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The memory of a beloved pet inspires one couple's fight against injustice.
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    Botham Jean's brother hugs Amber Guyger
    at yesterday's sentencing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    MR. TINSLEY: Note my exception.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Baron Coleman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Have your gun under your arm. Bring your ammo.

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

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

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

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

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    Doug Jones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Tommy Edman, the rookie who sparked the
    St. Louis Cardinals' run to the playoffs.

    With a blog that originated -- and matured into national status -- in Birmingham, AL, I've always assumed many of my readers are Atlanta Braves fans. In fact, I know many of my readers in the Birmingham metro area are Braves fans because they are friends with whom I've shared deep baseball discussions. Blog statistics show that we have regular readers in every corner of the country, with pretty decent numbers in various outposts around the world.

    With that being said, our numbers always will be heaviest in a swath that stretches across the Deep South -- from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina -- and that is solid Braves territory.. That means Mrs. Schnauzer, "Gabby the Investigative Tabby," and I were a tad torn as we watched yesterday's deciding Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series (NLDS) between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves.

    We very much hope to get back to Birmingham (sooner, rather than later), but for now are based in Springfield, MO ("Queen City of the Ozarks"), where I grew up and became a Cardinals fan for as long as I can remember. I first started to follow the team at age 6 in 1963 when I happened to be perusing the radio listings in our local newspaper -- I was a strange 6-year-old, who actually did stuff like that -- and noticed that "San Francisco Giants v. St. Louis Cardinals" was scheduled for that evening on station KGBX.

    I wondered what that was all about and tuned in at the appointed time (7:15 p.m., I think) and immediately was enthralled -- by the cheers of approval and groans of disappointment that came from the stands, by the crack of bat against ball, by the sounds of vendors ("Get your popcorn, hot popcorn,""Cracker Jacks, get your Cracker Jacks,""Beer, Cold Beer").

    Mostly, I was entranced by Harry Caray and Jack Buck, who I consider to be the greatest baseball broadcasting team of all-time. Caray went on to work for a number of other clubs -- most notably the Chicago Cubs -- and later in life, became the subject of a classic parody by Will Ferrell. (See video at the end of this post.) Caray had the memorable home-run call -- "It might be . . . it could be . . . it is . . . a home run." Buck was the consummate broadcast pro, with a wry sense of humor: "They're having a power outage at the Reds game in Cincinnati -- not the hitters, the lights."

    All of that is a way of saying I was thrilled that the Cardinals won yesterday's game, 13-1, and will advance to the National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the surprising Washington Nationals, who last night beat the heavily favored Los Angeles Dodgers (clearly the NL's best team during the regular season).  Meanwhile the New York Yankees and (probably) Houston Astros will face off for the American League title -- although the Astros still have to get past the pesky Tampa Bay Rays in a game at Houston tonight. The two winners will advance to the World Series -- and while they remain long shots, the Cardinals are still in it, which has me revved up, mainly because their offense seems to be coming alive after being putrid for most of the season.

    Still, I feel bad for Braves fans. They've had a lot of post-season heartbreak over the past 25-30 years -- with huge amounts of regular-season success -- and that trend continued yesterday when the Cardinals offense awoke to score 10 runs in the first inning and remove pretty much all drama about the outcome. (A by-product of my 35-plus years living in Birmingham is that my second favorite MLB team is the Atlanta Braves.)

    Speaking of the regular season, the Braves won six more games than the Cardinals did during the year, and in moments when I was honest with myself, I had to admit that I thought the Braves had the better team. Plus, I thought the Cardinals blew their chance in Game Three when Manager Mike Shildt -- with the Cardinals leading, and the Braves down to their final out -- chose to intentionally walk aging Braves catcher Brian McCann to bring up shortstop Dansby Swanson, who promptly doubled in the tying run and scored one of two go-ahead runs.

    After raging about Shildt's stupidity -- essentially gifting the series to the Braves, I thought -- I figured the Cardinals would roll over, ending the series with a loss in Game Four at St. Louis. To my surprise, the Cardinals squeaked out a dramatic, 10-inning win on Kolten Wong's double and Yadier Molina's sacrifice fly, sending the series back to Atlanta. The Cardinals' bats erupted early yesterday in Game Five against Mike Foltynewicz (who had pitched brilliantly in Game Two) -- "Where have these hitters been all season?" Mrs. Schnauzer said in disbelief. -- ending the Braves' season and sending the Cardinals to the next playoff round.

    The Cardinals have missed the playoffs every year since 2015 -- a long time for a franchise with demanding (spoiled?) fans. So yesterday's win unleashed a flood of childhood memories. There was our wonderful neighbor -- Irene Weatherwax -- who sent a missive to the Cardinals, asking if they could send an autographed photo of Harry Caray to the young fan. who lived two doors up the street. I never will forget the thrill of opening a piece of mail to find a signed photo of Harry Caray. The photo, I believe, has been lost to the winds of time, probably from the chaos following our 2014 foreclosure in Bimringham.

    By the way, Mrs. Weatherwax knew I was a huge Cardinals fan because I would take a bat and ball into our backyard most days and create the game in advance in my imagination -- announcing the proceedings as they developed in my best and loudest Harry Caray voice. (I told you I was a strange kid.) Mrs. Weatherwax would stop me occasionally and say, "How did the Cardinals do today, Roger?" (Meaning the version of that day's game in my backyard.) "Oh, they won, 8-7," I'd say. The Cardinals always won in my backyard, in dramatic fashion usually, with tight scores.

    My first full season of following the Cardinals was 1964, when they came from way back to overtake the Philadelphia Phillies for the National League pennant on the last day of the regular season and won the World Series in seven games over the New York Yankees (who had Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Whitey Ford, and other luminaries.) Probably the key blow of that series was Ken Boyer's grand slam off Al Downing to help the Cardinals win Game Four. (By the way, Downing went on to pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers and gave up home run No. 715 to he Braves Hank Aaron, breaking Babe Ruth's career record.) That Ken Boyer grand slam cemented a love for the Cardinals, and baseball in general, that probably never will away for me.

    By the way, I can still reel off the usual starting lineup for that Cardinal championship team of '64:

    LF -- Lou Brock
    CF -- Curt Flood
    1B -- Bill White
    3B -- Ken Boyer
    C -- Tim McCarver
    RF -- Mike Shannon
    SS -- Dick Groat (or Dal Maxvill)
    2B -- Julian Javier
    P -- (Bob Gibson, Ray Sadecki, Curt Simmons, Ray Washburn)

    I didn't have to use Google on that -- Scout's honor.

    Probably the greatest thrill of my childhood came on June 5, 1965, when my family drove to St. Louis to see a game in person -- the Cardinals against the Houston Astros. I recall my breath being taken away as we neared the end of a portal and could see the stunningly green grass of the outfield and overall beauty of the stadium; it was called "Beautiful Busch Stadium," and it really was beautiful. This was Busch Stadium No. 1, also known as Sportsmans Park, which once was home to both the Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns, who became the Baltimore Orioles.)

    Thanks to the miracles of the Internet, I can call up the box score from that 1965 game. The Cardinals won 4-3 when Boyer hit a triple and Tim McCarver drove him home with a line drive off the right-field screen. (A ball had to go up on the roof to be a home run in that area of the park. I always thought that was uber cool; I also loved the big Longines clock in right-center field.) The Astros started a youthful second baseman that day named Joe Morgan, and he went on to become a Hall of Famer.

    I saw many games at Busch Stadium 2, which is perhaps best known for Whitey Herzog's great Runnin' Redbirds teams of the 1980s -- featuring Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Vince Coleman, Tommy Herr, John Tudor, Bruce Sutter, and Joaquin "One Tough Dominican" Andujar. I hope someday to attend a game at the current venue, Busch Stadium 3, but I always will be grateful to have seen a game at Busch Stadium1, the original site of of Cardinals baseball -- although several stadiums sat on the same piece of land, starting in 1866.

    As for yesterday's game, I have hope that the Cardinals will advance to the World Series -- even though the Nationals have three superb starting pitchers in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. I was certain the Dodgers would beat Washington, and figured the Cardinals had little hope against LA. But against Washington, who knows; the Cardinals will be favored and have home-field advantage in a seven-game series.

    I have good news for Braves fans -- they are set up for a string of successful seasons. CF Ronald Acuna Jr., 2B Ozzie Albies, and SS Dansby Swanson are among the best young players in baseball, and the Braves minor-league system is stocked with talent. The Braves have a bunch of promising young arms, especially lefty Max Fried and righty Mike Soroka.

    The Cardinals also have a lot of young talent -- especially uber utility man, Tommy Edman, without whom they probably do not make the playoffs -- so maybe the two teams will see each other in the postseason for years to come.

    (Below is a video of a Harry Caray-Jack Buck broadcast from 1963, followed by Will Ferrell's version of Harry Caray.)

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    Atatiana Koquice Jefferson

    For the second time in two weeks, a white police officer in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has generated international headlines for fatally shooting a black resident in his or her own home. The most recent incident came early Saturday morning when an unidentified officer shot Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, 28, as she looked out a window of her Fort Worth home.

    This comes on the heels of a Dallas jury finding officer Amber Guyger guilty of murder in the off-duty shooting death of Botham Jean after she had entered the wrong floor and mistakenly entered his apartment, thinking he was an intruder in her apartment, which was directly below.

    These stories are hard to take here in the Schnauzer household. The reports likely add to the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with which my wife, Carol, and I have been diagnosed after two incidents where heavily armed cops broke into our home -- both times with no lawful grounds for doing so, in apparent attempts to shut down our reporting on this blog about judicial and political corruption.

    Loyal readers have kept us financially and emotionally afloat during the aftermath of these incidents, and we certainly need assistance right now. (See note at the end of this post.)

    How does this kind of incident keep happening? This is from a report at CNN on the Jefferson shooting:

    A black woman was shot and killed by a white police officer in her Fort Worth, Texas home after a neighbor called dispatchers to report the woman's front door was open, police said.

    The officers were searching the perimeter of the woman's home when they saw a person standing near a window inside and one of them opened fire, killing her, Fort Worth police said.

    The Tarrant County Medical Examiner identified the woman killed as 28-year-old Atatiana Koquice Jefferson. She died at 2:30 a.m. Saturday in the bedroom of her home.

    Hours after the shooting, police released a heavily edited version of the officer's body camera footage. The nearly 2-minute video shows officers walking outside the home with flashlights for a few minutes before one of them yells, "Put your hands up! Show me your hands!" and shoots his weapon through a window. (The body-cam footage is embedded at the end of this post. Warning: The sheer stupidity of the officer -- firing his weapon into a home without identifying himself as a cop -- is disturbing.)

    "The Fort Worth Police Department is releasing available body camera footage to provide transparent and relevant information to the public as we are allowed within the confines of the Public Information Act and forthcoming investigation," police said.

    In a statement, police said the officers entered the home and gave the woman medical treatment, but she died at the scene.

    The neighbor who thought he was doing a good deed by calling the police, said he now feels horrible and angry about what happened. From CNN:

    James Smith, Jefferson's neighbor, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram he called a non-emergency police number when he saw her doors open and lights on in the early morning hours. He said he knew Jefferson was home with her nephew.

    He said he was trying to be a good neighbor and called authorities so they could check on Jefferson.

    "I'm shaken. I'm mad. I'm upset. And I feel it's partly my fault," he told the news outlet. "If I had never dialed the police department, she'd still be alive."

    According to the Star-Telegram, the shooter did not identify himself as a police officer upon demanding that Jefferson raise her hands. What dangerous activity was going on at the Jefferson home? She was playing video games with her nephew:

    Jefferson was playing video games with her nephew when they heard what they believed to be a prowler outside, her relatives’ attorney said. When she went to the window to see what was going on, she was shot, the attorney said.

    Police said that the officer, who joined the department in April 2018, saw a person standing inside the house near a window.

    “Perceiving a threat, the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” the department said in a news release. “Officers entered the residence locating the individual and a firearm and began providing emergency medical care.”

    Police released photographs of a gun they said that they found in a bedroom at the house. They did not say whether Jefferson was holding the weapon when the officer shot her.

    Reading accounts of the Jefferson shooting cause horrifying images to flood our brains. As regular readers know, an Alabama deputy named Chris Blevins entered the garage underneath our house on October 23, 2013, and knocked me to a concrete floor three times and directed pepper spray into my face--all without showing a warrant, stating he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being on our property. This all resulted from my alleged civil contempt in a lawsuit regarding alleged defamation, having nothing to do with a crime. I essentially was "arrested for blogging" and spent five months in the Shelby County Jail -- the first U.S journalist since 2006 to be incarcerated and apparently the only one in U.S. history to be jailed over a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, both of which are unlawful under more than 200 years of First Amendment Law. To this day, my reporting on the relationship between Alabama GOP operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke never has been proven defamatory, as a matter of law. And what about the so-called "civil contempt"? We did not appear at a court hearing because we never were served with a summons to appear. In fact, we never were lawfully served with a copy of the complaint.

    That's not our only experience with law-enforcement officers barging into our home. In September 2015, six to eight Missouri deputies (under the direction of Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott) -- some dressed in SWAT gear -- conducted an unlawful eviction, which included one deputy pointing an assault-weapon at my head. The incident ended with cops slamming Carol butt-first to the ground and yanking on her limbs so violently that they broke her left arm -- a comminuted fracture that required roughly eight hours of trauma surgery, plus insertion of plates and screws for repair. As recently as this past weekend, she experienced significant pain in the arm.

    After the Missouri cops finished terrorizing Carol and me, the so-called "eviction crew" ("thievery crew," working on behalf of landlord Cowherd Construction, would be a more appropriate term) placed all of our furniture outside at the sidewalk and proceeded to drive off with just about everything they could carry. We lost all of our possessions except the clothes on our backs -- furniture, clothing, household goods, etc. ("Neighbors" apparently helped themselves to our furniture while it was on the street.) We still are struggling to recover from that nightmare, launched by crooked cops.

    Back to the question we raised earlier: How do these incidents keep happening around the country? From hard-earned experience, I have an idea or two. For one, cops seem to be increasingly reckless about their actions in and around homes, even though federal law says they are to be particularly careful in such surroundings.

    In a case styled Payton v. New York, 455 U.S 573 (1980), the U.S. Supreme Court held:

    The Fourth Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, prohibits the police from making a warrantless and nonconsensual entry into a suspect's home in order to make a routine felony arrest.

    Why is this so? Here is background from the Payton opinion:

    The physical entry of the home is the chief evil against which the wording of the Fourth Amendment is directed. To be arrested in the home involves not only the invasion attendant to all arrests, but also an invasion of the sanctity of the home, which is too substantial an invasion to allow without a warrant, in the absence of exigent circumstances, even when it is accomplished under statutory authority and when probable cause is present. In terms that apply equally to seizures of property and to seizures of persons, the Fourth Amendment has drawn a firm line at the entrance to the house. Absent exigent circumstances, that threshold may not reasonably be crossed without a warrant. 
    The reasons for upholding warrantless arrests in a public place, United States v. Watson, 423 U.S. 411, 96 S.Ct. 820, 46 L.Ed.2d 598, do not apply to warrantless invasions of the privacy of the home. The common-law rule on warrantless home arrests was not as clear as the rule on arrests in public places; the weight of authority as it appeared to the Framers of the Fourth Amendment was to the effect that a warrant was required for a home arrest, or at the minimum that there were substantial risks in proceeding without one. Although a majority of the States that have taken a position on the question permit warrantless home arrests even in the absence of exigent circumstances, there is an obvious declining trend, and there is by no means the kind of virtual unanimity on this question that was present in United States v. Watson, supra, with regard to warrantless public arrests. And, unlike the situation in Watson no federal statutes have been cited to indicate any congressional determination that warrantless entries into the home are "reasonable."

    Experience has taught us two things about post-modern cops that are driven home by the Dallas-Fort Worth shootings:

    (1) A lot of cops are ignorant of the law they are sworn to uphold? How many cops have even heard of Payton v. New York and are familiar with its holdings? Our guess is that the percentage is in single digits.

    (2) Many Americans, like the neighbor in Fort Worth, think calling the police makes sense because they are likely to solve a possible problem; we used to share that feeling. But no more. Experience has taught us the involvement of cops is more likely to make a problem worse than better. The body-cam video below the personal note provides evidence to support that claim.

    (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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    Forth Worth cop Aaron Dean: Charged with murder in the
    shooting death of Atatiana Koquice Jefferson

    When police abuse citizens, especially in or around the home, it leaves a kind of trauma that never goes away. My wife, Carol, and I know all about this, as we live daily with the effects of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) We've had two encounters with cops breaking into our home and acting with violence -- both apparently driven by legal/political forces who wanted to shut down our investigative reporting on Legal Schnauzer.

    I'm not sure there is such a thing as mass PTSD, but if it exists, the citizens of Forth Worth, TX, probably are feeling it after a white police officer early Saturday fatally shot a black, female resident named Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, 28, as she peered out a window from inside her own home. One minute, she was playing video games with her nephew; the next minute, she heard noise outside, went to check on it, and wound up dead. In fact, the story is moving quickly, with officer Aaron Dean arrested and charged with murder. Much more already is happening.

    In our first experience, Alabama deputy Chris Blevins, with assistance from colleague Jason Valenti (who can be heard on a dash-cam video threatening to break my arms), entered our home, beat me up, doused me with mace and hauled me for a five-month stay at the Shelby County Jail. To my knowledge, I remain the only U.S. journalist since 2006 to be incarcerated. This was all over a fully civil matter -- a lawsuit for defamation from Alabama GOP politico Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke -- without a whiff of criminal allegations (and as limited court procedures later showed, without a whiff of defamation either.) Blevins did not show a warrant, state he had a warrant, or state his purpose for being on our property, which means this was a state-sanctioned kidnapping -- a gross violation of state law and the U.S. Supreme Court holding in Payton v. New York, 455 U.S 573 (1980).

    Atatiana Koquice Jefferson
    In our second experience, six to eight Missouri deputies -- some dressed in SWAT gear -- conducted an unlawful eviction, which included one deputy pointing an assault-weapon at my head. The incident ended with cops slamming Carol butt-first to the ground and yanking on her limbs so violently that they broke her left arm -- a comminuted fracture that required roughly eight hours of trauma surgery for repair. After the Missouri cops finished terrorizing Carol and me, the so-called "eviction crew" for landlord Cowherd Construction placed all of our furniture outside at the sidewalk and proceeded to drive off with just about everything they could carry. We lost all of our possessions except the clothes on our backs -- furniture, clothing, household goods, etc. We still are struggling to recover from that nightmare, while trying to cope with PTSD. (See Personal Note at the end of this post, along with body-cam video from Fort Worth.)

    As for the Jefferson shooting, we already see signs residents are ready for accountability and dramatic changes in how Fort Worth is policed. Consider the following, per the Fort Worth Star Telegram and Dallas Morning News:

    (1) Officer Aaron Dean resigns and is arrested and charged with murder . . .

    A former Fort Worth officer has been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of Atatiana Jefferson, according to jail and court records. Aaron York Dean, 34, resigned from Fort Worth Police Department on Monday morning. Early Saturday morning, he shot and killed Jefferson, 28, inside her home on Allen Avenue while responding to a call from a neighbor about the front door being open, police said. Dean was listed as an inmate in the Tarrant County Jail as of 6:50 p.m. Monday night, according to records.

    (2) Activists and leaders around the country react to arrest in Jefferson shooting . . .

    Activist Shaun King, who has 1.1 million followers on Twitter, tweeted about Dean’s arrest: "This is a tiny measure of progress.

    "This arrest is not justice. It's a half-step toward it, but this county has so many wrongs to get right."

    S. Lee Merritt, Jefferson family attorney: "The family of Atatiana Jefferson is relieved that Aaron Dean has been arrested and charged with murder. We need to see this through to a vigorous prosecution and appropriate sentencing. The City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing."

    (3)  Experts: Training emphasizes danger to cops over community safety . . .

    The Fort Worth officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson likely relied on police training that overemphasized the risk to an officer’s life while ignoring basic patrol guidelines every cop learns, law enforcement experts said Monday.

    Jefferson, 28, was at her home in southeast Fort Worth when she was shot around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. She was up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor — concerned because Jefferson’s door was open and the lights were on — called a non-emergency police number.

    When officer Aaron Dean and his partner arrived, they went to the backyard. Dean shot Jefferson through a bedroom window. It appears they did not yell “police” or go to the open front door, according to the snippet of body camera footage released Saturday by the Fort Worth Police Department. Both approaches should have been part of Dean’s training after he joined the department in 2018, the experts said.

    (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.

    (As noted above, we've had two encounters with cops unlawfully entering our home and inflicting violence and terror on us. The result has been emotional and financial devastation. Carol and I have been diagnosed with PTSD, and we struggle with it daily. Our once solid finances are in tatters, and "eviction-crew" thugs, under the direction of Missouri landlord Trent Cowherd, stole almost all of our earthly possessions -- clothes, furniture, household goods . . . all gone.

    (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.)

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    Kia Motors Manufacturing of Georgia

    A Kia Motors executive's workplace-porn habit apparently has been unmasked because of an employment retaliation lawsuit that a former female human-resources employee filed after the company fired her. Ouch! Memo to big-shot corporate types: If you are going to swap pornography with your buddies in the workplace, don't fire an employee under dubious circumstances that might lead to a lawsuit and discovery process that could unveil your little secret for the whole world to see.

    In fact, the dispute provides a real-world tutorial on how e-discovery works in the modern legal world, with plenty of peril for execs who fire others while engaging in their own workplace misdeeds.

    (Note: I might have grounds to reinstate my employment/First Amendment lawsuit against UAB -- the University of Alabama Board of Trustees -- with discovery I was denied the last time by the late crooked federal judge William M. Acker Jr. Such e-discovery could expose unsavory workplace habits from those who unlawfully fired me -- and more importantly, it would show Acker, who is now dead, engaged in horrifically corrupt behavior on the bench. More on that in upcoming posts. Did I mention Acker is dead?)

    Andrea Gogel
    The case of Andrea Gogel v. Kia Motors Manufacturing of Georgia raises significant workplace issues, enough that the entire U.S. 11th Circuit  Court of Appeals is set to hear it, with en banc arguments set for Oct. 22. As for the primary legal issues in Gogel, they are outlined at Daily Report and law,com:

    Along with millions of Tellurides, Sorrentos and Optimas, the Kia plant in west Georgia has produced an intricate legal dispute that tests the competing rights of human resources officials and the companies they represent.

    The case, set to be argued en banc at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on Oct. 22, has sparked a debate within the court and drawn the interest of employment lawyers and business groups around the country.

    At issue is Andrea Gogel, a human resources director at the company who heard complaints that the company’s Korean executives discriminated against women and Americans. When she came to believe she was a victim herself, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—which soon afterward received two more complaints from Kia employees.

    After company executives noticed the same Atlanta law firm represented Gogel and two co-workers who filed claims within a month of her, they fired Gogel for violating her job duties. According to the Eleventh Circuit panel decision, one executive said, she was ”paid to prevent lawsuits,” not encourage them.

    What was Gogel's job description? This is from the Outten and Golden law blog:

    [Gogel] worked as a Team Relations Manager at Kia's West Point, Georgia plant. The "overall purpose" of the Team Relations department was to "support an environment of positive team relations." Among her duties were "conducted investigations into policy violations, including attendance issues and allegations of harassment or discrimination." Between the lines, part of Gogel's job was to smooth over differences between the American employees and Korean-national management.

    Did Gogel essentially get fired for doing her job? That appears to be part of her argument, and it seems to be a strong one. From the EEOC statement on the case:

    The record evidence in this case demonstrates that Gogel engaged in protected activity and creates a triable issue as to Gogel’s retaliation claim, particularly in light of testimony from decision-maker Randy Jackson that he fired Gogel for encouraging and assisting another employee in filing an EEOC charge. That Gogel’s job responsibilities involved managerial and/or equal employment functions does not alter this conclusion. Indeed, the district court’s narrow focus on this aspect of the record led it to err in analyzing the central issue in this (and any) Title VII case—whether the plaintiff was discriminated against in violation of the statute. See U.S. Postal Service Bd. of Governors v. Aikens, 460 U.S. 711, 714 (1983) (“The ‘factual inquiry’ in a Title VII case is ‘whether the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff.’”).

    Here is a summary of Gogel's procedural path:

    Gogel appealed, and last year an Eleventh Circuit panel agreed with Batten on tossing the gender and national origin claims, but it split 2-1 in favor of reinstating Gogel’s retaliation claim. The full court then agreed to rehear the case.

    The fault lines are delineated between the majority decision by Judge Beverly Martin, who was joined by Senior Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the Ninth Circuit, and the dissent by Senior Judge Julie Carnes of the Eleventh Circuit.

    Martin wrote that a 1989 precedent instructed the court to balance the purpose of Title VII and its protection of claimants “against an employer’s legitimate demands for loyalty, cooperation and a generally productive work environment.”

    Viewing the facts of the case in light most favorable to Gogel, as required at this stage of a case, Martin held that all Gogel did was provide to a colleague the name of an attorney she was considering hiring for herself. That activity would be protected activity for anyone who wasn’t in human resources, Martin added, and under these circumstances Gogel was protected, too.

    Carnes responded in her dissent that a 1980 precedent held that an employee’s opposition to an employer’s actions—in this case, alleged discrimination—isn’t protected when the means by which she expresses that opposition makes her ineffective at her job.

    “It is hard to argue that a high-ranking manager whose job duties include working to resolve employee disputes without litigation can be effective in that position if she instead solicits subordinates to sue the company,” Carnes wrote.

    J. Randy Jackson
     Perhaps the most entertaining aspect of the case comes courtesy of a Kia executive named J. Randy Jackson. According to court documents, Jackson was Gogel's supervisor and the primary decision-maker in Gogel's firing. Also, Jackson allegedly made it a habit to swap pornography via his workplace computer, and after being fired, Gogel decided that should be an issue in her lawsuit. Her efforts to unmask Jackson as a work-place porno guy produced its own separate case, styled Jackson v. Gogel in the Eastern District of Kentucky. Here were the issues considered, from the Jackson opinion (citations omitted):

    During discovery, Gogel suggested that Kia include several explicit search terms in their e-discovery process. She explained that she had reason to believe such explicit terms would appear in e-mails: "For example, we are aware that Randy Jackson circulated offensive pornographic materials on his computer" while employed with Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America, Inc. Kia adamantly denied the allegations against Jackson, which ""appear[] to have been included solely to harass [him] and compromise his standing with his current employer." Gogel then subpoenaed Toyota's corporate designee to testify at a deposition in Covington, Kentucky.

    As you probably can imagine, Jackson squealed like a character in Deliverance upon learning that Gogel was seeking to document his workplace-porn habit. (Note: Jackson died in May 2016, roughly one year after he lost the workplace-porn discovery issue in court.) Here is how the process played out:

    The subpoena further required the corporate designee to produce the following documents:
    1. J. Randy Jackson's complete personnel file and/or other files or compilations of documents, including but not limited to all applications for employment, offer letters, performance appraisals, credentials, resumes, commendations, reprimands, warning letters, correspondence relating to employment, resignation letters, and all other documents contained therein for the time period of 1996 through 2003.

    2. Any e-mail sent or forwarded by J. Randy Jackson during his employment with Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, Inc. (TEMA), for the period of 1999 through 2003 that was considered offensive, pornographic in nature or sexual in nature, and/or derogatory towards women.

    3. The Separation Notice TEMA filed with the Department of Labor regarding the end of J. Randy Jackson's employment.

    4. Any separation agreement or severance agreement between J. Randy Jackson and TEMA.

    Here is an example of the kicking and screaming that commenced from Jackson's side, as part of his effort to quash the subpoena:

    In his Objections, Jackson maintains that all of the subpoenaed documents are non-discoverable because they have no relevance to Gogel's gender discrimination claims. He notes that the requested emails are over a decade old and pertain to his past employment with Toyota. Although Jackson insists that the emails do not contain sexually explicit material, in the event that they do contain questionable material, he argues that they are still irrelevant because they were sent to a non-employee attorney. Thus, the emails reveal nothing about his attitude towards female employees. Jackson also contends that "[w]hether or not sexual material was sent to a non-employee is not probative of [Gogel's] claims" because her claims involve an entirely different type of conduct. Specifically, Gogel bases her gender discrimination claims on Jackson's alleged failure to promote her and wrongful termination of her employment; there are no allegations of sexual harassment.

    Were Jackson's arguments on target? Not exactly, writes U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning (citations omitted):

    Jackson's argument blurs the line between discoverability and admissibility. . . . While material must be discoverable in order to be admissible at trial, it is not necessarily admissible simply because it is discoverable. Discovery must only be reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Through these emails, Gogel seeks to discover whether Jackson engaged in inappropriate behavior during his former employment. She reasons that this information is relevant and discoverable because it illustrates Jackson's attitude about females in the workplace, which allegedly influenced his decision to terminate her employment. With this explanation in mind, the Court cannot conclude that the requested documents are not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Jackson's concerns about the age, origin and context of these emails may very well affect their admissibility in later stages of the litigation, but they are not grounds to bar discovery of these documents altogether.

    Jackson also insists that this subpoena is intended to harass and annoy him because it was issued just after the parties' e-discovery dispute. The Court [finds] that the timing of the subpoena is not inherently suspicious. As for Jackson's assertion that releasing these documents will harm his reputation with Kia, the Court finds these concerns to be overstated as well. As Jackson's current employer, Kia "already knows — or reasonably should already know — [his] employment record with Toyota.". Thus, the potential harm to Jackson does not outweigh Gogel's need for these documents and their relevance to her claims. Having conducted its in camera review, and after balancing the required factors of relevance, need, confidentiality and harm, the Court concludes that 32 of the 117 pages of email correspondence are discoverable under the applicable standard.

    Bottom line: Jackson failed to keep his on-the-job porn habit under wraps. Will Gogel prevail on her  retaliation claim, at least having it revived at the 11th Circuit? We should learn more when oral arguments are heard next week.

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    The fatal shooting of Atatiana Koquice Jefferson, leading to murder charges against Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean, likely was caused by training that focuses on perceived danger to the officer as opposed to common-sense patrol guidelines that could help ensure public safety, according to experts who spoke with Dallas Morning News reporters Jennifer Emily and Cassandra Jaramillo.

    In a new development, the murder warrant for Dean says Jefferson was holding a gun inside her own home at the time she was shot, but that is not illegal under Texas law, according to a report at the Fort-Worth Star Telegram: (A copy of the warrant is embedded at the end of this post.)

    The murder arrest warrant for a white officer who shot and killed a black woman on Saturday says that the victim was holding a gun after she heard noises outside her window.

    But holding a gun inside your home is not illegal in Texas, and the former police officer who shot her was arrested on Monday.

    Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said on Monday that the gun was irrelevant to the investigation. In Texas, homeowners have a right to be armed on their own property, Price said.

    A witness, the woman’s 8-year-old nephew, told a forensic interviewer that after Atatiana Jefferson heard noises outside their home and thought there might be a prowler in the back yard, she reached into her purse, grabbed a handgun and pointed it toward the window, the warrant said.

    At a press conference Tuesday, Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said it made sense that Jefferson had a gun if she felt threatened by an unknown person being in her yard.

    He called Dean’s actions inexcusable.

    As for police-training issues, this is from the Dallas Morning News:

    The Fort Worth officer who shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson likely relied on police training that overemphasized the risk to an officer’s life while ignoring basic patrol guidelines every cop learns, law enforcement experts said Monday.

    Jefferson, 28, was at her home in southeast Fort Worth when she was shot around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. She was up late playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew when a neighbor — concerned because Jefferson’s door was open and the lights were on — called a non-emergency police number.

    When officer Aaron Dean and his partner arrived, they went to the backyard. Dean shot Jefferson through a bedroom window. It appears they did not yell “police” or go to the open front door, according to the snippet of body camera footage released Saturday by the Fort Worth Police Department. Both approaches should have been part of Dean’s training after he joined the department in 2018, the experts said.

    Police trainees are taught, above all else, to look out for their own safety, according to the report:

    Jefferson’s death shows that overall police training in the United States hasn’t changed much, said Johnny Nhan, a criminal justice professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. Police academies and departments focus their initial and subsequent training on the fact that officers can be hurt or killed at any time, said Nhan, who studies police use of force.

    Aaron Dean was booked into the Tarrant County Jail Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. He resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department after he fatally shot Atatiana Jefferson in her home Oct. 12.(Tarrant County Jail)

    “It focuses on the risk, officer safety. To not get killed and go home,” he said. “Whenever you have someone just out of the police academy, they have a very heightened sense of danger and risk.”

    Many officers, especially young ones, operate in a world where they perceive themselves to be in constant danger:

    Nhan said that although policing is inherently dangerous, officers tend to go into situations feeling their lives are constantly in danger.

    He compared Jefferson’s death to the September 2018 shooting of Botham Jean in Dallas. . . .

    Amber Guyger was off-duty but still in her Dallas police uniform in September 2018 when she entered Botham Jean's apartment and shot him while he watched football on TV. She told jurors that she thought his apartment was her own and that she mistook Jean for a burglar. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison earlier this month for murdering Jean.

    “That’s their default mentality: ‘Something is wrong and I need to prepare for it,’” said Nhan, who has written a book calledIssues and Controversies in Policing Today.

    Race often is an issue in police shootings, and the Morning News provides statistics to shine light on that:

    Jefferson was the sixth person shot and killed since June by Fort Worth officers. Jefferson was black, and Dean is white.

    The Fort Worth police department is 63% white, 21% Hispanic and 12% black, according to data released by the city in June. The city is more diverse, according to 2018 census data. Fort Worth is about 40% white, 35% Hispanic and 19% black.

    Law enforcement officers in the United States have shot and killed 709 people in 2019 as of Monday afternoon, according to a database kept by The Washington Post.

    Texas officers killed 79 (11%) of those people as of Thursday. Only seven were women. Overall, nine were black, 18 were Hispanic, 21 were white and the race is unknown for 31.

    What about Officer Dean's background? The Morning News provides insight on that:

    According to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, Dean underwent training classes for crisis intervention, a refresher on using less lethal options, and courses on cultural diversity and on conflict resolution in the past several months.

    Craig Miller, a former Dallas police deputy chief who testifies in cases about police use of force, said it appeared Dean fired his weapon into the house through a window very quickly after arriving and yelling for those inside to show their hands.

    “Those commands are pretty quick,” he said. “They almost came at the same time as the shooting.”

    Miller said that it appears from the body camera footage that there was no reason for the Fort Worth officer to act so quickly. (The footage is embedded at the beginning of this post.)

    “He had time on his side,” Miller said. “He could have moved more slowly with this.”

    Miller made an educated guess about how a criminal trial might proceed:

    Miller said Dean is likely to say that he fired into the window because he feared for his life. Using deadly force for that reason is a defense to a murder charge. If the case goes to trial, a jury will decide whether a “reasonable officer” would have acted similarly, Miller said.

    When Miller was with DPD, he oversaw investigations into police shootings and typically went to the location where they occurred along with his detectives. He recently consulted with the defense team for Guyger, the Dallas officer serving a prison sentence for killing Jean.

    Miller said if he were investigating this shooting, he would want to see the house during daylight to compare with the lighting officers saw that night. He’d also want to trace what happened in the lives of both Jefferson and the officer to get a better idea of their state of mind before the shooting.

    Miller said it’s also important to know what the officer knew about the neighborhood and that particular call before the shooting, as well as what other calls he had answered and if he’d been involved in prior shootings.

    One expert said it is almost impossible for training to prepare officers for the realities of the street -- and the Jefferson shooting illustrates the difference between a "welfare check" call and an "open structure" call:

    Despite the months of training officers go through, how it applies in the field depends on each scenario.

    Former Dallas police Officer Vana Hammond Parham, who spoke about race and policing at the Texas Tribune Festival last month, said she spent several months under the supervision of a senior corporal when she was a rookie officer. During that time, she was evaluated at different phases on what was done well and what needed improvement.

    “In the world, things are fluid. They are not black and white,” Hammond Parham said.

    She said trainers always stressed the importance of identifying yourself as law enforcement when responding to calls.

    Hammond Parham said a wellness check call — typically a low priority — is different than a call about a so-called “open structure,” meaning a home or other building with doors and or windows open.

    “It’s usually someone calling saying, ‘Something doesn’t seem right. Can you check it out?'” she said.

    But officers would approach an open-structure call differently, she said.

    The officer will need to search the building and make sure there are no threats, she said. It’s not uncommon for an officer to have their weapons out, but she said identification is very important with those calls.

    “The first thing we do is announce ourselves because you don’t know who is in there,” she said.

    Kraus, the Fort Worth police chief, said the officers were not aware the call originated out of concern for Jefferson’s welfare. They were told it was an “open structure” call. The chief said it would be typical for officers to announce themselves on a welfare check, but not if they thought the incident might involve a criminal situation.

    Some see a policing system that is broken and badly needs repair:

    Reynold Verret, the president of Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically black college from which Jefferson graduated in 2014 with a biology degree, said in a statement that there is “an urgent need to fix a law enforcement system that is broken.”

    Verret said that while many officers fulfill their duty to their communities, the system does not serve everyone equally.

    “We should expect safety when we call on our police, whose mission is to protect and serve,” Verret said. “Sadly, our fathers and mothers must caution daughters and sons on their interactions with officers. Families in our communities hesitate to call on their protectors out of fear they will be killed. This should not be.”

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    A Deep South federal judge, who has a perfect batting average of favoring JPMorganChase (JPMC), has an even more astonishing record on cases involving another financial monolith, Bank of America (BOA).

    Is that because Gerald Bard Tjoflat, an 89-tear-old geezer from the Richard Nixon era -- holds a  perch on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) -- and has a financial stake in both JPMC and BOA? Does that mean Tjoflat tends to cheat everyday Americans in order to pad his own financial bottom line? Does that mean Tjoflat routinely violates federal law that, in general, prohibits a federal judge from hearing any case in which he or a member of his immediate family has a financial interest?

    Public documents indicate the answer to all three questions is yes.The issue hits particularly close to home here at Legal Schnauzer because Tjoflat led a three-judge panel that cheated us in "The House Case," which involved theft of our home of almost 25 years in Birmingham via a wrongful foreclosure.  That ruling came down in December 2017, but we only became aware in recent months of the likely reason the Tjoflat panel screwed us -- and did it in a way, clearly contrary to law, that did not even consider the myriad faulty rulings by trial-court judges R. David Proctor and Virginia Emerson Hopkins in the Northern District of Alabama. (See here and here.) The reason? Chase Mortgage held our mortgage and led the effort to cheat us out of our home, and Tjoflat has a longstanding financial stake in its parent company, JPMC.

    Gerald Bard Tjoflat
    My wife, Carol, and I are not the only Alabama couple to get the short end of the stick when going before a Tjoflat panel, against one of his banking favorites. Karun and Ursula Jackson, of Daphne, went up against Bank of America in a wrongful-foreclosure case, and like us, they lost, with the pertinent rulings from the trial court barely being considered. Tjoflast has -- surprise, surprise -- financial holdings in BOA. And his record of favoring BOA is even more off the charts than his record on JPMC.

    Between 2003 and 2017, Tjoflat sat on three-judge panels 15 times to hear cases involving banking giant (JPMC). Each time, the panel ruled in favor of the banking giant -- and, in most cases, against everyday Americans. If that makes you want to throw up just a little bit in your mouth, you might want to really spew when you see his record of favoring BOA. From 2009 to 2018, Tjoflat panels favored BOA in 24 of 24 cases.

    BOA, like JPMC, has a perfect record when coming before panels led by one of its shareholders (Tjoflat). Let's check out the details:

    (1) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Jackson v. BOA (2018);

    (2) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Thomas v. BOA (2009);

    (3) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Avenue CLO Fund v. BOA, (2013;

    (4) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Merisier v. BOA (2012);

    (5) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Fenello v. BOA ((2014);

    (6) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Shine v. BOA (2015);

    (7) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Lawrence v. BOA (2012);

    (8) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Fabre v. BOA (2013);

    (9) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in D. Jones v. BOA (2014);

    (10) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Lawrence v. BOA (2017);

    (11) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in White v. BOA (2015);

    (12) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Sheppard v. BOA (2013);

    (13) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Cheshire v. BOA (2009);

    (14) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Chipka v. BOA (2009);

    (15) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Carroll v. BOA (2013);

    (16) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in McCulley v. BOA (2015);

    (17) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Hill v. BOA (2013);

    (18) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Ambarus v. BOA (2014):

    (19) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Coniglio v. BOA (2016);

    (20) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Infante v. BOA (2012);

    (21) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in K. Jones v. BOA (2014):

    (22) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Elliott v. Wells Fargo-BOA (2015);

    (23) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Re: Diamond v. BOA (2017);

    (24) Tjoflat panel favors BOA in Cooley v. Ocwen Servicing-BOA (2018).

    Is it possible some of the above cases were correctly decided in favor of BOA? Of course. Is it possible some of them unlawfully were decided in favor of BOA? Given our experience with a Tjoflat panel in a case involving JPMorgan Chase, there is no doubt in my mind? Does that mean Tjoflat has violated federal law multiple times by hearing cases where he was disqualified because of his financial stake in big banks? The law on this subject is circuitous, but when taken as a whole, the public record suggests the answer is yes.

    (To be continued)

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    (From NPR)

    Former U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) is a long-standing political hack, so it should be no surprise to learn that he is at the center of opiod-lawsuit settlement discussions that involve a "partisan divide,"according to a report yesterday at npr.org.

    That is not the only breaking news on the opioid front. Just hours before opening arguments were to begin yesterday at a federal courthouse in Cleveland, Ohio, four pharmaceutical companies reached a settlement with two Ohio counties that have been ravaged by the opioid crisis. From a report at CNN:

    Hours before the first federal trial in the opioid epidemic was set to begin, four pharmaceutical companies reached a settlement totaling $260 million.

    The four companies -- McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. -- reached a settlement Monday morning with the two plaintiffs, Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio. McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. will pay out a combined $215 million immediately, and Teva Pharmaceutical will pay $20 million, officials said at a press conference Monday. . . .

    The defendants were supposed to appear in a Cleveland court Monday in the first federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) trial involving the opioid epidemic. Thousands more plaintiffs' cases are awaiting trial.

    As for Luther Strange, former attorney general of Alabama, he is a key figure in discussions over a proposed settlement offered last month by Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. From a report at NPR:
    The nation's response to the deadly opioid epidemic has been broadly bipartisan, but deep divides have emerged over a settlement plan offered last month by Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin.

    Democratic state attorneys general have generally panned the deal, which would force Purdue's owners, members of the Sackler family, to give up control of their company while paying roughly $3 billion in cash from their personal fortunes.

    So far, only two Democratic attorneys general nationwide have backed the plan, with more than 20 rejecting it.

    Republican attorneys general, meanwhile, have mostly embraced the structured bankruptcy plan. They say the deal isn't perfect but it would get money to communities fast.

    Who is pushing heavily for the plan that critics say would let Purdue Pharma off easy? Why, that would be Luther Strange, sticking to his reputation as a pure political animal. Reports NPR:

    NPR found that much of the political pressure faced by Republican AGs who pursued opioid litigation has come from one highly influential conservative: Luther Strange.

    He's a former US Senator from Alabama who served as that state's Republican attorney general. He also led the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) until 2017.

    Strange didn't respond to NPR's repeated requests for an interview but, over the last year, he emerged as a prominent critic of opioid lawsuits.

    He objects to state attorneys general hiring outside law firms to help sue Big Pharma. He also argues that AGs who use so-called "public nuisance" claims to hold companies accountable set a dangerous legal precedent, expanding liability for companies accused of harming the public.

    "I've written on this recently because it is a blooming problem and issue around the country," Strange said at a gathering of the conservative Federalist Society in June.

    He predicted the public nuisance legal arguments now being used against opioid defendants like Purdue Pharma "will be used against almost any other broad social issue."

    Why is Strange pressuring fellow Republicans, especially those who show signs of having a spine and standing up for the public against Big Pharma? Well, that's likely because Strange essentially is a legal whore for the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma -- plus, Strange and Jessica Medeiros Garrison, his one-time campaign manager and mistress, helped rake in more than $680,000 from Purdue (2014 to 2018) while they were associated with RAGA:

    NPR has learned that while Luther Strange was championing conservative arguments against opioid lawsuits, he was also working behind the scenes as a paid attorney for members of the Sackler family.

    According to a source with detailed knowledge of the matter, Strange represented his clients at a gathering of the Republican Attorneys General Association in West Virginia over the summer, where he worked to convince AGs to accept Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy plan.

    Strange and his like-minded corporate protectors on the right seem to be ignoring signs that the Sackler family is engaging in apparent bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion, as we wrote last month, borrowing on original reporting at Splinter News:

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

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

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

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

    Is Luther Strange engaging in conspiracy to commit bankruptcy fraud and tax evasion as he pushes for a hasty settlement that likely would be highly favorable to is clients, the Sackler family? That appears to be a question investigators should be asking.

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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.

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
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    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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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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