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The memory of a beloved pet inspires one couple's fight against injustice.
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    Jeannine Dorroh
    Jeannine Dorroh, the eyewitness who saw Mike McGarity assault me with a roadside sign in Alabama, probably would be the kind of witness prosecutors dream of in a criminal case. When you learn about Dorroh's background, and listen to her speak (via a video embedded at the end of this post), her credibility is off the charts. It's that credibility, along with Dorroh's attention to detail, that shatters false statements McGarity -- who has at least eight criminal convictions in his background -- made to a deputy who took a report about the assault.

    What do we know about Dorroh? She works as a senior accountant at Southern Research (SR), which forms a cluster of buildings adjacent to the UAB Medical Center on Birmingham's Southside. In fact, SR is across the street and down one or two blocks from where I worked over about 15 years of my 20-year career at UAB.

    A strong argument could be made that SR is one of the most important institutions in Alabama, the Deep South, and even the country. What does SR do? This is from its Web site:

    We’ve created seven drugs that are helping win the war on cancer. More are on the way. When HIV threatened the world’s future, we helped develop a course of treatment that changed the course of history. We’re creating better ways for you to have cleaner air and water. Our technologies help men and women in uniform remain safe overseas. We’re developing methods to build energy efficient cars out of plant fiber that will get 80 mpg. We are Southern Research. We’re taking on the world’s hardest problems. And solving them. This has been our mission since 1941.

    And we’re just getting started.

    Jeannine Dorroh functions in an environment that does some of the country's most important work. And the above snippet only begins to tell the Southern Research story. Here is more from the institute's Web site:

    Founded in 1941, Southern Research (SR) is an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, scientific research organization with more than 400 scientists and engineers working across four divisions: Drug Discovery, Drug Development, Engineering, and Energy and  Environment. SR supports the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental, and energy industries as we work on behalf of the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, major aerospace firms, utility companies, and other private and government organizations. We pursue entrepreneurial and collaborative initiatives to develop and maintain a pipeline of intellectual property and innovative technologies that positively impact real-world problems. SR is headquartered in Birmingham with additional laboratories and offices in Wilsonville, Alabama; Frederick, Maryland; Durham, North Carolina; Cartersville, Georgia; and Houston, Texas.

    Millions of dollars in research grants flow through SR, and Jeannine Dorroh helps keep track of the dollars and cents. She does important work, to say the least. Here are more details about the research that she helps make happen:

    * We’re developing 18 drugs to combat various forms of cancer, ALS, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, kidney disease, Parkinson’s and tuberculosis, among others.

    * We’ve developed 20 other drugs, including seven FDA-approved cancer drugs—a number rivaling any other U.S. research institute.

    * We’re developing new medical devices.

    * We’re helping to launch manned missions to Mars.

    * We’re making the air and water cleaner here on Earth.

    * We’re helping to keep the men and women of our military safe from harm.

    So, when Mike McGarity falsely tells a cop I hit him during our encounter, and I say I didn't, it's not just a matter of my word against his. Jeannine Dorroh also says I did not hit McGarity -- and I don't know many people who have stronger credibility than does Dorroh. From the conversation I had with her about what she saw:

    Roger Shuler (RS): Apparently, the officer went to see [McGarity] first, and he claims I hit him . . .

    Jeannine Dorroh (JD): I did not see that.

    RS: That's because it didn't happen.

    JD: I saw him hit you in the back of head with a sign. [Actually, the blow landed on my upper back.]

    RS: I don't know if you know the Shelby County Courthouse is a mess. This guy has trespassed against us, and he admitted it, but was found not guilty and turned around and sued us. Judges in Shelby County are so corrupt it boggles the mind. That's why I'm hesitant about what to do. But the fact there is an eyewitness . . .

    JD: The officer said it's your word against his, so he wanted to get my account of it.

    RS: I just happened to see your license plate as I was walking away. [McGarity went to] a couple of cars in front of you, and he said, "You didn't see that."

    JD: My window was up when he said that, but as you were walking away, I heard you say, "You saw that?" and I said yes.

    RS; I guess you would be willing to testify . . . ?

    JD: I gave my account, and I wouldn't go back on that, of course not.

    RS: He's claiming I hit him with a sign, and I didn't even have a sign in my hand.

    JD: I did not see that at all. If someone asked if I saw you hit him, I would have to say no because I did not see that.

    RS: I had what I call a weed whacker in my hands. I didn't touch him with anything. I was walking away, if I had hit him, I'd be running away.

    JD: I just happened to be driving by at that time, and talked to the police officer, and he took down my statement.

    RS: I appreciate you being honest and talking with me.

    JD: I Hope you are OK.

    RS: My back is sore, and it drew blood. But I'll be fine.

    Did Alabama law enforcement do anything to help seek justice in this matter? Absolutely not. In fact, they gave me such a classic runaround -- and spewed so much false information -- it would be comical if it did not involve a serious, criminal matter.

    We will have more on that in upcoming posts.

    (To be continued)

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    Hope Johnson
    An Alabama jury has awarded $9 million in a medical-malpractice lawsuit involving the death of an Auburn University student, according to a report at law.com.

    Hope Johnson, 20, of Trussville, died in December 2014 after being prescribed birth-control pills that led to a blood-clot in her lung. Brett Turnbull, of Birmingham, was the primary attorney for the Johnson family. From law.com:

    A jury in Opelika, Alabama, awarded $9 million to the family of a young woman who died after being prescribed birth control pills that led to the development of a blood clot in her lung.

    A screening prior to her receiving the medication revealed that Hope Johnson had a genetic predisposition for blood clots, but the obstetrician-gynecologist prescribed the pills anyway. When Johnson became ill a couple of weeks later, a doctor at an Auburn urgent care facility at first diagnosed her with bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic. She returned two days later complaining of sharp chest pains, and another doctor—who was on his first day working at the center and unable to access its electronic records—prescribed an inhaler.

    Johnson died the next day of a massive pulmonary embolism. The Auburn University student was 20 years old.

    Roughly one week before trial, the OB/GYN and clinic he worked for, Lee Obstetrics and Gynecology, settled their claims for a confidential amount, Turnbull said. The jury verdict was entered against Auburn Urgent Care and its owner and founder, Dr. Zenon Bednarski, along with Dr. David Willis.

    In an unusual twist, Turnbull said Urgent Care and Bednarski were represented by counsel, but Willis was left to represent himself. The discovery that Willis would appear pro se “was one of the most vexing moments of my career,” said Turnbull, who tried the case with filing attorneys Leila H. Watson and Nina Herring, his former colleagues at Cory Watson in Birmingham.

    “[Willis] had the full ability to participate; he made opening and closing statements; he had the ability to call witnesses; … he was given as fair a shake as possible,” Turnbull said.

    Because Alabama does not have an apportionment statute, Turnbull said he didn’t think the issue of representation would matter as far as collecting the judgment.

    “We have joint and several liability in Alabama, so all three defendants are responsible,” he said.

    Mistakes started piling up early in Johnson's encounter with the health-care system. Writes law.com:

    According to Turnbull and court filings, Johnson consulted with OB/GYN Kerri Hensarling at Lee Obstetrics and Gynecology in October 2014 about getting birth control pills.

    “Her mom went with her. She has a history of blood clots and realized there may have been a genetic issue,” he said.

    A blood test came back positive for a Factor V Leiden mutation, but court filings said staffers incorrectly interpreted the result as normal, which is what Johnson was told.

    She began taking the pills that November, and on Dec. 1 she went to Urgent Care complaining of shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, headache and sore throat. She told Bednarski that she was taking birth control pills but did not report the blood clotting issue because she was unaware of it, according to plaintiff’s filings.

    She was diagnosed with “possible pneumonia and bronchitis,” said Turnbull, and prescribed an antibiotic.

    When she returned two days later she “was much worse, experiencing chest pain and extreme shortness of breath” resulting from “any activity.”

    Willis ordered blood work and found that Johnson had an elevated white blood count and prescribed an inhaler. She died Dec. 4, 2014.

    Plaintiffs argued, in part, that Johnson's death was the result of inadequate staffing:

    Johnson’s mother and executor, Cortney Johnson, filed suit in Lee County Circuit Court in 2016.

    Turnbull said he was not at liberty to discuss any settlement demands or offers, and the case went to trial Oct. 7 before Judge Jacob Walker III.

    At trial, Turnbull said the defense argued that the doctors responded reasonably to the symptoms Johnson displayed and had no way of knowing about the predisposition for blood clots, pointing to the dismissed co-defendants who misread the test results as the culprits.

    “Our position was that they hired Dr. Willis to come in on his first day, at the busiest and most popular Urgent Care facility, in December—the height of flu season—and he got behind,” said Turnbull.

    He said there was some effort to argue that Willis may not have even examined Johnson.

    “They said, ‘Oh, it’s a big mystery, maybe we didn’t even see her,’” Turnbull said. “They took her vitals and gave her a prescription. I actually got angry at that defense.”

    In closing, Turnbull said he asked the jury to award $9 million in damages.

    “I said it was a symbol that Hope’s life matters, that her death matters; that the tools of the law in Alabama should be used to deter similar conduct in this community,” he said.

    The jury took about 1½ hours to award exactly that amount on Oct. 11, Turnbull said.

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    My mugshot after Alabama cops beat me up in my own
    home and hauled me for a five-month stay in jail -- all
    for practicing investigative journalism.

    Yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of my "arrest for blogging" in Shelby County, Alabama. It fell on the same day that U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) led more than 30 Republicans to storm a secure impeachment hearing room in the Capitol basement.

    How is that for irony? The over-arching theme of this blog, since it began in June 2007, is that respect for the rule of law -- and 14th Amendment protections, such as due process and equal protection -- has been deteriorating for at least two decades, probably much longer. We have reported on dozens of examples where courts -- both state and federal, in multiple jurisdictions -- have issued rulings that bare little resemblance to the relevant facts or law. Usually, it's the "little guy" who winds up holding the short end of the stick, with elites and large institutions (banks, mortgage companies, universities, etc.) happily reaping the benefits of courts that are rigged.

    What happened to me on the evening of Oct. 23, 2013? A swarm of Alabama deputies, led by officer Chris Blevins, entered our property and barged into our basement garage just as I had pulled our car into the garage and was attempting to close the door. The garage was built under the main portion of our house -- a common design in Alabama -- so the deputies actually broke into our home, our living quarters. Without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating why he and his colleagues were on our property, Blevins proceeded to beat me up, shoving me three times to a concrete floor and dousing me with pepper spray. Dash-cam footage shows that Blevins did all of this without telling me why he was there or what I had supposedly done wrong. The same footage captures deputy Jason Valenti threatening to break my arms after I had been dragged out of my own home and placed on the driveway.

    I spent five months in jail, all because I dared to write about judicial and political corruption -- most of it involving Republicans -- in Alabama. The story received national and international news coverage, much to the consternation of J. Claud Neilson, the judge who was brought out of retirement to ramrod the case at the direction of the Alabama Supreme Court.

    House Republicans storm a secure deposition room
    in the U.S. Capitol
    What was the impetus for all of this? It did not involve even an allegation that I had committed a crime. I had reported on a relationship involving attorney and GOP operative Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley) and a lobbyist named Liberty Duke. Rob Riley and Duke filed a defamation lawsuit against me and my wife, Carol -- even though Carol, at that point, had nothing to do with the blog and had never seen what you might call the "control center," where the blog is written, edited, organized, and published, with ties to my email account, not hers. Carol and I have never known when the lawsuit was filed because the plaintiffs had the court file immediately sealed. To this day, we've never seen it, even though we were the ones being sued.

    Was the arrest really about just Riley and Duke? Probably not. It came roughly five weeks after I broke a story about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor (a Bush 2 nominee and ally of the Rileys and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions [R-AL]) and his ties to gay pornography at a Web site called badpuppy.com. It came one day after our report on an apparent sweetheart deal for GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison -- one-time campaign manager and mistress for former Alabama attorney general and U.S. Sen. Luther Strange -- on a house in the fashionable Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook.

    How was the rule of law trampled in my arrest and incarceration? Here are just a few ways:

    (1) The granting of a temporary restraining order (TRO) or preliminary injunction -- Riley and Duke were granted both -- is an unlawful "prior restraint" in a case of alleged defamation -- In essence, Riley and Duke sought to arrest Carol and me for allegedly violating the TRO and preliminary injunction and failing to appear at a court hearing on the matter. But one, we never were timely summoned to appear in court; actually, a summons was issued, but that was more than two weeks after the hearing in question had been held, according to a lawyer's review of the file. Two, prior restraints have been unlawful under First Amendment law that dates back roughly 230 years. The U.S. Supreme Court issued the seminal ruling on the issue in 1931 -- Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931). As a matter of law, my reporting on Riley and Duke never has been found to be defamatory.

    (2) It is unlawful for police to make "a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home to make a routine felony arrest" -- The U.S. Supreme Court spelled out this principle in Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573 (1980). My arrest was not for an alleged crime, much less a felony, and Blevins' entry certainly was not consensual. I can be heard on the dash-cam video telling him to get out of our house.

    (3) Use of pepper spray in an unlawful arrest amounts to excessive force -- Federal courts have held "if a stop or arrest is illegal, then there is no basis for any threat or any use of force, and an excessive force claim would always arise but only collaterally from the illegal stop or arrest claim."Jackson v. Sauls, 206 F.3d, 1156 (11th Cir., 2000). Federal courts also have held "Courts have consistently concluded that using pepper spray is excessive force in cases where the crime is a minor infraction, the arrestee surrenders, is secured, and is not acting violently, and there is no threat to the officers or anyone else."Vinyard v. Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340 (11th Cir., 2002). In my case, there was no alleged crime at all, not even a minor infraction, so Blevins' use of pepper spray was excessive force.

    (4) Under Alabama state law, an officer must state his purpose for being on private property -- From Code of Alabama 15-10-2: "An officer may execute a warrant of arrest on any day and at any time; but in doing so, he must inform the defendant of his authority and, if required, must show the warrant." The same principle is found in Alabama case law, at Livingston v. Browder, 285 So.2d 983 (AL Civ. App., 1973): "Importantly, in most circumstances, a person must make known his purpose and demand admittance before breaking into and entering the house of another to make an arrest. 5 Am.Jur.2d Arrest § 93. Mr. Justice Bouldin, in Gray v. Williams, 230 927*927 Ala. 14, 18, 160 So. 715, 718, spoke to this point when he stated: "In entering the dwelling of a third person, especially at night, the officer is under a duty to apprise the head of the family of his mission and authority. No particular words are necessary, but, coming in the name of the law, he should make known such fact."

    Do House Republicans, under the "leadership" of Matt Gaetz, show respect for the rule of law? Not in the least, as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out, in a broad sense, with a piece titled "A revealing 24 hours for the GOP and the rule of law." For particulars, consider this from Vox:

    “House rules and committee rules allow the Intel committee to close hearings and other meetings behind closed doors,” said George Washington University political science professor Sarah Binder. “The House — and its committees — adopt their rules by majority vote at the start of each Congress.”

    As agreed upon, House rules limit the members who are able to participate in the impeachment inquiry’s closed-door interviews. Because these interviews are classified as “depositions,” only the members and staff of the relevant committees are able to attend them.

    “These are regulations for the conduct of depositions that extend beyond the impeachment inquiry and were established before the impeachment inquiry began,” Brookings Institute’s Molly Reynolds told Vox. . . .

    In addition to Republicans’ breach of House deposition rules, members who brought their cellphones into the secure space were violating the protocol on SCIFs, which individuals are not able to enter with such devices. Ultimately, as Politico reports, the House sergeant at arms — a law enforcement official based in the Capitol — arrived at the SCIF and conducted a sweep for surveillance devices because of this breach.

    Six years ago, Alabama deputies broke into our home, showing utter disregard for the rule of law, acting as if rules do not apply to them. GOP members of the House of Representatives showed much the same mindset yesterday.

    (A Personal Note: The Legal Schnauzer journalism family -- including "Gabby, the Investigative Tabby," needs your help. Loyal readers have sustained this blog for years, and support is urgently needed now, as we fight for justice and transparency on multiple fronts, for ourselves and for the many other victims who have been the subjects of our reporting. Perhaps most importantly, we want to make sure Gabby has no shortage of "noms" in his bowl.

    (If you believe America's broken court system needs to be restored; if you believe our courts should dispense justice for all Americans, not just an elite few; or maybe if you are a fellow animal lover who happens to enjoy a good legal tale now and then . . . we hope you will consider making a donation.

    (If you are able to help along our journalism journey, please click on the yellow donate button in the upper right corner of the blog, under the "Support the Schnauzer" headline. We are deeply grateful for your support through the years -- and we are especially grateful now to have Gabby, so he can join in a big round of thanks.)

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    Keith Wildhaber

    A Missouri jury has awarded $19 million to a 24-year police-force veteran in an employment discrimination case where the plaintiff repeatedly was passed over for promotion and told to "tone down your gayness." Based on our research, that is an extraordinarily high award in an employment case, and according to new reports, jurors based it, in part, on what appeared to be flagrantly false statements under oath by police witnesses for the defense. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell has vowed to review transcripts as part of a perjury investigation.

    In many states, discrimination cases are heard in federal court, but Missouri has a Human Rights Commission that opens a path for such cases to be heard in state court.

    As for possible perjury by police witnesses, that is an issue that hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. We saw multiple Greene County deputies lie under oath in the trial of bogus "assault on a law enforcement officer" charges brought against my wife, Carol, after they conducted an unlawful eviction on our home that ended with an unidentified officer slamming Carol to the ground and yanking so violently on her limbs he broke her left arm -- a comminuted fracture, which means the bone was broken in more than two places.

    Audio evidence shows that Officer Scott Harrison clearly committed perjury in Carol's case. At least three other cop witnesses (Debi Wade, Jeremy Lynn, Christian Conrad) made statements under oath that were so wildly inconsistent from their written reports that they might also amount to perjury.

    Scott Harrison
    Keith Wildhaber, the plaintiff in the St. Louis County case, said he was passed over for promotion 23 times and called "fruity" and other derogatory terms by co-workers. From a report at KMOV in St. Louis:
    [Last] Friday, a St. Louis County jury awarded $19 million dollars to a St. Louis County police sergeant who said the department repeatedly passed him over for promotions because he is gay.

    Sgt. Keith Wildhaber filed a lawsuit against the St. Louis County Police Department in 2017 in which he claims he was told he should “tone down [his] gayness” if he ever wanted to be promoted to lieutenant.

    Wildhaber has worked for the police department since 1994. The lawsuit details dozens of times where Wildhaber was passed over for a promotion despite positive feedback about his work performance.

    The lawsuit details an incident in 2014 when Sgt. Wildhaber spoke to John Saracino, a member of the St. Louis County Board of Police Commissioners at the time, about his application for a promotion.

    “The command staff has a problem with your sexuality. If you ever want to see a white shirt [i.e. get a promotion], you should tone down your gayness,” the lawsuit reads.

    The discrimination lawsuit went to trial [last] week and on Friday, a jury awarded Wildhaber nearly $20 million. Multiple officers and Chief John Belmar took the stand in the trial. Now there are calls for changes in leadership in the police department.

    Wildhaber, after filing his complaint, was transferred to a less desirable precinct, on a later shift, tripling his commute time. From the New York Daily News:

    The week-long trial, which ended Friday, included testimony about several times Sgt. Keith Wildhaber was denied a promotion, about the use of demeaning, homophobic terms to refer to him, as well as the retaliation he faced, after filing a complaint.

    Additionally, accounts from fellow department employees, who were witnesses to the discrimination he faced, made for a lively and dramatic Hollywood-like trial.

    In about three hours of deliberation, the jury sided with Wildhaber on both the discrimination and retaliation counts. It awarded him $1.9 million in actual damages, and $10 million in punitive damages on the discrimination allegation; as well as $999,000 in actual damages and $7 million in punitive damages for the retaliation allegations.

    “We wanted to send a message,” juror No. 4 said of the verdict, according to St. Louis Post-Dispatch“If you discriminate you are going to pay a big price. … You can’t defend the indefensible.”

    What did the New York Daily News mean by a "dramatic Hollywood-like trial"? That apparently is a reference to one or more officers who got caught providing perjured testimony. From the Daily News account:

    Wildhaber said he was passed over a promotion 23 times. After he filed an EEOC complaint, he alleges he was retaliated against and transferred to another, less desirable precinct.

    “Defendant believes plaintiff’s behavior, mannerisms, and/or appearance do not fit the stereotypical norms of what a ‘male’ should be,” the lawsuit read.

    In the trial, Dana Woodland, the girlfriend of an St. Louis police officer, corroborated his story, saying that he was referred to as “fruity” by police Capt. Guy Means in 2015, and added that Means told her that Wildhaber would never get a promotion because he was “way too out there with his gayness and he needed to tone it down if he wanted a white shirt.,” a term that refers to a higher position in the force.

    Means testified Thursday claiming he didn’t even know Woodland, and said that he didn’t recall attending the 2015 event, when he had supposedly used the derogatory term to refer to Wildhaber.

    The following day, in a scene that could’ve been written to a clichéd court drama, Woodland produced a set of three pictures showing Means and Woodland posing for a photo booth shoot, taken at a St. Louis County Police Welfare fund-raiser, where the two can be seen smiling and hugging.

    Russ Riggan, Wildhaber's attorney, said Means' testimony destroyed any credibility police witnesses might have had. From a report at lgbtqnation.com:

    Riggan told the jurors, “[Means] blatantly perjured himself.… How credible are the rest of their witnesses? You don’t think they sent other people in here to lie? They will stop at nothing to bury this case.”

    Means' testimony shows that some cops will testify falsely under oath with stunning casualness. We already have seen that, thanks to Greene County deputy Scott Harrison in Carol's trial. From a September 2019 post:

    Harrison's false statement under oath is one of several such statements cop-witnesses for the state made in Carol's trial. But Harrison's is the one we can prove -- right this minute, with no additional investigation or discovery -- is perjurious. Other deputies' sketchy statements generally were inconsistent -- their trial testimony differed from written statements in incident reports -- so it would take some research to determine what might rise to the level of perjury. Either way, they apparently committed perjury or filed false police reports, both of which are crimes. 
    At least one statement from Harrison -- the deputy who burst into our apartment and pointed an assault rifle at my head during an unlawful eviction in September 2015 -- leaves no doubt. This is from page 3 of Judge Jerry Harmison Jr.'s judgment in Carol's case: (The judgment and Carol's Motion to Vacate Judgment That Was Procured by Fraud, Perjury, etc. are embedded at the end of this post.)

    Harrison stated he initially focused on Roger Shuler once the front door was open because Roger Shuler had called and expressed threats to law enforcement on August 12, 2015.

    We have recorded evidence that Harrison's statement is false, and we presented that evidence in a recent post, with more relevant posts to come. (The video/audio is embedded at the end of this post.)

    Could one or more cop witnesses wind up behind bars for committing perjury in the Keith Wildhaber case? The answer appears to be yes. The same could hold true for Scott Harrison and at least three of his Greene County colleagues who made false or inconsistent statements in Carol's case.

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    For several years, we have received anonymous statements from trolls that go along these lines -- "You've never won a court case" or "You always think the judge is out to get you."

    I generally have ignored such statements because they came from individuals who obviously were ill-informed and did not have the courage to use their names. I reconsidered that policy when an intelligent and loyal reader, someone we know long distance, recently asked, "Has a judge ever ruled correctly in one of your cases?"

    This person, I know, has a serious interest in justice issues and asked the question because he genuinely wanted to know. That convinced me to think about the issue, conduct some limited research, and try my best to answer in this post.

    First, I take the question to come in two parts: (1) Has a judge ever ruled correctly in a final order or a non-final order that was central to the case? (2) Have you and your wife, Carol, ever prevailed in a court case? Second, since we now live in Missouri and much of our court experience has been in Alabama, I don't have access to all relevant records at the moment. That means I'm having to work largely from memory, so my answer might not be all-inclusive, but it is pretty accurate. As to the two-part question raised above, the answer to both is yes.

    Let's look at No. 1 -- Has a judge ever ruled correctly in a final order or a non-final order that was central to the case?

    (A) The best example of this came in what we call "The Jail Case" (involving my unlawful arrest and incarceration in Shelby County), where U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor found that, as in forma pauperis (IFP) litigants, we were not entitled to have the clerk's office in the Norther District of Alabama, conduct service. Proctor's ruling clearly was contrary to black-letter law that applies across the country, but his incompetence forced us to waste roughly a year's time to appeal to the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. To our amazement, the appellate court got it right, with these words:

    We review a district court’s sua sponte dismissal for failure to effect service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(m) for an abuse of discretion. Richardson v. Johnson, 598 F.3d 734, 738 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). “We affirm unless we find that the district court has made a clear error of judgment, or has applied the wrong legal standard.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

    Without addressing the merits of the appeal, we reverse the district court’s dismissal because it should have effectuated service for the Shulers, who had IFP status. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(c)(3), the district court must order that service be made by either a United States marshal, a deputy marshal, or by any person specially appointed by the court when the litigant is proceeding under IFP status.


    This was not a final order, settling the case, but it was on a critical matter, and a three-judge panel (Charles R. Wilson, Clinton appointee; Julie E. Carnes, Obama appointee; Jill A. Pryor, Obama appointee) got it right.

     (B) When GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison sued me for defamation, it was no surprise the case got off to an underhanded start -- considering Bill Baxley was her attorney. Baxley hired some lowlife to conduct "personal service," and he did it by throwing court papers on our driveway. You don't have to be a Harvard Law grad to know such a lame act does not qualify as service, and I argued as such in a motion before Jefferson County Circuit Judge Don Blankenship. In another shocker, Blankenship ruled correctly that service was improper. A Baxley thug solved the problem by "serving" me while I was in the Shelby County Jail. That also probably was unlawful, and the server likely lied to jail personnel that she was an attorney or minister to pull it off. I wasn't in a position to challenge the issue further, so the case moved forward.

    Blankenship went on to show his true colors by awarding Garrison a $3.5-million default judgment, even though the docket shows I never was notified of the default application or the default hearing. Because of that, the award is void as a matter of law -- and it can be attacked as such at any time.

    Did something fishy happen between Blankenship's correct ruling on service and his wildly incorrect ruling on the default judgment? In the interim, did he receive a favor or payment that caused him to shift from appearing to be a judge with a hint of integrity to being a crook of the worst kind? You probably can guess my answer to that question. We soon will have a post where a recently filed court document presents evidence that shows a Jefferson County judge issuing favorable rulings for a certain party soon after receiving campaign donations that appear to be in the form of bribes.

    Now, let's look at question No. 2 -- Have you and your wife, Carol, ever prevailed in a court case? We separate it from question No. 1 because it's possible to prevail in court, even though the judge does not necessarily issue a correct ruling. Sometimes, the judge has no choice but to find in your favor, whether he has any integrity or not:

    (A) This is the kind of case to which almost every American can relate. Somewhere around 2010 (I'm not sure of the date), a Shelby County deputy pulled me over and wrote a ticket for speeding in a school zone -- I think the allegation was that I drove 5 mph over the limit, which I think was 30 mph. The ticket, however, gave the location of the alleged offense as a place where there was no school zone, and the speed limit was 40 or 45 mph.

    I challenged the ticket in court, pleaded not guilty, and the deputy failed to appear. District Judge Ron Jackson, who we know from personal experience is an absolute train wreck on the bench, had no choice but to find me not guilty and dismiss the ticket. But get this: Jackson had the audacity to ask me if I wanted to pay court costs. I already hated the SOB because of his crooked rulings in our case involving Mike McGarity, our former trespassing, criminally inclined neighbor. My response to Jackson? "I pleaded not guilty because I am not guilty. The wording on the ticket shows I'm not guilty, and that would be the case whether the deputy appeared or not. In other words, I'm not about to pay your damned court costs." Notice I did not call him "Your Honor."

    (B) In late 2008, we received notice from a debt-collection outfit called CACH LLC that we owed money on what I believe was a GE VISA card. It was a relatively small sum that we allegedly owed, but Alabama legal and political thugs had just cheated me out of my job (of 20 years) at UAB, so we were in a crunch. Before long, we received notice from a Birmingham law firm called Halcomb and Wertheim that the alleged debt had been placed with them, and they intended to collect. We contacted the firm and asked them to validate the debt -- as was our right under the Fair Debt Collection  Practices Act (FDCPA). By asking for validation of the debt, we were asking Halcomb and Wertheim to provide documentation to prove they held the debt, and we owed it.

    We even went to the law firm in person, seeking to get the alleged debt validated, but we never received any such documentation. It probably was a surprise to the fine lawyers at Halcomb and Wertheim, but we weren't anxious to pay a debt that maybe we did not owe.

    In a brazen act of "legal ethics," Halcomb and Wertheim sued us, even though they repeatedly failed to prove we owed the debt. On the appointed date, we appeared at the Shelby County Courthouse and -- surprise, surprise -- no one from the debt-collection law firm appeared. I don't remember the judge on that one, but he had no choice but to dismiss the case.

    Bottom line: Yes, we have prevailed in court, and yes, we've witnessed a judge or two rule correctly in our cases. More importantly, here is today's take-home lesson: Whether you are dealing with a traffic cop or a debt collector, it pays to fight back -- especially when you have legitimate grounds for doing so.

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    Alexander Vindman

    Leading Democrats in the Trump impeachment inquiry said after yesterday's testimony from a top Ukraine expert that they feared Republicans were seeking to reveal a whistleblower's identity so they could "punish" him and perhaps even jeopardize his safety.

    The statements might be shocking to many Americans, like something you might expect to hear in a third-world country. But they hold little shock value here at Legal Schnauzer because my wife, Carol, and I have been under attack from right-wingers for at least 12 years -- all because I've dared to report on judicial and political corruption in Alabama and beyond. We've been targeted with loss of our jobs, theft of our home (via a wrongful foreclosure), financial devastation, use of law enforcement for physical violence, and much more.

    Roger Shuler mugshot after "arrest for blogging"
    In October 2013, deputies beat me up inside our Birmingham home, doused me with pepper spray (with an officer threatening to break my arm), and dragged me to the Shelby County Jail for a five-month stay -- apparently the only journalist in U.S. history to be incarcerated because of a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction that has been unlawful under more than 230 years of First Amendment law, without even the slightest hint of criminal allegations on my part. Nope, I reported accurately on the relationship between GOP thug Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke -- my journalism, as a matter of law, never has been proven in court to be false or defamatory -- and that's enough to earn you the brown-shirt treatment in the Alabama that produced a racist U.S. senator like Jeff Sessions, who is aligned with many of our attackers.

    In September 2015, after we were forced to move to my home state of Missouri, deputies conducted an unlawful eviction on our apartment, pointed an assault rifle at my head, and manhandled Carol so viciously that they broke her left arm (shattered it, really, above the elbow), leaving her with a comminuted fracture (a break into three or more fragments) that required roughly eight hours of trauma surgery and involved complications that could have put her life at risk.

    As you can see, the use of government force to "punish" someone is not new to us. We have been on the front line for that -- all because of my role and history as a journalist, which is much like that of a whistleblower. This is from an NBC News report about yesterday's 10-hour testimony of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:

    Top Democrats at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said his testimony Tuesday was “extremely disturbing” and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House.

    The closed-door deposition before House impeachment investigators lasted more than 10 hours.

    Once it concluded, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters that he hopes Vindman's example of patriotism "will be emulated by others."

    Schiff said that he was "deeply appalled" by attacks made against Vindman on Fox News Tuesday night.

    "The suggestion that because he's of Ukrainian origin, that he has some dual royalty...this purple heart recipient deserved better than that scandalous attack," Schiff said.

    Schiff should not be surprised that conservatives, when they feel threatened, are prone to attack honest Americans in a vicious manner. Our legal woes started in a December 1999 when a Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama employee named Mike McGarity -- with an extensive criminal record -- moved in next door to us and promptly tried to take over our yard.That grew into attacks from legal and political elites -- probably because Dax Swatek, son of McGarity lawyer Bill Swatek, has ties to political luminaries such as Bill Canary (former head of the Business Council of Alabama, with connections to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce) and Karl Rove. The first sign of such an attack probably came in 2008 (after I had started this blog in July 2007) when I was cheated out of my job at UAB -- where I had worked for 20 years -- because of my reporting on the political prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman. I don't have to guess that I was fired because of my reporting (on my own time, with my own resources) on the Siegelman matter. A UAB HR employee named Anita Bonasera told me that's why I was targeted, and I recorded the conversation. (See video at the end of this post.)

    X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm.
    Roughly one year later, Carol was cheated out of her job at Infinity Insurance, and that greased the skids for our downhill slide on the economic ladder. That was in 2009, and little did we imagine the amount of violence that lay in our future.

    Comments after yesterday's Vindman deposition, strongly hinted at potential violence and retaliation. From NBC News:

    Regarding reported attempts by GOP lawmakers to get Vindman to reveal the whistleblower's identity, Schiff said that Trump would love to "punish" the whistleblower. He also said the president's comments and actions have "jeopardized the whistleblower's safety."

    "The President's allies would like nothing better than to help the president out this whistleblower. Our committee will not be a part of that. We will not stand for that," he said. "They have the right to remain anonymous. They certainly should not be subject to these kind of vicious attacks and other words and actions that threaten their safety for doing their patriotic duty," he said about whistleblowers.

    U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) added to those concerns:

    Wasserman Schutlz said the Republicans present for the deposition were trying to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower.

    "What the Republicans are trying to do very clearly in their questioning is try to front door or back door Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony he says he doesn't he didn't know," she said.

    "They've been unsuccessful," she added.

    Press reports described a "tense moment" between one Democrat and one Republican. From NBC News:
    Leaving the deposition, Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said that he was concerned that Republicans in the room were trying to out the identity of the whistleblower, which caused a tense moment between Swalwell and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

    "My concern inside the room is that you know there, there’s an intent to out the whistleblower, and you know risk that person's life which is why we're trying to protect them," he said. "And that's what the quote, unquote tense moment was about."

    Americans should not be surprised at anything Trump allies might pull in the near future. We know, from firsthand experience, that there is no level to which Republican thugs will not stoop when they feel threatened.

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    Deutsche Bank in Jacksonville, FL

    A federal judge, who has a financial stake in JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) and Bank of America (BOA) and a perfect record of ruling in their favor in court matters (see here and here), also has a .1000 batting average in favoring Deutsche Bank, the shady German-based outfit that is under investigation for reported money laundering involving Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Russia and the late accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

    We have found no public record that indicates U.S. Circuit Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat holds stock or other financial interests in Deutsche Bank. But he is based in Jacksonville, FL, where the bank has a major operations center. Our research indicates Tjoflat is five-for-five in favoring Deutsche Bank when sitting on a three-judge panel in cases involving the bank.

    If the bank is found to have been involved in international money laundering -- and Tjoflat serves as its protector on the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Florida, Georgia, and Alabama) -- could that mean Tjoflat is involved in a criminal conspiracy, with ties to the Trump-Russia scandal and Epstein's grotesque crimes? Our answer is yes.

    Gerald Bard Tjoflat
    How ugly could the Deutsche Bank-money laundering story get? Consider this from a June 2019 report by Lisette Voytko at Forbes:

    Jeffrey Epstein used Deutsche Bank since 2013 to move millions of dollars through dozens of accounts, according to the Wall Street Journal, and while the embattled German bank is cooperating with federal investigators, it took months for the bank to close Epstein’s accounts and flag suspicious activity. . . .

    The Epstein fallout is the latest gut punch for Deutsche Bank. In addition to laying off 18,000 employees by 2022, the bank is cooperating with two federal investigations: one on Trump’s financial ties to Russia and the other for money laundering.

    Deutsche Banks headquarters were raided last November as part of a wide-ranging money laundering investigation. From a report at Wall Street Journal:

    Around 170 police officers and other officials seized documents during searches through six different properties Thursday, including one employee’s home, according to authorities.

    The raid was a visible sign of mounting legal problems for the German lender, which has faced a string of allegations and costly legal settlements tied to failures to prevent money laundering and other banking violations.

    Thursday morning, police vehicles lined up outside Deutsche Bank’s central Frankfurt headquarters, and German federal police and other officers crowded into the lobby of the high-rise towers. Officers soon filtered upstairs onto other floors of the bank to search records, a person inside the bank said. . . .

    The probe includes two unidentified Deutsche Bank employees aged 50 and 46 and other unidentified employees suspected of helping clients create offshore entities in tax havens, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The person who works in the financial crime-fighting division remained an employee Thursday, the people familiar with the matter said.

    Deutsche Bank confirmed the investigation. Both the bank and prosecutors said it is related to the Panama Papers, a trove of records revealed by a consortium of journalists in 2016 tied to a Panamanian law firm that specialized in offshore holding companies.

    Since early this year, Deutsche Bank has been in the cross hairs of Congressional investigators. From a report at CNN:

    House Democrats gearing up for fresh investigations into President Donald Trump's businesses and money laundering involving Russia are setting their sights on the German lender Deutsche Bank.

    House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said his committee would be working alongside House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters to probe the bank, a major lender to the Trump Organization. Both chairs had previously signaled interest in Deutsche Bank while they were still in the House minority. . . .

    Deutsche Bank has been of interest to lawmakers because it is one of the few big banks that has been willing to lend to the Trump Organization. Trump businesses have borrowed over $300 million for a Florida golf course and hotels in Chicago and Washington, according to financial disclosures and public filings from 2012 to 2015.

    Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has also disclosed an unsecured line of credit from the bank ranging between $5 million to $25 million that he's shared with his mother since 2015.

    As for federal judge Tjoflat, he seems to think Deutsche Bank can do no wrong -- much as he appears to view JPMC and BOA. Here are five cases, all in the past six years, in which Tjoflat has been part of three-judge panels that ruled in favor of Deutsche Bank. We can find no cases where he ruled against the bank:

    (1) Zelaya/Capital v. John Zelaya, 769 F.3d 1296 (11th Cir., 2014) Court approves award of $70,644.56 in costs and attorney fees to Deutsche Bank;

    (2) Avenue CLO Fund v. Bank of America, 709 F. 3d 1072 (11th Cir., 2013) Court sides with Deutsche and other "revoling lenders in a complex dispute involving the ambitious Fontainebleau development in Las Vegas;

    (3) Westley v. Albert (11th Cir., 2017). Court sided with Deutsche and other entities in a case of alleged fraudulent eviction;

    (4) Quinn v. Ocwen Loan Serviging (11th Cir., 2017) Court sided with Deutsche in case alleging improper loan servicing and initiation of foreclosure;

    (5) Smedley v. Deutsche Bank (11th Cir., 2017). Court sided with Deutsche in a case alleging improper loan servicing and default.

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    Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump

    This past Saturday might prove to be one of the most historic days in many of our lifetimes. It started with a lot of folks, including yours truly, figuring that keeping track of the Georgia vs. Florida college-football game would be the big news item of the day. It ended with revelations -- seemingly coming out of the blue -- that could bring down a president.

    Many of us had forgotten, or perhaps never knew, that BuzzFeed News and CNN had filed lawsuits to force release of background materials from Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice chose Saturday to make the first release, with BuzzFeed filing its first dispatch at 11:08 CT. The memos point to officials with the 2016 Trump campaign -- including Donald Trump himself and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) -- seeking to conspire with WikiLeaks and Russia to obtain emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee. From CNN's report:

    President Donald Trump and other top 2016 Trump campaign officials repeatedly privately discussed how the campaign could get access to stolen Democratic emails WikiLeaks had in 2016, according to newly released interview notes from Robert Mueller's special counsel investigation.

    CNN sued the Justice Department for access to Mueller's witness interview notes, and this weekend's release marks the first publicly available behind-the-scenes look at Mueller's investigative work outside of court proceedings and the report itself. Per a judge's order, the Justice Department will continue to release new tranches of the Mueller investigative notes monthly to CNN and Buzzfeed News, which also sued for them.

    A retelling of events from former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who served alongside campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is the fullest detail revealed by the Justice Department yet on discussions within the Trump campaign as it pursued damaging information about its Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. The documents were stolen by the Russians, the American intelligence community has found.

    "Flynn had the most Russia contacts of anyone on the campaign and was in the best position to ask for the emails if they were out there," the investigators also wrote about Gates' interview.

    Gates described in an interview with Mueller investigators last year how several close advisers to Trump, Trump's family members and Trump himself considered how to get the stolen documents and pushed the effort, according to investigators' summary. "Gates said Donald Trump Jr. would ask where the emails were in family meetings. Michael Flynn, [Jared] Kushner, [Paul] Manafort, [Redacted] [Corey] Lewandowski, Jeff Sessions, and Sam Clovis expressed interest in obtaining the emails as well. Gates said the priority focuses of the Trump campaign opposition research team were Clinton's emails and contributions to the Clinton Foundation. Flynn, [Redacted] [Jeff] Sessions, Kushner, and [Donald] Trump Jr. were all focused on opposition topics," Gates told investigators, according to the interview summary.

    Here are key takeaways from the BuzzFeed team, headed by senior investigative reporter Jason Leopold:

    Paul Manafort was pushing the unfounded conspiracy theory — now part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump — that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails as early as 2016.

    The president’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, "had to keep Trump out of the messaging related to Russia” in preparation for his testimony to Congress under oath and that the false testimony was "not his idea."

    Top Trump campaign aide Rick Gates said the campaign was “very happy” when a foreign government helped release the hacked DNC emails.

    These are some of the revelations that BuzzFeed News pried loose after pursuing five separate Freedom of Information Act lawsuits for all the subpoenas and search warrants that then–special counsel Robert Mueller’s team executed, as well as all the emails, memos, letters, talking points, legal opinions, and interview transcripts it generated.

    In response to a court order, the Justice Department released the first installment of documents: hundreds of pages of summaries of FBI interviews with witnesses, available here for the first time. Another installment will be released every month for at least the next eight years.

    The documents revealed Saturday, known as “302 reports,” are summaries of interviews with former White House official and Trump campaign manager Stephen Bannon, Cohen, Gates, and more. They are some of the most important and highly sought-after documents from Mueller’s investigation. They reveal what key players in the campaign told FBI agents about Russia, Trump, the email hack during the 2016 presidential campaign, and Trump's associates’ handling of the special counsel’s investigation.

    Mueller’s 448-page report last March was the most hotly anticipated prosecutorial document in a generation, laying out the evidence of Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump administration’s efforts to obstruct the inquiry. The report, however, reflected only a small fraction of the billions of primary-source documents that the government claims Mueller’s team may have amassed over the course of its two-year investigation.

    Those documents are a crucial national legacy, a key to understanding this important chapter in American history. But the public has not been allowed to see any of them. Until now.

    It appears no news outlet has been able to fully analyze the voluminous documents, and they are heavily redacted, so the full story of what they reveal still is in the making. But one of the first summaries came from Bill Palmer, of the Palmer Report, with the headline: "Proof emerges that Donald Trump criminally conspired to try to obtain stolen DNC emails from Russia." From Palmer:

    It turns out BuzzFeed isn’t the only one who’s managed to get its hands on memos from the Robert Mueller investigation today. Even as BuzzFeed is exposing that the Republican National Committee was at least indirectly conspiring with WikiLeaks on the release of stolen DNC emails, CNN is revealing that Donald Trump himself was directly in on the plot to illegally obtain the stolen emails.

    Trump 2016 Deputy Campaign Chairman Rick Gates testified to Mueller that he heard Donald Trump say “get the emails” to his team. Michael Flynn responded that he could try to obtain the emails from his Russian intel sources, and Trump did nothing to discourage this offer. Knowingly receiving stolen goods is a felony, so this proves that Donald Trump criminally conspired to obtain the stolen DNC emails. Worse, Trump entered into a criminal conspiracy to obtain the emails from Russia.

    We all saw Trump stand there on the debate stage and publicly ask Russia to obtain and release Hillary Clinton’s emails – but he’s since tried to play this off as a joke. Now it turns out Trump really was trying to criminally conspire with Russia behind the scenes to obtain stolen emails during the 2016 election cycle.
    This FOIA treasure trove of Mueller memos comes even as House Democrats are fighting in court to obtain the full unredacted Mueller report so it can be used in the impeachment process against Donald Trump. While it’s shocking and outrageous that Mueller uncovered proof of Trump’s guilt and it never saw the light of day until now, the timing nonetheless works well for the impeachment process.

    Palmer notes that the newly released documents raise questions about Mueller's handling of the investigation. From a post titled "What was Robert Mueller DOING?"

    Thanks to newly granted FOIA requests on the part of CNN and BuzzFeed, we’re getting a look . . . at the first batch of internal memos from the Robert Mueller probe. These stunning memos reveal that Donald Trump, his campaign, and the Republican National Committee were conspiring with Russia and WikiLeaks on a level far deeper than anyone knew.

    For instance, it turns out Donald Trump instructed his team to obtain the stolen DNC emails, and Michael Flynn then told Trump that he would use his Russian intel contacts to try to obtain them. The Republican National Committee also had advance knowledge of when WikiLeaks was going to release new batches of stolen DNC emails.

    These are the kinds of felonies that send people to prison for a very long time. Robert Mueller had all of this information dating back to when Rick Gates cut his plea deal in February of 2018 – and yet nothing came of it. This was long before Bill Barr came on the scene. We don’t know if Mueller put prosecutions in motion that were later shut down by Barr, or if those prosecutions are still underway, or if Mueller just didn’t do anything.

    We do know that Robert Mueller apparently ended up including all of this damning evidence in his final report, which he expected would make its way to Congress. By that time Barr was in charge, and he redacted the most incriminating parts of the report. Now it’s finally starting to come out, and it should play a key role in impeachment. But now more than ever, we deserve answers on why Mueller was sitting on a goldmine of information that could have sent Donald Trump and dozens of other people to prison forever, and nothing came of it. Did Mueller simply fail us, or was Mueller’s work sabotaged on a criminal level?

    Will Bunch, of the Philadelphia Inquirer, had questions similar to the one Bill Palmer raised. From Bunch's column published yesterday:

    There is no doubt that the knobs of gaslighting were switched to “high” when new Attorney General William Barr — also known as Trump’s Roy Cohn — arrived at the Justice Department in February. Under Barr’s thumb, Mueller appeared newly pressed to quickly wrap things up. The end of his investigation came with a weeks-long delay before his actual report — a vacuum that was filled with Barr’s Trump-serving four-page memo with his own conclusions that there was no obstruction of justice and no collusion with Russia. Barr even staged a press conference hours ahead of the actual report with misleading spin on what was in it.

    In the end — as the memos dropped on Saturday reveal — the Mueller report was not the definitive word on what happened with Trump, Russia and the tainted 2016 election. Rather, it was a series of not-always-great prosecutorial decisions about what to leave in and what to leave out, and what conclusions to make of it all — reached by an iconic-but-fading prosecutor no longer on top of his game, under relentless pressure from a justice apparatus that has been politicized and warped by the president and his Cohn-like hatchet man.

    What’s telling is that Mueller’s impotent testimony before Congress came just one day before Trump’s extortionist phone call with Ukraine’s Zelensky — suggesting the presidential beatdown on the Mueller probe had inspired the delusion that he was now untouchable. The next few months on Capitol Hill will prove whether Trump was actually right — and if he was right, you can kiss goodbye to the United States of America.

    Interestingly, the new Mueller info came just a day after an interview in which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to confound expectations that she plans to limit the Trump impeachment probe to Ukraine and nothing more.

    “What we’re talking about now is taking us into a whole other class of objection to what the president has done. And there may be other — there were 11 obstruction of justice provisions in the Mueller report. Perhaps some of them will be part of this,” Pelosi told Bloomberg Television. “But again, that will be part of the inquiry, to see where we go.”

    This is a tough call, because every day that Donald Trump remains in the Oval Office is a danger to America and the world. But it’s increasingly clear that the speediest narrow impeachment — one confined solely to his Ukraine dealings while ignoring the naked corruption of obstructing the Mueller probe and his efforts to become president through lawbreaking, either through stolen emails or hush money, and then use his office to line his own pockets — would be a terrible mistake.

    That’s because — as noted earlier — the real scandal of Trump’s presidency is his amoral and narcissistic willingness to do any and all things that are terrible for the country but are good for his own personal power and ambition. The symptoms of that corrupt disease played out on a global canvas from Kyiv to Trump’s golf resort in Scotland to the corridors of the Justice Department. If we don’t make it clear that no president is above the law — all of the laws, including obstruction of justice and the Emoluments Clause — then we will only be setting the stage for a future president who will be even more dangerous than Donald Trump.

    Here is a link to the full DOJ document, obtained via the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

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    Judge Carole Smitherman

    Have an Alabama judge and her legislator husband been caught red-handed accepting cash payments in exchange for court rulings that benefit individuals and entities tied to one of the state's largest, most ethically challenged law firms? The answer appears to be yes, according to a document recently filed with the Alabama Supreme Court in a case styled Burt W. Newsome and Newsome Law, LLC v. Clark A. Cooper and Balch Bingham, et al.

    At the heart of the Newsome case are allegations that Cooper, a former partner at the downtown-Birmingham office of Balch Bingham, engineered a conspiracy to frame Newsome for a crime (menacing) in Shelby County, which was to put Newsome's law license at risk, allowing Cooper and associates to pilfer chunks of Newsome's lucrative collections business with several banks.

    Burt Newsome
    That sounds ugly enough, but things really get seamy when you examine a chart Newsome filed with his appellants' reply brief, dated Oct. 10, 2019. The chart lays out in stark details payments from Balch affiliates -- yes, that's the same Balch Bingham that is tied at the hip to Alabama Power and was embroiled in the North Birmingham Superfund Bribery Scandal -- to Jefferson County Circuit Judge Carole Smitherman and her husband, Rodger Smitherman, which were shortly followed by rulings that favored Balch and affiliates in the Newsome lawsuit.

    Judge Smitherman's handling of the Newsome lawsuit involves numerous foul-smelling oddities, but these two stand out:

    (1) Before retiring in January 2019, Shelby County Presiding Judge Hewitt L. "Sonny" Conwill issued an order reversing an expungement of Newsome's record in the menacing case. Conwill, however, never entered the order in the State Judicial Information System (SJIS), and Newsome contends that makes the ruling void, a "non-order," as a matter of law. Judge Smitherman proceeded to rely on the Conwill "counterfeit order" to grant summary judgment in favor of the Balch defendants and impose more than $190,000 in sanctions against Newsome under the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act (ALAA). Newsome argues that Smitherman's rulings should be vacated and she should be recused from the case.

    (2) Smitherman's rulings, favoring Balch and trashing Newsome, are grossly unsupported by facts, as banbalch.com noted in a January 2019 post:

    Smitherman approved over $192,000 in redacted attorney fees against Burt Newsome. In other words, Newsome and his legal team were given bills that were blacked-out, they couldn’t read, and then told to pay up. . . .

    This is more than a miscarriage of justice against Newsome.

    This is a horn, a loud horn exposing to the world what unconscionable and unsavory depths to which Balch and Bingham and its stooges will allegedly go to destroy the rule of law and to carry on an arrogant march of defiance with impunity.

    How did Judge Smitherman, and her husband, become such stooges for Balch? A chart that Newsome includes in his reply brief provides the likely answer. (The chart is embedded at the end of this post, and it can be found on page 19 of the reply brief, which also is embedded at the end of this post.). Let's break down the chart and see just how unsavory activities can get in the "Alabama Justice System":

    I. Date: 7/26/17

    A. Payments to Smithermans: Judge Smitherman's husband receives $2,500 from Alabama Power PAC -- then run by former Balch partner Alexia Bolden.

    B. Act, Oder, or Context: Smitherman grants Balch's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's complaint 29 days before the scheduled hearing on the motion.

    II. Date: 8/31/17

    A. Payments to Smithermans: Judge Smitherman's husband receives $2,500 from Hare, Wynn, Newell Newton -- the attorneys for, and employer of, a witness adverse to Newsome. First money ever from Hare Wynn to Rodger Smitherman.

    B. Act, Order, or Context: Judge Smitherman orders the entire case file be sealed at Balch's request. Judge Smitherman's husband starts attending closed-door, sealed hearings on this case, inside his wife's courtroom.

    III. Date:  11/1/17

    A. Payments to Smithermans: NEWPAC, run by former Balch attorney Clark Fine, provides its first ever $5,000 to Judge Smitherman's husband.

    B. Act, Order, or Context: Balch files Motion for Attorney Fee Award against Newsome.

    IV. Date: 11/16/17

    A. Payments to Smithermans: BIPAC, also run by former Balch attorney Clark Fine, provides $5,000 to Judge Smitherman's husband.

    B. Act, Order, or Context: Judge Smitherman denies Plaintiff's Motion to Stay Case Pending a Ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court on the "Order" that was Never Entered into the SJIS.

    V. Date: 12/4/17

    A. Payments to Smithermans: NEWPAC, run by former Balch attorney Clark Fine, provides a second $5,000 to Judge Smitherman's husband. He does not report the contribution until 4/4/18 on his campaign-finance report.

    B. Act. Order, or Context: Balch files Motion to Disallow the Testimony of (Robert) Serrett and (John) Manning, showing a single phone number that appears to tie the Balch conspirators together was from a pre-paid "burner" cell phone. The number is (205) 410-1494.

    VI. Date: 2/6/18

    A. Payments to Smithermans: Andrew Campbell enters the case as counsel for Balch and gives his first ever $2,000 to Judge Smitherman.

    B: Act, Order or Context: Balch files its objection to Newsome's Renewed Motion to Stay Case Pending a Ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court on the "Order" that was Never Entered Into the SJIS.

    The Balch defendants present a convenient argument for this money trail that appears tied to favorable judicial orders. But Newsome's reply brief suggests the Balch contentions should not fly very far: From the brief:

    The [Balch] assertions that Judge Smitherman needed campaign contributions, as judges are forced to run in "partisan elections" is inpplicable to the case at bar as neither Judge Smitherman nor her husband had any opposition in their respective races, the contributions were made while motions were pending and at critical times in the case, they were made by numerous entities who had never contributed to the Smithermans before this case, and the contributions were substantial. Also, the appearance of State Senator Rodger Smitherman at multiple sealed hearings in the case after he had received substantial sums from entities associated with the Appellees/Defendants creates an even further impression of bias and improprieties. 

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    Jeffrey Epstein's fatal injuries looked more like homicidal strangulation than the official finding of suicidal hanging, according to an independent pathologist that Epstein's brother hired. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Dr. Michael Baden pointed to a number of irregularities in the official investigation.

    Perhaps most striking, according to Baden, the pathologist who actually conducted the autopsy struggled to reach a conclusion and initially ruled the manner of death as "pending" -- only to have the chief medical examiner change it to "suicide."

    From the Herald article by Julie K. Brown, who generally has led the way in reporting on the Epstein case:
    Since his brother Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in a New York federal jail in August, Mark Epstein has been worried that his own life, and the lives of other people, may be in danger because federal authorities, believing it a suicide, have not fully investigated the circumstances of the sex trafficker’s death.

    Now a private forensic pathologist hired by Mark Epstein to monitor his brother’s autopsy has offered an opinion that bolsters what conspiracy theorists have suggested for months: that the available evidence does not support the finding that Jeffrey Epstein killed himself.

    Dr. Michael Baden, one of the world’s leading forensic pathologists, viewed Jeffrey Epstein’s body and was present at the autopsy — held Aug. 11, the day after Epstein was found dead at the notorious Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan.

    In an interview with the Miami Herald, Baden described Epstein’s jail cell, the ligature he allegedly used to hang himself, and his own suspicions that federal authorities have not conducted a thorough probe into Epstein’s cause and manner of death.

    Perhaps the No. 1 sign that Epstein was murdered involve the number of fractures found in his neck. Writes Brown:

    “They rushed the body out of the jail, which they shouldn’t do because that destroys the evidence,’’ Baden told the Herald.

    “The brother, Mark, doesn’t think it was suicide — he is concerned it might be murder. It’s 80 days now and if, in fact, it is a homicide, other people might be in jeopardy,’’ Baden said.

    Baden’s observations . . . include that Epstein suffered multiple fractures in his neck — injuries he said are more consistent with strangulation than suicide by hanging. Epstein, who was found dead Aug. 10, had three fractures on the left and right sides of his larynx, Baden said.

    He told the Herald that it is rare for any bones to be broken in a hanging, let alone for multiple bones to be fractured.

    “Those fractures are extremely unusual in suicidal hangings and could occur much more commonly in homicidal strangulation,” said Baden, who added that there were hemorrhages in Epstein’s eyes that are also more common in strangulation than in hangings.

    His findings will likely fuel online conspiracy theories that have suggested, with no evidence, that Epstein was killed to keep him from incriminating other wealthy and powerful men involved in his sex trafficking crimes.

    Brown notes in her reporting the curious timing surrounding Epstein's death:

    On the day before his body was discovered, more than 2,000 pages of court documents were unsealed, revealing that one of Epstein’s young victims, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, had provided sworn testimony in a 2016 court case that Epstein directed her to have sex with a number of men who were prominent figures in politics, finance, science, academics and philanthropy.

    Those men have all denied her allegations. But the timing of Epstein’s death, coming just weeks after federal authorities claimed he had previously tried to kill himself at the jail, raised further questions as to why Epstein — one of the most high-profile inmates imaginable — wasn’t being monitored more closely.

    New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson, who made the official finding of suicide, fired back at Baden's conclusions:

    Baden’s opinion contradicted New York City Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson, who ruled Epstein’s cause of death to be a suicide by hanging.

    Sampson, in a statement . . . , said she is confident in her conclusion that Epstein hanged himself.

    “Our investigation concluded that the cause of Mr. Epstein’s death was hanging and the manner of death was suicide. We stand by that determination. We continue to share information around the medical investigation with Mr. Epstein’s family, their representatives, and their pathology consultant. The original medical investigation was thorough and complete. There is no reason for a second medical investigation by our office.”

    Baden does not share Sampson's certainty. From the Herald report:

    Baden told the Herald that the pathologist who actually conducted the autopsy, Dr. Kristin Roman, also had trouble determining that Epstein hanged himself, and initially determined that the manner of death was “pending.’’

    “The autopsy did not support suicide,’’ Baden said. “That’s what she put down. Then Dr. Sampson changed it a week later, manner of death to suicide. The brother has been trying to find out why that changed. … What was the evidence?”

    Sampson has not released the full autopsy report.

    It's possible Sampson has access to evidence she has not shared with Baden, but years of experience have taught Baden that prison death scenes can easily be manipulated:

    Baden acknowledged that there could be additional evidence that led to Sampson’s conclusion that she has not shared with him or Epstein’s brother.

    Baden, 85, who once led the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, has participated in some of the country’s most infamous death investigations, including the congressional inquiry into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

    For nearly five decades, Baden has also been a member of a New York state commission that reviews deaths in the state’s prisons, and knows how crime scenes within the isolation of prisons can be tainted and even staged.

    “There’s always concern that if the only reporting you are getting is from those involved in the care of that inmate that it may be biased,’’ Baden said.

    What about other possible irregularities in the Epstein investigation? Writes Brown:

    In this case, Baden said he saw a photograph of Epstein’s cell after his body was removed. It showed a ligature fashioned from an orange bed sheet on the floor of the cell. Baden said he was told — but shown no written report — that a corrections officer found Epstein’s body, on his knees, with the orange ligature around his neck, tied to the top bunk in his cell.

    He pointed out that authorities have only the word of the people in the jail as to what happened, and his impression is that the officers were not forthcoming.

    “He was stone-cold dead when they found him,’’ Baden said. “He had been dead for three hours. Rigor mortis set in, and it was apparent he was dead, yet they called EMS and didn’t photograph how the body was found.’’

    Baden said Sampson’s conclusion sends a message that there is no need to look further into how Epstein died.

    Mark Epstein, Epstein’s only sibling and his next of kin, has been frustrated that he has not been able to obtain the EMS report or the hospital report, Baden said.

    “I’d like additional information. Whose DNA is on the ligature? Was the FBI able to get any information from the jail cell’s video and hall video? Did they find it shows him hanging himself up or someone unauthorized went into the cell from the hallway? Did the FBI interview any of the inmates? Did they interview any of the guards who were allegedly asleep?’’

    Baden said that these are all questions that should be answered before concluding that Epstein committed suicide. And he said questions about the federal facility’s apparent security lapses should also be a factor to explore.

    Following the autopsy, it was revealed that the two prison officers who were assigned to monitor Epstein at 30-minute intervals fell asleep and that at least some of the security cameras in the wing were not operating.

    Baden, who has conducted more than 20,000 autopsies, said that in 50 years he has never had a prison death where two corrections officers fell asleep, nor has he ever had a case where three bones were broken in an alleged suicide by hanging.

    He said that in hangings most deaths occur as a result of compression or obstruction of the carotid arteries in the neck, which would restrict blood flow to the brain, causing death. The fact that Epstein suffered fractures suggests that force was used, he said.

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    Authorities in Oxon Hill, MD, are searching for a suspect in the fatal stabbing of a man, who reportedly cut in on a line of customers waiting to order the wildly popular chicken sandwich at a Popeyes restaurant and wound up dead in the parking lot a few seconds later.

    The "Death by Chicken Sandwich" story is one of those nutty postmodern news items that leave you not sure if you should laugh or cry. We predict the story will get even nuttier when creative lawyers start filing lawsuits for torts like premises liability, wrongful death, negligence,"failure to protect against hungry hordes," and "failure to provide security for customers seeking fast-food delicacy."

    Some early reports had not-quite-accurate headlines like "Man stabbed to death after argument over Popeyes' chicken sandwich." The argument actually was over cutting in line -- but, of course, there would have been no line if the sandwich wasn't so damned good -- it has received rave reviews in Southern Living and The New Yorker, with the latter proclaiming it would "save America."

    (Full disclosure: I've had the spicy version of the Popeyes sandwich on three occasions, and my verdict is that it is, in fact, a fine and tasty concoction. Is it worth all the fuss? Well, I wouldn't kill anybody over it . . . I don't think.)

    This is only one of several reports about violence at Popeyes locations since the company started serving such a damned good sandwich back in the summer. TMZ has video of a drive-thru beat down and a scuffle among workers. Business Insider reports that restaurant employees have received threats from customers after running out of the sandwiches, and one customer even pulled a gun in such a situation. In another incident, armed robbers stormed a Popeyes in Houston and demanded employees make them chicken sandwiches.

    What happened on Monday night at the Maryland establishment? Here's how The Washington Post describes it:

    About three dozen people packed into the busy Popeyes in Oxon Hill, Md., on Monday night, with many of them waiting to order one of the fast-food restaurant’s popular chicken sandwiches.

    One man entered the store before 7 p.m., and over 15 minutes “methodically” cut ahead of people in line until reaching the front counter, Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said Tuesday. But before he could buy the meal he intended to get, an argument broke out between him and a man who confronted him about skipping the line, Stawinski said.

    Within 15 seconds after words were exchanged, police said, a fight spilled out into the parking lot of the restaurant, leaving the man who had been line-jumping fatally stabbed.

    The killing of the man, who police identified Tuesday as Kevin Tyrell Davis, 28, of Oxon Hill, left authorities stunned over the “pointless” violence as they continued to search for the assailant.

    Friends and family members describe Davis as . . . well, just an impossibly swell guy. From The Post:

    Outside of Davis’s home Tuesday evening, family members gathered in mourning. They declined to give their names or speak to the specifics of what occurred Monday night but said they did not think the altercation was over a sandwich.

    “He was awesome,” a cousin said. “It surely wasn’t over no chicken sandwich. It was senseless.”

    “He was a great young guy trying to get his life together like all young people,” said a woman who identified herself as an aunt. “He was a great kid.”

    My thoughts? If Davis was so "great" and "awesome," why did he think it was a good idea to cut in line ... anywhere, much less at Popeyes, where they serve damned fine sandwiches? Having been the victim of line-cutters a time or two in life, I consider them to be among the most thoughtless and boorish cretins on the planet. If Davis had anything besides chickpeas between his ears, he should have known that in any public situation --  in the era of Trump, the NRA, and "Moscow Mitch" -- several somebodies are likely to be armed with military-grade weaponry. That almost makes cutting in line an act of suicide.

    Would I kill somebody for cutting in line? Well, I haven't yet. In the future, it probably will depend on how good a sandwich I'm waiting for.

    Suspect in the Popeyes stabbing
    Maryland authorities have released a clear photo of the alleged assailant, so the criminal side of the Popeyes story should be resolved fairly quickly. As for the civil side, I can envision attorneys batting out complaints that allege Popeyes should have seen this coming and provided security for customers daring to order a chicken sandwich. I also can foresee lawyers breaking out that old legal chestnut, premises liability, which essentially holds that a property owner can be held accountable for injuries sustained on his property -- even if he had nothing to do with hurting anyone.

    My wife, Carol, and I know firsthand about the challenges of premises liability. It's the No. 1 reason we resisted when our criminally inclined neighbor (and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama employee) Mike McGarity -- and a revolving cast of dozens of kids, most unknown to us -- sought to turn our yard into their playground. It didn't help that McGarity had placed his fence on our yard, essentially stealing roughly 400 square feet of our property, and he showed no sign initially of giving it back -- and he never has paid us for the expenses we incurred because of his "mistake." Here's what I wrote in a previous post on the subject:

    Why did such issues confront us? We had the misfortune of having a man named Mike McGarity move in next door to us in late 1998. McGarity has the trappings of a standard-issue suburban dad -- a wife, two kids, a job at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama. But his belligerent and threatening tone, which we encountered regularly, hinted that something dark was going on. We eventually learned that McGarity, in fact, has at least eight criminal convictions in his background.

    And yet, this menacing fellow decided he, his kids, his kids' friends, other adults, and a veritable cast of thousands (other neighborhood kids, many of whom we didn't know, didn't know their parents) should be able to turn our yard into a playground -- without bothering to ask for our permission. When I instructed McGarity to keep himself and his minions off our property, I was greeted with "I'm going to sue you for harassment" and "We're going to keep on coming."

    Why was that a concern, aside from the fact McGarity had proven he's an ass, the kind of person we didn't want to deal with? (When asked to control the ear-splitting barking of his coonhound dog, McGarity's reply: "You just need to get ear plugs."). Well, it involved . . . legal issues . . .

    One such issue is called "premises liability." Here is how findlaw.com defines it:

    When someone enters your property, they have a reasonable expectation of not getting injured. This means that you, as a property owner (or non-owner resident), are responsible for maintaining a relatively safe environment. This is known as "premises liability." For example, a courier delivering a package may sue you for injuries if he slips and falls on an oil slick in the driveway.

    Is this a legitimate legal concern? One could argue that it shouldn't be because it seems patently unfair, but yes, it is real. And it sure as hell was a concern to us:

    What if McGarity, or another adult or child from his yard, had slipped and fallen on our property? The injured party likely would have sued us, even if we had maintained a safe environment. (Note: McGarity had already hinted that he was a litigious sort, threatening to sue us for harassment because we tried to exercise our right to keep him off our yard. This just added to the mountain of reasons we did not want him, or anyone affiliated with him, coming on our yard.)

    What if a child had fallen on our concrete driveway and sustained serious head trauma? Our insurance rates likely would have skyrocketed, and we might have been dropped as an insured altogether.

    Premises liability cases, under Alabama law, involve numerous variables, so its hard to predict the outcome of a particular case. But even if the homeowner prevails in court, the defense of such a lawsuit is likely to be expensive and might still count as a mark against you with an insurance company. The best idea is to try to prevent injuries on your property, and that's exactly what we tried to do.

    A Popeyes spokesperson already seems to be thinking of lawsuits, as seen from this reporting at TMZ, which indicates the company has no plans to remove the famed chicken sandwich from its menu -- at least until a few more homicides occur on its premises:

    Popeyes' wildly popular chicken sandwich will remain on menus nationwide, despite the chaos it's causing at several locations ... including a fatal stabbing.

    A rep for the fried chicken fast-food chain tells TMZ the sandwich is still available ... meaning it's not being pulled in the wake of scattered mayhem erupting across the country since its return to the menu this week. . . .

    The chicken chain says the safety of its employees and customers is always a priority, and franchisees have worked to boost staffing during this craze to be ready to serve guests quickly and safely.

    It adds that most Popeyes restaurants are franchised and "additional onsite security matters are handled by the franchisees."

    Ah, so franchisees are the responsible parties? I'm sure they will be delighted the company shared this information with . . . oh, everybody on the Web. As for Popeyes itself, that defense is known -- in the trade -- as "Dear God, please sue the other guy!"

    We will strive to keep track of how well that works. If I were working for Popeyes' insurance company, I would prepare to start writing out checks.

    That reminds me . . . all of this journalism stuff is making me hungry. Think I need a spicy chicken sandwich -- and nobody had better get in my way.

    Check out this video of people fighting at Popeyes:

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    Jerry Harmison
    Perjury by law-enforcement officers was at the heart of a recent $19-million jury verdict in an employment-discrimination case brought by a veteran, gay cop in St. Louis County, Missouri. In that instance, the target of false testimony -- Keith Wildhaber, who was told to "tone down your gayness -- came out on top, and cop witnesses are being investigated for perjury.

    We have seen the flip side of such shenanigans in an up-close way. It came in the bogus "assault on a law-enforcement officer" case that Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott and Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson brought against my wife, Carol, as a way of covering for cop thugs who broke Carol's arm during an eviction where they had no lawful grounds to even be on our rented property. Officer Scott Harrison clearly committed perjury, and three of his colleagues made statements under oath that were wildly at odds with their accounts of the incident in written reports.

    The law is clear -- at both the state and national levels -- that a verdict based on perjury cannot stand. Missouri judge Jerry Harmison Jr. should know that, of course, but we learned a long time ago that you never can assume a judge knows the law. That prompted my wife, Carol, to file a post-trial Motion to Vacate Judgment That Was Procured by Fraud, Perjury, etc. after Harmison wrongfully had found her guilty of assault on a law enforcement officer.

    Unfortunately, we also have learned that you never can assume a judge who has been informed of the law will apply it correctly. So, we were not remotely surprised when Harmison either failed to read Carol's motion or chose to ignore its contents -- upholding a verdict that was unlawful on multiple grounds, including the fact it was based largely on perjured testimony from Greene County deputy Scott Harrison.

    How serious is this matter? Under Missouri law, perjury is a fraud on the court, and Deputy Harrison is subject to criminal prosecution for it.

    At oral argument on Carol's six post-trial motions, Harmison did not even mention the perjury issue. Perhaps that's because he knew it could not be disputed that Harrison made at least one false statement under oath -- and it clearly was material, meaning it constituted perjury. Harmison's refusal to address the issue of fraudulent testimony -- and Carol's trial was riddled with it, from all four cop-witnesses the state called -- was a signal that the judge's main goal was to protect law-enforcement types who brought a bogus criminal case against Carol in an effort to cover up the excessive force that caused them to break her arm.

    In fact, we've uncovered evidence that Harmison was trying to protect one of his family members, son-in-law Ryan Olson, who was a member of the prosecutorial team that brought charges against Carol without the slightest hint of probable cause. In other words, Harmison was trying to defend his own nest -- which means he was disqualified from hearing the case, and his rulings are due to be vacated.

    As for perjury, Carol addressed it in item No. 6 of her post-trial Motion to Vacate . . . For Fraud, Perjury, etc. (Harmison's judgment, Carol's motion, and video evidence that Harrison committed perjury are embedded at the end of this post.) Here is relevant law at the state level:

    In Missouri, perjury is considered a fraud on the court, and a trial court is not limited in its ability to set aside a judgment procured by fraud. From In Re Marriage of Clark, 813 S.W.2d 123 (1991): “Where there is fraud upon the court, Rule 74.06 does not limit the power or time of the court to entertain an independent action to relieve a party from a judgment. Rule 74.06(d); McKarnin v. McKarnin, 795 S.W.2d 436, 439 (Mo.App.1990). . . .

    Although the rule makes no distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic fraud, see Rule 74.06(b)(2), intrinsic fraud is the use of perjured testimony or fabricated evidence. McKarnin, 795 S.W.2d at 439. "Extrinsic" fraud is fraud which induces a party to default or consent to the judgment. Id.

    In other words, Harrison committed an intrinsic fraud upon the court, and there is no time limit for Carol to bring an independent action seeking relief.

    Scott Harrison
    The U.S. Supreme Court also has weighed in on the matter, as Carol points out in No. 9 of her motion (citations omitted):

    The nation’s highest court long has held that the kind of perjured, false, and fabricated evidence present here requires a trial court to vacate a guilty verdict. From Napue v. Illinois, 360 US 264 (Supreme Court, 1959): “First, it is established that a conviction obtained through use of false evidence, known to be such by representatives of the State, must fall under the Fourteenth Amendment. . . . The same result obtains when the State, although not soliciting false evidence, allows it to go uncorrected when it appears. . . . 

    The nation's highest court held in Napue that false testimony does not just shatter the credibility of the witness in question; it taints the whole process:

    The principle that a State may not knowingly use false evidence, including false testimony, to obtain a tainted conviction, implicit in any concept of ordered liberty, does not cease to apply merely because the false testimony goes only to the credibility of the witness. The jury's estimate of the truthfulness and reliability of a given witness may well be determinative of guilt or innocence, and it is upon such subtle factors as the possible interest of the witness in testifying falsely that a defendant's life or liberty may depend. 
    As stated by the New York Court of Appeals in a case very similar to this one, People v. Savvides, 1 N. Y. 2d 554, 557; 136 N. E. 2d 853, 854-855; 154 N. Y. S. 2d 885, 887:"It is of no consequence that the falsehood bore upon the witness' credibility rather than directly upon defendant's guilt. A lie is a lie, no matter . . . what its subject, and, if it is in any way relevant to the case, the district attorney has the responsibility and duty to correct what he knows to be false and elicit the truth. . . . That the district attorney's silence was not the result of guile or a desire to prejudice matters little, for its impact was the same, preventing, as it did, a trial that could in any real sense be termed fair."

    Harrison was not the only cop-witness who made sketchy statements under oath in Carol's trial. The other three -- Jeremy Lynn, Debi Wade, and Christian Conrad -- also made such statements.

    Is it any wonder Carol wrongfully was found guilty of a crime, even the so-called "victim" (Officer Jeremy Lynn) admitted she did not commit.

    The Keith Wildhaber case teaches that certain cops have no qualms about making false statements under oath. The Wildhaber case was a civil matter, as opposed to the criminal case that faced Carol -- and Wildhaber was fortunate to come out on top, to the tune of $19 million, in his case. But Carol's experience shows lying cops can cause an innocent person to be convicted, and we see no sign that cops care in the least if that happens.

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    Stephen Miller and Jeff Sessions

    What will it take for Alabama voters to finally grasp that former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is a racist who surrounds himself with like-minded staffers. That question comes to mind after revelations yesterday that Donald Trump adviser Stephen Miller, whose rise to power included a stint working for Sessions, engaged in extensive email exchanges with right-wing Breitbart News editors that reflect racist and white-nationalist views.

    The story originated with the Hatewatch section of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), based in Montgomery, AL, and came roughly one week after Sessions announced he will try to regain his Senate seat in the 2020 election. It quickly spread to mainstream news sites, such as Newsweek, which carried the headline "LEAKED STEPHEN MILLER EMAILS TO BREITBART DIRECTED RACE, ANTI-IMMIGRANT NEWS COVERAGE":

    Leaked emails from White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller from 2015-2016 reveal an obsession with white nationalism, the Confederacy and the denigration of black and Hispanic communities.

    More than 900 private emails between Miller and Breitbart News were examined by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hatewatch section, revealing that 80 percent of the messages pertained to race or immigration. The emails sent between March 2015 and June 2016 straddle Miller's time as an aide to then-Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions and his later role on as a senior adviser for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign. Miller's emails tout eugenics and white nationalist conspiracy theories and offer news tips to Breitbart on how to cover immigration and amplify stories about black and Hispanic crime.

    Katie McHugh, the former Breitbart editor who leaked the emails to Hatewatch, told the SPLC that "what Stephen Miller sent to me in those emails has become policy at the Trump administration." McHugh, who publicly renounced her alt-right ties and beliefs in an interview with Buzzfeed News, was fired from Breitbart in 2017 for an anti-Muslim tweet.

    Miller's conversations with McHugh and the Breitbart editors show him suggesting story ideas as well as directing the right-wing publication on how to report anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim news narratives. The now-senior Trump administration adviser who has been instrumental in crafting the president's immigration policies delves into topics ranging from Central American refugees to Nazi literature.

    The SPLC report, with the title "Stephen Miller’s Affinity for White Nationalism Revealed in Leaked Emails," shines light on the sources of Miller's extremist ideology:

    In the run-up to the 2016 election, White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller promoted white nationalist literature, pushed racist immigration stories and obsessed over the loss of Confederate symbols after Dylann Roof’s murderous rampage, according to leaked emails reviewed by Hatewatch.

    The emails, which Miller sent to the conservative website Breitbart News in 2015 and 2016, showcase the extremist, anti-immigrant ideology that undergirds the policies he has helped create as an architect of Donald Trump’s presidency. These policies include reportedly setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, an executive order effectively banning immigration from five Muslim-majority countries and a policy of family separation at refugee resettlement facilities that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General said is causing “intense trauma” in children.

    In this, the first of what will be a series about those emails, Hatewatch exposes the racist source material that has influenced Miller’s visions of policy. That source material, as laid out in his emails to Breitbart, includes white nationalist websites, a “white genocide”-themed novel in which Indian men rape white women, xenophobic conspiracy theories and eugenics-era immigration laws that Adolf Hitler lauded in Mein Kampf.

    Issues beyond race, immigration, and crime seem to hold little interest for Miller:

    Hatewatch reviewed more than 900 previously private emails Miller sent to Breitbart editors from March 4, 2015, to June 27, 2016. Miller does not converse along a wide range of topics in the emails. His focus is strikingly narrow – more than 80 percent of the emails Hatewatch reviewed relate to or appear on threads relating to the subjects of race or immigration. Hatewatch made multiple attempts to reach the White House for a comment from Miller about the content of his emails but did not receive any reply. 
    Miller’s perspective on race and immigration across the emails is repetitious. When discussing crime, which he does scores of times, Miller focuses on offenses committed by nonwhites. On immigration, he touches solely on the perspective of severely limiting or ending nonwhite immigration to the United States. Hatewatch was unable to find any examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born.

    Most of Miller's missives were sent with taxpayer-funded resources, while he worked for Jeff Sessions:

    Miller used his government email address as an aide to then-Sen. Jeff Sessions in the emails Hatewatch reviewed. He sent the majority of the emails Hatewatch examined before he joined Trump’s campaign in January 2016 and while he was still working for Sessions. Miller also used a personal Hotmail.com address in the emails and did so both before and after he started working for Trump. Hatewatch confirmed the authenticity of Miller’s Hotmail.com address through an email sent from his government address in which he lists it as his future point of contact:

    “I am excited to announce that I am beginning a new job as Senior Policy Advisor to presidential candidate Donald J. Trump,” Miller wrote from his government email on Jan. 26, 2016, to an undisclosed group of recipients. “Should you need to reach me, my personal email address is [redacted].”

    How ugly was some of the material Miller shared via public resources? SPLC provides examples:

    Miller sent a story from the white nationalist website VDARE to McHugh on Oct. 23, 2015, the emails show. White nationalist Peter Brimelow founded VDARE in 1999. The website traffics in the “white genocide” or “great replacement” myth, which suggests that nonwhite people are systematically and deliberately wiping white people off the planet.

    McHugh started the email conversation by asking if Hurricane Patricia could drive refugees into the United States. The hurricane battered parts of Central America, Mexico and Texas, and the media heavily covered the storm. Miller replied to her by underscoring the possibility that Mexican survivors of the storm could be given temporary protected status (TPS), a George H.W. Bush-era policy that would enable them to live and work in the United States for a limited stay.

    The VDARE story by Steve Sailer, an anti-immigration activist who traffics in discredited race science, focused on instances in which the United States offered refugees temporary protected status. The article was posted the same day Miller shared it with McHugh.

    Here is another example of Miller's reading material:

    Miller recommended in a Sept. 6, 2015, email that Breitbart write about The Camp of the Saints, a racist French novel by Jean Raspail. Notably, The Camp of the Saints is popular among white nationalists and neo-Nazis because of the degree to which it fictionalizes the “white genocide” or “great replacement” myth into a violent and sexualized story about refugees.

    The novel’s apocalyptic plot centers on a flotilla of Indian people who invade France, led by a nonwhite Indian-born antagonist referred to as the “turd eater” – a character who literally eats human feces. In one section, a white woman is raped to death by brown-skinned refugees. In another, a nationalist character shoots and kills a pro-refugee leftist over his support of race mixing. The white nationalist Social Contract Press plucked the 1973 book from relative obscurity and distributed it in the United States.

    Perhaps, Alabamians should ponder this thought: Stephen Miller sent most of these emails, on the government dime, while working for Jeff Sessions. And that's the same Jeff Sessions the U.S. Senate rejected for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of his racist statements.

    The emails reveal Miller's fascination with Calvin Coolidge, who perhaps was America's most racist president, pre-Trump. Right-wing icon Ronald Reagan frequently cited Coolidge as his favorite president:

    Miller refers to President Calvin Coolidge multiple times in emails to Breitbart. Coolidge signed the Immigration Act of 1924. The legislation was based on eugenics and severely limited immigration from certain parts of the world into the United States. White nationalists lionize Coolidge, in part for his remarks condemning race mixing.

    “There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons,” Coolidge wrote in a 1921 magazine article, as quoted on American Renaissance. “Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. … Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.”

    In Mein Kampf, Hitler portrayed the U.S. law as a potential model for the Nazis in Germany. James Q. Whitman, the Ford Foundation professor of comparative and foreign law at Yale Law School, noted this detail in his book Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law
    “Absolutely, Hitler talks about the law in Mein Kampf,” Whitman told Hatewatch. “He suggests that the U.S. was the only country making the type of progress the Nazis were trying to establish.”

    Miller brings up Coolidge on Aug. 4, 2015, in the context of halting all immigration to America. Garrett Murch, who also was an aide to Sessions, starts the conversation by emailing McHugh, Miller and three other Breitbart employees, including Hahn, to note something he heard on a right-wing talk radio show . . .

    Another example of Miller mentioning Coolidge happens Sept. 13, 2015, when he criticizes Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham for appearing too sympathetic to refugees.

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    Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller

    How riddled with corruption is Alabama's Republican Party? Consider this mind-blowing set of facts: At roughly the same time the state's House speaker (Mike Hubbard), governor (Robert Bentley), and Supreme Court chief justice (Roy Moore) were forced from office due to allegations of misconduct, one of the state's U.S. senators (Jeff Sessions) had a staffer (Stephen Miller) who, using taxpayer-funded resources, was promoting white supremacist literature and talking points to the right-wing Web site Breitbart News.

    That is five Republicans -- who engaged in or allowed -- alleged activities that were criminal, dishonest, unlawful, despicable, or some combination of all those. We can put all of these acts under the broad category of "corruption," and they were committed by individuals who were elected or appointed to represent the State of Alabama.

    With Hubbard, Moore, and Bentley having already hit the exits, we are left with this question: Should Miller be fired or forced to resign from his current position as a policy adviser to President Donald Trump -- and should Sessions be pressured to back out of the 2020 GOP race for his old U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Democrat Doug Jones?

    The worst might be yet to come for Miller and Sessions. Wednesday's report about Miller's emails being leaked to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is just the first of an expected series of revelations based on roughly 900 emails. Upcoming installments might include much more damaging revelations than we've seen already, and they could answer this question: Did Miller act on his own or did he trade in white nationalist talking points with Sessions' knowledge and support? This is from an article at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    The report is the first installment in a series that draws on more than 900 leaked emails that Miller sent to a Breitbart writer over a 15-month period between 2015 and 2016. The report describes Miller's emails as overwhelmingly focused on race and immigration and characterizes him as obsessed with ideas like "white genocide" (a conspiracy theory associated with white supremacists) and sharply curbing immigration by nonwhites. 
    Among the more damming email exchanges highlighted in the SPLC report is one that shows Miller directing a Breitbart reporter (Katie McHugh) to aggregate stories from the white supremacist journal American Renaissance, or "AmRen," for stories that emphasize crimes committed by immigrants and nonwhites. In another, Miller is apparently upset that Amazon removed Confederate flag merchandise from its marketplace in the wake of the 2015 Charleston church massacre. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.) Others reportedly show him promoting The Camp of Saints, a racist French novel popular among white nationalists.

    Are even more damning revelations likely coming in future installments from the SPLC? Our guess is yes; we doubt the organization fired its strongest shots in the first article. While the public now probably associates Miller with Donald Trump, most of these actions happened on Jeff Sessions' watch, as driven home in this report from New York magazine:

    Nobody would mistake Stephen Miller for a humanitarian. The White House speechwriter is widely known to be the force shaping President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policies. Remember Trump’s Oval Office address in January, with its hyperbolic references to rapes, murders, and even dismemberment? That was all Miller, as McKay Coppins reported for The Atlantic at the time. Or the speech the president gave in Poland back in 2017? “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” Trump told a crowd in Warsaw. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” If that sounds too eloquent for Trump, you’re right. The words belonged to Miller. So, too, did many of Trump’s most outrageous immigration policies, like family separation, and his ongoing quest to end temporary protected status for thousands of refugees.

    None of this suggests that Trump is fully Miller’s puppet. Trump was a racist long before he became president and he campaigned on nationalist sentiments that Miller appears to share. But it is true that Miller has used the Trump White House to amplify his own, more developed notions about immigrants and race. A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center clarifies the source of Miller’s views. He isn’t just an immigration skeptic. He’s immersed in the white-nationalist movement, and has been at least since he worked for Jeff Sessions. . . .

    Miller’s white-nationalist sympathies aren’t limited to immigration. After Dylann Roof murdered black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, Miller was troubled by the prospect that Confederate monuments might disappear. In one message to McHugh, he wrote, “What do the [Confederate monument] vandals say to the people fighting and dying overseas in uniform right now who are carrying on a seventh or eighth generation of military service in their families, stretching back to our founding?” (The military might have its own white-nationalist problem, but as a matter of fact, it is not an all-white institution.) In a subsequent email, Miller wondered if the Spanish should thus be asked to stop displaying the country’s flag since it is, after all, a symbol of colonialism.

    On their own, the emails are incontrovertible proof that Miller is not only racist, but is conversant in and influenced by white-nationalist thought.

    Does the same hold true for Miller's boss at the time, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)? Future reporting from SPLC likely will make that clear.

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    Mike McGarity
    Many of our readers probably have felt they have been on the receiving end of a runaround at some point in their lives -- maybe from a retail store, a utility company, a bank, an auto mechanic's shop. I've certainly had such experiences, but I'm not sure I ever had truly been put through "the wash cycle" until I received a runaround from law enforcement.

    That experience left my head spinning and made me think I had been in the presence of runaround "greatness."

    It all grew from our former Alabama neighbor, the criminally inclined Mike McGarity (who works at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama), attacking me near the entrance of our neighborhood and hitting me in the back with a roadside sign. Alabama law is simple and clear about how it classifies what McGarity did. (See Code of Alabama 13A-6-21.) He committed a Class C felony, which is punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

    Such a punishment would be a stunner for most people. But given that McGarity already had eight misdemeanor convictions on his record, it might not have been a shock to him.

    Here is key element, under the law, to this incident. The bleeding abrasion -- I've called it a welt -- that McGarity left on my back was about 2-3 inches from my spine and 6 inches or so below my neck. What kind of damage could such a blow cause if my spine or neck -- any neurological center -- had taken the full force? I'm not qualified to make an assessment like that, but I feel safe in saying that severe blows to the spine and neck have been known to be life altering.

    McGarity committed a felony, under Alabama law, for two reasons: (1) He caused physical injury; (2) He used a "dangerous instrument" to do it. That is second-degree assault, a felony. Here is how a "dangerous instrument" is defined by statute, at Code of Alabama 13A-1-2

    (5) DANGEROUS INSTRUMENT. Any instrument, article, or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is highly capable of causing death or serious physical injury. The term includes a "vehicle," as that term is defined in subdivision (15).

    Note the key phrase "highly capable of causing death of serious physical injury." Here is the statutory definition of "serious physical injury":

    (14) SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY. Physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

    Could McGarity's roadside sign -- made of wood and hard plastic and swung with two hands like a baseball bat by a "grown man" (using that term loosely), at my spine and near my neck -- have caused "protracted impairment of health." I don't think there is any question the answer is yes. The whole scenario still causes me to have visions of at least partial paralysis, with wheelchairs, crutches, and similar devices becoming a regular feature of my life. As we show below, Alabama case law has come to define "dangerous instrument" in a fairly broad way, with dozens of objects receiving that classification in cases where people were injured.

    For now, let's return to the runaround. It started when I tried to get "law officials" in Shelby County to properly classify the offense as a felony. I spoke with an assistant district attorney, a magistrate, and three sheriff's officials (a patrol deputy, a sergeant, and a lieutenant). No matter how clearly Alabama law said otherwise, each one insisted McGarity's offense was a misdemeanor.

    The whole circus began with Dept. Lee Stockman, who came to our house to take a report. When I obtained a copy of the report a few days later, I noticed that he had classified it as a misdemeanor, so I called him.

    (Note: Stockman went on to complete a degree at Birmingham School of Law and worked as an associate attorney at the Law Office of Patrick E. Kennedy, P.C. in Pelham. Stockman died in October 2017, and I have not been able to find a cause of death via public reports.)

    Stockman stated that he classified it as a misdemeanor in his original report -- and everybody up the line was unwilling to change it, no matter how wrong it was. (Video of my conversation with Dept. Stockman is embedded at the end of this post.) In other words, the least experienced and qualified person in the whole process -- a patrol officer -- made the misdemeanor determination, and all of his superiors took a "hear no evil, see no evil" approach when questioned about it.

    In essence, the assault wasn't against them, so they didn't care how it was treated. They just wanted what was easiest for the court system to deal with -- and a misdemeanor case goes to a bench trial before a district judge, and that is easy compared to a felony, which goes before a circuit judge and likely involves a jury.

    Here is a portion of my conversation with Stockman about his designation of a third-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor:

    Roger Shuler (RS): I don't understand how it was listed as third degree.

    Deputy Stockman (DS): You have to have intent to cause serious physical injury, and you have to cause serious physical injury.

    (RS): No. Read No. 2. It says with intent to cause physical injury. Doesn't say serious; that's what first degree says. . . .
    (RS): What did you base third degree on?
    (DS): The fact it's a scrape.

    (RS): No, you called it an abrasion in your report, and it was bleeding. I've got case law that says someone kicked in the shins, with a split lip, with a skin on the nose are all physical injury.

    DS: I based it on my experience in law enforcement.

    With that last line, we are getting at the truth. Stockman probably didn't even consult the law. He just put down what he had seen done in other Shelby County assault cases, never considering whether those designations were correct, under the law. I call it law enforcement by "folk lore." A department designates a classification of a case a certain way for several years, and it becomes departmental folk lore. That's how all such cases are classified, regardless of what the written law says.

    Also, I showed Stockman the abrasion on my back when he came to our home, but he apparently never considered that it was right next to my spine and just below my neck. Under the law, the damage that a "dangerous instrument" is capable of causing, depending on how it is used, is critical to proper classification of the offense. McGarity used his sign to hit me, at full force, near two areas that can cause life-changing injuries. Stockman apparently didn't know the law or didn't care to take note of where I had been hit.

    Speaking of written law, let's look at that.  The controlling law on the McGarity incident is Code of Alabama 13-A-6-21 (a) (2), which reads:

    (a) A person commits the crime of assault in the second degree if the person does any of the following:

    (2) With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he or she causes physical injury to any person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.

    That is assault-second degree, and it's a Class C felony. That is the correct designation for McGarity's offense.

    Assault-first degree is a Class B felony (Code of Alabama 13A-6-20), and it requires "serious physical injury." Serious physical injury has been defined as "Serious physical injury means physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ." The abrasion on my back did not qualify, so it could not be first-degree assault.

    Assault-third degree is a Class A misdemeanor (Code of Alabama 13A-6-22). That's how Stockman and his superiors insisted on classifying the McGarity offense, but that could not be right because here is how the statute reads in pertinent part:

    (a) A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if:

    (1) With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes physical injury to any person;  or

    (2) He recklessly causes physical injury to another person;  or

    (3) With criminal negligence he causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument;

    As you can see, third-degree assault generally applies in cases that do not involve use of a "deadly weapon" or "dangerous instrument" -- and do involve recklessness or criminal negligence. If McGarity and I had been in a crowded place, and he started swinging his arms around, and happened to strike me in the face (causing a bruise), that would have been assault-third degree.

    Lee Stockman
    But nothing like that occurred in this case. McGarity did use a dangerous instrument (a road sign), under Alabama law, and he grabbed it with both hands and swung it intentionally at me -- with no one else in the vicinity, and having a history of attempting to trample my rights. There was nothing reckless, negligent, or accidental about it; he meant to hit me, and he did hit me.

    As noted above, McGarity's offense was a felony for two key reasons: (1) He used a "dangerous instrument," under Alabama law; (2) He caused "physical injury," under Alabama law.

    We already have looked at relevant statutory law, but let's examine Alabama case law. Most of the relevant case law can be found at Burger v. State, 915 So. 2d 586 (2005) and Davis v. State, 470 So. 2d 1340 (Ala. Crim. App., 1985)

    In Davis, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals found that a stick, a tree limb, and a shoe were "deadly weapons or dangerous instruments" sufficient for a felony assault. The appellate court has made similar findings in other cases. In Austin v. State, 555 So. 2d 324 (Ala. Crim. App., 1989), the court found a piece of lumber (2 X 4) was a dangerous instrumentIn Helton v. State, 372 So. 2d 390 (Ala. Crim. App., 1979), the court cited cases where a large stone, a Coke bottle, a boot, and an aluminum chair were considered deadly weapons or dangerous instruments.

    What constitutes a physical injury. The Burger case makes it clear, and the bar is pretty low:

    Here, the testimony of the two officers was sufficient to establish that Officer Walker had suffered "physical injury." This court has held that the definition of physical injury includes a "black eye,"South v. City of Mountain Brook, 688 So. 2d 292, 297 (Ala.Crim.App.1996); a "busted lip" and "skint nose,"Eubanks v. State, 611 So. 2d 448, 450(Ala.Crim.App.1992); and several kicks in the groin that "hurt for a second,"Striplin v. City of Dothan, 607 So. 2d 1285, 1287 (Ala.Crim.App.1992).

    Did the bleeding abrasion on my back match the examples of "physical injury" outlined above in Burger? Yes. Did McGarity's roadside sign match the examples of "dangerous instruments" outlined in Davis, Austin, and Helton? Yes.

    Therefore, we are talking about a second-degree assault, which is a Class C felony.

    As for Deputy Stockman, he said he could tell that I was not going to be satisfied with his answers -- and he was right -- so he referred me to his supervisor, Sgt. Jayme Moore. That's where the runaround took on new dimensions.

    (To be continued)

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    Jeffrey Epstein

    Criminal charges are expected to be brought this week against two correctional officers who were responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein at the time of his death at a federal jail in New York City, according to a report from the Associated Press.In light of recent reports from an independent medical examiner that Epstein's injuries were more consistent with homicidal strangulation than suicide, the criminal process might bring the public closer to the truth about what happened to the financier and accused sex trafficker.

    From an article by AP reporters Michael Balsamo and Tom Hays:

    Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he took his own life are expected to face criminal charges this week for falsifying prison records, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

    The federal charges could come as soon as Tuesday and are the first in connection with Epstein’s death. The wealthy financier died at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

    The officers on Epstein’s unit at the federal jail in New York City are suspected of failing to check on him every half-hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to claim they had. Federal prosecutors offered the guards a plea bargain, but the AP reported Friday that the officers declined the deal.

    The Epstein case already has shown the federal correctional system is manned by overworked staffers, who often cut corners and fail to follow proper procedures. From AP:

    Both guards were working overtime because of staffing shortages. They have been placed on administrative leave while the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death. The 66-year-old had been awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

    Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found on his cell floor July 23 with bruises on his neck. Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail have said Epstein was then taken off suicide watch about a week before his death, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

    Epstein’s death exposed mounting evidence that the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Center may have bungled its responsibility to keep him alive. Guards often work overtime day after day, and other employees are pressed into service as correctional officers.

    Falsification of records might prove to be the central issue in a criminal case against the guards:

    Falsification of records has been a problem throughout the federal prison system. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who was named director of the Bureau of Prisons after Epstein’s death, disclosed in a Nov. 4 internal memo that a review of operations across the agency found some staff members failed to perform required rounds and inmate counts but logged that they had done so anyway.

    “Falsification of information in government systems and documents is also a violation of policy, and may be subject to criminal prosecution as well,” Hawk Sawyer wrote in the memo to top prison officials, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

    The memo also noted that staff members who are indicted by a grand jury will be placed on an indefinite, unpaid suspension until the resolution of the criminal case.

    Epstein’s ability to take his own life while incarcerated at one of the most secure jails in America ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures. And it sparked widespread anger that he wouldn’t have to answer for the allegations. He had pleaded not guilty and was preparing to argue that he could not be charged because of a 2008 deal he made to avoid federal prosecution on similar allegations.

    The Justice Department has vowed to aggressively investigate and bring charges against anyone who may have helped Epstein. Federal prosecutors investigating the financier’s death subpoenaed up to 20 staff members at the jail in August.

    Attorney General William Barr — who has said investigators found “serious irregularities” at the jail — said the FBI’s investigation had been slowed because some witnesses had been uncooperative.

    In addition to the shakeup at the top of the Bureau of Prisons, the warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center had also been reassigned to a desk post at a regional office.

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    Donald Trump, with a public impeachment inquiry closing in on his presidency, is showing signs of a "hypomanic episode," according to an academic psychologist who has led an effort to alert the public about Trump's apparently unstable mental status.

    Dr. John Gartner -- in an interview with Salon's Chauncey DeVega, which was republished at Raw Story under the headline "‘Deep inside, Donald Trump is a very empty and sad person’: Psychologist John Gartner warns the president is on the verge of a ‘hypomanic episode’" -- says Trump could act out in ways that are unpredictable for the country. Writes DeVega:

    Donald Trump is not acting like late-stage Richard Nixon — yet. The latter raged and wandered about the White House in a drunken state during the climax of the Watergate impeachment scandal. But as the impeachment process moves forward, there are indications that Trump is spiraling out of control and his closest aides are apparently unable to control him.

    Trump has lived almost his entire adult life without restraints on his behavior. The stress of the impeachment process, along with the growing sense that the 2020 election will be a referendum on a deeply unpopular presidency, are forcing a man who has already shown himself to be mentally unwell into a steep decline, perhaps into psychotic behavior.

    What about Gartner's credentials? DeVega lays them out:

    Dr. John Gartner is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and former professor at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Gartner is also the founder of the Duty to Warn PAC, an organization working to raise awareness about the danger to the United States and the world posed by Donald Trump. Gartner was a contributor to the 2017 bestseller “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” Along with two other mental health professionals, he wrote the recent USA Today op-ed proclaiming that “Trump’s rash Syria move looked like a ‘hypomanic episode.'” 
    I recently spoke with Gartner about Donald Trump’s mental state and the likelihood that impeachment will force the president to act out in even more dangerous and unpredictable ways. Gartner also explains the ways that Trump’s malignant narcissism manifests itself through sadistic pleasure, which may even be sexual in nature. Gartner also considers what will happen to Trump’s followers and their “fascist fever” when Trump is eventually no longer president of the United States.

    This conversation has been edited for clarity and length. You can also listen to my full conversation with Dr. John Gartner via this link.

    First, Gartner notes that Trump's behavior appears to go beyond any form of mania to something potentially more dangerous -- malignant narcissism:

    Q: If Donald Trump were your patient, how would you evaluate his behavior over the last year or so? Is Donald Trump’s behavior devolving, as predicted by the medical literature?

    A: Yes, but in ways that I think are even more ominous than when we spoke almost a year ago. Trump is a malignant narcissist. Erich Fromm, the noted psychoanalyst who studied Nazi Germany — and the person who introduced the diagnosis of “narcissism” — explained that in such personalities their grandiosity, their narcissism, their paranoia, conspiracy theories, sociopathy, criminal behavior and sadism all go into overdrive when they get power. Those traits are also inflamed when a narcissist is challenged or attacked.

    And there is a feedback loop as well, where because they’re gaining power — which inflames their narcissism and their paranoia and their freedom to act on their criminal impulses — of course that means there will be opposition and resistance to them. Narcissists like Donald Trump then demonize and try to brutalize and invalidate anyone who does not kiss his ring. Trump has systematically eliminated every single guardrail on his power and behavior in the White House.

    There is literally nobody, not one person, who can tell him “no” right now, intervene against him. But there is another element to Trump’s dangerous behavior that we should be paying very close attention to. I believe that Donald Trump is having a hypomanic episode.

    Dr. John Gartner
    Many reporters and journalists have described Trump’s recent behavior as manic. Concerned observers highlight Trump’s tweets, which have greatly increased in number.

    A hypomanic episode is not the same as a manic episode. “Manic” is only partially accurate in describing Donald Trump because when somebody is manic, they think they’re Jesus Christ, which means they are psychotic and usually end up in the psychiatric hospital. But when someone’s hypomanic, they become more agitated, more energized, more impulsive. They act out more aggressively with poorer judgment. A hypomanic person does not listen to anybody. They do not delay their activity. They do not accept feedback from anybody else.

    This means that a hypomanic person can act quickly, impulsively and urgently, with poor judgment, in ways that will have predictably catastrophic consequences. A person with that temperament can, in moments of stress, devolve into something that is a psychiatric disorder. Essentially, everything gets accelerated for the worst. This is what we are now seeing with Donald Trump. When this will really become an even greater crisis — a crescendo in his dangerous behavior — is when Donald Trump starts making catastrophic moves internationally. He could start a war.

    Q: Trump’s speech after the Delta Force commandos killed al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, was utterly unpresidential. It was crass and disturbing. He was truly in his element.

    A: Note Trump’s lies and grandiosity. Of course, he claims that he destroyed ISIS. He has said things such as “I’m the chosen one.” It is malignant narcissism and grandiosity, which has become more extreme.

    It is very alarming that Trump’s dysfunctional behavior is getting worse — even by earlier standards, which were very alarming. For example, Trump made a catastrophic decision to impulsively withdraw the U.S. military from Syria which leaves the Kurds to face genocide. He literally picked up the phone, talked to the president of Turkey, and without consulting or informing even one human being in his own administration, literally at 3:00 a.m. and called the military and said, “Start withdrawing from Syria.” That is a manic style of decision-making. It did start a war. There is always that narrative about a president’s leadership and the 3 a.m. phone call about a global crisis as the test of his leadership. Well, in this case Donald Trump is the crisis. He is the 3 a.m. phone call.

    Q: What do we do in a moment where it is the president of the United States who is the greatest danger to the nation and the world?

    A: It’s not that Donald Trump is the greatest danger to the world, but that he is so much more erratic and desperate, and more driven now to act out in destructive ways to feel powerful.

    Q: Donald Trump was booed during the World Series. The same thing happened when he went to Madison Square Garden to attend a UFC event. During the baseball game Trump looked like a man about to explode in rage and tears. In such a moment, how does a malignant narcissist such as Donald Trump resolve the obvious public scorn, when he imagines himself as being universally loved?

    A: Reality has always been fluid for Donald Trump. Erich Fromm said that malignant narcissists live on the boundary between sanity and insanity. This is a state almost akin to being in the middle between psychosis and neurosis. Because Donald Trump is such an inveterate liar and con man, the American people and the world do not know if Trump is just trying to con everybody or if he actually believes the crazy conspiracy theories that he touts, or crazy grandiose things such as the claim that he won the popular vote, or that he is cheered instead of being booed at public events.

    I believe that Donald Trump may just be lying and at other times he may be delusional. It shifts back and forth. People who have this level of severe personality disorder must psychologically project everything bad outward. They can never be to blame. They’re always the victim. Someone else is always to blame. They can’t own up to the bad things that they’re doing, so they must externalize the blame. People like Trump end up accusing other people of the very thing within themselves that they cannot tolerate or acknowledge.

    Q: At his rallies and other events Trump often claims that the Democrats don’t respect the Constitution: “They’re traitors, they’re treasonous. The Democrats have conducted a coup.” Does Trump actually believe that, or is that all outward projection of his own internalized guilt?

    A: Donald Trump is incapable of feeling guilt, shame or remorse. But Trump does project externally onto others what he knows is within himself. Sometimes it’s unconscious, though, so Trump is not aware that he’s projecting. Donald Trump does not feel any compunction about lying. Donald Trump cannot tolerate anything negative about himself, therefore he needs to experience it as coming from the outside where he is the innocent victim.

    Q: Several weeks ago, Trump publicly said that his wife, Melania, would not be willing to take a bullet for him. Was that a moment of honesty about their relationship?

    A: Donald Trump is a person who really is incapable of thinking of relationships as being anything but transactional. I don’t believe that Trump has a single human being in the world who actually feels affection for him or likes him and where he in turn returns the favor. There’s no human being that Donald Trump likes, unless they are helping Trump or doing something useful for him at a given moment. But the minute that person stops being useful, they cease to exist to Donald Trump.

    If you look at malignant narcissistic leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam Hussein and others, they all act in that way. Unless you are a slavish toady, such personalities will eventually see you as an enemy. This is what we’ve seen with Trump’s systematic purging of people in the White House. Anyone who does not put the Great Leader above all other things — in this case, above American democracy — is purged. And that is how you get a totalitarian state.

    Q: Trump has really normalized deviance. At one of his recent rallies he even pretended to have an orgasm on stage while re-enacting a sex act. There is a deeply libidinal connection between Donald Trump and his cult members. This is an aspect of fascism which is little understood by the general public and most in the news media.

    Trump experiences great pleasure from sadism. One of the four components of narcissism is sadism, getting pleasure — maybe even sexual pleasure — from degrading, humiliating and harming your enemies.

    Q: What about Trump’s threats of both explicit and implied lethal violence against the Democrats, the whistleblower and other people who dare to oppose him?

    What would Trump be like if he didn’t have the restraints from the remnants of the United States Constitution or the Democrats in the House of Representatives? We have to wonder how many immigrants would be in concentration camps right now. How many FBI agents and Democrats and journalists would be in jail?

    A: Donald Trump would not mind seeing some journalists killed. I don’t think Trump sees the deaths of journalists as a bad thing. In totalitarian states like Russia, journalists are killed and the opposition is jailed. The courts are used to put people in jail for “corruption” when they dare to challenge the real corruption of the state. Donald Trump would be as bad as any of the other totalitarian leaders throughout history if he had the chance and the unrestricted power.

    Q: The New York Times has analyzed approximately 11,000 of Trump’s tweets. Reading them as a mental health professional, what do Trump’s tweets reveal?

    A: The most frequent use of Trump’s tweets is to attack people. There’s almost a manic level to Trump’s rage. The other most common category was self-praise. Trump is a malignant narcissist. He’s shamelessly grandiose. Trump’s paranoia is inflamed and all these behaviors and traits are getting dramatically worse because he’s destabilized.

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    Oliver Robinson

    Alabama's Drummond Company and Balch Bingham law firm allegedly conspired in schemes to launder money and  conceal payments designed to lobby the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against designating an area in North Birmingham as a Superfund site, according to a third amended complaint in a lawsuit filed by a former Drummond executive.

    David Roberson, former VP of government affairs, essentially became the fall guy for Drummond in the summer 2018 bribery trial. But Roberson is fighting back in the civil arena, and according to a report from the banbalch.com Web site, that action is producing revelations that could lead to more corruption probes at two of Alabama's largest corporate and legal entities. From banbalch.com:

    A new third amended complaint from ex-Drummond Company executive David Roberson sheds new light on internal matters that could provoke more corruption probes of Drummond Company.

    First up: the targeting of poor black children with a “coat drive” looks like it was a way to launder more money to convicted felon and bought-and-paid-for politician Oliver Robinson.

    Using a coat drive for poor black children to launder money headed for the pocket of a corrupt politician? Can the stench of corruption get any more hideous than that? This is directly from the amended complaint in the Roberson lawsuit:

    As part of its public relations campaign to defeat the EPA in North Birmingham and at the request of Joel Gilbert of Balch Bingham, David Roberson, on behalf of Drummond Company, wrote a $5,000.00 check to be used to purchase 100 fifty-dollar gift cards to Burlington Coat Factory to be used to purchase winter coats for kids in North Birmingham.

    Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Roberson as Joel Gilbert concealed this information from the Plaintiff, Balch and Oliver Robinson had agreed for Oliver to keep $2,500.00 out of the $5,000.00. Plaintiff did not learn of this hidden fact until his criminal trial in July of 2018. Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of Balch’s concealment of it allowing Oliver to keep half of the $5,000.00 as the prosecution in Roberson’s criminal trial used this $2,500.00 payment to Oliver Robinson as damaging evidence against Roberson in his criminal trial to help it obtain a conviction against him.

    If that scam doesn't make you want to puke, try this one on for size, as reported by banbalch.com:

    But worse than that, are the revelations tied to Balch Bingham’s stooges Trey Glenn and Scott Phillips currently facing a criminal ethics trial in Jefferson County.

    How ugly are the details? From the amended Roberson complaint:
    Balch Bingham, LLP contracted with Trey Glenn (who invoiced Balch under the company name of Southeast Engineering Consulting, LLC and directed the payments to Scott Phillips) to lobby the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (or “ADEM”) to oppose the EPA in listing the North Birmingham site on the National Priorities List. The Balch invoices to Drummond seeking reimbursement for the payments to Trey Glenn and Scott Phillips were paid by Drummond General Counsel Blake Andrews and approved by Drummond CEO Mike Tracy. At the time that Scott Phillips and Trey Glenn were receiving money from Balch via Drummond to lobby ADEM on a policy matter involving the listing of North Birmingham as a Superfund site, Scott Phillips was on the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (or “AEMC”). The AEMC is the entity that oversees ADEM.

    Neither Glenn nor Phillips, while they were lobbying ADEM about it opposing the EPA’s listing of North Birmingham as a Superfund site, disclosed to ADEM the existence of their contract with Balch Bingham or that they were indirectly being paid by Drummond Company.
    Trey Glenn
    Balch and Drummond Company concealed from Roberson that Drummond was paying Phillips (who was on the AEMC), pursuant to a contract with Balch, to lobby the entity in which the AEMC supervises (ADEM). Roberson suffered damages as a result of Balch and Drummond’s concealment of their payments to Glenn and Phillips as their testimony that Drummond was paying Phillips to lobby ADEM when he was on the commission that supervises ADEM was very damaging to Roberson at his criminal trial and was used in part by the prosecution to convict Roberson even though he had no knowledge of this scheme and even though Glenn’s and Phillips’ invoices were being paid by Balch and reimbursed by Blake Andrews and Mike Tracy.

    If that sounds gross to you, it's probably because you have integrity -- something that is in short supply throughout Alabama's corporate/legal/political industrial complex. We give the last word to banbalch.com:

    The concealment is now out in the open.

    Shockingly, Drummond Company allegedly hid the money laundering and hid the secret greasing of Balch stooges from their then-Vice President of Government Affairs, David Roberson.

    Are the allegations potent enough to spur more probes from law enforcement and regulatory agencies of Drummond Company, retired Drummond CEO Mike Tracy and Drummond Company’s General Counsel Blake Andrews?

    Richard Mullen, the new CEO at Drummond, may have to mop up this mess before it floods the basement.

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    Donald Trump Jr. and his "best seller"

    The Republican National Committee's bulk purchase of Donald Trump Jr.'s new book apparently is the primary reason the author occupies the No. 1 spot on The New York Times' prestigious best-sellers list. It also points to possible fund-raising fraud and campaign-finance violations, both of which could have criminal implications -- and it suggests members of the Trump family are incapable of achieving anything in a straightforward, honest fashion. In other words, Trump Jr.'s book probably is a total piece of crap, but his cronies can help buy him the designation "best-selling author."

    We have covered this issue before in numerous posts (see here, here, and here), especially as it relates to former Missouri secretary of state and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander -- and efforts to buy a "best-selling author" spot for his wife, Diana. Jason Kander's political career seems to have stalled after he withdrew from the Kansas City mayoral race in fall 2018, citing depression and PTSD from his stint in the military. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer the real reason for the withdrawal likely is because he had been outed, via a citizen whistle blowers' document called The Kander Memo, as having ties to  various forms of fraud.

    That brings us back to the subterfuge behind Donald Trump Jr.'s sudden status as a major literary figure. From a report at the International Business Times:

    After strenuously denying for the past two weeks it didn't do so, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has admitted to buying thousands upon thousands of copies of Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, written by Donald Trump Jr., and released November 5.

    That's bulk sales by any standard and confirms the wisdom of The New York Times in attaching a dagger (†) to the book's title. As the Times explained, the dagger indicates its belief Don Jr.'s book made its way onto its bestseller list in a way that seems “suspicious." In this case, many of Triggered's sales appear to come from bulk purchases and not individual sales.

    Triggered is the top-selling hardcover on the Times' nonfiction list this week for the second straight week. It debuted on the nonfiction list last week at number one.

    The RNC's bulk buying of Triggered was revealed in a new campaign-finance filing

    What does the campaign-finance filing reveal, what about the content of Trump Jr.'s book, and is the RNC's bulk purchase really fooling anyone in the book community? From a report at Business Insider:
    Trump Jr.'s book Triggered, released on November 5, is partly a memoir and partly a scathing list of grievances against the left and the Democratic Party, which Trump Jr. casts as victimizing his father's presidency and his family.

    Triggered debuted at the top of the next week's New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction, with an important caveat: a dagger symbol indicating a large percentage of the book's sales came from "institutional, special interest, group, or bulk purchases."

    "It's known in the industry as the 'deadly dagger,'" a source told Page Six. "A rare penalty that is only called for flagrant fouls."

    In a new filing with the Federal Election Commission, the RNC revealed it spent $94,800 at Books-A-Million just a few days before Triggered was released. The RNC told The New York Times' Nick Confessore that they "haven't made a large bulk purchase, but are ordering copies to keep up with demand" of Triggered.

    Did RNC donors intend for their funds to be used for propping up Donald Trump Jr. on the best-sellers list? The answer probably is no, and that's how criminal charges could enter the picture.

    The Kander Memo provides insight about such schemes, which are based on inside knowledge about the book-publishing industry.

    In 2014, when the Kanders embarked on this scheme, they calculated that if the wife of a U.S. Senate candidate was a "New York Times Bestselling Author," then this prestige could boost her husband's political campaign and help him win a U.S. Senate seat. It is a "dirty little secret" in the U.S. book-publishing industry that a new author can buy his or her way onto America's most prestigious bestseller lists. It is a scheme that costs between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on certain circumstances. The money is used to buy the author's new book in strategic, large-bulk units -- bulk purchases timed shortly after the new book is officially released.

    Some people think if you spend your own money to buy your way onto a bestseller list, then it is not illegal. That's incorrect, but it's beside the point. By seeking to fund their scheme by soliciting online public donations via their "crowd-sourcing" campaign, the Kanders scheme of 2014 clearly crosses the criminal line -- in fact, several criminal lines.

    For details, we turn to an October 2016 Legal Schnauzer post:

    According to The Kander Memo, the book effort likely violated solicitation-registration and felony anti-fraud statutes in every U.S. jurisdiction -- federal and state. It also likely violated statutes in all 50 states that make it a crime to commit, or attempt to commit, theft by deceit. From the memo:

    [This] is not only an audacious and shameless scheme, it is a patently criminal scheme . . . a "50-state crime spree."

    Word that Donald Trump Jr. is a best-selling author might best be placed under one of his father's favorite categories -- "Fake News!"From the UK Guardian:

    The book is believed to have sold more than 115,000 copies, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks physical print sales in the US. The RNC said $500,000 had been raised from sales of the book. When it debuted in the bestseller list, Trump Jr tweeted: “Thanks Deplorables! You’re the best.”

    This is not the first time claims have been made about sales of Trump Jr’s book being inflated. The New York Times bestseller list marks books with a dagger if retailers report there have been bulk sales, which it did for Triggered. When it topped the chart, it was the only book in the top 10 list to feature the dagger.

    The Hachette imprint Center Street, which published the book, has previously said that it did not “have knowledge of third-party book purchases”. The book’s launch was marred when Trump Jr was heckled at one of his own events for refusing to take part in a Q and A session.

    Is Triggered anything more than glorified -- and expensive -- toilet paper? A couple of reviewers have dubbed junior's work as "a litany of trolling and insults worthy of his father":

    In Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence US, the eldest son of the US president blasts a high-pitched rant against American liberals who he accuses of turning the country into a socialist monument to political correctness.

    The US government has been infected with antisemitism, Donald Trump Jr writes in the 294-page book . . .  “Angry mobs” are now in charge of major media outlets, political correctness has taken hold and “we have completely ceded control of what we can and cannot say in public to the left”.

    The author dedicates Triggered to “the Deplorables”, a reference to Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated portrayal of Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election. “I am proudly one of you,” he writes.

    But a more accurate description of the book, a copy of which has been obtained ahead of publication by the Guardian, might be that it reveals its author to be every bit as devoted to partisan trolling, childish insults and grudge-holding as his father in the Oval Office. Even the title, Triggered, is designed to make the veins on the foreheads of liberals pulsate.

    No one should be surprised that Trump Jr., like his father, has problems with facts, but he fires insults left and right. Write the Guardian reviewers:

    Trump Jr tells readers he did not set out in writing Triggered to offend anyone. Which is surprising, as he does such a good job at precisely that.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is a “feeble old fool” at the head of a “crooked investigation”; conservative commentator Bill Kristol is a rat; the Squad of four left-wing congresswomen that includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, should be renamed “Hamas caucus”; George W Bush is a loser like Romney.

    As for CNN, the news channel that the US president has made his media whipping boy, its newscasters are nothing less than “full of shit”.

    Historians of the Trump era are unlikely to find much solid material to mine within Triggered. Though the author follows his father’s protocol in attacking the former FBI director James Comey, he barely mentions what he calls “the infamous Trump Tower meeting … which supposedly exposed me as a Russian spy”.

    In that meeting, on 9 June 2016, Trump Jr, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and the campaign chair, Paul Manafort, met a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin who said she could offer dirt on Hillary Clinton. Nor does Trump Jr discuss his infamous reply to an email setting up the meeting: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

    He also – like his father – appears to play a little fast and loose with the facts.

    Trump Jr accuses Comey of alerting the press to the supposed importance of the Steele dossier, a file of opposition research on links between Trump and Moscow, after briefing the president-elect about it. But in doing so, he misstates the date – by a year.

    “All [Comey] had to do,” he writes, “was hand the phoney dossier to the president-elect during an official visit and then leak the visit to the press. Presto chango! In that moment on January 7, 2016, the dossier went from a pile of garbage to a document in an official intelligence briefing.” 
    In fact, the FBI came into possession of the Steele dossier on 9 December 2016, when the Republican senator John McCain handed it to Comey. Concerned about Russia’s untroubled response to sanctions imposed by Barack Obama, and knowing the media had copies of the dossier, Comey and other officials briefed the White House about it on 5 January 2017.

    Comey then briefed Trump on 6 January 2017, an encounter that would stay out of the public sphere until it was described in Comey’s own book, A Higher Loyalty. Buzzfeed, which obtained the dossier from a McCain aide in December 2016, published it in full on 10 January.

    We will give the final word to Jezebel, which does a splendid job of skewering Trump Jr.'s literary efforts:

    Don Jr. is many things—a hunter, a lover of big fish, a failson, and now... a New York Times best-selling author. Triggered, his useless paean to uselessness, has wiggled its way to the top of the much-vaunted Times bestseller list, but there’s a big ole caveat—according to the Times, a lot of the book’s sales were from bulk orders, which indicates that “the author or someone associated with the author bought a substantial number of copies.”

    Color me extremely shocked that a man from an extremely scam-happy, corrupt family is in all likelihood gaming an easily gamed system! As Electric Literature wrote in 2018, the Times is well aware that authors often find ways to juice their sales, and in particular, authors of books with a more conservative bent. And a book that’s made it to the Times list largely through bulk sales is marked with a dagger, what one book industry source told Page Six is called the “the deadly dagger” and a “rare penalty that is only called for flagrant fouls.”

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    Mike McGarity
    Sgt. Jayme Moore was the second stop on my law-enforcement runaround in Shelby County, AL. Like his underling, Dep. Lee Stockman, Moore was convinced -- no matter what the written law says -- that I was not the victim of a felony assault by our criminally inclined Alabama neighbor Mike McGarity.

    Moore's efforts at a cover-up took a little different approach from Stockman's. And they even included comedic moments. that almost made me laugh out loud. But the results were the same -- he got the law wrong and referred me to someone else up the ladder.

    The main difference with Moore was that he claimed the roadside sign McGarity used to strike me in the back -- near my spine and just inches below my neck -- was neither a "deadly weapon" nor a "dangerous instrument." To make our conversation even more enlightening, Moore kept mixing up those two terms -- as if they are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

    In fact, they are very different. Even I acknowledge that the sign did not constitute a "deadly weapon," and I did not suffer a "serious physical injury" -- so it could not have been a first-degree assault, which is a Class B felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $30,000.

    But McGarity's offense did involve a "dangerous instrument," based on how it was used (swung with two hands, as hard as he could, right at my spine), and it resulted in "physical injury." That makes it a second-degree assault, which is a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

    Let's take a look at portions of my conversation with Sgt. Moore. (A video, with the full conversation, is embedded at the end of this post.):

    Jayme Moore (JM): To qualify for felony assault, it has to be a serious physical injury by means of a deadly instrument, and it's not going to fall into either one of those provisions. A for-sale sign does not qualify as a dangerous instrument.

    Roger Shuler (RS): It was swung like a baseball bat, with two hands.
    From the outset, Moore mixed up the terms "deadly instrument" (it's actually "deadly weapon") and "dangerous instrument" -- a sure sign he had no clue what he was talking about. But that didn't keep him from talking:

    RS: Before I did anything, I went to the law library and read the entire section on assault. I've got a copy of it. The clear authority is . . . assault second degree, under item No. 2.

    JM: On assault 2nd, if it causes physical injury, it has to be by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, and a for-sale sign is not going to qualify.

    RS: Yes, it is. I've got case law that says something as small as a pencil, depending on how it's used . . . He swung it like a baseball bat and hit me in the middle of the back with it. This is a sign that is 3 ft x 2 ft, made of wood and plastic. The law says any substance can be a dangerous instrument, depending on how it's used. This was used to hit me in the middle of my back, swung like a baseball bat by a grown man, using the term 'man' loosely.

    I've got case law in Shelby County, Burger v. State, where a Pelham police officer was kicked in the shins by a woman and it was classified as second degree.

    One problem here: Everybody agrees it's assault, everybody agrees it's not first-degree assault. But it's also not third, because No. 3 under that, if it involves a dangerous instrument, you must have criminal negligence. And this is not a case of him swinging a sign around crazily, and I happen to run into it. It wasn't negligence.

    At this point, the conversation with Sgt. Moore started going off the rails, with things turning in a nutty, goofy direction:

    JM: Under assault second, that is intended if you use any kind of deadly instrument -- knife, gun -- but don't cause serious physical injury. Like if somebody is trying to stab you, and they wind up cutting your finger. That's what that statute is used for. [I have no idea where he got this; my research indicates it is pure fantasy.]

    RS: This sign was five times bigger than a pencil, and he swung it and hit me in the back. . . .

    JM: If he had rammed it in your eye socket, that would qualify.

    RS: No kidding. That would be first, not second.

    JM: Depending on the injuries.

    RS: If somebody jams something in my eye socket, I think it's going to be pretty serious. [Moore seemed to be undecided if having something jammed in your eye socket would cause a serious injury.]

    JM: I don't believe it will qualify, based on my experience with the DA's office.

    RS: I don't want special treatment; I just want it applied the way it's written.

    JM: I don't believe it would qualify as a deadly instrument.

    RS: It doesn't have to be a deadly instrument. You're mixing up the words.

    JM: If you disagree with me, you can call my supervisor.

    RS: [Guffaws] How many people am I going to have to talk to?

    Moore's supervisor turned out to be Lt. Howard Brogdon, so he became stop No. 3 on my runaround train.

    (To be continued)

    (Previously in the series)

    * Dep. Lee Stockman starts the runaround on Alabama assault law -- 11/18/25

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    William Barr and George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra era

    Two 2020 candidates for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama have made recent statements that indicate they lack the intellectual heft to handle the job. And one of them already holds the job.

    We are talking first about Democrat Doug Jones, who currently occupies the seat and said, if given a "do-over," he would not vote to confirm Donald Trump nominee William Barr as attorney general. Then came GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville, best known for his years as head football coach at Auburn University, claiming Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, "had a chance to support the president and blew it."

    Tommy Tuberville
    Political figures make a lot of dumb statements, but I'm not sure I've ever seen two of them, within days of each other, make comments as dumb as these.

    Let's tackle Jones' statement first. This is from al.com's report on the senator's comments about the Barr confirmation:

    Sen. Doug Jones would switch his vote and not confirm Attorney General Bill Barr if he got a shot at a do-over, he said Wednesday.

    In a response to a Twitter user, who described themselves as a Jones voter both in 2017 and in the upcoming 2020 election, Alabama’s Democratic junior senator said he would vote against Barr’s confirmation “with the benefit of hindsight.”

    When he announced his intention to vote to confirm Barr on Feb. 7, Jones said: “I have concluded that Mr. Barr is qualified for the position of Attorney General and his record strongly suggests he will exercise independent judgment and uphold the best interests of the Department of Justice.”

    While Jones said he had concerns about Barr’s views on executive power, the then-nominee’s statements during his confirmation hearing and personal assurances to Jones himself -- including stating that "no one, including the president of the United States, is above the law -- assuaged the senator’s concerns.

    Why would Jones need "the benefit of hindsight" to reject Barr when he had the chance. Barr's reputation as a political hack and fixer, dating to his days as AG under President George H.W. Bush during the Iran-Contra Scandal, have been well-known for years -- and received wide coverage at the time Trump nominated him. Consider this NPR report from January 2019:

    This won't be the first time that William Barr, President Trump's nominee to become attorney general, will be involved with what's been called a "witch hunt."

    Barr, who is scheduled to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for his confirmation hearings, ran the Justice Department once before, under President George H.W. Bush.

    Back then, the all-consuming, years-long scandal was called Iran-Contra. On Dec. 24, 1992, it ended when Bush pardoned six people who had been caught up in it.

    "The Constitution is quite clear on the powers of the president and sometimes the president has to make a very difficult call," Bush said then. "That's what I've done."

    Then-Attorney General Barr supported the president's decision in the Iran-Contra case, which gave clemency to people who had been officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He had been set to go on trial to face charges about lying to Congress.

    To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

    "It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences," said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

    Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.

    Doug Jones was unaware of this information when he voted to confirm William Barr? Or what about this information from a report at Common Dreams, which referred to Barr as the "Cover-Up General":

    Back in 1992, the last time Bill Barr was U.S. attorney general, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as “Coverup-General Barr” because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush’s involvement in “Iraqgate” and “Iron-Contra.”

    General Barr has struck again—this time, in similar fashion, burying Mueller’s report and cherry-picking fragments of sentences from it to justify Trump’s behavior. In his letter, he notes that Robert Mueller “leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.”

    As attorney general, Barr—without showing us even a single complete sentence from the Mueller report—decided there are no crimes here. Just keep moving along.

    Barr’s history of doing just this sort of thing to help Republican presidents in legal crises explains why Trump brought him back in to head the Justice Department.

    Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal.

    Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.

    But Bush’s biggest concern wasn’t that he’d have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had homes) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in Iran-Contra and that his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office.

    Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him, and Bush’s private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel’s office, were the key to it all.

    That's about 27 years of history that managed to elude Doug Jones' attention? Amazing.

    What about Tuberville's gaffe? Let's consider this report from Alabama Political Reporter:

    Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville on Saturday criticized Jeff Sessions’ work as U.S. attorney general.

    Tuberville spoke with the Alabama Political Reporter before Saturday’s Iron Bowl in Auburn.

    “He had his chance to support the president as attorney general, and he blew it,” Tuberville said.

    Sessions has praised President Donald Trump and vowed to support the president’s policies if he returns to the U.S. Senate, but the president has been very critical of Sessions’ efforts as attorney general, particularly his decision to recuse himself from the Russia collusion investigation.

    Sessions recused himself from the probe after it became public knowledge that he had met twice with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate during his confirmation hearings. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then became the acting attorney general on Russian collusion probe, and he made the decision to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel.

    Trump blamed Sessions for the Mueller investigation . . . , [and] the president has gone so far as to call his appointment of Sessions as attorney general “my biggest mistake” as president.

    How nutty is Tuberville's claim that Sessions "blew" his opportunity to support Trump? Legal scholars have pointed out for years that the AG's role is not to support the president. Yes, the AG is a political appointee, but he is to serve as the nation's chief law-enforcement official, independent of the White House.

    If Tuberville were to land in the Senate, he could be faced with voting to confirm, or not confirm, an AG nominee. It's important that he know what the job is supposed to entail.

    As regular readers know, I'm hardly prone to supporting Jeff Sessions. His brand of Southern-fried politics -- based in his own racist instincts and a tendency to surround himself with racists -- is abhorrent and detestable. But he had no choice but to recuse from the Russia probe, and it's one of the few honorable and legally correct actions I can recall him taking.

    That Tommy Tuberville does not seem to understand that indicates he lacks the intellectual foundation to serve in the U.S. Senate -- but, then, again, the same could be said of Doug Jones, and he already serves in the Senate.

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    U.S. Attorney General William Barr said earlier this week that if some communities do not start showing more respect for cops, they might not get police protection. (See video above.)

    Barr made the remarks while presenting the Third Annual Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. Are Barr's comments pure nonsense? We would say yes, given that he seems to be suggesting that citizens whose taxpayer dollars fund law enforcement might not receive protection if they fail to bow sufficiently to cops. Barr also seems to ignore widely reported incidents of cops trafficking in violence against citizens, rather than offering protection. Finally, Barr's remarks are wildly out of line with the Schnauzer household's experiences with officers, which we have reported on frequently here at the blog -- and we happen to be white liberals who have been attacked by cop thugs while living in two bright red states, Alabama and Missouri -- even though it is clear black Americans receive the brunt of police misconduct.

    Before I started reporting on political and legal corruption in Alabama -- much of it tied to statewide political figures, such as Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Bill Pryor, and Doug Jones -- my wife, Carol, and I had sparkling clean records and never had experienced a significant encounter with cops. Now, we both have been physically beaten by cops and spent time in jails -- me in Alabama (for five months); Carol in Missouri (for a few hours, with her time reduced because she needed a trip to a hospital for treatment of a broken arm, courtesy of cops.)

    How goofy are Barr's remarks? Well, he somehow managed to compare the experiences of today's cops with those of military troops returning home from Vietnam. A report from NBC News provides details:

    During a ceremony to honor police officers, Barr said crowds applaud departing troops and show their approval for individual service members in airports, but police get no cheers when they roll out of the precinct and get no ticker-tape parades when they come home.

    In the Vietnam era, he said, the troops who served in that conflict bore the brunt of people opposed to the war.

    "The respect and gratitude owed them was not given, and it took decades for the American people to realize that," Barr said. It's good to see troops today getting the proper recognition, he added.

    "But I think today the American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers. And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves. And if communities don't give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need."

    Civil-rights groups were quick to take issue with Barr, as NBC News reports:

    "Support and respect are earned, not given as the result of a demand from those who carry badges and guns," said Jeffrey Robinson of the ACLU. "Attorney General Barr is telling communities across the country to bow their heads in respect to police even if those same police are violating their rights and killing people without justification."

    Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, said, "The idea that the attorney general of the United States, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is recommending abandoning communities as retribution for pushing for police reform or criticizing policing practices, is profoundly dangerous and irresponsible."

    Carol and I disagree with Vanita Gupta's assessment. If cops were to abandon our neighborhood, we would applaud their exit. Neither of us ever has suffered significant harm at the hands of a so-called street criminal. Cops, on the other hand, have broken into our homes twice and beaten both of us -- leaving Carol with an arm that needed about eight hours of trauma surgery for repair. We have yet to see cops make a community problem better. Multiple times, we've seen them make problems worse. Here are a few "highlights" from out experiences with cops:

    * When Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor, started repeatedly trespassing on our property (along with his kids and guests), we first tried having a rational conversation with McGarity, letting him know that the trespassers from his property were not welcome on ours. When that proved fruitless, I contacted an attorney who sent written warning, and we eventually called the Shelby County Sheriff's office. We asked the officer if he would visit McGarity and explain the law to him, since we weren't able to make him understand. "We don't do that,"officer Michael Greene said. "We just write reports."

    * In 2013, after I reported on Rob Riley's relationship with lobbyist Liberty Duke, plus Judge Bill Pryor's ties to 1980s and '90s gay pornography, Alabama deputies started swarming our property, with officer Chris Blevins eventually breaking into our home -- without showing a warrant, indicating he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being there. -- beating me up, dousing me with pepper spray, and  hauling me for a five-month stay in jail. At the time, I was the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and the only one in the western hemisphere to be jailed in 2013.

    * In September 2015, Missouri deputies conducted an unlawful eviction at our duplex apartment, pointing an assault rifle at my head and slamming Carol so brutally to the ground, and yanking on her arms with such force, that they induced a comminuted fracture of her left arm -- the kind of injury that normally is seen in car crashes or other forms of intense trauma.

    * Alabama cops brought a bogus resisting-arrest charge against me, and Missouri cops brought a false assault charge against Carol -- claiming she assaulted one of them, instead of the other way around. Those incidents led to court proceedings, where we watched cops lie repeatedly under oath, with at least one clear instance of perjury.

    As for William Barr, it's not fully clear what he meant with his recent remarks. From HuffPost:

    The Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for clarification on who specifically Barr was referring to when he mentioned “communities” and what he meant by people finding themselves without police protection.

    But American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that first flagged the comments, said the attorney general was referring to communities of color that have historically had a contentious relationship with law enforcement due to police brutality, mass incarceration and racial profiling.

    “The Attorney General isn’t being subtle and that shouldn’t surprise us considering this administration’s record,” American Bridge spokesperson Jeb Fain told HuffPost in a statement. “When it comes to communities of color, he sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions.

    “Barr’s words are as revealing as they are disturbing ― flagrantly dismissive of the rights of Americans of color, disrespectful to countless law enforcement officers who work hard to serve their communities, and full of a continuing disregard for the rule of law.”

    Would Barr have much concern for our experiences with cops? Probably not, based on the HuffPost report:

    The attorney general has proved before that he does not support the more humane criminal justice reform that’s coming to states, counties and local jurisdictions across the country. Since taking over as attorney general in February, Barr has maintained the “tough on crime” approach that President Donald Trump has adopted.

    In August, Barr told the Fraternal Order of Police ― the country’s largest police organization ― that there should be “zero tolerance for resisting police.” The attorney general gave an emotionally charged speech going after local prosecutors he accused of making police officers’ jobs more difficult because of their more progressive approaches to criminal cases.

    “There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety,” Barr said in his August speech. “That is the emergence in some of our large cities of district attorneys that style themselves as ‘social justice’ reformers, who spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook and refusing to enforce the law.”

    Barr is also behind the Justice Department’s push to reinstate the federal death penalty, something that hasn’t been put to use since 2003. The attorney general scheduled five executions for this month and the next, though a district judge ordered a preliminary injunction while some of the people Barr wants to put to death legally challenge his workaround for reinstating capital punishment at the federal level. The injunction was upheld this week by a federal appeals court. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to make a ruling.

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    Balch Bingham's all-white new hires
    (From banbalch.com)

    Birmingham's Balch Bingham law firm recently announced the hiring of eight new associates -- and all of them are white, according to a report at banbalch.com. The firm's leadership seems to have a tin ear, given its widely reported ties to racist U.S. Senate candidate (and former Trump attorney general) Jeff Sessions and the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal, which essentially was a scheme to keep corporate polluters from being held accountable for poisoning a heavily black neighborhood.

    Balch is located in the heart of a city that is more than 70 percent black, but it seems fine with presenting a lily-white face to he public. Four of the new white hires will work in Birmingham, with the other four set to work at firm satellites in Jackson, MS; Gulfport, MS; and Atlanta, GA. From a report at banbalch, headed by publisher K.B. Forbes:

    Demonstrating again that Balch Bingham’s leadership in Birmingham is oblivious to their own alleged institutional racism, the embattled firm recently announced the hiring of eight new associates throughout its footprint, including four in Birmingham.

    All of the new associates are white.

    Coming on the heels of a $19.5 million verdict loss in Miami, Balch’s attempts to rehabilitate their image appear to have sputtered.

    Last spring, the firm let go of their only female African-American attorney in the Birmingham office, Kimberly Bell.

    Bell was one of the lead attorneys representing Balch in the Newsome Conspiracy Case.

    Bell was a member of the Birmingham Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, according to Balch’s 2016 Diversity Report.

    A Balch press release, dated 11/19/19, provides a rundown of the new, all-white hires.

    What about a big-picture view of Balch's hiring practices. That comes from a banbalch post in May 2019:

    Of the 203 profiled attorneys, partner, and staff on Balch’s website we reviewed… only three were African-American women, while two additional attorneys were African-American men.

    All five African-Americans attorneys, partners, or Of Counsel appear to each be in a different regional office (Atlanta, Birmingham, Gulfport, Jackson, and Montgomery).
    When you add the new additional attorney in Augusta, less than 2.5% of Balch and Bingham’s attorneys, partners, and top staff is African-American, according to a review of Balch’s website.

    Yet, Balch’s footprint shows a different story according to U.S.Census figures:

    * Atlanta is 54% African-American.

    * Augusta is 54% African-American.

    * Birmingham is 73% African-American.

    * Gulfport is 36% African-American.

    * Jackson, MS is 79% African-American.

    * Jacksonville, FL is 30% African-American.

    * Montgomery is 56% African-American.

    * Vidalia, GA is 40% African-American.

    * Washington,DC is 50% African-American.

    Institutional racism is real.

    Besides all of the alleged unsavory, unethical and foolish behavior engulfing the once prestigious firm, the lack of diversity appears to be another black-eye that could potentially cause more clients to flee.

    It has been reported for years that Jeff Sessions is a racist -- and recent reports indicate he has a habit of surrounding himself with racists, such as current Trump adviser Stephen Miller. With Sessions is running to reclaim his U.S. Senate race in 2020, is Balch trying to earn favor with the "evil elf" by adding to its already overwhelmingly white roster of attorneys?

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    Donald Trump on "The Apprentice"

    Jeffrey Epstein is not the only Donald Trump associate to face charges of being a pedophile and winding up dead in a jail cell. Epstein is not even the first associate to face such charges and meet such a fate, according to a report from a D.C.-based investigative journalist.

    Jesse G. Phinney, a cameraman on Trump's The Apprentice television show, was found dead in a jail cell roughly 18 months before Epstein was found under similar circumstances, reports Wayne Madsen. From a recent post on Phinney's death at the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), which is subscription only:

    A year-and-a-half before the jail cell hanging of alleged child sex trafficker, convicted child sex offender, and one-time close Donald Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan, another Trump associate accused of pedophilia was found hanging in his jail cell in the Philippines.

    Jesse G. Phinney, a cameraman for Trump's "The Apprentice" reality television show, was discovered on December 5, 2017, hanging by his belt in his jail cell in Cebu in the Philippines. Phinney, who lived and worked in Los Angeles, had been arrested by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Phinney was arrested after he was identified by Cebu province Vice Governor Agnes Magpale that Phinney was suspected of violating the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act and the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.

    How seedy does the Phinney story get? Very:

    After a raid on Phinney's apartment in Talisay City, the NBI discovered an 8-year old was present in the residence at the time of the police action. WMR's sources in the Philippines report an additional three underage girls, the oldest 12, were also residing in Phinney's apartment.

    Jesse Phinney
    Police discovered high-end camera equipment and production lighting in Phinney's apartment. Also found were children's clothing, including bikinis, and toys. The 8-year old girl was turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

    If you have followed the Epstein story, see if this sounds familiar:

    Phinney, 42, was found hanging by his belt in his cell. Friends of Phinney contended that Phinney never wire a belt. A U.S. pathologist hired by Phinney's family in Boston found that Phinney's death appeared not to be from asphyxiation from hanging but from blunt-force trauma indicative of a beating death. It should be noted that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who routinely carries out extrajudicial executions in the country, is a favorite of Donald Trump.

    Phinney's possible murder mirrors that of Epstein, who was found hanging in his cell on August 10, 2019, while two guards failed to conduct mandatory 30-minute checks on Epstein, who had been placed on a suicide watch in the jail's Special Housing Unit. The MCC guard station was located a mere 15 feet from the guard station. The two guards have been criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York with conspiracy and falsifying records. No reasonable explanation has been made about the unusual visit to the MCC by Attorney General William Barr after Epstein was reportedly physically assaulted by another inmate. Barr's father, Donald Barr, was involved in the decision to hire Epstein to teach teens at the Dalton School in Manhattan in the mid-1970s. Donald Barr was the school's headmaster from 1964 to 1974. Epstein was hired in 1974. 
    The NBI began their surveillance on Phinney in December 2016. Affidavits were sworn by a mother and girl that Phinney had young girls sleep overnight at his apartment, took photographs of them, and gave them presents. Police discovered photos of children from throughout Southeast Asia and Central America. Phinney was a frequent traveler to both regions that are heavily favored as sex tourism locations by pedophiles.

    Phinney's death is a story where politics, media, entertainment, and law enforcement intersect -- and those, to a great extent, are the worlds that produced Donald Trump:

    Local press reported that the U.S. embassy in Manila had shown an interest in Phinney's death. Phinney had announced his retirement from TV work in Los Angeles and said he was planning on settling in Cebu. A second autopsy showed that Phinney's head showed a hemorrhage and there were bruises on his back, none of which were consistent with suicide by hanging. A Paris-based firm, Insiders Corp, began conducting a pro bono investigation of Phinney's arrest and death. Insiders Corp maintains an office in the Philippines and Boston and its founder, Julien Serres, is a former correspondent for Le Figaro and the Canal+ television network in Asia. Epstein was returning from Paris to the United States on his Gulfstream jet when he was arrested at an airport in New Jersey. French authorities have been criticized for dragging their feet on investigating Epstein's operations in France. Epstein maintained residences in Paris, Biarritz, and Nice.

    Phinney was also a cinematographer for the reality TV show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Trump is close to both Kim Kardashian, who is an executive producer for the show, and her husband, rapper Kanye West.

    Perhaps it boils down to this question: Do we have a murderer in the White House -- and does the president use public resources to wipe out individuals who are perceived to have dirt on him?

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    Democrats announce articles of impeachment 

    House Democrats yesterday produced two articles of impeachment -- one for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress -- against President Donald Trump. In so doing, Democrats focused solely on issues related to Ukraine, with no article based on Russian election interference and the Mueller report. In essence, impeachment will focus on the alleged misconduct of President Trump, while ignoring the much more expansive and serious misconduct of Candidate Trump.

    Is it a mistake to give Trump a pass on the Russia scandal? A number of commentators already are crying, "Yes" -- and we agree with them. We also suspect this is the first major sign that Americans will have to endure four more years of a Trump White House. Whether the country can survive that is anyone's guess, but our suggestion is, "Brace yourself."

    A Salon article by Andrew O'Hehir, dated 12/6/19 (last Friday) seemed to presage yesterday's events, with the headline "Are Democrats Blowing Trump's Impeachment?" Writes O'Hehir:

    [Last] Thursday’s announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Democrats are ready to vote articles of impeachment against President Trump — presumably on the narrowest possible terms, after a constrained and foreshortened process — is hardly surprising. It is, however, disheartening. Why they would even consider moving to a floor vote on impeachment without doing whatever is necessary to compel testimony from John Bolton, who is now a private citizen and has always been a blast-hardened neocon Republican, and who is clearly eager to roast Donald Trump’s gizzard on a fork and then eat it, is profoundly baffling. 
    Or maybe, sadly, it isn’t. So far, this spectacle confirms my sense that the Democratic Party is strikingly ill-prepared for the historical role it ought to play in this moment of small-d democratic crisis. Driven as usual by fear, excessive caution and a morbid fascination with identifying the middle of the middle of the political middle (and then veering slightly to its right), the Democrats are entirely likely to screw things up, whether morally or tactically or politically or all at once.

    O'Hehir, in fact, suggests Democrats already have botched it by settling into a "back to normal" political stance that has placed Joe Biden as a frontrunner who quite possibly could lose to even an impeached Trump in 2020:

    Actually, the Democrats have already screwed it up. Let’s be clear that the Republican defense of Trump is completely incoherent, because there is no defense for his actions. But on a generic or abstract level, Republicans have floated halfway-valid concerns about the process of the impeachment inquiry and the motivations behind it — which Democrats have done little to dispel.

    Republicans claim that Democrats have been itching for a pretext to impeach Trump since before he took office, and finally landed on one. That’s at least partly true, although the Angry White People Party is too consumed by paranoid delusions to understand the ways in which it is both true and untrue, and how those reflect the deep and wide schism within the Democrats over how to respond to the Trump era. Sure, Rashida Tlaib got elected in Detroit vowing to “impeach the motherf***er,” but a whole lot of other Democrats got elected while not talking about that at all, and explicitly or otherwise espousing the “back to normal” politics that have made Joe Biden the 2020 frontrunner all year long.

    In case you haven’t been keeping score, there is no “normal” to go back to, history never flows backward and that whole approach is a dangerous delusion, as we will all learn the hard way soon enough. Biden would be a disastrous nominee and a terrible president, which is not to say there’s an obvious alternative who inspires immense confidence. But for our present purposes all that is a side issue, even if it’s also a yawning abyss beneath our feet.

    Susan Hennessey, executive editor of the Lawfare blog and general counsel of the Lawfare Institute, argued in a piece published Monday (12/9/19) that Democrats should present articles of impeachment that have some breadth and are not too narrow. The headline: "The One Episode From the Mueller Report That Democrats Must Include in Impeachment."Writes Hennessey:

    It would be a huge mistake not to include an article related to Mueller. It would be a mistake substantively and a mistake strategically. And the House Judiciary Committee’s recent hearings on impeachment show why.

    The argument here is not that the House should include any and every plausible article based on conduct described in Mueller’s report. To the contrary, it would be unwise to be so overbroad. But there is a single, specific article of impeachment that should be included: one describing how the president of the United States obstructed justice by directing White House Counsel Don McGahn to create a false internal record denying that the president had instructed him to have Robert Mueller fired as special counsel.

    For those who might be foggy on the details regarding McGahn, Hennessey provides a primer:

    It’s worth briefly recapping the facts on this episode, as recounted in the Mueller report. In June 2017, following press reports that the special counsel was investigating Trump personally, the president ordered McGahn to have Mueller fired. McGahn prepared to resign rather than carry out the order, but he was persuaded to remain. Months later, in January 2018, the New York Times reported that the prior June Trump had directed McGahn to have Mueller fired. The president sought to have McGahn publicly deny this story, but McGahn refused to do so because the story was accurate in significant part. Approximately one week after the initial Times story, Trump told White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to direct McGahn to create a record “for our files” denying the story and saying McGahn had never been told to fire Mueller. Trump suggested to Porter that if McGahn refused to write such a letter, Trump might fire McGahn. Porter communicated Trump’s request to McGahn, and McGahn refused to create such a record, reiterating that the story was true and that in June 2017 the president had, in fact, told him to have Mueller fired. Finally, the president directly pressured McGahn, in an Oval Office meeting, to refute the story and McGahn again refused. 
    Susan Hennessey
    Mueller determined that McGahn’s account of events was credible and that the weight of evidence supports an inference that Trump’s pressure on McGahn was not about countering a news report but, rather, was an effort to “deflect or prevent further scrutiny of [Trump’s] conduct towards the investigation.” Running through the three elements of statutes criminalizing obstruction of justice—an obstructive act, nexus to an investigative proceeding and corrupt intent—Mueller found that evidence supports the conclusion that the president’s conduct met all three. And critically, Mueller determined that there are no available constitutional defenses for the president here. Whatever the scope of Article II, it does not extend to directing the White House counsel to falsify records.

    Numerous other Mueller-related articles could be included, but Hennessey explains why the McGahn episode cannot be swept aside:

    While there are other compelling examples, the McGahn episode is the single strongest episode of obstruction of justice in the entire Mueller report. The facts of what occurred are established by clear evidence and are supported by both documentary records and the testimony of multiple White House officials. It is also an example of obstruction that is unambiguous on the law—it presents a clear criminal violation.

    And that’s exactly why the Democrats would be nuts not to include this episode as an article of impeachment.

    We know now that Democrats did not follow Hennessey's advice, and we suspect they -- and the country -- will pay a huge price.