation of sexual misconduct against the justice when he was a undergraduate at Yale University.

    “I sat through those hearings. Brett Kavanaugh lied to the U.S. Senate and most importantly to the American people,” Harris wrote. “He was put on the Court through a sham process and his place on the Court is an insult to the pursuit of truth and justice. He must be impeached.”

    Warren said Kavanaugh’s nomination was “rammed through the Senate” without proper analysis into the slew of misconduct allegations against him.

    “Confirmation is not exoneration, and these newest revelations are disturbing,” Warren wrote. “Like the man who appointed him, Kavanaugh should be impeached.”

    Later in the day, O’Rourke weighed in as well.

    “We know he lied under oath. He should be impeached,” O’Rourke tweeted.

    The latest allegations against Kavanaugh grew from a book excerpt the Times published on Saturday. From a report at Vox:

    [These presidential-candidate reactions] were prompted by a New York Times piece published this weekend, which featured an excerpt from an upcoming book by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly. (The book's title is The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.)

    That excerpt details an incident similar to the one described by Kavanaugh’s former Yale classmate, Deborah Ramirez. Ramirez had alleged that Kavanaugh drunkenly exposed himself and forcibly thrust his genitals in her face without her consent, something Kavanaugh denied. A second Yale classmate has now levied a similar allegation from another party attended by Kavanaugh:

    We also uncovered a previously unreported story about Mr. Kavanaugh in his freshman year that echoes Ms. Ramirez’s allegation. A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. (We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier.)

    How does the Kavanaugh story touch on personal ground here at Legal Schnauzer? We invite you to read our first post, titled "Is Your Honor Really Honorable?" and dated June 3, 2007. The post does not include the name of Shelby County, AL District Judge Ron Jackson, but it is based on Jackson's failure to abide by his oath to uphold the law in our first courtroom experience -- a criminal trespass case against our criminally inclined neighbor Mike McGarity.

    In a series of subsequent posts, we provided details about how Jackson butchered the law in State of Alabama v. Mike McGarity. Perhaps the most thorough examination came in a post titled "The trial of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard suggests confederate principles, and distrust of U.S. Constitution, never have died in the Deep South":

    All of our legal problems flow from the date a criminally inclined individual named Mike McGarity moved next door to us. McGarity, his kids, and his guests started trespassing on our front yard with regularity, essentially turning it into the neighborhood playground, without asking what we thought about the use of our own yard. When I informed McGarity multiple times that we did not want him, or anyone connected to him, coming on our property, his response was, "I'm going to sue you for harassment. . . ."

    When my warnings only drew threats from McGarity, I consulted an attorney named Bill Lewis, and he made it clear that McGarity was violating both criminal and civil law -- trespassing by a person is a crime; an intrusion by a person, thing, or substance can be a tort. Lewis said a civil case might cost $10,000 or more, so it didn't make much sense to go that direction, especially since McGarity was committing a crime. Lewis said he would write a letter to McGarity, explaining the criminal statute, and stating that McGarity would receive no more warnings. Lewis said he hoped that would take care of it, but it would be up to us to swear out a criminal complaint with the sheriff if the trespassing continued, and we wanted it stopped.

    McGarity continued to trespass, along with a cast of thousands, so we felt we had no choice but to swear out a complaint. We met with an attorney in the Shelby County DA's office, she filled out paperwork for the complaint, and we took it to the clerk's office to be sworn.

    McGarity pleaded not guilty and refused to discuss a settlement, which District Judge Ron Jackson had encouraged us to reach, so the case went to trial. McGarity was charged with criminal trespass (third degree), which is not even a misdemeanor under Alabama law; it's a violation.

    The applicable law hardly was complicated -- although McGarity and his attorney, William E. Swatek, apparently couldn't grasp it -- and here is how we spelled it out:

    The issues at hand are covered under Code of Alabama 13A-7-4, and the offense has two components:

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

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

    Law doesn't get much simpler than that, and these two issues were easily resolved at trial. The trial transcript shows that McGarity admitted he had knowingly entered upon our premises. As for the second part, it helps to have some definitions. My research indicates that being "licensed" to enter premises refers to someone who has a professional reason to be there -- a fireman, meter reader, police officer.

    Being "privileged" to enter premises refers to someone who tries to address an unexpected occurrence. For example, if your hat flies off your head and lands in my yard, you have a right to retrieve it. If your dog gets loose and winds up on my yard, you have a right to retrieve him. If you see someone on my property who appears to be in medical distress, you have a right to come and check on him.

    As for "invited," that's pretty obvious: It applies to someone who knows he is on friendly terms with the owner/occupants of the premises and has reason to believe he is welcome.

    McGarity never claimed he had been invited to enter our property, and he never claimed to be licensed or privileged. In essence, he confessed to the crime, but Judge Jackson still acquitted him. (Bet you didn't know that could happen in an American court; well, it can, and it has.)

    How does a judge acquit a defendant who has unwittingly confessed to the offense as charged? He does it by going off the rails, completely outside the law, making stuff up on the bench and pulling it out of his ass, as he sees fit: Here is our description of how Jackson went rogue:

    For some reason, the court focused on only one instance of McGarity trespassing, even though our complaint said we had witnessed him trespass on multiple occasions. McGarity admitted he had received Bill Lewis' warning letter via certified mail, but he said he wasn't sure of the date it arrived -- that it might have come after the one trespassing incident the court considered.

    Here is what Jackson said to Carol and me: "I'm going to find that you had to give written warning, and there is reasonable doubt about whether the warning was received prior to the trespass. Therefore, I am going to acquit. But Mr. McGarity, you certainly are on notice now, and if you return here on these issues, the result might be different."

    Jackson said this as if he was trying to be a thoughtful, even-handed judge. But the acquittal allowed McGarity to sue us for malicious prosecution, which is a tort that essentially means a case was brought without probable cause. Heck, testimony showed that we had not only probable cause, we had actual cause -- McGarity admitted to breaking the law as charged.

    So was Jackson's ruling legally sound? Not even close. Jackson held that we had to give McGarity written warning. In fact, Alabama case law holds that we had no responsibility to give McGarity a warning at all. (This makes sense under the concept of private property, one of our most cherished American ideals. If a homeowner or occupant had to give a warning to keep unwanted individuals off his premises, we essentially would have no private-property rights. Someone could place a massive tent on your front yard and host a party for thousands, and when confronted, say, "Hey, you didn't warn me not to do this, so I lawfully can use your land for whatever I want.")

    What is the real law, which Judge Jackson ignored? This is from a case styled Chambers v. City of Opelika, 698 So. 2d 792 (Ala. Crim. App., 1996):

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

    Under the Fourteenth Amendment, we were entitled to due process, which means (in part) having an impartial arbiter. That Jackson could not get this simple law right indicates he was somehow compromised. We also were entitled to equal protection, to have Alabama law applied to us as it would be to anyone else. That obviously did not happen.

    The bottom line? Under the law, we had no obligation to warn McGarity, either verbally or in writing. And he admitted under oath that we had warned him multiple times verbally. In other words, we went over and beyond what the law calls for in an effort to resolve this problem, and we still got screwed because Jackson found we had to provide written warning -- which we did, but McGarity claimed he had not received it prior to the one trespassing incident the court considered. (The truth? McGarity almost certainly received the written warning from Bill Lewis that day, and McGarity got pissed and went on our yard to try to figure out a way to run a fence up to the street, between the properties. That was a problem, of course, because McGarity had built his fence on our property, taking up about 400 square feet of our back yard -- and extending the fence, in a straight line, meant it would cross our driveway. Ooops. For some reason, Bill Lewis' office could not find the returned certified-mail receipt, so we (the prosecution) could not prove when McGarity received the warning.)

    How does Brett Kavanaugh connect to our reporting on State v. Mike McGarity?  Since exposing Ron Jackson as a crook, we have reported on numerous other corrupt judges -- at both the state (J. Michael Joiner, G. Dan Reeves, Don Blankenship in Alabama; plusJerry Harmison and Margaret Palmietto in Missouri) and federal levels (William Acker Jr., Abdul Kallon, Mark Fuller, Gerald Bard Tjoflat)

    Now, more than 12 years after our first point, the entire country might be forced to reckon with the notion that our "justice system" is awash in deceit -- even at the highest levels, as Brett Kavanaugh has shown, judges cannot be trusted to act with honor and integrity.

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    Jessica Medeiros Garrison and Luther Strange

    Luther Strange, former U.S. senator and attorney general of Alabama, is playing a central role in a tentative multibillion-dollar settlement with a company at the heart of the U.S. opiod crisis, according to a report from Associated Press.

    The news roughly coincides with the disappearance on social media of Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Strange's one-time campaign manager and mistress. A source contacted us on Sept. 6 to say Garrison's social-media presence had gone pretty much dark. Earlier, the same source noted this had happened several times before, especially when Garrison or Strange were connected to potentially touchy situations. Does this suggest now that Garrison and Strange are trying to hide something that could have a negative impact on his involvement with the opiod case?

    That question is filled with irony because the AP report indicates Strange got involved with the opiod case, in part, because of his ties to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), for which Garrison served as executive director before bailing out in January 2016 and winding up in an of-counsel position with Birmingham law firm Balch and Bingham. Garrison exited at Balch in early 2017, about the time news reports had Luther Strange involved up to his neck in the North Birmingham Superfund bribery scandal.

    How did Strange get involved with the opiod case? It appears he had connections to the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin. From the AP report:

    The opioid crisis has hit virtually every pocket of the U.S., from rural towns in deeply conservative states to big cities in liberal-leaning ones. But a curious divide has opened up.

    The nation's Republican state attorneys general have, for the most part, lined up in support of a tentative multibillion-dollar settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, while their Democratic counterparts have mostly come out against it, decrying it as woefully inadequate.

    Exactly why this is so is unclear, and some of those involved suggested it can't necessarily be explained by the fact that the Republican Party is considered more friendly to big business.

    Some of the attention has focused on the role played by Luther Strange, a Republican former Alabama attorney general who has been working for members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma.

    People familiar with the negotiations say he was at a meeting of the Republican Attorneys General Association over the summer, sounding out members about a settlement months before a tentative deal was struck this week.

    Why would Strange (and Garrison, for that matter) feel compelled to offer a helping hand to the company behind OxyContin? It appears to involve cold, hard cash, according to AP:

    Purdue has been generous in recent years to RAGA, contributing more than $680,000 to its campaign operation from 2014 through 2018. The company also gave to the organization's Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, over the same five-year period, but far less: about $210,000.

    Strange would not comment Friday.

    The proposed settlement with the Stamford, Connecticut-based drugmaker could ultimately be worth up to $12 billion, though critics doubt it will be close to that much.

    Nearly half the states and lawyers representing some 2,000 local governments have tentatively accepted the settlement deal, according to people familiar with the talks. Under the deal, the company would declare bankruptcy and remake itself as "public benefit trust," with its profits going toward the settlement. An Associated Press survey of attorney general offices shows 25 states and the District of Columbia have rejected the current offer.

    Purdue is perhaps the highest-profile opioid maker, but governments are also suing other drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies to try to hold them accountable for a crisis that has claimed more than 400,000 lives in the U.S. since 2000, including deaths linked to illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

    The first federal trial over the toll exacted by opioids is scheduled to start next month in Cleveland.

    Why would Strange refuse to comment on his role in the Purdue negotiations? Perhaps he was concerned that uncomfortable questions might arise about his ties to RAGA and Jessica Medeiros Garrison? Perhaps Strange is trying to help the Sackler family get off lightly, and he doesn't want to address questions on that subject? Reports AP:

    North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, a Democrat, was one of the lead negotiators on the settlement and said that Strange played a big role.

    "He was lawyer to the family, and so we had multiple discussions with the family in which I indicated that a supermajority of states could agree to a deal if the Sacklers would simply provide more certainty as to the payment," Stein said in an interview. "Almost all states would agree to the deal if the Sackler family would guarantee it 100%. Just make a payment. Those were discussions we had. The Sacklers rejected those offers and said it was take it or leave it, and I'm leaving it."

    This much seems clear: The negotiations are tense enough -- with enough big dollars at stake -- that Jessica Garrison does not want anyone nosing around in her social-media profile. Our source says he has seen such behavior before, as he noted in a 2017 email:

    The same week Luther Strange was accused in print of being involved in a bribe, Jessica Medeiros Garrison's Facebook was taken down without a trace.

    She did this once before - the same week Luther got the senate appointment from Bentley.

    When something is up they don't want anyone going through her old Facebook posts. There must be bombs in there.

    We sought comment from Jessica Garrison, but she has not responded to our queries.

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    Baron Coleman

    What evidence suggests Montgomery lawyer and talk-radio host Baron Coleman -- aside from being a profane bully on the air -- is simply a rotten human being? For starters, Coleman left one radio station and landed at another roughly one month after calling Becky Gerritson (executive director of the Eagle Forum of Alabama) a "whore" and  a "bitch" and hinted at burning her house to the ground.

    But the alarming side of Coleman's media shtick goes much deeper than that. Let's review the tirade Coleman launched on-air after Gerritson had the temerity to disagree with him about medical marijuana:

    I've got renewed vigor and purpose. . . .

    I've hired lawyers, and I'm pursuing a strategy of slash and burn, seek and destroy. If you come after me, you'd better be ready to go to the mat. . . . 
    I never let someone come after me and don't take them out. Never. I will lose everything in search of making sure your life is hell. . . . I've got a new enemy, and her lawyer sucks, too. I'm going to destroy this bitch. I'm going to absolutely destroy her. Her life will never be the same. . . She has a bad lawyer who gave her terrible advice.

    Coleman, it turns out, was just warming up. Here is more:

    Mike Hubbard is going to prison; we did battle for years. Matt Hart and I did battle, he lost his job. An AM radio host and I did battle, and he lost his job. I don't lose, and I will blanking destroy you and everything you hold dear. Don't come after me unless you are fully ready to engage. Do not send me half-ass letters; that will not end well.

    If you threaten me, I will burn your damned house to the ground. Not in the physical sense, but I will have you running back to Texas, I promise.

    After vowing to destroy Becky Gerritson, Coleman brags about costing other people their jobs. (Note: The AM radio host in question is Montgomery attorney Mark Montiel, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.)What's up with Coleman? Is he well, is he dangerous, is his language that of a glorified domestic terrorist -- in an age where we seem to average one two mass shootings per month?

    Let's consider Coleman's response when al.com asked about the ugly rant he directed at Gerritson -- and that she had responded by filing a complaint with the Alabama State Bar and contacted advertisers to ask if they really, really wanted to be associated with Coleman. Writes Mike Cason, of al.com:

    Asked about those comments tonight, Coleman said he stood by them. He said Gerritson’s actions posed a threat to his livelihood and ability to take care of his wife and seven children.

    Let's examine that statement in light of Coleman's on-air comments cited above. First, he brags about costing other people their jobs. But notice what happens when someone else takes actions that might put Coleman's livelihood -- and his ability to care for his wife and seven children -- on the line. When the tables are turned, so to speak, Coleman doesn't like it one bit. He resorts to name-calling, profanity, and threats -- in language dripping with hints of violence.

    When your livelihood and your loved ones are threatened, Baron Coleman boasts about that -- almost seems to find it amusing. When his livelihood is threatened, things aren't so funny anymore. Now, it's a serious matter, one prompting threats that could be criminal under the Code of Alabama 13A-10-15. Within roughly the past week, two University of South Alabama students have been charged with making terrorist threats for using language that doesn't appear to be any more coarse than what Coleman used.

    As for Coleman, his lack of empathy for the rights and feelings of others comes real close to the classic definition of sociopathy. That radio stations in Montgomery keep giving him a soapbox seems off-the-charts irresponsible.

    Would a black media personality get away with this kind of behavior -- exiting one station, after making wildly inappropriate (maybe criminal) on-air comments, only to land in the arms of another station? Not in a million years.

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    Luther Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison

    Alabama in recent days has taken a front-and-center role in the U.S. opiod crisis, and that seems fitting given that the state's former attorney general, Luther Strange, and largest insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBSAL), have helped give the state one of the nation's most severe prescription-painkiller problems, according to a 2017 article at breitbart.com(of all places.)

    Strange landed in national headlines over the weekend, thanks to an Associated Press report about his efforts pushing for a settlement that critics say is highly favorable to the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin. The social-media presence for Jessica Medeiros Garrison, Strange's one-time campaign manager and mistress, mostly disappeared -- coinciding roughly with Strnage's involvement in opiod-lawsuit negotiations.

    Meanwhile, the New York attorney general stated in court documents last week that the office has traced roughly $1 billion the Sackler family allegedly transferred to offshore accounts in an effort to shield its wealth from possible collection in lawsuits. What if Luther Strange is found to have been involved in what appears to be a case of massive financial fraud?

    Did Strange learn a thing or two about offshore accounts, perhaps via members of Alabama's crooked Riley family, from his days in the Alabama Republican Party, with ties to Birmingham's Bradley Arant Law Firm? What if political connections in the Northern District of Alabama allowed Strange to escape prosecution in the North Birmingham Superfund Bribery Scandal, but he lands in the "big house" from helping the Sacklers shift billions into offshore accounts? How huge could the OxyContin-related financial fraud turn out to be? From an article at Splinter News:

    Last month, New York Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed 33 financial institutions with ties to the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The subpoenas are tied to James’ effort to track billions of dollars the family allegedly transferred out of Purdue Pharma to hide profits before the company declares bankruptcy, The New York Times and other media reported.

    The findings announced on Friday come from only one of the financial institutions that responded to the subpoenas, the Times said.

    The attorney general’s office said it found about $1 billion in wire transfers by the Sackler family, some of which went through Swiss bank accounts.

    “While the Sacklers continue to lowball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct. The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena,” James said in a statement.

    The findings from only one of 33 subpoenas suggest the total amount of financial transfers to offshore accounts easily could top $30 billion. Will the IRS have an interest in this, perhaps with Luther Strange caught in the web of deceit? Are the Sacklers planning to commit bankruptcy fraud? It sure sounds like it.

    No one should be surprised at Strange's chummy relationship with Big Pharma, Breitbart reports, given that the former U.S. senator and one of his biggest political benefactors, BCBSAL, have helped turn Alabama into a haven for prescription-opiod abuse. Reports Breitbart in its 2017 piece:

    During a period he served as Alabama Attorney General, Luther Strange received more campaign contributions than any other U.S .attorney general from members of a controversial lobby group peddling the dangerous prescription pain medication business amid an ongoing opioid crisis in Alabama. . . .

    Backed financially by big pharmaceutical companies, Strange led an effort that culminated in a letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed by other attorneys general urging the agency not to approve generic versions of highly addictive opioids unless the companies use so-called tamper-resistant or abuse-resistant technology that at the time was mostly available to the major drug companies and not generic competitors.

    An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press previously found that the effort outlined in Strange’s letter essentially left the opioid market for several years to big drug companies like Purdue and Pfizer.

    According to Breitbart, Strange and BCBSAL essentially have given everyday Alabamians a giant middle finger while lining their own pockets with Big Pharma cash. Perhaps that should not be surprising, given that BCBSAL long has harbored at least one criminal -- our former neighbor Mike McGarity -- among its employees. Could BCBSAL wind up facing massive civil liability if opiod lawsuits head its way? Let's take a look:

    The issue of opioid prescription is critical in Alabama, a state that has the highest rate of prescription opioid use in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    Also, in July, a report found that Alabama members of Blue Cross Blue Shield evidenced alarming trends of opioid prescription rates.

    Blue Cross Blue Shield is the 12th largest donor to Strange’s Senatorial coffers, according to Open Secrets, contributing $15,000.

    How has Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama contributed to the state's high rate of prescription-painkiller use? A 2017 al.com story explains:

    Alabama members of Blue Cross Blue Shield receive more opioids for longer periods of time and report higher rates of substance- abuse disorder than patients in almost every other state, according to a report released Thursday.

    An analysis of claims filed by Blue Cross members ranked Alabama in the top three for opioid prescriptions filled, long-term painkiller use and diagnoses of opioid-abuse disorder. More than 26 percent of Blue Cross Blue Shield members in the Yellowhammer State filled prescriptions for opioids in 2015, compared to the national average of 21.4 percent.

    The study follows recent reports showing the death toll from opioid use topping 33,000 in 2015 and continuing to rise. Many of the deaths in recent years have been caused by heroin and illicit fentanyl - a powerful substance that has infiltrated the drug supply and caused a spike in overdoses. Deaths from prescription opioids have plateaued, but still account for the majority of fatal overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    According to the report, the number of substance-abuse disorder diagnoses for Blue Cross members increased almost 500 percent from 2010 to 2016. Women age 45 and older have higher rates of substance abuse than men, and men have higher rates of abuse among younger members. Less than a third of members diagnosed with opioid use disorder in Alabama received medication to treat the condition.

    The CDC identified Alabama as the state with the highest number of prescribed opioids per capita in 2015, with physicians writing 5.8 million prescriptions that year. State regulators have adopted some rules to curb high rates of prescriptions. Recently, the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners adopted a rule requiring doctors to check the prescription drug database for certain patients.

    How greasy are Strange's hands in the opiod crisis? The 2017 Breitbart article provides insight:

    Strange was appointed to the Senate in February, after Jeff Sessions vacated his seat to become U.S. Attorney General. Prior to his appointment, Strange served for six years as Alabama’s Attorney General.

    The AP and Center for Public Integrity report found that members of a major drug lobby group called the Pain Care Forum donated more money to Strange than to any other attorney general during a nine-year period.

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    A 911 call that started with an allegation that I had threatened to shoot any law-enforcement officer who tried to evict Carol and me, quickly changed to an admission that I had said no such words -- and ended with the revelation that my lawyer-brother David Shuler instigated the call and made the whole "threat story" up.

    The call, from Burrell Behavioral Heath case manager Joshua Davis, starts veering off the tracks with the claim that I had a gun. (Video/audio of 911 call is embedded at the end of this post.) Other than a BB gun I received as a Christmas gift at about age 12, I had never owned a gun in my life, up to the time of the call. Kathryn Mays, who had been assigned as my social worker, can be heard whispering to Davis throughout the call, and much of the misinformation apparently comes from her.

    In fact, Davis does not seem to know what he's doing, or why he's even placing a 911 call for a matter he admits up front is a "non-emergency." The 911 dispatcher, a young woman named Maggie, seems to be saying, "Why are you calling me, and what on earth do you want us to do about it?" She really would have been dumbfounded if she had known almost everything she was told was false.

    The call includes moments that are downright comical. Davis tries to explain that he is calling because Burrell has a "duty to warn."

    That prompts Maggie to say, "I'm not sure what 'warrant' you're talking about."

    "I said 'duty to warn.'" Davis explains.

    "Oh . . . OK," says Maggie, in a tone that suggests she still has no idea why he's calling.

    Does Burrell actually have a "duty to warn" under Missouri state law? If so, I haven't been able to find it. There is this little item called medical confidentiality in many jurisdictions, and Burrell didn't seem to have a problem trampling mine -- going so far as to make up things I didn't say. Here's how the call begins:

    Josh: I work with case management, and we have a client with Burrell who threatened to shoot anyone if they came to evict him from his house.

    Maggie: Is he being evicted?

    Josh: Yes, there has been an eviction notice posted at the house. Part of our duty to warn, according to one of my supervisors, is that I need to let the Greene County Sheriff's Office know, in case they send somebody out there, that he has threatened to shoot anyone . . . or not . . . well he's threatened to protect his home, I believe is his words. And he has a gun.

    Notice that in the span of a minute or so, I've gone from threatening to shoot anyone who comes to evict to threatening to "protect my home." These people apparently don't realize there are a lot of steps you can take to "protect your home" that don't involve shooting anyone -- including legal steps, in court, that are supposed to ensure you are not unlawfully evicted. Do the people at Burrell think it's unlawful to protect your home against intruders? Apparently they do. Did any of them think to ask, "Is this threatened eviction unlawful, as Roger says?" Apparently not.

    Trust me when I say it's otherworldly to hear people talking about you on a 911 call -- about a threat you never made and a gun you never had.

    It gets even more bizarre when Maggie asks Davis if I have any tattoos. Me, a tattoo? I wouldn't be caught dead with one. But you can tell Maggie is making the assumption that I'm a criminal, so I must be covered in tattoos. Then, there is this:

    Maggie: He has a gun, you said. Any other weapons that you know of?

    Josh: None, that we know of.

    Maggie: Would he be under the influence of anything? (Oh great, I'm a criminal AND a druggie.)

    Josh: He takes medication for his mental illness that we work with him, but no other drugs . . . (Hey, you forgot my crystal meth. I love me some crystal meth!)

    Maggie: What kind of mental illness does he have?

    Josh: PTSD and major depression. (You aren't going to mention I was thrown in jail five months for blogging in Alabama? That doesn't qualify as trauma? And depression is considered mental illness? Hell, 7/8 of the country must be mentally ill then.)

    Maggie: Is he a veteran?

    Josh: No ma'am.

    Maggie: Do you think he is at home, at that location, now.

    Josh: Yes, most likely.

    Remember, all of this hullabaloo -- on what is supposed to be a phone line for emergencies -- largely is about a threat I did not make and a gun I did not have. So who was at the heart of all this baloney? We will address that in an upcoming post.

    (To be continued)

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    Between 2003 and 2017, a judge on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals sat on three-judge panels 15 times to hear cases involving banking giant JPMorgan Chase (JPMC). Each time, the panel ruled in favor of Chase -- and, in most cases, against everyday Americans.

    Does that sound fishy to you? It should, when you consider that the judge in question, Gerald Bard Tjoflat has a financial stake in JPMC. It is particularly smelly to my wife, Carol, and me, given that we lost our home of almost 25 years in Birmingham to a wrongful foreclosure and got cheated at the trial level by judges R. David Proctor and Virginia Emerson Hopkins in the Northern District of Alabama (see here, here, and here), only to see Tjoflat screw us in an even more blatant fashion at the appellate level.

    A basic of American law is that no federal judge can hear a case in which he, or a member of his immediate family, has a financial interest in one of the parties. Public records make Tjoflat's financial stake in JPMC abundantly clear -- and by law, he is disqualified from sitting on any panel considering a case where JPMC is involved. But that has not stopped him from hearing appeals involving the bank at least 15 times over a 14-year period. And get this: The bank has prevailed 15 times in 15 cases where one of its shareholders (Tjoflat) serves as a judge. How's that for making American "justice" great again?

    Gerald Bard Tjoflat
    That's a .1000 batting average for JPMC, and a .000 batting average for its customers who had the temerity to try holding the gigantic bank accountable before a court of law -- one that turned out to be demonstrably crooked, and yes, we are talking about you, Mr. Tjoflat.

    Does that stink to our readers? It sure does to us, given that we have been one of Tjoflat's victims. Let's look at the scorecard of cases where Tjoflat-led panels have consistently favored the 89-year-old judge's pocketbook by siding with his financial stake in JPMC. We conducted our research on Google Scholar, and this might not be an exhaustive list of cases involving Tjoflat and JPMC. For one, Tjoflat has been on the appellate bench since 1975, and it's possible some cases have slipped through the cracks over a 44-year period. Also, there might have been cases where JPMC was a secondary or tertiary defendant and did not appear in our search.

    But we found enough cases to form a distinct pattern: When JPMC goes before a Tjoflat panel, the big bank pretty much always wins. Here is a list of specific cases:

    (1) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC and other defendants in Shuler v. Jessica Garrison (2017)

    (2) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Jacqueline Sosa, et al v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage (2003)

    (3) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Russell Dusek v. JPMC Bank (2016)

    (4) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Chau Kieu Nguyen v. JPMC Bank (2013)

    (5) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Angela Sims v. Chase Home Finance (2012)

    (6) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Alexander Harvin v. JPMC Bank (2017)

    (7) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Michelle Hopkins v. JPMC Bank (2015)

    (8) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Sherrance Henderson v. JPMC Bank (2011)

    (9) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in John Pinson v. JPMC Bank (2016)

    (10) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Jason C. Harris v. Chase Home Finance (2013)

    (11) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Steve Muhammad v. JPMC Bank (2014)

    (12) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Carolyn Boone v. JPMC Bank (2011)

    (13) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Vadis Frone v. JPMC Bank (2017)

    (14) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in Anne Marie De Souza v. JPMC Home Lending (2015)

    (15) Tjoflat panel favors JPMC in JPMC Bank v. Thomas G. Dean (2010)

    Is JPMC the only large financial institution to benefit in the Deep South because Gerald Bard Tjoflat is a shareholder? Nope, another banking behemoth has enjoyed similar benefits for years.

    (To be continued)

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    The Facebook meme that helped bring
    criminal charges against Nonathan Vanderhagen
    for "harassing" a Michigan judge.

    A Michigan jury took less than 30 minutes last week to find a Macomb County man not guilty of harassing a judge by publishing critical posts about her on Facebook. That Jonathan Vanderhagen actually faced a criminal trial on such a flimsy charge -- in a country where some form of free expression is supposed to be a coveted constitutional right -- makes this one of the nuttiest court cases in our 12 years of writing Legal Schnauzer.

    We've seen plenty of cases where juries rendered nonsensical verdicts. But in this instance, jurors clearly had their heads out of their rectums -- which cannot be said for the judge and prosecutors who caused charges to be filed. The case has particular resonance here because we face a similar, and ongoing, effort to silence our online voice.

    How goofy was the case in Michigan? A report at voicenews.com helps answer that question:

    A Chesterfield Township man was acquitted of a misdemeanor charge on the allegation he made social-media threats against a Macomb County judge.

    A six-person jury found Jonathan Vanderhagen not guilty Thursday following a three-day trial in 41B District Court on a charge of malicious use of a telecommunications device for several Facebook posts last July regarding family Judge Rachel Rancilio of Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.

    The panel deliberated only 26 minutes.

    Vanderhagen told The Macomb Daily after the verdict that he prayed for "the truth to come out" each night in his county jail cell, where he has been held for nearly two months.

    Can you believe that? An American spent almost two months in jail because he criticized a public official -- largely because the official, Judge Rachel Rancilio, took his criticism to be a threat. If the judge has such sensitive skin, perhaps she needs to find another profession.

    Did Vanderhagen have reasonable grounds to be displeased with Judge Rancilio? He sure as heck did. It all grew from a child-custody case that launched two years ago. From a report at reason.com:

    In 2017, Vanderhagen petitioned the court for sole custody over his 2-year-old son, Killian. Vanderhagen believed Killian's mother to be an unfit guardian. Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Rachel Rancilio, the presiding judge, denied the request and Killian was permitted to continue living with his mother. Killian passed away that September while in his mother's care.

    Authorities concluded that a preexisting medical condition contributed to Killian's death. Vanderhagen, however, blamed Rancilio's custody ruling for contributing to his son's death, which he believes would not have happened had Killian been in his care. He used his Facebook page to say as much. For two years, he posted about Killian's mother, the court system, and Rancilio—at times using Rancilio's own public Facebook posts and Pinterest pins to criticize her ruling.

    Rancilio was made aware of the posts and an investigation was opened against Vanderhagen. "At no point does [Vanderhagen] threaten harm or violence towards Rancilio," Sgt. Jason Conklin of the Macomb County Sheriff's Office, the investigating officer, concluded in his case report.

    Nevertheless, Vanderhagen was charged with the malicious use of telecommunication services, a misdemeanor, in July. "Malicious use" means that Vanderhagen was accused of using a telecommunication service with the intention of terrorizing, intimidating, threatening, or harassing Rancilio. Vanderhagen was ordered to refrain from engaging in direct or third-party contact with Rancilio, including sending "inadvertent messages by way of Facebook."

    Prosecutors and presiding District Judge Sebastian Lucido used the meme at the beginning of this post to accuse Vanderhagen of violating his bond conditions later that month. Here's more from Reason:

    The Facebook post features Vanderhagen holding a shovel with the initials R.R., standing for Rachel Rancilio. The post's caption read, "Dada back to digging [and] you best believe [I'm] gonna dig up all the skeletons in this court's closet."

    In addition to the Facebook post not being threatening, Nicholas Somberg, Vanderhagen's lawyer, told me that the post was created three days before Vanderhagen received his bond conditions.

    Somberg also argued in an emergency bond hearing that Vanderhagen had a First Amendment right to criticize legal authorities. Judge Lucido replied that there were "limits" to free speech. When Somberg asked Lucido to clarify which of the Facebook posts presented to the court were threatening, Lucido said that they 'alluded' to the judge and did not explain his reasoning any further.

    Lucido raised Vanderhagen's bond to $500,000, an amount Somberg told Reason was tantamount to a bond "you would expect for a murderer or rapist."
    In short, authorities concocted bogus criminal charges against a citizen because his legitimate and lawful criticisms caused a hyper-sensitive judge to get a case of the squirmies.

    We are facing a similar threat to free speech -- and a free press -- right now. Details are ahead in an upcoming post.

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    Nancy Pelosi

    Now that the Ukraine scandal has dragged U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) kicking and screaming into impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, she continues to display the kind of waffling that for decades has characterized Democratic Party efforts to hold crooked Republicans accountable.

    Pelosi's most recent sign of weakness came yesterday when she stated the scope of an impeachment inquiry should be "narrow." In other words, Pelosi wants the House investigation to focus on Ukraine and Ukraine only -- ignoring Trump's apparent efforts to benefit from Russia's meddling in the 2016 election, along with a host of other misconduct that likely rises to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors."

    Why does Pelosi want to give Trump a pass for activities that might prove far worse than anything involving a phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky -- and could be much more damaging to our democracy? We can think of only one answer: Pelosi knows a broad impeachment investigation, including evidence produced in the Mueller Report, likely would show Trump's presidency was illegitimate from the outset -- that he never was lawfully elected president, and all of his actions have been taken without constitutional authority.

    Pelosi, it appears, believes a broad inquiry might cause her political problems down the line, or she thinks the American public cannot handle the notion that an impostor president has been leading the country since January 2017 -- and he could be re-elected, even if he is impeached.

    Never mind that Americans needs to know exactly how a reality-TV host, with deep ties to organized crime and a history of unseemly (stomach churning?) personal behavior, came to occupy the nation's highest office. Pelosi could prove to be a cover-up artist in the mold of Trump attorney general William Barr -- and her efforts, of course, mean the mistakes of the Trump era are likely to be repeated in the future.

    Pelosi, like many limp-wristed Democrats before her, gives short shrift to the rule of law while seeking to turn the whole controversy into a political calculation. From a report yesterday at CNN:

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democrats in a private meeting Wednesday that she wants to focus their impeachment inquiry on President Donald Trump's conversations with Ukraine, as members debate how broadly to draft articles of impeachment, according to several sources involved in the discussions.

    Despite months of focus on former special counsel Robert Mueller's findings and allegations of obstruction of justice, Pelosi and top Democrats believe their strongest case for impeachment to the American public is the President's ask that the Ukrainians investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

    That means if Democrats draft articles of impeachment, they are likely to be focused on the Ukraine controversy — not on allegations that Trump tried to thwart the Mueller probe. A broader resolution could make it more complicated to get the votes on the floor, according to multiple Democratic sources. But discussions about the scope of the articles of impeachment are ongoing.

    Democrats, as long has been their tendency, play softball when a situation calls for toughness. From CNN:
    Publicly, Democrats are debating how far to go in drafting the resolution, as well. Going too broad in articles of impeachment, Democrats fear, could become unwieldy and cost them crucial support, especially among a slew of moderate freshmen who have only embraced impeachment in the aftermath of the Ukraine controversy.

    Members say that the Ukraine matter has been the most unifying instance of potentially impeachable conduct, and as such any articles of impeachment should focus on those allegations foremost.

    Fortunately, some of Pelosi's colleagues are showing signs of having a testicle or two, reports CNN:

    Rep. Dan Kildee, who has supported impeachment for several months, told reporters Wednesday afternoon that there is "a lot of conversation about what form this ought to take" among House Democrats.

    "It's pretty clear that the Ukraine issue is the one that has really unified our caucus," he observed. "We need to put the tightest set of facts that we can assemble as quickly as we can and move, leading with the Ukraine issue," Kildee said. But he added that most members don't want to look the other way on other "egregious violations" on Trump's part. . . .

    Some Democrats who backed impeachment earlier on said they want the focus to include findings of potential obstruction of justice, saying Trump shouldn't be let off the hook for allegedly trying to thwart Mueller's probe. Others say they should also address the President's involvement in alleged hush-money payments to prevent stories of his alleged affairs from coming out before the 2016 elections.

    "I am someone who called for impeachment before Ukraine. I'm not about to abandon that. To do so would be tantamount to saying I came out for the wrong reasons and I would be wrong," said Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat. "And I don't agree with that."

    Connolly believes the Ukraine controversy should become "article 5" of the impeachment resolution, behind other allegations of wrongdoing by Trump.

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    Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky

    Donald Trump already is blaming others for the impeachment inquiry that has grown out of his dubious communications with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. That should surprise no one, but Trump might look in the mirror if he wants to size up the person most responsible for his current pickle, reports a D.C.-based investigative journalist.

    A weekend post at the subscription-based Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) -- titled "Trump's big mouth and freelancing landed him in hot water with the NSA and DNI," -- shows Trump is mostly to blame for the hot water in which he now resides. Writes publisher Wayne Madsen, a former Naval surveillance officer who knows a thing or two about international security issues:

    In July 2018, White House leaks indicated that Donald Trump gave his personal mobile phone number to various foreign leaders. Although Trump is known to have phoned some foreign leaders over his official White House landline, he is also known to call some leaders using his mobile phones on a whim and while some of his calls’ recipients, in Asia, for example, are asleep. Trump is also known to use multiple cell phones to call foreign leaders. Criminals, including narco-lords and drug smugglers, often use multiple “burner” phones in the hope they can evade detection and eavesdropping by law enforcement.

    Trump’s official White House landline calls with foreign government leaders are routinely logged and transcribed by National Security Council and State Department personnel, particularly experts on the particular region and country involved, as well as interpreters. However, Trump’s personal calls are subject to being monitored by the National Security Agency and its FIVE EYES partners in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

    Under federal law and Department of Defense, Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI), and NSA operational regulations, these calls are subject to surveillance, with minimization kicking in if they involve a “U.S. Person.” It is not Trump who is a subject of surveillance but the foreign leaders.

    How does the evolving Ukraine scandal get connected to all of this? Madsen explains:

    In the case of the multiple calls between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump, it is Zelensky’s communications that would be routinely intercepted by NSA. Trump’s name was minimized in raw signals intelligence (SIGINT) reports until it became apparent that he was engaged in a criminal violation of U.S. federal election law by extorting political dirt on the Biden family in exchange for the transfer of previously appropriated U.S. defensive weapons to Ukraine. Also intercepted would have been the private calls between Trump personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani and Zelensky’s aide, Andriy Yermak, as well as calls between Giuliani and Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Bohdan and acting Security Service chief Ivan Bakanov.

    NSA’s “Ukraine Shop” would have retrieved such calls from the PINWALE database, which would have also contained transcripts of other Trump personal calls with other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and French President Emmanuel Macron. In addition to transcripts of intercepted voice communications, PINWALE includes copies of e-mail, faxes, and text messages.

    There are reports that Trump loyalists also attempted to purge other databases that contain intercepts of foreign government officials to which Trump was a party. NSA SIGINT analysts work with various geographic area intercept databases. For example, Balkans analysts comb through intercepts stored in a database called ENRICHMENT. The U.S. embassy in Kyiv also maintains an NSA X-KEYSCORE intercept operation targeting Ukrainian telecommunications networks. Similar systems are found in U.S. embassies around the world. However, in the case of the embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Trump may have discovered its role in NSA operations, resulting in him firing U.S. career foreign service ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch in May of this year.

    Trump apparently has surrounded himself with sycophants who are as dense as he is on intelligence matters. Writes Madsen:

    One of the Intelligence Community’s whistleblower’s complaints against Trump is that White House officials began pulling intercept transcripts out of the relevant database and hid them in another database, with which access is limited, even to NSA and other intelligence analysts. 
    When criminal activities are discovered by NSA and other Intelligence Community analysts, the redacted name of the U.S. Person is unmasked and a copy of the intercepted communications transcript is forwarded to the Justice Department for possible prosecution. Somehow, this normal process became bogged down in political decisions by certain Trump loyalists in the Justice Department, including Attorney General William Barr and Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Brian Benczkowski. 

    In essence, the incompetence of Team Trump finally appears to have bitten several of its members in the hindquarters. You might say they pooped in their own front yard and promptly managed to step in it -- with the whole world watching. Writes Madsen

    The interference by Trump loyalists in the normal SIGINT operations and procedures of the NSA and DNI is what triggered the whistleblower complaint to the DNI’s Inspector General. Trump has his own big mouth and ignorance of how U.S. intelligence works to blame for his current impeachment predicament. 

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    Burrell Behavioral Health
    Two Missouri mental-health workers claim in a 911 call that I threatened to shoot any sheriff's deputies who attempted to evict Carol and me in September 2015. Specifically, the 911 callers claim I made such a statement during an appointment with my health-care provider on 8/4/15, roughly five weeks before our scheduled eviction. Medical records from that visit make no mention of such a threat from me. Medical records from my followup visit on 11/13/15 make no mention of such a threat, either.

    What were Joshua Davis and "Whispering" Kathryn Mays, both of Burrell Behavioral Health at the time, thinking when they placed a 911 call that: (a) Violated my medical confidentiality; (b) Was patently false, according to their own patient records; and (c) Was based on information from my brother-lawyer David Shuler, with whom Burrell had no permission from us to communicate -- and Davis and Mays admit that in their 911 call?

    I don't have an answer to that question, but it raises all kinds of concerns about privacy, public safety, and the intersection between mental-health care and law enforcement. It's especially important because deputies at the scene of our eviction repeatedly cited the 911 call (which they claimed I had made) as the reason they arrived with 6-8 officers, multiple assault weapons, and more handguns than we could count. Without the 911 call (which, of course, actually came from Davis and Mays), the officer who broke Carol's arm likely would not have been on the scene.

    Here is a question that remains at the forefront of my mind: Why did Davis and Mays concoct a fairy tale in their 911 call that differs radically from the notes of my health-care provider, psychiatric nurse Matt Charles? (Video of 911 call is embedded at the end of this post.) We've already shown that Charles' notes from the 9/4/15 appointment don't say anything about me threatening to shoot anyone. Now we know that Charles' notes from my followup visit, on 11/13/15, make no mention of a threat either. The following is from medical records re: my November visit:

    Patient has not been present in the clinic since early August. He reports that since that time, he and his wife were evicted from their home. He states, "They broke Carol's arm during the eviction." He states that she was severely injured and required emergency surgery to correct this. He states, "She will be lucky to get 75% of her function back."

    Evidently, Greene County Sheriff's Office was present during the eviction, and he claims that the Sheriff's Deputy assaulted her when she tried to go back into the home to remove property. Since this eviction, the patient's brother has petitioned for legal guardianship of Roger. Roger is frustrated regarding this, stating, "There is no basis for it."

    He states that he and Carol have been living in a pay-by-the-week hotel, stating, "I like it better than the place we lived at before."He reports his mood has been good; despite all these issues, he has been sleeping well. He denies suicidal or homicidal thoughts. He denies anxiety or panic. He continues to be fixated on being harassed by the legal system and police and denies other hallucinations."

    Any mention in that of a gun or my intent to use one? Nope.

    As noted in a previous post, I generally believe Matt Charles presents a fair assessment of my visits, but the medical-records process apparently is far from perfect -- and his notes sometimes include items that aren't accurate, that I don't agree with, or sound just plain goofy. For example, Charles states: "He continues to be fixated on being harassed by the legal system and police and denies other hallucinations."

    A literal reading of that statement, at least to my eyes, says Charles considers my statements about being "harassed by the legal system and police" are "hallucinations." Of course, it's a matter of public record that we were unlawfully evicted and cops broke Carol's arm. Charles could have checked the record or viewed X-rays of Carol's injuries, including all the hardware required to piece her arm back together -- and I think that would have answered any questions he had about "hallucinations."

    In reality, I suspect Charles did not mean that sentence to come off the way it literally is written. While some points in his notes are unclear, it's very clear that I never claimed to have a gun or threatened to use one. That makes you wonder why two of Charles' co-workers called 911 with a tall tale that ran wildly contrary to notes in my medical records.

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    Amber Guyger

    I probably am among the least likely people on the planet to defend the actions of a cop.  But even I was aghast upon learning yesterday that a Texas jury had found former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger guilty of murder in the 2018 shooting of Botham Jean. I've written numerous critical posts about the unjustified use of police force, especially against black citizens. (Guyger is white; Jean was black.) Still, the Guyger conviction provides more evidence that our courts are citadels where truth and the rule of law go to die.

    State v. Guyger is particularly disturbing because it points to prosecutors who were overzealous, corrupt, incompetent -- or some combination of all three.

    As regular readers know, my interactions with law enforcement officers have been almost uniformly horrific. In October 2013, an Alabama deputy named Chris Blevins entered our Birmingham home -- without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating  his grounds for being there -- beat me up in our basement-garage, doused me with pepper spray, and hauled me for a five-month stay in the Shelby County Jail. I've described this event as a "state-sanctioned kidnapping" (no warrant or other document lawfully authorizing my arrest ever has surfaced) and written that it amounts to an "arrest for being a liberal blogger" (because it grew out of civil allegations of defamation from GOP political operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke, without even a whiff of alleged criminal conduct). To this day, by the way, my reporting on the Riley-Duke relationship never has been found to be defamatory, as a matter of law.

    In September 2015 -- after we had essentially seen our home stolen via a wrongful foreclosure and been forced to move out of Alabama, I saw Missouri deputies break into our home for an unlawful eviction that ended with them brutalizing my wife, Carol, and yanking on her limbs so severely that they caused a comminuted fracture of her left arm, which required roughly eight hours of trauma surgery (and installation of numerous plates and screws) for repair. Carol and I then saw Sheriff Jim Arnott conspire with Greene County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson to bring bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges against Carol -- who, in fact, was the victim of a criminal assault, by thug cops.

    This was an obvious "cover charge" designed to cover for blatant use of excessive force, and Carol and I were forced to sit through a carnival trial where four officers repeatedly lied under oath -- with at least one case of clear perjury -- causing Carol to be wrongfully convicted before a crooked judge named Jerry Harmison. What was Carol's punishment? It essentially amounted to a $10 fine.

    Bottom line: You might say I have grounds for a healthy hatred of cops. At a minimum, I have reason to view them with extreme distaste and contempt. Despite that, I see the Amber Guyger conviction as a grotesque injustice. Guyger, 31, faces up to life in prison and already had been fired from her job before the trial; Jean, 26, was an accountant for a major firm. They lived, one directly over the other, at South Side Flats Apartments in Dallas.

    Based on evidence at trial and press reports, here are the facts of the case:

    Guyger had gotten off duty from a long shift, about 10 p.m. when she pulled into a space in the parking deck attached to her large apartment complex. As she entered the building, she did not realize she was on the fourth floor, not the third floor where she lived. A witness testified at trial that residents of the complex stated the parking deck and apartment building are designed in a confusing manner, causing many of them to get off on the wrong floor at different times.  
    At some point during the day, Guyger had been texting about intimate matters with her male married police partner. She was having an affair with him, and that evidence was introduced at trial. 
    Guyger went to the apartment directly above hers, and noticed the door was ajar, perhaps from a malfunctioning door knob. That allowed her to enter as Jean was sitting on his couch, watching TV and eating vanilla ice cream. Guyger saw a silhouetted figure in a fairly dark room and thought she had walked in on a burglary at her home. She commanded Jean to show his hands, but likely confused as to why this strange woman was in his apartment and bossing him around, Jean slowly moved toward her. Guyger fired her service weapon, fatally striking Jean in the chest. He died after being taken to a nearby hospital.

    By almost all rational accounts, this could be described as a tragedy that defies description -- even belief. Jean, a native of St. Lucia, was a smart, likeable, talented young man with a bright future. Aside from having an affair with a married man, Guyger seemed, before and during the trial, to be a solid citizen who performed pretty well in a high-stress, male-dominated profession. Sentencing phase of the trial began yesterday, and it was revealed Guyger had sent racially insensitive texts and vulgar online posts. How is that relevant to a murder case? That remains unclear.

    Some bigger questions: Was this really murder? Was it even a crime -- despite its awful outcome?

    Botham Jean
    To understand the relevant law in State v. Guyger, we turn to Chapter 19 ("Criminal Homicide") of the Texas Penal Code. Texas recognizes four kinds of criminal homicide: murder, capital murder, manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Guyger originally was charged with manslaughter, and the jury could have convicted her of that, but they went with murder instead. (Note: Texas does not recognize various degrees of murder -- first, second, third, etc. Everything that meets the definition of murder is "murder.")

    The key statutory law in Guyger is found in Sec. 19.02 ("Murder"), at (b) (1) (2) (3), which reads:

    (b) A person commits an offense if he:

    (1) intentionally or knowingly causes the death of an individual;

    (2) intends to cause serious bodily injury and commits an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual; or

    (3) commits or attempts to commit a felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and in furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.

    Item (3) is not a factor in this case, so we consider (1) and (2). The inquiry, however, does not end there. Various forms of the words "intentionally" and "knowingly" are central to the offense. To grasp their meaning under Texas law, we turn to Sec. 6.03(a), which states:

    (a) A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result.

    Many everyday folks, including me, are likely to need clarification on what sub-section (a) actually means. For that, we turn to Texas case law -- especially a ruling styled Cook v. State, 884 SW 2d 485 (Tex Court of Criminal Appeals, 1994), which holds:

    Murder is an offense which requires that the culpable mental state accompany the result of the conduct, rather than the nature of the conduct. A charge which defines "intentionally" or "knowingly" as they relate to the nature of the conduct as well as the result of the conduct is error.

    In other words, the central question is this: Did Guyger intend to cause Jean's death (the result), not did she intend to shoot him (nature of the conduct)? In this case, the evidence suggests she did not intend either one. Guyger testified in her own behalf and said she did not intend to be in Jean's apartment, that she thought she was in her own home. Guyger also stated, “I never wanted to take an innocent person’s life. I am so sorry.”

    That statement might not be determinative of the entire case, but it's close. This is from a Daily Beast account:
    “I thought it was my apartment,” Guyger told dispatchers 19 times on the frantic 911 call played in court. “I thought it was my apartment. I’m fucked. Oh my God. I’m sorry.”

    We can find no sign that the prosecution effectively countered any of Guyger's defenses. The evidence suggests the following:

    * She was, in fact, unaware she was on the wrong floor -- a mistake many of her neighbors had made;

    * She did, in fact, think she was entering her own apartment. After all, she did, in fact, live directly below Jean;

    * Guyger's own words, on the stand and in the 911 call, show she did not intend to kill Jean, or anyone else, and we see no sign that prosecutors impeached her testimony on that issue;

    * Under Texas law, the nature of Guyger's conduct -- mistakenly entering his apartment and firing her weapon -- is not a factor in the criminal mindset necessary for a murder conviction, but the record indicates she did not intend to even be in his apartment, much less firing her weapon.

    South Side Flats
    The prosecution's case consisted largely of claims that "she should have recognized this" or "she should have done that." But such points do not go to a culpable mental state. They suggest Guyger made a series of mistakes and was unable to correct them before events turned tragic inside Botham Jean's apartment.

    One paragraph in a Dallas Morning News editorial yesterday suggests prosecutors pulled a con game on the public -- and the jury -- and Judge Tammy Kemp apparently let them get away with it. From the editorial:

    We’re on record with our worries that Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot took a big risk in charging Guyger with murder rather than manslaughter. Creuzot and his prosecutors pointed out that Guyger didn’t accidentally discharge her weapon. She intended to shoot Jean. Manslaughter calls for a determination of recklessness.

    The newspaper's editorial board should be more than worried about Creuzot's actions. They should be outraged that they have a fraud sitting in the DA's chair -- a man who is paid to know the law and apply it correctly, but clearly did neither in this case.

    Was a murder charge appropriate in the Guyger case? For the reasons cited above, the answer is absolutely not. What about manslaughter? Here is how the Texas Code describes the requisite mental state for a finding of recklessness required in manslaughter:

    (c) A person acts recklessly, or is reckless, with respect to circumstances surrounding his conduct or the result of his conduct when he is aware of but consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur.  The risk must be of such a nature and degree that its disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that an ordinary person would exercise under all the circumstances as viewed from the actor's standpoint.

    Guyger's trial testimony and her call to 911 show, over and over, she was not aware of the risk that she was entering an apartment other than her own, and she did not consciously disregard anything. Our conclusion: There was no crime here, and no charges should have been brought.

    Does that leave the Jean family out in the cold in their search for justice? No, but proper remedies are on the civil side. We foresee viable lawsuits against the apartment complex, its owners, the Dallas Police Department, and perhaps other entities.

    That won't bring back Botham Jean, but neither will yesterday's verdict. At least with a civil case, the matter will be in the proper legal arena. There never should have been a criminal case.

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    Botham Jean's brother hugs Amber Guyger
    at yesterday's sentencing.

    Former Texas police officer Amber Guyger yesterday received a 10-year prison sentence in the shooting death of Botham Jean, an event a Dallas jury incorrectly found to be a murder. How do we know the jury erred, -- probably along with the judge and prosecutors?  It goes back to a 25-year-old case where a Dallas-area husband named Michael Williams went looking for his wife, found her conversing with a man named  Lawrence Earl Cook, and wound up with a fatal stab wound to the chest.

    Cook was charged with murder, and a jury convicted him of voluntary manslaughter. At the close of trial, Cook's attorney objected to the judge's jury instructions on definitions of culpable mental states, particularly the words "knowingly" and "intentionally," which are at the heart of murder law in the Texas Penal Code. The trial judge denied the objections, the Texas Court of Appeals denied the objections and upheld Cook's conviction, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- in a case styled Cook v. State, 884 SW 2d 485 (Tex Court of Criminal Appeals, 1994) -- overruled the jury instructions, clarified the meanings of "intentionally" and "knowingly," reversed Cook's conviction, and remanded the case to the trial court.

    The Cook ruling makes clear that it -- and the Guyger case -- involve one of the most profound concepts in American law. But our analysis shows the Guyger court butchered the concept. In the aftermath of the verdict, social-media commentators -- mostly liberals (like me), it appears -- are celebrating the Guyger outcome, some even critical that she received only a 10-year sentence. But no American should celebrate when a fellow citizen is wrongly convicted of a crime. We did not celebrate when former Alabama governor Don Siegelman was wrongly convicted of bribery-related offenses, and we should not celebrate when Amber Guyger is wrongly found guilty of murder.

    Botham Jean
    How does Cook v. State inform us about Guyger? First, we must look at issues related to jury instructions. We have not seen a full copy of the jury instructions in the Amber Guyger case, but multiple news reports indicate the definition of intentional that was deemed incorrect in Cook was used in Guyger.  In fact, Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot made out-of-court statements that indicate he intended to push for the case to be decided on a flawed definition of "intentional." That was one of several dubious statements that suggest  prosecutors were so hungry for a conviction, they did not mind if the law -- and justice -- got trampled.

    Next, we need to take a closer look at the facts in Cook. Here is how they are described in the ruling, with husband Michael Williams referred to as "decedent":

    The decedent and two co-workers were searching for the decedent's wife, when they saw appellant talking to the wife. The decedent confronted appellant and ordered appellant to leave. Appellant and decedent began to argue and shove each other. During the altercation, appellant stabbed the decedent in the chest with a knife. After stabbing the decedent, appellant said: "I didn't mean to hurt you, man." The decedent died as a result of the stab wound. 
    Appellant was charged with murder under Tex.Penal Code Ann. § 19.02(a)(1). The indictment alleged appellant: 
    ... knowingly and intentionally cause[d] the death of [the decedent], an individual, by stabbing [the decedent] with a knife a deadly weapon.
    Notice the evidence that Cook did not intend to hurt the "decendent" -- or cause him to become a "decedent."

    At trial, a dispute ensued about the meaning under Texas law of "knowingly" and "intentionally," as spelled out in the following colloquy (as lawyers like to say) between the trial judge and Cook's attorney, Mr. Tinsley:

    At the close of trial, appellant objected to portions of the definitions and application portions in the jury charge and requested the following limitations on the definitions of intentionally and knowingly:

    MR. TINSLEY: The objection that I now make on the record goes to the definition of knowingly and intentionally, which happen to be defined for the jury in the abstract in the Court's charge. And we object to the Court's charge defining knowingly and intentionally as it reads under 6.03(a) and (b) of the code—of the Penal Code.

    And the reason we object is that it is our theory that the crime of murder is a result offense, rather than a conduct offense, and we object because the Court's charge does not limit the definition of both culpable mental states to the result of the offense only.

    THE COURT: I'm going to overrule that requested charge.

    MR. TINSLEY: Note my exception.

    The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ultimately found Mr. Tinsley was right, reversing his client's conviction and stating:

    We have long held that intentional murder is a "result of conduct" offense. Martinez v. State, 763 S.W.2d 413, 419 (Tex. Cr.App.1988), and Lugo-Lugo, 650 S.W.2d at 80, 88.As a "result of conduct" offense "[w]hat matters is that the conduct (whatever it may be) is done with the required culpability to effect the result the Legislature has specified."Alvarado, 704 S.W.2d at 39 (emphasis in original). Any other language relating to conduct is inconsequential. Id. As the San Antonio Court of Appeals correctly stated in Wallace v. State, 763 S.W.2d 628 (Tex.App.—San Antonio 1989):

    Murder is an offense which requires that the culpable mental state accompany the result of the conduct, rather than the nature of the conduct. A charge which defines "intentionally" or "knowingly" as they relate to the nature of the conduct as well as the result of the conduct is error.

    How does this tie to the Guyger conviction? Consider these words from a Dallas Morning News editorial, focusing on statements of District Attorney John Creuzot to justify bringing a murder charge:

    We’re on record with our worries that Dallas District Attorney John Creuzot took a big risk in charging Guyger with murder rather than manslaughter. Creuzot and his prosecutors pointed out that Guyger didn’t accidentally discharge her weapon. She intended to shoot Jean. Manslaughter calls for a determination of recklessness.

    Creuzot's statement that "Guyger didn't accidentally discharge her weapon" is a reference to the "nature of he conduct" that the Cook court described as "inconsequential," with the "result of the conduct" (did she intend to kill Jean?") being the only issue that matters in a Texas murder case.

    Creuzot's statement indicates his office intended to use a faulty definition of the "intentional" state of mind to seek a conviction in the Guyger case.That indicates his office comes up short on matters of ethics. That's not the only dubious statement from prosecutors. Consider the following from CNN:

    "I ask God for forgiveness, and I hate myself every single day. ... I wish he was the one with the gun who had killed me. I never wanted to take an innocent person's life," [Guyger] said.

    Prosecutor Jason Fine seized on her testimony -- specifically, her assertion that she would never want anyone to endure what she's gone through -- before attacking Guyger as an unreasonable person who decided to kill Jean before she opened his apartment door.

    "Are you kidding?" Fine said Monday, crumpling up a piece of paper from which he was reading. "That is garbage. Most of what she said was garbage."

    That is garbage? You have to go to law school to come up with a brilliant rebuttal like that? I've heard more enlightened arguments from third graders on a school bus. And where did Fine get the notion that Guyger "decided to kill Jean before she opened his apartment door"? Was such evidence introduced at trial? I've seen no sign of it. And if Guyger thought she was entering her apartment -- as she emotionally stated 19 times on a call to 911 shortly after the shooting -- why would she have intended to kill Jean before opening the door, when apparently she had no idea he was there, and she was at the wrong apartment?

    This is in keeping with the mumbo-jumbo we've seen from prosecutors over the years: in general, they want a win -- a notch to put on their professional belt -- with little or no concern about whether justice was served.

    How badly was justice butchered in the Guyger case. Consider the Cook court's statement about the profound issues presented in such a case:

    This case involves the most basic and fundamental concept of criminal law, that in order to constitute a crime, the act or actus reus must be accompanied by a criminal mind or mens rea. Perhaps this concept was best explained by the United States Supreme Court many years ago in Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 72 S.Ct. 240, 96 L.Ed. 288 (1952).

    "The contention that an injury can amount to a crime only when inflicted by intention is no provincial or transient notion. It is as universal and persistent in mature systems of law as belief in freedom of the human will and a consequent ability and duty of the normal individual to choose between good and evil ...

    "Unqualified acceptance of this doctrine by English common law in the Eighteenth Century was indicated by Blackstone's sweeping statement that to constitute any crime there must first be a "vicious will."...

    "Crime, as a compound concept, generally constituted only from concurrence of an evil-meaning mind with an evil-doing hand, was congenial to an intense individualism and took deep and early root in American soil. As the states codified the common law crimes, even if their enactments were silent on the subject, their courts assumed that the omission did not signify disapproval of the principle but merely recognized that intent was so inherent in the idea of the offense that it required no statutory affirmation."

    In State v. Guyger, the law of intent was twisted and perverted to such an extent that it was virtually unrecognizable -- and it produced a grossly unjust outcome. None of us should be celebrating that.

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    Baron Coleman

    If anyone was uncertain about the Alabama State Bar's ability to discipline members of the legal profession, the bar surely erased all doubt by refusing to take action against Montgomery lawyer and right-wing radio host Baron Coleman.

    What did Coleman do? He used his radio platform to call a female political figure -- Becky Gerritson, executive director of the Eagle Forum of Alabama -- a "whore" and a "bitch," while hinting he would burn her house to the ground and using language drenched in violent imagery. What was Gerritson's sin? She disagreed with Coleman publicly about medical marijuana.

    Gerritson responded to Coleman's attack by filing a bar complaint and contacting Coleman's radio sponsors to essentially ask if they really wanted to be affiliated with a radio host who used such language on the air. Specifically, Gerritson alleged Coleman violated Rule 8.4 (titled "Misconduct") of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct by engaging in "conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." Gerritson particularly took exception to Coleman's alleged claim that Eagle Forum took money from large pharmaceutical companies.

    Did Gerritson's complaint receive a fair review? We see reason to doubt it.

    In a letter dated Sept. 12, 2019, Assistant General Counsel Jeremy W. McIntire informed Gerritson the State Bar would take no action against Coleman. From a report published Oct. 4 at al.com:

    The Alabama State Bar won’t take action against Montgomery lawyer and talk show host Baron Coleman because of a complaint filed by Eagle Forum of Alabama Executive Director Becky Gerritson over comments Coleman made on his radio program.

    Coleman released a letter from the State Bar to Gerritson saying that two attorneys had reviewed the complaint and his response.

    “In view of the nature and content of the complaint and the enclosed response of the attorney, we will take no further action in this matter at this time,” the letter says. It’s dated Sept. 12 and signed by Jeremy W. McIntire, assistant general counsel for the State Bar. . . .

    The dispute started after Gerritson spoke against a medical marijuana bill at the Legislature in May. On his radio program, Coleman called Gerritson a “big pharma whore” and said Eagle Forum had received money from the pharmaceutical industry or related industries, which could lose business if medical marijuana became legal in Alabama.

    Gerritson filed a complaint with the State Bar accusing Coleman of “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Gerritson said Eagle Forum had not received money from the pharmaceutical industry. Gerritson contacted advertisers to Coleman’s program and asked them to reconsider their sponsorships.

    How weak was Coleman's response to Gerritson's complaint? He posted it on his Facebook page, and here are some of the key points:

    * Coleman claims that calling Gerritson a "Big Pharma whore" does not amount to calling her a "whore." (How disingenuous is this? If a critic calls Mike Pompeo a "Trump-administration liar," he's called him a "liar,: right? Never mind that the label almost certainly is accurate.")

    * We see no sign that Coleman tries to defend calling Gerritson a "bitch" or hinting that he was of a mind to burn down her house." This kind of language is suitable for a lawyer, and the Alabama State Bar has no problem with it? How low is the bar at the Alabama State Bar?

    * Coleman suggests Gerritson's goal was to "completely bankrupt" him and leave him "without a single source of income to care for his stay-at-home wife and their seven school-aged children. That was her goal." (So, it's Gerritson's fault that the Colemans decided to have an unusually large family, especially by today's standards? Is Coleman using his kids as a shield, suggesting he should not be held accountable for abusing others because he chose to have a passel of young 'uns? If Coleman is concerned about the welfare of his wife and children, perhaps he should be more careful in making statements about other people over the public airwaves?)

    * Coleman claims Gerritson has discussed her bar complaint with Republican Party officials, supposedly in an effort to ruin his career? Even if true, how would this be unlawful or even improper? Didn't Coleman bring it on himself?

    How vile was Coleman's language directed at Gerritson? Here are some samples, as we reported in an earlier post (see here.):

    (1) "I've hired lawyers, and I'm pursuing a strategy of slash and burn, seek and destroy. If you come after me, you'd better be ready to go to the mat. . . .

    "I never let someone come after me and don't take them out. Never. I will lose everything in search of making sure your life is hell. . . .

    "I've got a new enemy, and her lawyer sucks, too. I'm going to destroy this bitch. I'm going to absolutely destroy her. Her life will never be the same. . ."

    (2) "If you threaten me, I will burn your damned house to the ground. Not in the physical sense, but I will have you running back to Texas, I promise."

    (3) You come at me, you lose everything. You threaten me, I sue you or destroy you. That's it. there is no third option.

    (4) There is going to be some real fireworks across this state in the near future. Some once-proud organizations will be brought completely to their knees and bankrupted. That's what I do. I don't "F" around. . . .

    Have your gun under your arm. Bring your ammo.

    Notice all the references to guns, ammunition, fire, and burning -- not to mention promises to destroy Gerritson's life and make her life hell. And yet, Coleman claims in his response that he didn't threaten Gerritson -- no kidding. And the Alabama State Bar buys this crap?

    Maybe that's because Gerritson's bar complaint did not receive a fair hearing. Jeremy McIntire's letter to Gerritson says: "Two attorneys in the Office of General Counsel of the Alabama State Bar have reviewed your complaint and the attorney's response to the complaint."

    Who were those two attorneys on the bar staff? McIntire doesn't say. According to the bar Web site, there are only three attorneys under General Counsel Roman Shaul, and McIntire is one of them. The other two are Tripp Vickers and Mark Moody. As we've reported here several times, Vickers and Coleman used to be partners at the same Montgomery law firm, so that means the bar complaint could have been heard by Coleman's buddy.

    Given what we've learned about the Alabama State Bar over the years -- especially recently -- that would not surprise us one bit.

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    Doug Jones

    A faction of the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDLC), led by U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) has aligned itself with a Birmingham attorney who represented former U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in proceedings that led Fuller to resign from the bench over charges that he beat his wife in an Atlanta hotel room in 2014. Until the wife-beating episode became public, Fuller perhaps was best known as the George W. Bush appointee who handled the prosecution of former Democratic governor Don Siegelman so corruptly that it resulted in a prison sentence of more than six years for what we have described as "a crime that does not exist" and obviously could not have been committed.

    Despite Fuller's unsavory conduct, Barry Ragsdale (of Sirote and Permutt in Birmingham) stepped up to represent Fuller in the wife-beating case, in which judicial investigators described Fuller's conduct as "reprehensible."

    The Jones-Ragsdale-Fuller connections provide more evidence that Jones is a DINO (Democrat in Name Only), according to a veteran state political activist. A prominent commentator says the Fuller case is a classic example of the corruption that is rotting America's foundations.

    Jones essentially is trying to take over the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP) with the assistance of a lawyer who supported a Republican-appointed judge -- one who engaged in demonstrably corrupt actions on the bench, with a history of abusive actions toward women in his personal life. Fuller faced allegations of physical, verbal, and substance abuse from two ex wives, but Ragsdale did his best to sweep Fuller's actions under the carpet and protect a spot for the Siegelman "hanging judge" on the federal bench.

    Barry Ragsdale
    Those actions failed, but now Doug Jones has sought Ragsdale's help to fight off legal challenges to his attempted takeover of the ADP. Bringing Ragsdale on board -- with his history of protecting a corrupt, wife-beating, right-wing judge -- is supposed to represent progress in Alabama? Do integrity, decency, and the rule of law have any place in Doug Jones' vision for the Democratic Party in Alabama? Is the alliance with Ragsdale another sign that Jones is beholden to his Republican boosters more than the mostly black, female voters who put him in office? From a report at al.com about this past weekend's SDLC meeting in Montgomery, where the Jones faction approved new bylaws in a major step toward replacing current party leaders Nancy Worley and Joe Reed:

    The Alabama Democratic party has been deeply split over leadership for more than a year. The SDEC reelected Worley as chair in August 2018. Some Democrats challenged the results. The DNC decided there were irregularities and in February ordered the SDEC to adopt new bylaws followed by new elections for chair and vice chair.

    After deadlines were missed, the DNC invalidated the national party credentials of Worley and First Vice Chair Randy Kelley. The DNC has withheld money from the state party and has not yet approved the state’s delegate selection plan for next year’s Democratic National Convention.

    Worley has said those who wanted a different result in the August 2018 election for party chair are to blame for the dispute, including Sen. Doug Jones, who backed her challenger last year. . . .

    Worley said the turnout at today’s meeting shows a lack of broad support for what was approved.

    “While 78 attendees show ‘loyal opposition,’ that number does not show a groundswell of support for the DNC’s agenda,” Worley said in a text message. “I look forward to the October 12 meeting, at which time the SDEC members will discuss the negative effects of the Doug Jones/DNC Bylaws.”

    Where does Ragsdale enter the picture? Here is more from al.com about this past Saturday's meeting:

    Attorney Barry Ragsdale attended today’s meeting and said he would represent the position of the SDEC members who attended in any legal challenge to the legitimacy of the new bylaws.

    Ragsdale said members at today’s meeting should attend the Oct. 12 meeting called by Worley if they wanted to.

    “But it’s important to note that meeting will be guided by the bylaws that we adopted at this meeting,” Ragsdale said. “Their failure, if there is a failure to follow those bylaws, that meeting will be subject to legal challenge.”

    Is the Jones-Ragsdale alliance a ruse that could trip up progressives in Alabama? We have addressed that question in several posts, including this one, showing that Jones has a history of stabbing fellow Democrats in the back:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Alabama progressives should be leery of the Jones-Ragsdale tag team, veteran political activist Jill Simpson said on her Facebook page yesterday. Simpson noted that three individuals who helped unmask Fuller -- herself, attorney-blogger Donald Watkins, and yours truly -- came under attack from right-wing forces aligned with Jones and Ragsdale:

    What a hoot, corrupt former Republican Judge Mark Fuller's lawyer, Barry Ragsdale, is going to represent the renegade Dixiecrats' new Democratic party for Doug Jones's bunch against Joe Reed and Nancy Worley's real Alabama Democratic Party. That should be a wake up call to Alabama progressive Democrats that Doug's new party has hired the lawyer of the wife-beating judge that threw Don Siegelman in prison. 
    Barry Ragsdale is who the Alabama Progressive Resistance fought tooth and toenail to remove wife beater Mark Fuller from the bench. Roger Shuler, Donald Watkins , and I worked hard day in and day out to get that crooked Republican wife-beating Judge Fuller off the bench. It was Barry Ragsdale who was trying to keep him on the bench and was our foe. 
    That said, you all in the new party of Doug have a lawyer that helps a wife-beating judge, who crookedly threw your last Democratic governor in jail -- what the hell are you nitwits thinking? Now you all are getting a dose of what Doug is about -- and his Alabama Gang is about playing all sides and y'all are their blind sheep. 
    Yep, I still remember Barry Ragsdale representing the wife-beating judge that mistreated Gov. Don Siegelman; it was hard for us progressive Democrats to beat him, but we beat him on Fuller and got the judge bounced off the bench, and we spent a lot of time due to Ragsdale protecting Fuller, but we got Fuller's ass thrown off the bench under the leadership of Nancy (Worley) and Joe (Reed), with Obama. All the time, Doug was behind the scenes helping Ragsdale against us. As many of you know I wrote Obama the first open letter about Fuller, the wife beater, and the need for zero tolerance for such behavior. The letter was published in a lot of places, including OpEdNews, and it asked to have that terrible wife-beating judge removed -- and I heard in D.C. that Doug and Ragsdale were trying to keep Fuller from being removed. Shortly after that is when the Alabama Bar forced me on to disability status. . . .

    Now maybe you folks will start to see why we did not want Doug Jones in that Senate seat; he was playing both sides, and burning candles on both ends eventually is going to burn him in the meddle.

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    Judith and Alvin Neelley, in front of a Confederate flag
    (From New York Daily News)

    We have been operating under the assumption that former federal judge and wife-beater Mark Fuller probably is the worst person Birmingham attorney Barry Ragsdale has represented. But Fuller, it turns out, is not even close. That distinction almost certainly belongs to Judith Ann Neelley, who is one of the most notorious murderers in American  history.

    As for Ragsdale, we're not talking about any old Alabama lawyer. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) has enlisted Ragsdale to fight off any legal challenges to Jones' attempt at a takeover of the Alabama Democratic Party (ADP). Is it part of Jones'"progressive vision" to align himself with an attorney who has represented perhaps the most crooked U.S. judge ever to serve in Alabama and a murderer of historic proportions?  Has Jones lost his mind, or is his alliance with Ragsdale a sign that the senator is a DINO (Democrat In Name Only), beholden to the right-wing interests who helped put him in office? If Jones succeeds in taking over the ADP from current leaders Nancy Worley and Joe Reed, does that mean both parties in Alabama essentially will be controlled by Republicans?

    Barry Ragsdale
    Let's examine a May 2018 article at al.com about Neelley's parole hearing. Title of the story is "Judith Ann Neelley waives parole hearing in teen's brutal 1982 rape, murder":

    After years of fighting for a chance to be released from prison, Judith Ann Neelley is giving up her shot at parole.

    Neelley, 53, was convicted in 1982 for the rape and murder of 13-year-old Lisa Ann Millican. She was set for a parole hearing on May 23, but according to her appellate lawyer Barry Ragsdale, she has waived the hearing. . . .

    Originally sentenced to death, Neelley had her sentence commuted to life in prison by former Alabama Gov. Fob James before he left office in 1999.

    His order, however, did not specify whether Neelley would be eligible for parole. The legislature changed state law in 2003 specifically to block Neelley from the possibility of parole, but earlier this year a federal judge ruled that law unconstitutional. . . .

    Ragsdale said he recently visited Neelley, and told her about the media coverage she was receiving and about the Millican family's concerns regarding her parole hearing. "She said, 'Do we have to make [the Millican family] go through that?'" Ragsdale said. He told her no, and that's when she decided to cancel the hearing.

    Ragsdale has represented Neelley for three decades during her appeals. He said throughout the years of legal battles, Neelley didn't start seriously thinking about parole until the hearing was quickly set in April. And, she didn't think the board would grant her release.

    How did Judith Ann Neelley make history? A 2018 article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) provides details. The headline reads: "No parole for Georgia woman who raped, tortured, murdered girl in 1982":

    Judith Neelley, the youngest woman ever sentenced to be executed in the United States, will remain in prison for the 1982 murder of a 13-year-old Georgia girl, according to a decision reached by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles 18 years after the then-governor commuted her death sentence to life in prison.

    Neelley was 18 and a mother of three when she was sentenced to the electric chair for kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing Lisa Ann Millican. Neelley spotted Millican outside a mall in Rome, Georgia., then took the child to Alabama. Among other atrocities, she injected the child repeatedly with drain cleaner, shot her in the back and dumped the body over a cliff. . . .

    This was the first time Neelley was considered for parole since then-Gov. Fob James commuted her death sentence to life on his last day in office — only three days before she was to be electrocuted. She will next be eligible for parole in 2023. Neelley had told the parole board she wanted to waive consideration now, but leave open the option for parole later.

    How horrific were Neelley's crimes? Here is more from the AJC:

    The 13-year-old Millican was the first of two people Neelley admitted to killing in the fall of 1982. The child’s body was found Sept. 28, 1982, while 23-year-old Janice Chapman was killed in North Georgia on Oct. 4, 1982.

    Judith Ann Neelley mugshot
    Neelley, looking for a young girl for her husband, saw Lisa outside Riverbend Mall in Rome, Georgia, where the teenager had gone for an outing with other adolescents from Ethel Harpst Home in Cedartown.

    Judith Neelley and Alvin Neelley took the girl to a Scottsboro, Alabama motel, where they both sexually assaulted her over several days until they took her to the edge of Little River Canyon in Fort Payne, Alabama It was there that Judith Neelley injected Millican six times with Drano and Liquid Plumber and shot the still-conscious girl in the back. The Neelleys then dumped Millican’s body over the edge of an 80-foot cliff. Police found it on the canyon floor four days later.

    The next week, the Neelleys were again in Rome, where they kidnapped Chapman and her fiance, John Hancock. They shot the couple, leaving them near a back road in Catoosa County in northwest Georgia.Hancock survived and identified Judith Neelley, who was sentenced to life in prison in Georgia for kidnapping Chapman and Hancock.

    How did Ragsdale get involved with the Neelley case, going back more than 30 years? That is not clear, but this from his bio at the Sirote and Permutt Web site gives some insight:

    About Barry Ragsdale 
    Barry is a trial and appellate lawyer in our Birmingham office. Barry represents plaintiffs and defendants in complex commercial and business litigation, including antitrust, shareholder, and closely held corporate disputes and class actions. Barry also represents parties in trust and estate litigation in both state and federal courts. He represented on a pro bono basis the only death row inmate to have her death sentence commuted by an Alabama governor in more than fifty years.

    That highlighted last sentence is a reference to the Neelley case. To be sure, Judith Ann Neelley is entitled to a vigorous criminal defense -- and Barry Ragsdale is entitled to provide one. But does that qualify Ragsdale to be Doug Jones' enforcer in an effort to take over the Alabama Democratic Party? Jill Simpson -- retired lawyer and longtime progressive political activist in Alabama -- says the answer is no. From a post at Simpson's Facebook page:

    Barry Ragsdale represented Judith Ann Neelley the woman who murdered a 13-year-old girl shooting Drano into her veins after allowing her husband to sexually molest her, then pushing her off a cliff at Little River Canyon. Republican Gov. [Fob James] changed the  sentence that Judge Cole gave Neelley, putting her on death row. So folks in Montgomery tried to keep Judith from ever getting parole, and then along comes Barry Rahsdale and gets the law declared unconstitutional. This is the guy who is going to represent the New "Doug Democrats" in their fight against Alabama's Real Democratic Party? It just keeps getting better and better. . . .

    Notice the confederate flag behind Alvin and Judith Neelley and the gun (in the photograph). I am not sure, if I was Barry, I would brag about representing in my firm bio Judith Ann Neeley; she is one of the most notorious killers of all times. Does the new "Doug DINO Democrat Party" want an attorney, who is associated with such a heinous child killer and molester, representing the party? Doug Jones really knows how to pick a lawyer for Alabama Democrats.

    And people think Nancy Worley and Joe Reed make goofy decisions? Doug Jones' supporters in the Alabama Democratic Party seem to think he brings a certain professionalism and class to the proceedings. For a heavy dose of "class," those folks should check out the clients of Barry Ragsdale, Jones' hand-picked legal enforcer.

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