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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Lawyer Matthew Couch, of Cabaniss firm, appears at cheaters' site, and his wife, Mary Ann Couch, works at Bradley Arant

Matthew Couch
An attorney at a major downtown-Birmingham law firm -- his wife is an attorney at another big downtown firm -- appears as a paying customer at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site.

Matthew M. Couch is an associate at Cabaniss Johnston Gardner Dumas and O'Neal, focusing on litigation in the transportation sector. The Cabaniss firm, founded in 1887, is one of the oldest continuous law practices in Alabama. One of Couch's colleagues, James F. Henry, recently joined the Cabaniss firm after we profiled him as an Ashley Madison customer back in March, while he worked at Bradley Arant.

That's ironic because Couch wife, Mary Ann Couch, is an associate at Bradley Arant. This presents the first case we've discovered of an Ashley Madison case that is contained wholly within the Birmingham legal community (unless, of course, Matthew Couch had an affair with someone who is not a Birmingham lawyer).

Here is background on Matt Couch from his profile at the Cabaniss Web site:

Matt Couch is an associate in the firm’s Birmingham office. His practice focuses on civil litigation in the transportation sector, particularly in the areas of railroad personal injury claims and regulatory compliance. He regularly represents one of the largest class I railroad companies in the nation, litigating a wide array of issues and legal claims in state and federal courts. Matt is admitted to practice law in all state and federal district courts in Alabama and all state courts in Florida. Prior to joining the firm, Matt clerked for Judge Sharon L. Blackburn, former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama. Matt graduated with honors from Cumberland School of Law in 2011, where he served on the editorial board of the American Journal of Trial Advocacy. Matt graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2008.

What about Couch's life outside the office. Here is more from his Cabaniss profile:

When not practicing law, Matt enjoys participating in outdoor activities with his wife, Mary Ann, including running, hiking, wakeboarding, and snowboarding. Matt is an Eagle Scout. He also serves on the junior board of directors for the Firehouse Shelter, a men’s homeless shelter and outreach organization serving the Birmingham, Alabama, metro area.

What about Mary Ann Couch? Here is a summary of her legal practice from a Bradley Arant bio:

Mary Ann Couch helps her clients avoid and solve problems in a variety of matters—from commercial disputes and financial services litigation to employment matters and ERISA litigation.

Mary Ann is licensed in both Alabama and Florida, and litigates cases in trial and appellate courts across the Southeast. She represents clients in a number of industries, including manufacturing, health care, natural resources, employee benefits, and financial services.

Here is more on Mary Ann Couch's background:

Before joining Bradley, Mary Ann served as a law clerk to the Honorable Joel F. Dubina, former Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. During law school at the University of Alabama, she was an Executive Editor of the Alabama Law Review and an active member of the Moot Court Board. Mary Ann graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music (violin performance) and English.

Joel Dubina should be a familiar name to many Alabamians. He's retired chief judge from the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals and the father of U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL). Dubina has strong right-wing roots, so it makes sense that Mary Ann Couch (and her husband, for that matter) both work at corporate, GOP-leaning law firms.

On a personal note, I've seen evidence that Joel Dubina was more interested in hiding judicial corruption than in addressing it. When U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. repeatedly cheated me in my employment-discrimination case against the University of Alabama Board of Trustees (UAB) -- going so far as to tell me from the bench he was going to cheat me -- I filed a complaint with the Eleventh Circuit.

How bad was Acker's chief job. He granted summary judgment to the university without allowing any discovery to take place; no discovery schedule even was set. That simply cannot happen in any federal circuit, and it clearly is prohibited in the Eleventh Circuit by a case styled Snook v. Trust Co. of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Cir., 1988). As chief judge, Dubina wound up with my complaint, and he proceeded to make every excuse imaginable for Acker's misconduct.

In other words, Dubina provided cover for a cheater (Acker). That was in 2012, and now, roughly five years later, we learn that Mary Ann Couch worked for a cheater (Dubina) -- and her husband (Matthew Couch) has tried to cheat on her.

Is that a sign of karma -- what goes around, comes around? We will let you decide on that.

We sought comment from both Couches for this post, but neither has responded to our queries.


Article with links to 1-20 in Ashley Madison series

(21) Craig Oliver, attorney, Springfield, MO (1/24/17)

(22) Craig Lowell, attorney, Wiggins Childs, Birmingham (1/26/17)

(23) Thomas Mancuso, tax attorney, Montgomery, AL (2/16/17)

(24) Nicholas Arciniegas, attorney, Washington, D.C. (2/21/17)

(25) Griffin McGahey, vice president, High Cotton USA, Birmingham (3/16/17)

Martha Stewart wound up in an orange jumpsuit for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions might be heading down the same path

Martha Stewart
(From businessinsider.com)
If domestic diva Martha Stewart served five months in federal prison for violating 18 U.S.C. 1001, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions should not be above such a fate, should he? Our answer is "hell, no!" Sec. 1001, commonly known as "making false statements," might be the biggest threat to Sessions' freedom -- and his political life.

Sessions' vulnerability to a Sec. 1001 prosecution first came to light via a complaint to the Alabama State Bar by Boston-area attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee. Before the Larrabee complaint hit the news, many Americans probably thought the main possible charge against Sessions would be perjury (under 18 U.S.C. 1621) -- and some prominent legal analysts, such as George Washington University's Jonathan Turley, pooh-poohed the notion that such a charge could be brought.

I'm not sure Turley is right about that, but even if he is, perjury might not present Sessions' biggest hurdle. That could come from Sec. 1001, as Larrabee explains in his bar complaint:

On March 6, 2017, Sessions submitted a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee supplementing his testimony on January 10, 2017. (Letter from Sessions to Charles E. Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, attached hereto as Exhibit “A.”)

Sessions claimed in the letter that his response to [U.S. Sen. Al] Franken, denying any communications with the Russians during the campaign, “was correct.” Rather than acknowledge the falsity of his prior testimony, Sessions willfully and deliberately insisted that his prior false testimony was correct. In doing so, Sessions made an additional material false statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee and attempted to conceal and cover up his prior false testimony and perjury.

This comes under the heading of "The Cover-up Is Worse Than the Crime," and Larrabee asserts that it violates Sec. 1001. How is this for a possible case of irony? More than 10 years later, many Americans likely think Martha Stewart went to prison for insider trading or perjury. But she actually got nailed for lying to government agents. And Sessions, while trying to clarify his perjury before the U.S. Senate, stepped in the same brier patch that ensnared Martha Stewart.

A 2004 article at Graziadio Business Review puts the Stewart case in perspective. Its title is "Businesspersons Beware: Lying Is A Crime":

In recent corporate scandals, some executives have learned the hard way that lying is still a crime in corporate America. Martha Stewart was accused of selling her ImClone stock allegedly after receiving insider information. However, she was not convicted of securities fraud. She was instead convicted for lying. In addition, Computer Associates executives were indicted and some have already pleaded guilty for lying to their own company’s attorney during an internal investigation when their lies were passed on by their attorney to the government. . . .

Lying is a crime because those who lie in a judicial proceeding are destroying the essential fabric of the “rule of law,” which has enabled capitalism to be so successful in the United States. Lying is and must be a crime in a judicial proceeding—and must be enforced against everyone—whether he or she is the President of the United States, the president of a Fortune 500 multinational organization, or the janitor. Stewart’s crime of lying must be viewed not only in terms of how it may have impacted her own company and shareholders,[4] but must also be viewed in light of the potential damage to our entire economy if lying were suddenly to be tolerated in our judicial proceedings. After all, if it is okay for Stewart to lie, then how can we complain about accountants who lie about a company’s financial audits, executives who lie about their company’s sales and revenues, or analysts who lie about their stock recommendations? What then makes us think that anyone will continue to invest their money in the American stock market, which has been the driving force of our brand of successful capitalism during the second half of the 20th century?

Martha Stewart hardly is the only business exec to run afoul of Sec. 1001. So have Bernie Madoff and Jeffrey Skilling, along with political figures Scooter Libby and Rod Blagojevich.

Will we soon be making way for Jeff Sessions?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A second gay-porn photograph from his badpuppy.com days hits the Web, as nudie past makes an already rough 2017 get rougher for federal judge Bill Pryor

2017 has been a tough year for U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor, of Alabama, and it might get tougher before too long.

Pryor appeared to be Donald Trump's No. 1 choice to fill the late Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), but he finished no higher than No. 3 as the nomination went to Neil Gorsuch, of Colorado. Pryor saw his political booster, former U.S. senator and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, become ensnared in KremlinGate for lying to Congress about meetings with a Russian ambassador -- and Sessions could face criminal prosecution on at least three counts, according to a bar complaint by Boston attorney J. Whitfield Larrabee.

Now, two additional nude photos of Pryor, from a gallery that appeared at the gay-porn super site badpuppy.com in 1997, have surfaced. Did our reporting on the first gay-porn Pryor photo help cause his SCOTUS chances to implode? I know a number of smart people who think the answer is yes. If that's the case, the two new photos are likely to have Pryor's judicial career floating like a corpse in a slow-moving river.

A strategically blurred version of gay-porn photo No. 2 is at the top, right corner of this post. (You can view the full-blown, NSFW version by clicking on a link at the end of this post.) As you can see, this photo appears to be taken in the same setting, with the same primitive "techniques," as No. 1. This time, Pryor appears to be sitting on, or straddling, a block of wood. Not sure what that is supposed to signify. (Not sure I want to think about what that is supposed to signify.)

Photo No. 2 has surfaced at Tumblr and a number of Europe-based porn sites. The same goes for Photo No. 3, which we will reveal in an upcoming post. According to multiple sources, the original Pryor gallery included eight to 12 images. Alert Legal Schnauzer readers now are scouring various Web sites for the remaining images. We hope to have the full collection within the next two or three months. It's sort of like collecting baseball cards, without the chewing gum.

How could 2017 get tougher for Pryor? Multiple news sites have reported that Pryor's gay-porn past actually has helped his judicial career. The photos, our sources say, likely surfaced via Republican political operatives, who knew they could be used as blackmail against Pryor. That made Pryor an attractive candidate to be a compromised judicial nominee, who could make sure certain cases turned out the way Karl Rove GOPers desired. In blunt terms, Pryor is known as a case fixer, and that could get him into a heap of trouble in 2017.

Robed Bill Pryor and disrobed Bill Pryor
from gay-porn photo No. 1
We recently have seen signs that Pryor and fellow George W. Bush nominees R. David Proctor and Virginia Emerson Hopkins have been fixing cases in the Northern District of Alabama. A few weeks ago, one might have accurately been able to say, "Oh, those judges will be protected by Jeff Sessions' justice department."

But Jeff Sessions appears to be in deep doo-doo, especially if some form of wiretap captured his conversations with Russian officials at Trump Tower. I know of a number of individuals, fed up with courtroom corruption in Alabama, who are gathering information for the FBI about judges who issue orders that run contrary to actual law.

Will the FBI, already investigating the actions of Trump insiders in KremlinGate (and that almost certainly includes Jeff Sessions), look at judges and others who have benefited from Sessions' crooked political clout -- especially those who, at this moment, appear to be fixing court cases? If the answer to that one is yes, it could unleash a torrent of intriguing information, especially as it relates to an Alabama "justice system" that has been hopelessly dysfunctional since at least 1995 -- and probably much earlier than that.

It's well established that judges cannot be sued for acts in their official capacity, no matter how corrupt they might be, because of a judge-created concept called "judicial immunity." (Note: We never will have an honest court system until judicial immunity winds up in the trash bin of history.) But it's also well established that judges can be criminally prosecuted, just like the rest of us. And there is little doubt Pryor, Proctor, and Hopkins (plus many others in Alabama) have engaged in criminal activity.

Corrupt judges in Alabama have been acting for years like they are beyond the long arm of the law. They might discover soon that they were wrong about that.

We sought comment from Pryor for this post, but he has not responded to our queries. The timing of a recent court order, however, suggests he might have responded in a different way -- by helping to fix a case. We will explain in an upcoming post.

Bill Pryor NSFW No. 2

(To be continued)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Missouri deputies used "strong hand," "circumstances of terror," and a bogus 911 call to evict us, meaning they will face a "forcible entry and detainer" charge

(From copblock.org)
We soon will be filing a federal lawsuit in Missouri over the unlawful eviction and police brutality that led to my wife's shattered left arm. It will come under the broad heading of a civil-rights case, but it also will feature state-law claims, including one for a tort that is new to me -- and it's probably new to you, although you might be faced with it someday, especially if you are a tenant.

The tort is called "forcible entry and detainer." It's a very old legal concept, and one piece of case law says it's been around for almost 900 years -- long before Missouri became a state.  Here is the gist of the tort: (1) If you think you have the right to possess certain property, you'd better be damned sure that you are correct; (2) If you plan to dispossess someone of property, you'd better be careful about using a "show of force."

Concern about the tort probably is the reason deputies concocted the story of a mythical 911 call in which I allegedly threatened to shoot anyone who tried to unlawfully evict us. The mythical call likely was created to give deputies an excuse to terrorize us. That plan, of course, had a slight problem -- I never made any such call or any such threat.

If you violate either of the two concepts outlined above, you could find yourself staring down the barrel at a "forcible entry and detainer" (FED) lawsuit. And I've found no citation that says creating a bogus 911 call allows you to skirt the repercussions of FED law.

Why is this an issue in our case? One, landlord Trent Cowherd did not have a legal right to re-possess his property, on at least four different grounds, and we've spelled those out in a series of posts. Two, Cowherd and his lawyer (Craig Lowther) clearly caused a "show of force," which included Greene County deputies pointing an assault rifle at my head and various pistols at both Carol and me. The show of force ended with Carol's left arm being snapped in two, just above the elbow -- an injury so severe that it required trauma surgery for repair.

X-ray of Carol Shuler's broken arm
Bottom line: Throwing people out of property where they legally are entitled to remain, and using force to do it . . . well, that's a piss-poor idea.

FED cases can be found in Alabama. In fact, we were targets of the tort in Birmingham. When Spartan Value Investors conspired with Birmingham Water Works to have our water shut off, that is a form of forcible entry and detainer. In Missouri, the tort is covered under RSMo 534.020, which reads:

Forcible entry and detainer defined.

534.020. If any person shall enter upon or into any lands, tenements or other possessions, with force or strong hand, or with weapons, or by breaking open the doors or windows or other parts of a house, whether any person be in it or not, or by threatening to kill, maim or beat the party in possession, or by such words or actions as have a natural tendency to excite fear or apprehension of danger, or by putting out of doors or carrying away the goods of the party in possession, or by entering peaceably and then turning out by force, or frightening, by threats or other circumstances of terror, the party out of possession, and detain and hold the same in every such case, the person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a "forcible entry and detainer" within the meaning of this chapter.

That's a long-winded statute, but let's break it down into these elements:

(1) Entering onto property with "force or strong hand" can be . . . a bad idea;

(2) Entering property with "weapons" can be . . . a bad idea;

(3) Entering property by "threatening to kill, maim, or beat the party in possession" can be . . . a bad idea. (In our case, the cops did not just threaten to maim or beat a party in possession; they actually did it.)

(4) Entering property by use of words or actions that "have a natural tendency to excite fear or apprehension of danger" can be . . . a bad idea. (Again, we weren't just made to feel we were in danger -- we were in danger.)

(5) Entering property and "putting out of doors or carrying away the goods of the party in possession" can be . . . a bad idea;

(6) Entering property and "turning out" by force or "other circumstances of terror" can be . . . a bad idea.

All six of those elements were present during our eviction on Sept. 9, 2015. It's almost as if our experience was taken right out of a legal textbook. Details about FED law can be found in a Missouri case styled Walker v. Anderson, 182 SW 3d 266 (Mo: Court of Appeals, Western Dist., 2006):

In an unlawful detainer action, under section 534.200, RSMo 2000, "[t]he complainant shall not be compelled to . . . make further proof of the forcible entry or detainer than that he was lawfully possessed of the premises, and that the defendant unlawfully entered into and detained or unlawfully detained the same." "[T]he principal issue in an unlawful detainer action is the immediate right of possession. . . . " 

That's the law in a nutshell. Under at least four grounds, we were "lawfully possessed of the premises." Cowherd, Lowther, and Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott caused deputies to "unlawfully enter . . . and unlawfully detain the same." Creating a bogus 911 call does not provide an excuse for such conduct.

As we've noted several times, tenants do not have many rights in the U.S., especially in Missouri (which must be one of the most pro-landlord states in the country). But if you are lawfully in possession of the premises, you do have a right not to be forced out via "strong hand," "weapons," "threats," and "circumstances of terror."

That law has held for 900 years, and it isn't likely to change soon.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Shelby County's Al Crowson, one of Alabama's most dreadful judges, apparently will leave the bench from lingering effects of a stroke and serious car crash

Al Crowson (second from left) and some of the other
sleazeoids who inhabit the hideously corrupt
Shelby County Courthouse
(From facebook.com)
The effects of a stroke and a car crash likely mean one of Alabama's worst judges is gone from the bench, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson not only is awful on the bench, his rulings indicate he is a dreadful human being. If Crowson now is suffering in pain, well, you won't be hearing any sympathy from here. In fact, we file it under the heading of "Karma is a Bee-atch."

We don't have all the details about Crowson's condition, but a source said he had a stroke and was involved in a serious car crash a few weeks back. We're not sure if the stroke caused the car crash, but it appears the judge is not in good shape. His son, Danny Crowson (also a Shelby County judge) has written on Facebook about his father's general condition and the car crash.

How horrible a judge was Al Crowson? Learning the details of just one case -- the Rollins v. Rollins divorce -- will tell you all you need to know. Here are some of the basics from the Rollins case:

Ted Rollins, the head of Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities, helped his company complete a $380-million IPO late last year. And a South Carolina divorce-court judge found that Rollins belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest families and has the use of multiple private aircraft. But Rollins managed to get the divorce case unlawfully moved to Alabama, and the resulting judgment means that his ex wife and two daughters qualify for food stamps.

Sherry Carroll Rollins said she and the girls now are on food stamps--and have been for some time. That's because Alabama Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson ordered Ted Rollins to pay only $500 in alimony and $815 in child support--a monthly total of $1,315. Our research indicates that is a shockingly low level of support for a man of Rollins' means, a CEO whose family owns Orkin Pest Control and other highly profitable enterprises.

Yes, Al Crowson caused a woman and her two young daughters -- who were connected to one of the nation's wealthiest families -- to wind up on food stamps. What a prince of a guy! What a responsible use of public resources!

Did someone pay Crowson under the table to make such outlandish rulings? The evidence overwhelmingly suggests the answer is yes. The following shows that Crowson's actions were crooked to an almost unreal extent:

The case was heard in Shelby County, Alabama, and Mr. Rollins received an extraordinarily favorable judgment, even though Mrs. Rollins had sued him for divorce some three years earlier in Greenville, South Carolina--where the couple had lived and where numerous court orders already had been entered. Simple jurisdictional law--call it Law School 101--shows that such a judicial heist cannot be done. But Alabama Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson did it anyway, violating all sorts of law that perhaps is best explained in a case styled Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953 (Ala., 1993). Here is the key finding:

"Once jurisdiction has attached in one court, that court has the exclusive right to continue its exercise of power until the completion of the case, and is only subject to appellate authority."

Legal doctrine doesn't come much shorter or simpler than that. Based on the clear language in Wesson, Sherry Carroll Rollins and the two daughters she had with Ted Rollins (now teens and living with their mother in Alabama) received a "shaft job" that would make Isaac Hayes blush.

Yes, the case had been litigated for three years in South Carolina, jurisdiction had been established there, and it could not be moved elsewhere -- in South Carolina and certainly not to Alabama. But Al Crowson essentially stole the case and robbed Sherry Rollins of marital assets that lawfully were hers -- and robbed her daughters of childhoods they never will get back.

So, we hear Al Crowson is suffering now? I can't wipe the smile off my face. The Bible says I'm not supposed to have such a reaction? But I'm a human being, I know what it's like to be abused by individuals in authority, and I'm glad to see Al Crowson get just a taste of what he has dished out for many years.

The only bad thing, in my view, is that the bastard is still alive.

U.S. military is scrambling to deal with gay-porn scandal, but Alabamians Bill Pryor and Jeff Sessions helped similar issues reach the justice system long ago

Robed and disrobed Bill Pryor
The U.S. military is wrestling with a gay-pornography scandal that reportedly has spread to "a slew" of Web sites that feature images of men wearing military uniforms engaging in sex acts. The troops, and decorated brass who lead them, are not alone. The judiciary has been faced with a gay-porn scandal that dates back roughly 30 years -- and it's about to get worse.

That's because we have obtained two more nude photographs of U.S. Circuit Judge William H. Pryor, one of Donald Trump's three finalists to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court. The Pryor photos first appeared at a print publication in the 1980s and found their way to  the badpuppy.com gay-porn super site in 1997.

The irony, of course, is that Pryor has made virulently anti-LGBT statements, and his career has been relentlessly pushed by former Alabama U.S. Senator and current Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a closeted homosexual himself and once was caught on law-enforcement surveillance making frequent late-night visits to Pryor's residence in Montgomery, Alabama. (See video at the end of this post.)

Sessions' false statements to Congress about meetings with a Russian ambassador during the 2016 campaign have him at the center of the KremlinGate scandal, which threatens to end Sessions' political career and bring down the Trump administration, almost before it gets started.

Issues related to gay porn and closeted homosexual activity go right to the top of the U.S. Justice Department, and they launched with two short, beady-eyed men from Alabama, who claim to be "pro family" conservatives.

As for the military, its problems started with male Marines taking photos of female colleagues in various states of undress and posting them to a private social-media site called Marines United. It has grown to other branches of the service, with gay-porn photos and public Web sites. From a report at USA Today:

The military scandal involving sharing of sexually explicit images of troops has expanded beyond the private social media site Marines United to a slew of gay pornography web pages with images of men wearing military uniforms engaged in sex acts, USA TODAY has learned.

The broadened investigation to an increasing number of websites underscores the complexity of policing social media sites where sensitive images can be uploaded in an instant for all to see. In the case of the sites with gay pornography, military investigators will be tasked with determining whether active-duty troops were involved in conduct that could bring discredit on their service, a potential violation of military law.

Military gay-porn photos are appearing at Tumblr, which is one of the sites where our readers found additional photos of Bill Pryor. One gay-porn page at Tumblr is called HornySgt, and it definitely is NSFW. Here is more from USA Today:

The Marine Corps is not the only service affected. Images of men in the uniforms of sailors, soldiers and airmen also appear on an array of Tumblr sites. Similar to the Marines United case, it is unclear whether men appearing in the images — some photographed engaging in sex — provided consent to have their images shared publicly. Victims of so-called revenge porn in the Marines United case have limited protection under military law if the photographs or videos were taken originally with their consent.

Navy, Marine, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard investigators have "established a multi-service task force to expand the investigation," she said.

Military officials briefed Congress on Thursday about the Marines United scandal, in which hundreds of active-duty Marines have viewed photos of servicewomen taken without their consent and cyberbullied some of them.

On some of the gay Tumblr sites, fully dressed troops appear in photos with their name tags visible. At least one such Marine did not agree for his photo to be republished amid a sea of images of men having sex, according Lt. Col. Eric Dent, a Marine Corps spokesman.

Military gay-porn is not all you can find at Tumblr; you also can find nude images of federal judge Bill Pryor. We will be providing the evidence very soon.

Below is a video with information about the surveillance that caught Jeff Sessions making frequent late-night visits to Bill Pryor's residence in Montgomery, Alabama.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ashley Madison customers revealed: High Cotton exececutive Griffin McGahey, married to a partner at Bradley Arant law firm, appears at notorious Web site

Griffin McGahey
(From highcottonusa.com)
A vice president at a Birmingham-based company that focuses on payment technology and customer communication appears as a paying customer at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affairs Web site, records show.

Griffin McGahey, vice president of strategic initiatives at High Cotton USA, has an unusual twist to his unsavory online activities. His wife, Jennifer J. McGahey, is a partner at Bradley Arant, Alabama's largest law firm.

High Cotton, with its headquarters in Irondale, has a fairly low profile in the Birmingham area. It appears to be a family business, led by CEO Tommy McGahey. Is the CEO Griffin McGahey's father. The answer is not clear from published reports, but they certainly appear to be related.

What is High Cotton's business profile? This is from the company's Web site:

“From the day we started this company more than 50 years ago, one thing has been constant,” Tommy McGahey, CEO of High Cotton says. “Our customers succeed because of our attention to detail.”

High Cotton has changed over the years, of course. “We began as a traditional direct mail house, helping clients fulfill bulk mail at the absolute lowest cost,” McGahey says. “But we’ve evolved. Today, we are a data driven company, helping companies primarily in the banking and healthcare industries with payment technology and customer communications.” Each of these industries is marked by incredible complexity with literally millions of details to get right.

“Speed, security, competitive pricing — these are all aspects of our business that our clients count on,” McGahey says. “But in the end, it’s our focus on the details that determines our clients’ success.”

At Bradley Arant, Jennifer McGahey focuses on commercial litigation and labor and employment issues. From her bio on the firm's Web site:

[Jennifer} represents clients in a variety of industries, such as e-commerce, natural resources, government contract, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and retail, and her clients range from large publicly-traded companies to small family-owned businesses. Jennifer has litigated cases ranging from a single plaintiff to class action to the federal government. Jennifer handles cases across the country and is currently national counsel representing a provider of online travel services in more than 40 lawsuits and administrative proceedings throughout the United States.

The McGaheys live on Euclid Ave in Mountain Brook, in a house valued at almost $700,000. The remodeling of the McGaheys' home was featured in 2014 at styleblueprint.com. From the article, titled "Dull to Dazzling: A House Transformed":

Jennifer J. McGahey
(From lexology.com)
Jennifer and Griffin McGahey knew they wanted more living space. After much consideration, they decided their Birmingham neighborhood and neighbors were second to none, so remodeling their existing home was the way to go. They enlisted Scott Carlisle of Christopher Architecture and Interiors to help them renovate their house into the masterpiece it is today. Their original home was 2,200 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths. The McGaheys wanted a bedroom for each of their two boys, plus a guest room for visiting family. It was important to them to have an open family living arrangement and a home office, but not a priority to have a traditional dining room. By bumping out the existing foundation a mere six inches, removing all but two walls and going up with a second story, all their needs were met! The end result is a highly functional, breathtakingly beautiful space of 3,700 square feet, with scores of details from the ground up.

Why would Griffin McGahey, after engaging in all the time and effort (and money) it took to build a comfortable family space, put it all at risk by fooling around on Ashley Madison? We sought the answer to that question, and others, but McGahey did not respond to our queries. Jennifer McGahey also did not respond to our questions.


Article with links to 1-20 in Ashley Madison series

(21) Craig Oliver, attorney, Springfield, MO (1/24/17)

(22) Craig Lowell, attorney, Wiggins Childs, Birmingham (1/26/17)

(23) Thomas Mancuso, tax attorney, Montgomery, AL (2/16/17)

(24) Nicholas Arciniegas, attorney, Washington, D.C. (2/21/17)

My wife, Carol, sets the wheels in motion to get bogus criminal charges against her dismissed in Missouri

Carol Shuler
My wife, Carol, has filed documents to have criminal charges against her in Missouri dismissed -- on multiple grounds. She also has filed a motion for discovery, which should help explain how these bogus charges came to life in the first place.

The motions were filed on Tuesday, and we had a hearing yesterday morning before Greene County Circuit Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto. Neither she, nor assistant prosecuting attorney Nicholas Jain, had been able to review the motions, so not much was accomplished yesterday. A hearing on the motions, and others that might arise in the interim, is set for May 3.

We've seen no evidence so far to suggest Palmietto is anything other than a competent and honest judge -- although given our experiences, we always are on the alert for signs of malfeasance. If she is, in fact, what we hope she is, the decision to dismiss the charges should be an easy one.

Carol's first motion for dismissal is based on a Probable Cause (PC) Statement that was made in bad faith and includes numerous false statements that should put its author, Lt. Debi Wade, at risk of criminal prosecution. Aside from all the nuttiness in Wade's handiwork, this much can't be disputed: A Misdemeanor Information filed by Prosecuting Attorney Dan Patterson charges Carol with one count of "assault on a law enforcement officer," claiming she pushed a male officer named Jeremy Lynn. Wade admits in her PC Statement that she did not witness Carol push Wade, but some unknown person "advised" her on the matter. It's hard to imagine a more blatant case of inadmissible hearsay -- and that means the charge must be dropped, as a matter of law.

It also calls Wade's credibility, overall, into question. From Carol's Motion to Dismiss:

In the probable cause statement, Debi Wade claims Carol Shuler “assaulted” Capt. Jeremy Lynn in the entryway of the residence. Wade then states: “I was not witness to that assault, however, I was advised that Carol first pushed the door from inside when Capt. Lynn attempted entry with the key, then got physical with him once inside the threshold and pushed him repeatedly.”

Wade admits she did not witness this incident and says an unnamed individual “advised her of what happened.” This is rank hearsay, and it is the only information in the probable cause statement about the alleged assault on Jeremy Lynn. This information is due to be excluded as hearsay, and since it’s the only information regarding the only alleged incident of assault, the charge is due to be dismissed.

A charge that is based on zero probable cause must be dismissed, so that should be a simple matter. But Carol took the extra step of filing a "Motion to Have This Matter Declared a Vindictive Prosecution and to Have it Dismissed As Such." What is a vindictive prosecution? This is from a Missouri case styled State v. Potts (Mo. Ct. of App. 2005), which involved drug charges:

[Potts] alleges that the prosecutor acted vindictively when he raised the charge from possession of a controlled substance to possession with the intent to distribute after the trial court sustained Appellant's motion for a mistrial during voir dire.  He also argues that the prosecutor deliberately induced the mistrial in order to file the greater charge and as a result double jeopardy bars further prosecution on either charge. We conclude that the first part of that contention requires reversal . . .

Here is more, from Potts, on the legal concept of vindictive prosecution:

When the State has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, the “decision whether or not to prosecute and what charges to file generally rests entirely within the prosecutor's discretion.” . . . This decision is rarely subject to judicial review. . . . Not all charges that can be, must be filed in the initial indictment. . . . Prosecutors can hold some charges in abeyance for strategic use.

However, when such a decision comes after an accused has exercised a constitutional or statutory right, those principles conflict with the premise that “[t]o punish a person because he has done what the law plainly allows him to do is a due process violation of the most basic sort.” [Potts] relies on Blackledge v. Perry, 417 U.S. 21, 94 S.Ct. 2098, 40 L.Ed.2d 628 (1974), for the proposition that due process bars the State from retrying him on the higher charge.

In Carol's case, she is being punished for three vindictive reasons: (1) Because we exercised our right to challenge, and even file an appeal, of landlord Trent Cowherd's attempt to evict us; (2) Because I have continued to blog about political and legal corruption in Alabama and Missouri -- and the determination to pursue charges against Carol, curiously, came not long after I had published sensitive information about Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who now finds himself at the center of "Kremlingate," which threatens to become perhaps the most outrageous scandal in U.S. history; (3) Because it's clear we have grounds for a civil-rights/police-brutality lawsuit against the sheriff (and others) responsible for Carol's broken arm.

The vindictive prosecution motion should not come into play because the lack of probable cause is enough to doom the prosecution's case. But Carol's motion points to considerable evidence that the charges against her have nothing to do with any alleged crime, but rather are based on notions of intimidation, retaliation, and vindictiveness. In essence, the state is trying to blame her for cops breaking her arm. In sociology classes, that's called "Blaming the Victim." And we are learning that it's very real.

As for discovery, Carol's initial motion touched on general matters, with more specifics to follow. From the motion:

As an initial matter, Shuler moves this court to order the state to turn over all documents related to an investigation of a “critical incident” involving use of force, as required by Greene County Sheriff’s Department policy. Shuler notes that policy calls for interviews of all individuals targeted with use of force and all witnesses, but neither Carol Shuler nor her husband, Roger, have been interviewed. That suggests no investigation was done -- or at least, that any such investigation was incomplete.

Regardless, Shuler moves that all documents related to a GCSO investigative report that was supposed to be prepared per departmental policy – including all internal memos, emails, texts or other written or electronic forms of communication – be turned over as soon as possible.

As a matter of law, Carol is entitled to this information, and much more, which should help her mount a serious defense.

Carol's motions are being scanned into a digital format and will be published here shortly. Meanwhile, she has sent the message that screwing around with her is not going to be a joyride for prosecutors -- or the sheriff's office.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Documents related to my wife's arrest in Missouri show she was locked up for nothing, based on probable cause statement that presents no evidence of a crime

Carol Shuler
The State of Missouri arrested my wife, Carol, based on a probable cause statement that includes not one sentence of admissible evidence that she committed a crime. Let me repeat: Carol's arrest was based on . . . nothing, no evidence that she committed any crime.

In a sense, that does not surprise us; over several dozen posts I've written about events during our unlawful eviction on Sept. 9, 2015, I've consistently reported that Carol did nothing unlawful, nothing wrong. I've reported that she was the victim of an assault, which left her with a shattered left arm, not the perpetrator of an assault. I witnessed every second of her interactions with Greene County Sheriff deputies that day, except when she was inside the apartment gathering our personal belongings -- and even the cops don't claim there was any physical encounter there.

I've known for more than 16 months that the only criminal actions were by the cops themselves. But even I did not expect their probable cause statement to, in essence, admit that Carol did nothing wrong. So, why was she arrested, finger printed, photographed (as in a mugshot) on Jan. 31? Why does she have a hearing at 9 a.m. today before Judge Margaret Holden Palmietto?

How could this happen? It certainly can't continue for very long, under the law, because Carol clearly was arrested without probable cause. Here's how we know:

A Misdemeanor Information (MI) filed by Greene County prosecuting attorney Dan Patterson reads, in part, as follows:

(Missouri Charge Code: 565.083-002Y20051313.)
The Prosecuting Attorney of the County of Greene, State of Missouri charges that the defendant, in violation of Section 565.083, RSMo, committed the class A misdemeanor of assault of a law enforcement officer in the third degree, punishable upon conviction under Sections 558.011 and 560.016, RSMo, in that on or about September 9, 2015, in the County of Greene, State of Missouri, the defendant knowingly cause physical contact with Jeremy Lynn, a law enforcement officer without the consent of Jeremy Lynn by pushing him.

That's it. That's the only allegation that Carol assaulted anyone. Now, let's look at the Probable Cause (PC) Statement. (The MI and PC Statement are embedded at the end of this post.)

Lt. Debi Wade, the only female officer on the scene that day, is author of the PC Statement. Wade seemed mostly on the periphery of events, and I don't recall her and Carol coming in contact with each other. So why, out of six to eight officers on the scene, was Debi Wade chosen to write the PC Statement? I have no idea, but it certainly wasn't for the sake of accuracy. This is from the PC Statement, beginning with the fourth sentence:

Upon initial contact in the entryway of the residence, Roger's wife Carol T. Shuler physically assaulted Capt. Jeremy Lynn. I was not witness to that assault, however, I was advised that Carol first pushed the door from inside when Capt. Lynn attempted entry with the key, then got physical with him once inside the threshold and pushed him repeatedly.

Those of you who read this closely might already have guffawed loud enough to wake the neighbors. Let's pause to gather ourselves before pondering the absurdity in this statement. Notice the part in yellow; it says Wade did not witness the assault -- someone else told her about it -- but she's swearing about it under oath anyway.

You could drive to downtown Birmingham right now, if you aren't already there, and find a wino under a bridge who would recognize that as hearsay. And the wino probably would know that hearsay generally is not admissible evidence in a court of law. Since that's the only statement about an "assault" on Jeremy Lynn -- and it's hearsay -- there was no probable cause to bring charges against Carol Shuler.

You could print out a copy of the PC Statement and show it to the wino, allowing him to read it thoroughly. And he probably would say, "They call this probable cause? Shiiiiiiii - ittttttttt. How dumb are them hillbillies in Missouri?"

Better yet, imagine this: You are the parent of a third grader at an elementary school in your neck of the woods. You get a call from the school saying you had better come quick, Billy Jones has alleged your child stole his lunch money. You arrive at the school to hear the following conversation:

Principal: "Now, Billy did you see little Johnny steal your money?"
"No sir, Mr. Principal, but someone advised me that he did."
"Who advised you of that?"
"I don't know his name. But he's a tall, green man -- sort of like the Jolly Green Giant. And he has wings, and sprinkles pixie dust everywhere, and then flies off."
"Billy, do your parents have a 'friend' they call 'Mr. LSD'?"
"Oh, yes, Mr. Principal, they talk about him all the time."
"I see. Billy, that explains a lot. Here's some good news: I think you've got a fine career ahead of you as a deputy with the Greene County Sheriff's Department."
"Thanks, Mr. Principal! That sounds like fun!"
"Oh, trust me. You'll have a blast."

What about the trespass charge against Carol? The MI says the "facts" that form the basis for the charge are contained in the PC Statement. When you read the PC Statement, you see that it says not one word about trespass, not one word about actions that even conceivably amount to trespass.

You've heard the phrase, "You can't make this stuff up," usually accompanied by a shake of the head? Well, the criminal charges against Carol certainly fit in that category. More on this subject in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

While serving as U.S. attorney in Alabama, Jeff Sessions developed a "hit list" of Democrats to target for political prosecutions -- and he used it often

Jeff Sessions
(From cnn.com)
International attention is focused on Jeff Sessions because of false statements the Trump attorney general made before Congress regarding his communications with Russian officials during the 2016 campaign. But the notion that Sessions, a former U.S. senator from Alabama, might be a shady character is not breaking news.

Those who have lived in Alabama for years and are familiar with Sessions' underhanded nature, know it would be improper to compare him to a worm. Many worms probably live most of their lives without harming another living being. Based on a report last week from The Guardian, the same cannot be said of Jeff Sessions.

When Sessions was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Alabama (appointed by Ronald Reagan and serving from 1982 to 1991), he became known for prosecuting individuals based on politics. Perhaps the best known case involved the 1989 race for mayor of Mobile and a Democrat named Lambert Mims. From The Guardian article, by reporters Jon Swaine and Oliver Laughland:

Arthur Outlaw wanted a second term.

It was 1989 and Outlaw, the Republican mayor of Mobile, Alabama, was girding himself for his re-election campaign. Word was that Lambert Mims, a popular local Democrat, would run against him. Some Republicans were growing skittish.

But a close friend of Outlaw’s had something planned. The friend had been president of the state Young Republicans, chairman of the regional GOP, then a senior official in the Mobile County Republican party. And now he was the top federal prosecutor in southern Alabama.

“Jeff says that Mims won’t be around by that time,” an Outlaw aide said ominously, while discussing the election at a City Hall meeting that February, according to a sworn affidavit from an official who was in the room.

A few months later, Mims confirmed that he would be challenging Outlaw. Then Jeff Sessions made his move.

What move did Sessions make? He wielded his prosecutorial power for political reasons. If Americans are troubled by Sessions' apparent perjury before Congress, they should be worried out of their minds about his history as an unethical prosecutor. From The Guardian:

Sessions, then the US attorney for Alabama’s southern district, indicted Mims on criminal corruption charges relating to obscure four-year-old negotiations over a planned recycling plant. Mims was the ninth notable Democrat in the area to be indicted by Sessions since the young Republican was appointed by President Ronald Reagan. He would not be the last.

Opponents concluded that Sessions used his federal prosecutor’s office, and the FBI agents who worked for him, as political weapons, according to more than half a dozen veterans of Mobile’s 1980s legal and political circles. Some alleged in court filings that the ambitious young Republican actually worked from a “hit list” of Democratic targets.

“Sessions was a gun for hire,” said Tom Purvis, a former sheriff of Mobile County, “and he went after political enemies.” Purvis was acquitted of charges against him that Sessions oversaw after Purvis unseated another Outlaw ally from the elected sheriff’s position.

Let those two highlighted sections sink in for a moment. Mims was the ninth major Democrat in the Mobile area to be indicted by Sessions, and based on court pleadings, Sessions worked from a "hit list" of Democratic parties. Prosecutorial misconduct does not get much uglier than that.

Lambert Mims
(From theguardian.com)
Here's how The Guardian unearthed some of the nastiness in Sessions' reptilian past:

Bolstering the claims are the remarkably thin prosecution cases brought by Sessions against some of those Democrats he indicted, which are detailed across thousands of pages of archived court filings that were reviewed by the Guardian.
Sessions had no direct evidence that Mims had committed a crime. The recycling plant was never even built. “I’ve never seen such a flimsy, weak case as this against anybody,” Mims’s attorney said in court.

Still, Sessions’s office, which boasted a 95% conviction rate, persuaded a jury to find Mims guilty. Mims, a 60-year-old lay preacher, sobbed through his trial. He cried when he was convicted, then cried again when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. “I will go to my grave proclaiming my innocence,” Mims told Judge Charles Butler.

The Guardian provides details on at least four other cases where Sessions made dubious use of his prosecutorial powers for political reasons. Reading about those cases should scare the living daylights out of any American, of any political persuasion, who cares about justice.

Much has been made of Donald Trump's apparent unfitness to serve as president. Jeff Sessions might be every bit as unfit to serve as attorney general.