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Friday, March 27, 2015

Paul Bryant Jr. has used a bank to turn the public UA board of trustees into his own personal whorehouse


Paul Bryant Jr.
(From Bloomberg Markets)
A significant number of individuals who help govern the public University of Alabama System also have connections to a private bank where UA trustee Paul Bryant Jr. serves as chairman, according to a report this morning from al.com.

Did such an incestuous, conflict-riddled system allow Bryant Jr. to push for demolition of the UAB football program, without anyone raising an opposing view? Columnist John Archibald does not answer that question, but he suggests the university's governing board operates in "the smoke and shadows," discouraging members from conducting their business "in the light of day"--in part, because of loyalties to Bryant.

Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, on his Facebook page, reacted to the Archibald column by calling the UA system a "modern day plantation." Watkins seemed particularly appalled that even Governor Robert Bentley is connected to the ugliness. His son, John Mark Bentley, is a vice president at Bryant Bank.

Watkins offers stinging insights on the UA board, but he's using the wrong metaphor, in my view. I would suggest Bryant has taken a public board and turned it into a private whorehouse. Why? As far as I know, the plantation system was legal in its day, but prostitution has long been the "oldest profession" that operates outside the law.

While Archibald provides important information about the UA board, he leaves out at least one major detail: Paul Bryant Jr. has documented ties to criminal activities, and our research indicates a prominent Birmingham lawyer helped him get away with it.

We've shown in a series of roughly 50 posts, beginning in October 2009, that Bryant and one of his companies (Alabama Reassurance) were implicated in a $15-million insurance fraud scheme that netted a 15-year federal prison sentence for a Philadelphia lawyer/entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart.

Bloomberg Markets picked up on our reports and turned them into a national story for its January 2014 print issue. An early version of the story appeared at Bloomberg's Web site on November 25, 2013. Bloomberg did not credit Legal Schnauzer for providing the foundation to more than half of the story, but reporter Anthony Effinger consulted me multiple times while conducting research.

Why did Archibald not mention Bryant's connections to criminality? That's hard to figure because Bryant's shady background probably contributes to the secrecy that Archibald decries in the UA board.

Archibald notes that board members routinely refuse to give substantive answers to questions about public business, including the decision to cut UAB football. That should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed this blog.

Doug Jones
Our investigation shows that Birmingham lawyer Doug Jones, while serving as U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in the late 1990s, called off a planned investigation of Bryant in the wake of the Stewart conviction in Pennsylvania.

I've tried to interview Jones twice on this issue, and he responded both times with a series of non-answers and insults. Here is an example:

Jones: I'm trying to make sure you understand that I have read your stuff, I have seen your conspiracy theories, and I am not going to answer any of your questions because I don't trust what you will write, period.

LS: I'm taking it down word for word. . . . I'm asking you, who called off the investigation of Paul Bryant?

Jones: I am not going to respond to any of your questions . . .

LS: You were a public official then, Doug . . .

Jones: I am not going to respond to any of your questions. . . . I've seen the garbage you write and the way you spin and the way you slant. It's the most disingenuous stuff I've ever seen. . . . It just doesn't matter to me. You're a nothing to me."

Notice that Jones never denies having called off the Bryant investigation. And he refuses to answer important questions about public business--from Jones' time as a public official.

John Archibald, in so many words, takes the UA board to task for acting in an arrogant and condescending fashion toward the public. But that should be expected when you know about Doug Jones' history of doing legal work for Bryant, followed by Jones' refusal to answer questions about his apparent actions to protect Bryant.

Do people affiliated with Bryant tend to become smarmy, greasy sycophants? I invite you to listen to my interviews with Doug Jones, via the two videos below, and come to your own conclusions.

I contend that this is the kind of attitude UA board members now take--and they are doing it with your tax dollars.





Thursday, March 26, 2015

Resignation of U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock reminds us of Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to gay pornography


Bill Pryor at badpuppy.com
U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) resigned last week and now faces an FBI investigation to determine if his spending activities rise to the level of criminal behavior. For good measure, Schock has faced rumors for several years that he is gay, even though he has consistently voted against gay-rights measures.

All of this reminds us of Birmingham-based federal judge William H. "Bill" Pryor, who was exposed here at Legal Schnauzer in fall 2013, for having appeared nude in a series of photos that were shot while he was in college in the 1980s but gained new life when they appeared on a gay-porn Web site called badpuppy.com in the 1990s. As for Schock, the gay stories originated with journalist Itay Hod and eventually made their way into The New York Times.

Pryor still holds a lifetime position, to which George W. Bush appointed him, and we are not aware of any investigation into Pryor's activities. But like Schock, Pryor appears to be a world-class hypocrite, given his ardently anti-gay positions. More importantly, our research indicates Pryor has engaged in misconduct that would dwarf any allegations against Aaron Schock.

From his seat on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Pryor essentially serves as a fixer for conservative, pro-business interests, multiple sources tell Legal Schnauzer. When Pryor ran for Alabama attorney general in the 1990s, his campaign manager was GOP guru Karl Rove. Our sources state that Rove knew about Pryor's connections to gay porn--and knew they would make him vulnerable to a not-so-subtle form of blackmail. In other words, Pryor would guide certain cases in the proper GOP direction or risk having his porn photos released.

The D.C.-based Wayne Madsen Report (WMR) apparently was first to break the Pryor story, in 2009. The site requires a subscription, but we have received permission to publish certain items here. This is a portion of Madsen's piece on Bill Pryor:

June 15, 2009 -- Is there a closet door closed at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta?
William H. ("Bill") Pryor, Jr., the former Attorney General of Alabama who was involved in the political prosecution by the Bush administration of Alabama Democratic Governor Don Siegelman and who squeaked by U.S. Senate confirmation after being nominated by George W. Bush to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, appears to have a little something in his "closet." Pryor was confirmed by the Senate in 2005 in a 53-45 vote, his nomination being secured by a bi-partisan agreement between Senator John McCain and thirteen "Gang of 14" senators to force an "up or down" vote on three stalled Bush federal court nominees. Pryor was 43 when he was sworn in as a federal judge.
According to WMR sources in Alabama, Pryor, who now acts as a gatekeeper on the 11th Circuit for the Bush interests in Florida, Alabama, and other states in the jurisdiction, advertised himself during his younger days on a gay website called "Bad Puppy." There are also rumors from informed sources that naked photographs are held by some top Republicans and conservatives as an insurance policy that Pryor rules the correct way on issues on the 11th Circuit bench.

How many cases have received unlawful interference from Bill Pryor? Could they include the high-profile case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman? God only knows at this point, but if proven, such conduct would point to obstruction of justice, racketeering, conspiracy, and probably other crimes.

Aaron Schock
That brings us to Pryor's Senate confirmation hearing. It is standard for a federal nominee to be asked, under oath, if there is anything in his background that might embarrass him or the president who nominated him. Pryor has known the nude photos were public since at least September 1997, and our sources say he likely did not disclose their existence to FBI and Senate investigators.

What are the possible implications of that? Here is how we answered that question in an earlier post:

Could Pryor face serious consequences if it is shown he made false statements to officials looking into his background? Based on the impeachment and removal of Louisiana federal judge Thomas Porteous in 2010, the answer might be yes.

One of the articles of impeachment against Porteous involved his failure to disclose information to investigators--and his false statements during pre-confirmation regarding any background information that might prove embarrassing to him and the president who nominated him, Bill Clinton.

Did Pryor withhold information that would embarrass him and George W. Bush? We don't have a certain answer at the moment, but it appears likely.

What kind of bad boy has Aaron Schock been? Here is how Yahoo! Finance describes it:

According to . . . the Associated Press and CNN, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened up a criminal investigation to determine whether Schock broke the law with some of his spending activities.

Among other things, Schock faces accusations that he accepted improper gifts, used campaign funds for personal purposes, improperly billed the government for travel expenses, and used taxpayer funds for lavish trips for his staff.

Our friend Billy Dennis, at the Peoria Pundit blog, lives in Schock's district and has written extensively about the Congressman's rise and fall. From a recent Pundit post, taking Peoria's mainstream media to task for pretty much giving Schock a free pass:

Aaron Schick was raised in Peoria. He graduated high school and college in Peoria. He represented Peoria on the school board, the State Legislature and in Congress. And Peoria’s one and only newspaper of record sat back and let the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, Politico and Blue Nation Review (and to a humble extent, Peoria Pundit) carry their f*cking water when it came to investigative pieces on Peoria’s Congressman.

It makes you want to vomit.

Speaking of vomit, that brings us back to Bill Pryor. With him, we have signs of obstruction of justice, racketeering, conspiracy, and lying to Congress. That doesn't count apparent Pryor activities I'm currently investigating. That includes my effort to unearth information about "Ernie," the mystery man who apparently helped bring the Pryor gay-porn photos to public light.

My research indicates Pryor has been involved in certain activities that would make Aaron Schock seem like Dudley Do-Right. Stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ray Watts' lies about football are just the continuation of a UAB trend under corrupt, Tuscaloosa-based board


Ray Watts
Documents released Monday show that UAB officials knew they were going to dismantle the Blazer football program before the 2014 season even started. UAB President Ray Watts had said on multiple occasions that he made the decision in November, not long before the announcement last December 2. According to a new report from al.com's Kevin Scarbinsky, Watts lied.

Many of Scarbinsky's readers might be aghast that a university president would look into the lenses of television cameras--into the eyes of student-athletes, boosters, and community leaders--and speak words that he knew were not true. But documents presented with Scarbinsky's articles show that is exactly what happened.

None of this surprises me. I've known for a long time that UAB administrators--especially those who are too weak to stand up to the corrupt University of Alabama Board of Trustees--have no problem lying on a monumental scale. That is particularly true since Paul Bryant Jr., who has documented ties to a massive insurance-fraud scheme, became a member of the board in 2000.

In a darkly comic way, Blazer football fans should consider themselves lucky. At least Watts was not under oath when he lied to them. I, on the other hand, was the victim of about a half dozen UAB administrators who made false, written statements other oath. In other words, they committed perjury--and remained silent in the face of a federal judge's rampant unlawful rulings--in order to "win" my First Amendment/discrimination lawsuit.

Is it a coincidence that lying has become almost a varsity sport at UAB since 2000, a sport in which the university's two most recent presidents--Ray Watts and Carol Garrison--should earn all-conference honors? I don't think so. It's the natural fallout from allowing a scoundrel like Bryant to gain power, and I suspect the subterfuge will continue until UAB breaks from the UA board and is controlled by individuals who actually care about the Birmingham campus, its students, and supporters.

It has been widely reported that Bryant was behind the scheme to end UAB football, and I have zero doubt that is true. I also have no doubt that Bryant, or a like-minded member of the board, pushed for my unlawful termination in 2008, after almost 20 years of employment as an editor at UAB.

What was my sin? I was reporting accurately--on my own time, with my own equipment--about the unlawful actions of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller in a prosecution that sent former governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to federal prison for crimes they did not commit--in fact, for "crimes" that do not even exist, under the law.

My reporting came roughly seven years before the nation learned that Fuller had beaten his wife in an Atlanta hotel room, in a rage probably fueled by alcohol and prescription-pill abuse. Fuller now faces possible impeachment proceedings this year, led by U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), and that means my reporting was both on target--and way ahead of its time.

As a government employee, my communications on such matters of public concern were protected by the First Amendment. But the U.S. Constitution doesn't mean much to UAB managers, especially when they answer to a board that includes a deceitful thug like Bryant.

So what happened? UAB "leaders" claimed that I was writing my blog at work. When a one-month investigation by a member of their own IT staff showed that wasn't true, it created a slight problem. When their own grievance committee found that I should not have been fired--in fact, the grievance hearing showed there were no documents to support discipline of any kind--they had another problem.

Carol Garrison, UAB's president at the time, decided to solve the problems by going against her own committee to uphold my termination. This was the same Carol Garrison who, during her first year on the job, brought copious amounts of embarrassment to UAB by carrying on an unseemly affair with John Shoemaker (the former president of the University of Tennessee), which involved misuse of public resources.

How did UAB administrators lie under oath? As my federal lawsuit unfolded, six of them submitted sworn affidavits, stating in part, that the termination had nothing to do with my speech via this blog. The perjurious six included Garrison, former human resources director Cheryl E.H. Locke, former associate vice president Dale Turnbough, former publications manager Pam Powell, employee relations director Anita Bonasera, and vice president for advancement Shirley Salloway Kahn.

All six of them stated under oath, in various ways, that speech issues had nothing to do with my termination. (See Motion to Strike Affidavits at the end of this post.) That, however, was not true--and like Kevin Scarbinsky, I have the evidence to prove it.

While on administrative leave, I contacted Bonasera to ask a question about my response to the university's accusations. During the course of the conversation, Bonasera admitted that I was targeted because of blog posts about the Siegelman case, that Pam Powell (my immediate supervisor) went to the IT department to seek digital evidence against me regarding any Siegelman posts. In fact, Bonasera mentioned Siegelman's name twice, and while she tried to backtrack, her overall tone was that my termination was based almost 100 percent on journalism at Legal Schnauzer.

Here is a partial transcript of that conversation: (The whole thing can be heard on the video at the end of this post.)

RS: I told Dale Turnbough about this two weeks ago, and she never said a word about any of this. In fact, she said she was going to take care of it, she assured me absolutely that this had nothing to do with my blog—and then two weeks later I find out it’s all about my blog.

AB: It’s not all about your blog. Your blog was an insignificant piece. . . . The blog . . . was a very small part of the bigger picture. . . . again, related to other non-work related things. I didn’t see those non-work related things. Pam (Powell) sat down with the computer people—and I don’t know who else was there—and they reviewed what was work related and what was non-work related.

RS: And she’s the determiner of that, even though she has told us . . .

AB: She was able to determine what you were working on and whether it was related to your blog . . .

RS: Well, you just said it, it’s all about my blog. You just said that.

AB: That was a piece of it. Some of it was research related to your blog, from my understanding. I understand there were some things about Siegelman, screens up about Don Siegelman, things that they saw you doing that they consider to be research for your blog because then that was topics that you wrote about on your blog.

RS: Those are also news articles that we are supposed to keep up with, about Alabama, stuff in the news.

As you can see, Bonasera commits enough verbal twists and turns to be an Olympic gymnast. She starts by admitting my blog "was a very small part of the bigger picture." (News flash: Firing a government employee for protected speech, even if it's a small part of a "bigger picture," violates the First Amendment.) Bonasera betrays her previous words by stating that Pam Powell checked with computer people to see what I was working on and "whether it was related to your blog." In other words, Powell's trip to the digital experts was all about my blog--and a techie later testified at my grievance hearing that I had never touched a keystroke on my blog while at work.

When I catch Bonasera in her lie--as Kevin Scarbinsky did with Ray Watts--she started to back pedal, claiming the blog was "a piece of it." She then digs her hole even deeper by admitting that Powell was specifically looking for information regarding my reporting on the Siegelman case--and Judge Mark Fuller.

UAB football at Legion Field
Despite this, Bonasera actually had the mangoes to write in her sworn affidavit that she was "not aware that any of Shuler's speech on his blog or elsewhere was related to the decision to terminate Shuler's employment." She even denied telling me I was terminated because of my speech, even though the words above show that is exactly what she said. (See Anita Bonasera affidavit at the end of this post.)

If there is a positive for UAB football fans, I've found that lying university administrators tend to be cowards. In my employment lawsuit, U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr., granted the university summary judgment, even though there had been no discovery in the case. In fact, there wasn't even a discovery schedule, as required by Rule 16(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

This is mind-bogglingly unlawful, the equivalent of baseball umpires letting one team bat while the other team never gets a chance at the plate. Case law, as cited in Snook v. Trust Company of Georgia, 859 F. 2d 865 (11th Circ., 1988), shows that Acker was acting way outside the law. From Snook:

This court has often noted that summary judgment should not be granted until the party opposing the motion has had an adequate opportunity for discovery. . . . The party opposing a motion for summary judgment has a right to challenge the affidavits and other factual materials submitted in support of the motion by conducting sufficient discovery so as to enable him to determine whether he can furnish opposing affidavits. . . . Generally summary judgment is inappropriate when the party opposing the motion has been unable to obtain responses to his discovery requests.

Heck, I wasn't even allowed to make discovery requests. That's likely because Acker knew a significant e-mail trail, if produced in discovery, would show that UAB did, in fact, discriminate against me and violate my First Amendment rights--that I was fired, 100 percent, because of my blog. The cheat job extended all the way to the Eleventh Circuit, which upheld Acker's ruling with a "Do Not Publish" opinion. That is a nasty trick that appellate judges use to cheat a litigant while not sullying the record with a ruling that is contrary to years of legal precedent. (More on that in an upcoming post.)

Ethics rules of the legal profession require a lawyer to report the misconduct of another lawyer or judge. Did chief university counsel Lisa Huggins object to Acker's violation of "black letter" law? Heck, no--she stayed quiet because Acker was cheating on her behalf.

That might provide comfort for UAB football fans. In a pathological environment created by  neanderthals like Paul Bryant Jr., individuals become cowards--and their ethics become so warped that they eventually make glaring mistakes.

I suspect that eventually will happen to Ray Watts. He's going to become such a drag on the Board of Trustees, they eventually will cut him loose.

UAB, for its long-term health, still needs to cut itself loose from the Tuscaloosa board. But getting rid of Ray Watts will be a step in the right direction.

To add some levity to this subject, here is a video of Ray Watts (as Hitler) learning that his skybox privileges in Tuscaloosa have been rescinded because of his failure to kill the entire UAB athletics program.














Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mike Hubbard, and Bob and Rob Riley, received leaked grand-jury information as early as Dec. 2012


Rob Riley
Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard; former Governor Bob Riley; and Riley's son, Birmingham attorney Rob Riley, received leaked information related to the Lee County grand jury beginning in at least December 2012, according to court documents released yesterday.

E-mails between Hubbard and Bob Riley, included in the court documents, make it clear former Deputy Attorney General Sonny Reagan was the source of the leaks. Reagan was forced to resign from the AG's office in December 2014 amid allegations that he had shared secret grand-jury information with targets of the investigation.

Documents also show that the grand jury filed a subpoena seeking to question Rob Riley. His lawyer, William Athanas of the Birmingham firm Waller Landsen Dortch & Davis, threatened to file a motion to quash the subpoena, and Rob Riley apparently has managed to escape testifying so far.

All of this adds to evidence that my unlawful incarceration--from October 23, 2013, to March 26, 2014, in Shelby County, Alabama--was connected to the Lee County investigation. Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke sought my arrest based on a dubious defamation lawsuit that sought a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, both prohibited as prior restraints under more than 230 years of First Amendment law.

Our ongoing investigation indicates I probably was beaten and maced in my own garage, arrested without an apparent warrant, and jailed for five months--the only journalist in the western hemisphere to be incarcerated in 2013--for more than one reason. My reports on U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his connections to 1990s gay pornography almost certainly played a role. But we now know Rob Riley was concerned enough about the Lee County probe to trample his profession's ethical provisions, and perhaps commit state and federal crimes, in order to get inside information.

The first sign of leaks are tied to former ALGOP chairman Bill Armistead and his announcement on December 12, 2012, that Hubbard was under investigation, according to a report yesterday from Bill Britt at Alabama Political Reporter. An e-mail exchange between Hubbard and Bob Riley, dated the next day (December 13, 2012), shows they already had inside information about the grand jury--as did Rob Riley.

From the December 13 e-mails, marked as Exhibit L, starting with Hubbard:

On Dec 13, 2012, at 8:19 AM, Mike Hubbard wrote:
Gov:
Talk with Rob when you can. Armistead and Luther have now teamed up to try and ruin me politically. Not sure what Luther'a end game is others than he views me as a potential threat down the road. Rob knows details.

This response came from Bob Riley:
On Dec 13, 2012, at 9:06 AM, "Bob Riley" wrote:
I was with him during the conversations with you and Sonny last night - ..... Have a couple of people trying to understand what's happening.
Bob Riley

What does this tell us? Bill Britt provides a summary:

Here Riley acknowledged a conversation with Reagan and Hubbard and also indicates that Rob Riley was involved in receiving information about the Lee County Grand Jury as early as December, 2012.

The dirt gets even deeper with Exhibit K, which involves a January 18, 2013, e-mail from Hubbard to Bob Riley, referencing former Hubbard aide Josh Blades:

Confidentially, I received word just now from Josh [Blades] that a mutual friend in the AG’s office (he used to work for you) called to tell him that the prosecutor told him this afternoon that the accusations against me have been thoroughly investigated and totally dismissed by the Grand Jury.”

What does this mean? Here is Britt's brief summary:

The emails show that Riley and Hubbard, along with Rob Riley and Josh Blades, then Hubbard's Chief of Staff, were involved in leaked secrets from the Grand Jury. It also reinforces that Reagan was the leaker because he is the only person in the Attorney General’s Office who had worked in the Riley Administration.

This is the most powerful evidence yet of the deep sleaze in which Hubbard and the Rileys have engaged. This raises all kinds of questions, but for now, we will focus on these:

* Rob Riley and Sonny Reagan are lawyers, and they clearly engaged in efforts to undermine the justice process. Will they face disbarment proceedings?

* The actions of Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Hubbard, and Reagan involve attempts to obstruct the Lee County grand jury. Could this lead to criminal charges--perhaps under the state statute for obstructing governmental operations? Since the federal wires were involved via e-mails, could that lead to federal obstruction of justice charges?

Monday, March 23, 2015

In a world of hyper-aggressive and sensitive cops, what acts constitute legitimate cases of resisting arrest?


Liberty Duke
 Please trust me when I say there is nothing fun about being roughed up by Alabama sheriff deputies--inside your own home, on a civil matter--and hauled off to jail for five months. But a reader did manage to find something amusing about that scenario the other day--and it helps drive home an important point of law that we've never addressed.

We wrote on March 9 about the tendency of cops, in a world where cameras and microphones catch many of their actions, to use certain magic phrases that make it seem a suspect is resisting. With that in mind, I noted that Shelby County Deputy Chris Blevins can be heard on a video of my arrest repeatedly saying, "Don't fight me, don't fight me"--even though his own incident report indicates I wasn't fighting him.

A reader noticed the disparity between the words Blevins spoke and the words he wrote on his report, which we ran at the bottom of our post, and responded with this comment:

I know this was unpleasant for you, LS, but it's kind of funny to see that Officer Blevins was shouting "Don't fight me!" while he states on his report that he was throwing you through boxes multiple times. Who was fighting whom here?

Even I had to chuckle at that. But it raises a serious question: What acts tend to constitute a real case of resisting arrest?

As we noted in our March 9 post, Blevins states multiple times in his report that I was resisting, but he never says what I did that amounted to resisting. He admits that he initiated physical contact with me, that I never turned away from him as if to escape, that my only physical act was to raise my arms in front of my face for protection.

So how on earth did I get hit with resisting arrest--and convicted, resulting in a fine of $845? The only answer to that question, in my case, is that we are talking about Shelby County, Alabama, a place where corruption has reigned for so long that law-enforcement and legal types probably have forgotten what it's like to conduct their affairs in an honest fashion.

But what about a jurisdiction that at least puts on a reasonable show of trying to dispense justice? Even a lot of lawyers find many resisting-arrest cases to be dubious. Ken White, a California lawyer who writes at the Popehat blog, says they often are referred to as "contempt of cop."

But what acts should give rise to a real resisting arrest case? Most statutes, including the one in Alabama, are vague on that question. But it appears that case law provides some guidance. The best information I've found comes from an article titled "Possible defenses to resisting arrest charges" at attorneys.com. From the article:

Resisting arrest is usually defined as intentionally preventing a police officer from lawfully arresting or handcuffing you or taking you to jail. Here are some things that can be considered resisting arrest:

* Physical acts, such as running away, hiding, or struggling with the officer

* Giving false identification, either verbally or by presenting a fake ID

* Trying to help another person avoid arrest

* Threatening the officer

Being slow to comply with an order or swearing at an officer is not, by itself, usually enough to warrant resisting arrest charges. Neither is questioning an officer's actions or authority before ultimately complying with requests.

The article goes on to state that, as we showed in a post last week, you can't be charged with resisting an arrest that was unlawful in the first place. And mine was unlawful on multiple grounds--starting with the fact that it was based on a preliminary injunction in a defamation lawsuit, which has constituted an unlawful prior restraint under First Amendment law for more than 200 years.

Chris Blevins was in my garage only because Alabama GOP political figures Rob Riley and Liberty Duke sought a preliminary injunction that is wildly contrary to law--and Claud Neilson, a corrupt hack of a judge, let them get away with it.

Rob Riley
Were the acts noted above present in my resisting arrest case? A quick look at Officer Blevins incident report (which can be read at the end of this post) shows the answer is no.

I didn't run away or hide or struggle with him (unless being thrown through two stacks of boxes counts as struggling); I didn't give false ID; I didn't threaten or curse him; and I wasn't slow about complying with any orders because I wasn't given any orders--Blevins didn't state why he was there until after I had been knocked to the concrete floor of my basement three times and maced in the face.

Perhaps my only defiant act came when Blevins asked me to step outside, and I refused, telling him to get out of my garage. He had not shown me a warrant or even said he had a warrant, so I saw no sign that he had grounds to be directing me to do anything.

Yes, there are comical elements to this story, but in the end, it is a serious matter. It's left me with a criminal record for a "crime" I didn't commit. I had lived 56 years on this planet without ever coming close to being arrested for anything.

My record was crystal clean, but now it isn't--all because a rogue cop, who had no lawful grounds to be on my property, concocted a bogus case of "don't fight me."

I intend to do everything in my power to make sure my record gets back to the clean state it once was in. And one way or another, I'm going to hold Chris Blevins, Rob Riley, Liberty Duke, Claud Neilson, and others accountable.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alabama cops apparently don't mind ignoring Fourth Amendment law when making dubious traffic stops


An Alabama sheriff's deputy used an unconstitutional traffic stop to initiate my October 2013 arrest, adding to the growing number of grounds by which my five-month incarceration was unlawful. Did the deputy have reason to know he was acting outside the law? Well, he violated a U.S. Supreme Court decision that has been in place for 30 years.

I was the only journalist in the western hemisphere to be incarcerated in 2013, drawing national and international news coverage that focused largely on violations of free-speech rights under the First Amendment. But the actions of Shelby County deputy Chris Blevins trample the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures--and Blevins' acts should be disturbing to every American who drives, or rides in, a vehicle. To make matters even more disturbing, Blevins was not the first Alabama law-enforcement to conduct an unconstitutional traffic stop against my wife and me during roughly a three-week period in fall 2013.

I raised the traffic-stop issue at my resisting-arrest trial in January 2014, trying to show that I could not resist an arrest that was unlawful, on multiple grounds, in the first place. But District Judge Ron Jackson claimed Blevins was making a "pick-up stop," based on a warrant for my arrest, and therefore was not subject to Fourth Amendment provisions. Jackson, as seems customary for Shelby County judges, cited no law to support this notion--and my research indicates there is nothing in the law to support it.

Do citizens pay a price for that kind of judicial arrogance and incompetence? The answer is yes, both literally and figuratively. Jackson found me guilty of resisting arrest and imposed an $845 fine. My picture was on the Shelby County "Most Wanted" list for months, long after the fine had been paid in April.

Where does one go to have his reputation restored when it has been trampled by rogue officers, prosecutors, and judges. We've already shown that Circuit Judge Claud Neilson issued a preliminary injunction in a defamation case against me (brought by Republican political figures Rob Riley and Liberty Duke), violating roughly 230 years of First Amendment law. We've shown that prosecutor Tonya Willingham brought a resisting-arrest charge against me even though Jackson ordered her to produce any warrants for my arrest, and she responded, "Your Honor, we have no warrants."

As it stands now, the public record indicates Blevins entered the garage underneath our house, knocked me to a concrete floor three times, maced me in the face, dragged me to the driveway, handcuffed me and tossed me in the back of a police cruiser--all without having a warrant. (This apparently violates a U.S. Supreme Court precedent styled Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 1979; more on that case coming in future posts.) The record also indicates officers were trying to arrest my wife, but apparently were unwilling to knock down our front door to get at her in an upstairs bedroom.

This is unlawful enough to boggle the mind, but the problems really started when Blevins honked his horn in the driveway and forced me to stop our car.

How do we know that Blevins acted in an unconstitutional matter? Well, it isn't easy to make such a determination because traffic-stop law is murky; it's mostly enforced at the state level, but it is grounded in federal law--especially the Fourth Amendment, under which a traffic stop is considered a "seizure."

In general, an officer can stop a vehicle under two circumstances: (1) He witnesses a violation of traffic laws, which can include moving violations or issues related to a vehicle's condition; (2) He has reasonable suspicion to believe an occupant in the vehicle is involved in criminal activity.

We've already established that Blevins' actions constitute a traffic stop under the law. He drove his police cruiser down our driveway as I was coming home and trying to pull our car into the garage. He activated his horn/siren and emergency lights to get my attention, forcing me to stop. Blevins' own words from his incident report (see report at the end of this post) show that he was conducting a traffic stop:

I observed Mr. Shuler traveling toward his home at 5204 Logan Drive. Mr. Shuler pulled into his driveway, and I drove in behind him. I used my vehicle's air horn to get Mr. Shuler's attention, and he stopped his vehicle in front of his garage.

Blevins' own words describe a "show of force" that caused me to stop and be detained--meaning this was a traffic stop, as described in "The Law of Traffic Stops (Keyed to Alabama Law)," by Montgomery attorney Patrick Mahaney.

Did Blevins have lawful grounds to stop my vehicle? For guidance, we first turn to a case styled Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), which holds:

An automobile stop is thus subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be "unreasonable" under the circumstances. As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.

Could Blevins stop my car because he had probable cause to believe I had committed a traffic violation? The answer is no. Blevins' never stated to me that I had violated any traffic law and never made any mention of writing a ticket or warning. His own words in the incident report make no mention of an alleged traffic violation.

Since Blevins fails under the Whren test, we must turn to his second option--a case styled United States v. Hensley, 469 U.S. 221 (1985), which is 30 years old and holds:

Where police have been unable to locate a person suspected of involvement in a past crime, the ability to briefly stop that person, ask questions, or check identification in the absence of probable cause promotes the strong government interest in solving crimes and bringing offenders to justice. Restraining police action until after probable cause is obtained would not only hinder the investigation but might also enable the suspect to flee and remain at large. The law enforcement interests at stake in these circumstances outweigh the individual's interest to be free of a stop and detention that is no more extensive than permissible in the investigation of imminent or ongoing crimes. When police have a reasonable suspicion, grounded in specific and articulable facts, that a person they encounter was involved in or is wanted in connection with a completed felony, then a Terry stop may be made to investigate that suspicion.

Hensley grew from an armed robbery in the Cincinnati area, where police issued a "wanted flyer" for the driver of the getaway car. Based on the wanted flyer, police eventually stopped a vehicle, and the U.S. Supreme Court found the stop lawful because officers had "reasonable suspicion" that the person was "wanted in connection with a completed felony."

Was I wanted in connection with a complete felony? Heck, I wasn't even wanted in connection to a crime. I was wanted because of a contempt of court order based on an unlawful preliminary injunction in a defamation lawsuit.

As noted above, traffic-stop law can be tricky. For example, four federal circuits have extended Hensley to apply to cases of suspected misdemeanors. But I wasn't suspected of a misdemeanor, not even jaywalking.

Every state-law case that I've seen acknowledges that traffic-stop law, by definition, is grounded in the U.S. constitution--specifically, the Fourth Amendment. And I've yet to see a case that cites federal law to say it's OK to conduct a traffic stop on an individual who allegedly has an arrest warrant in a civil case that involves no allegations of criminal activity.

The word "allegedly" is important here because, the public record at the moment, indicates Blevins entered our home without an arrest warrant--and I've neither seen nor heard anything from him or prosecutor Willingham to show that a warrant existed at all.

What can we take from this? Perhaps its best to turn to an article titled "Alabama Journalist Jailed for Contempt Under Political Stench," which was published on January 15, 2014, at photographyisnotacrime,com (PINAC), a Web site that Miami multimedia journalist Carlos Miller started in 1997. PINAC opposes efforts to limit the public's ability to chronicle police activities.

Reporter Andrew Meyer notes that my case raises troubling issues about the First Amendment (right to a free press), Fourth Amendment (right to be free from unreasonable search/seizure), Fifth Amendment (right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law), Sixth Amendment (right to a trial by jury), and Fourteenth Amendment (right to due process and equal protection).

Concludes PINAC's Meyer:

Shuler’s story might set the record for amount of constitutional rights casually broken in one case.

Perhaps more than any other journalist I'm aware of, Meyer understands that my case goes way beyond the First Amendment violations--as important as those are. These are violations that should trouble every American, even those who have no interest in ever practicing journalism or writing a blog.

Have you ever driven, or ridden in, a vehicle? If so, these issues should matter to you.





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Unconstitutional traffic stops became Alabama cops' No. 1 tool in the days leading to my arrest for blogging


My arrest and incarceration in 2013-14 has been widely reported as unlawful under the First Amendment--and that is correct. But it also violates the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures--and it does it on multiple levels.

Police misconduct might be the biggest news story of the past six months or so. Disturbing incidents in Ferguson, Missouri; New York City, and Madison, Alabama, have made international news and caused even some conservative, "pro police" citizens to ask, "What's going on with our cops?" I've certainly had cause to ask that question after watching Shelby County, Alabama, officers repeatedly abuse their right to "show authority"--a process that ended with me being assaulted in my own garage and hauled off to jail, with mace dripping all over me.

Perhaps I'm best known as the only U.S. journalist to be arrested in 2013, and I suspect most citizens quickly understand that involves matters of a free press under the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment violations might be harder to grasp, but in many ways, they are even more disturbing--maybe because they bring you face to face with officers who are violating the law they are entrusted to uphold.

Why is that so unsettling? Not everyone is a journalist or a blogger, but almost all of us drive or ride in automobiles at some point. Law enforcement has frightening power to abuse citizens in what is supposed to be the relative security of their vehicles. Such abuse is present all over my case--both while my wife and I were driving to a nearby library and while I was trying to drive down our driveway and into our garage about three weeks later.

In both instances, we were subjected to traffic stops that violate the Fourth Amendment--and that means the stops and all actions flowing from them, including my arrest and incarceration, were unconstitutional.

What is the applicable law? It starts with a U.S. Supreme Court case styled Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), which set the framework for traffic-stop law at the federal and state level. From that grew a case styled Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806 (1996), which held that a traffic stop is a "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment--and that puts a significant burden on any law-enforcement officer who is thinking about stopping a vehicle. From the Whren opinion:

The Fourth Amendment guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable seizures." Temporary detention of individuals during the stop of an automobile detained by the police, even if only for a brief period and for a limited purpose, constitutes a "seizure" of "persons" within the meaning of this provision. [Citations omitted].

An automobile stop is thus subject to the constitutional imperative that it not be "unreasonable" under the circumstances. As a general matter, the decision to stop an automobile is reasonable where the police have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred.

That brings us to the first of two unlawful traffic stops to which the Shelby County Sheriff's Office subjected my wife and me. It came on September 29, 2013, and we already have presented powerful evidence that Officer Mike DeHart concocted a bogus violation (rolling through a stop sign) in order to serve me with court papers in a lawsuit brought by Republican political figures Rob Riley and Liberty Duke. Even if the traffic stop had been legitimate at the outset, and it almost certainly was not, DeHart violated the Fourth Amendment by extending the stop for an improper purpose, violating long-established law that is outlined in a case styled United States v. Simms, 385 F. 3d 1347 (11th Cir., 2004).

As for the second unlawful traffic stop, it came on the evening of October 23, 2013. Thankfully, it directly involved only me, not my wife; she was taking a nap in an upstairs bedroom, unaware her husband essentially was being kidnapped in the garage two stories below.

I had spent most of the afternoon at a library and was on my way home after grabbing a quick bite for dinner. Unbeknownst to me, Deputy Chris Blevins was waiting for me. He was sitting in a marked police vehicle, parked on a street (MacIan Lane) that runs perpendicular to ours (Logan Drive)--about 100 yards from our house.

As I turned left onto our street and prepared to pull into the driveway at 5204 Logan Drive, Blevins started to follow me. I was waiting for the door to fully rise before pulling into our garage, when Blevins drove down our driveway and activated a siren/horn and his emergency lights.

I was in my vehicle and had just come off the roadway; he was in a vehicle and had just come off the roadway. This was a traffic stop, a seizure under the Fourth Amendment, as outlined in a case styled United States v. Purcell, 236 F. 3d 1274 (11th Cir., 2001).

How else do we know this was a traffic stop? Well, a simple check of the "traffic stop" entry at Wikipedia tells us. It states, in part:

A traffic stop, commonly called being pulled over, is a temporary detention of a driver of a vehicle by police to investigate a possible crime or minor violation of law. . . .

A stop is usually accomplished through a process known as "pulling over" the suspect's vehicle. Police vehicles (except those used by undercover personnel) traditionally have sirens, loudspeakers, and light bars that rotate and/or flash. These devices are used by the officer to get the attention of the suspect and to signal that they are expected to move over to the shoulder and stop.

We also can check an article, titled "The Law of Traffic Stops (Keyed to Alabama Law)," by Montgomery attorney Patrick Mahaney. Writes Mahaney:

The regulation of movement of vehicles on the highway by law enforcement is continually scrutinized under Fourth Amendment standards. The police use of emergency lights, police siren, or other indicia of authority to direct a motorist to pull over and come to a stop, which may include simply pointing to a motorist and giving direction by hand signal for the motorist to stop, reviewing courts have consistently held such police actions squarely falling within the concept of "show of force." . . .

Consistent with prior opinions of the Supreme Court, any show of force by a law enforcement officer, to include the use of police equipment to indicate to a motorist to stop, even a law enforcement officer's hand gesture to a motorist to pull over, places the burden of Constitutional reasonableness on the government. Such actions are customarily termed a "seizure" under the Fourth Amendment.

Blevins used his lights and siren as a "show of force" that caused me to stop and be detained. This, by legal definition, was a traffic stop. For good measure, Blevins admitted at my resisting-arrest trial that his actions constituted a traffic stop.

Did Blevins meet his burden of "Constitutional reasonableness" when he stopped my vehicle? In other words, did he "have probable cause to believe that a traffic violation had occurred"?

The answer to both questions is no. And that has profound meaning for my arrest and the five months I spent in jail--all of which was unconstitutional under the First Amendment AND the Fourth Amendment.


(To be continued)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Do e-mail exchanges reveal Mike Hubbard and Bob Riley as political and psychological "victimizers"?


We showed yesterday that e-mail exchanges between House Speaker Mike Hubbard and former Governor Bob Riley present troubling evidence that two of Alabama's most powerful political figures possess attributes found in narcissism and sociopathy.

That becomes particularly disturbing when you research personality disorders and discover that the narcissistic and antisocial (more commonly known as sociopathy) disorders have much in common, especially their tendency to produce "victimizers."

Consider the insights of Stanton Samenow, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Alexandria, Virginia, and author of Inside the Criminal Mind. Samenow wrote an article for Psychology Today titled "Narcissistic Personality Disorder and the Antisocial Personality Disorder--A Lot in Common: There Is Little Difference Between the Antisocial Individual and the Narcissist." Here is how Samenow describes the tie that seems to most bind the narcissist and the sociopath:

The most important point is that people who are either antisocial or narcissistic are victimizers. Most likely, every reader of this column has unfortunately known a man or woman who is incredibly self-centered and self-aggrandizing, who is untruthful and cannot be trusted, who fails to see things from any point of view other than his own, and who is able to eliminate fear (and conscience) long enough to pursue any means to an end. Invariably, others are betrayed, deceived, and emotionally (perhaps financially) injured.

How else are narcissists and sociopaths similar? Both tend to lead chaotic lives, or create chaos for others, Samenow writes:

The narcissist, for example, "is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention." The same is true of the antisocial person. The narcissist evidences "self-dramatization." People who are antisocial can also be quite dramatic. In fact, some count on drama to distract others from their real intentions. And some appear dramatic as they play out their perception that they are the center of the universe around which all else should revolve.

How do these traits present themselves in the Hubbard/Riley e-mails? The most obvious example comes when Hubbard states that he needs to fire four or five people "to really set the tone that new sheriffs are in town and in control." Hubbard, it seems, had picked out his victims, and the grounds for their dismissals apparently were . . . well, nonexistent. Hubbard's victims simply had parts to play in a twisted game that revolved around Mr. Speaker.

As for Riley, he didn't seem to have any qualms with Hubbard's plans. In fact, one gets the impression that Riley had taught Hubbard such tactics and was taking a certain pride in hearing about them.

What is the main difference between a narcissist and a sociopath? Samenow provides an intriguing answer:

Criteria in the (American Psychiatric Association's) DSMIV for Antisocial Personality Disorder (30l.70), include "failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest." Arrestability is not a criterion for diagnosing a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (30l.81). However, if you omitted the diagnostic labels and reviewed the other criteria for each of these "personality disorders," you might not be able to distinguish one from the other.

In simple terms, a sociopath is more likely than a narcissist to have a criminal record. That's ironic because Hubbard currently faces a  23-count corruption indictment--and Bob Riley and his daughter, Minda Riley Campbell, are named in the indictment.

For good measure, published reports have former first son Rob Riley working with Hubbard on a scheme to funnel Indian gaming funds through the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) and back to a group designed to combat non-Indian gaming. Hubbard, Rob Riley, and anti-gambling zealot A. Eric Johnston all claimed to have no idea that the money came from gambling sources, and, not surprisingly, powerful evidence suggests they were lying.

Could Hubbard, the Rileys, and some of their cohorts all go down together in a steaming pile of criminality? It's possible, but we suspect the Rileys will save themselves by throwing Hubbard (and perhaps others) under the proverbial bus.

Stanton Samenow probably would not be surprised by such an outcome. Some warped individuals are better than others at getting away with criminal behavior:

The narcissist may not commit an act that is illegal, but the damage he does may be devastating. In fact, because the narcissist appears to be law-abiding, others may not be suspicious of him, leaving him freer to pursue his objectives, no matter at whose expense.
I have found that the main difference between the narcissist and antisocial individual, in most instances, is that the former has been shrewd or slick enough not to get caught for breaking the law.

Monday, March 16, 2015

E-mails between Mike Hubbard and Bob Riley shine light on the "politics of destructive personalities"


Bob Riley
E-mails between House Speaker Mike Hubbard and former Governor Bob Riley provide circumstantial evidence that someone connected to the Riley administration caused my wife and me to be cheated out of our jobs in 2008-09. The e-mails and their timing also suggest that Hubbard, or an ally of his, helped cost one of the state's most experienced and respected journalists his job.

All of it hints that perhaps the state's two most powerful conservative political leaders have warped personalities.

The notion that someone on Team Riley caused me to be cheated out of my job as an editor at UAB in May 2008 is not new. I long have suspected that, mainly because a UAB human-resources official admitted that I was targeted because of my reporting about injustice in the Don Siegelman prosecution. No one has benefited more from the political destruction of Don Siegelman than Bob Riley and his children, especially the Birmingham lawyer duo of Rob Riley and Minda Riley Campbell.

When I tried to interview Rob Riley via phone in early 2013, his comments made it clear that he and "The Family" do not appreciate my reporting, to the point that Riley Jr. concocted a dubious defamation lawsuit that caused me to be unlawfully incarcerated in October 2013. (By the way, I tape recorded the conversation with UAB's Anita Bonasera, and the audio can be heard at the end of this post; I also have audio of the Riley interview, but it might collide with an unlawful permanent injunction that I'm under, so I will hold off on posting it for now.)

The Hubbard/Riley e-mails don't provide absolute proof about anyone's job loss. But they reveal a mindset where the speaker and former governor seem to have no qualms about ruining careers, almost as a form of political sport.

Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter, provides insight on the Hubbard/Riley mindset in a new article titled "Email Sheds Light on Clerk's Removal and New Sheriff's Methods." Britt comes close to labeling Hubbard and Riley as sociopaths, a diagnosis that I would say is pretty much on target.

The primary lesson from the e-mail exchange, Britt reports, is that "Hubbard wants to protect Riley’s State contracts, and demonstrate his personal toughness to State House staff." Britt points to the ouster of Dianne Harper, long-time clerk of the joint Legislative Contract Review Committee, as an example of Hubbard's "tough guy" approach.

Britt also notes Hubbard's reference to an article about Harper's exit, by former Huntsville Times reporter Bob Lowry. It seems clear from the e-mail, dated February 11, 2011, that neither Hubbard nor Riley appreciates Lowry's ability to investigate such matters. In September 2011, roughly seven months after the Hubbard/Riley communication, Lowry was forced out of his job. Is that coincidence? We doubt it.

Let's take a closer look at the e-mail in question. It begins with Hubbard touting the joyful news that he has just turned 49 years old. The speaker quickly turns to more serious topics:

We are shaking things up at the State House, that's for sure. I need to fire about 4 or 5 people pretty soon to really set the tone that new sheriffs are in town and in control.

Notice that Hubbard does not indicate any of these people are doing a poor job and deserve to be fired. He just likes the notion of others suffering so that his "tone" can be set. Perhaps they will have wonderful birthdays while standing in unemployment lines.

Mike Hubbard
How does Riley react? The former governor doesn't seem to bat an eye. A relatively thoughtful person might say, "Mike are you sure that's a good idea to fire these people? Is it fair, is it necessary?" Or such a person might say, "You know, Mike, you can set the tone by doing a good job as speaker and demanding good work from those around you. You can set the tone by earning respect and treating others with respect. Wouldn't that make more sense than firing people who might not deserve to be fired?"

What was the chance of such a response from Bob Riley? It probably was zero. Here is part of what he said, and there is no indication he has any problem with Hubbard's plans to fire people:
Happy Birthday, Mike. . . . You are setting the agenda and getting more coverage than anyone! Keep it up!
In other words, "Fire even more people if you want to. It's working!" Why would Hubbard mention the firing plans to Riley? Probably because he learned such tactics from the governor himself. You can almost hear Hubbard waiting for a pat on the head from his mentor, like a dog who has brought in a wet newspaper from the sidewalk.

That brings us back to the warped psychology behind the Hubbard/Riley missives. Britt tries to explain it by pointing to a Psychology Today article titled "The Narcissistic Boss." That caught my attention because my former UAB boss, who played a significant role in my unlawful termination, displayed almost all of the following characteristics:

1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance

2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. believes that he or she is "special" and unique

4. requires excessive admiration

5. has a sense of entitlement

6. is interpersonally exploitative

7. lacks empathy

8. is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

As for Hubbard and Riley, I would suggest that they show major signs of sociopathy, with significant narcissistic traits. The main characteristic of sociopathy (also known as antisocial personality disorder) is lack of a conscience, a callous unconcern for the feelings of others. Interestingly, both sociopathy and narcissism are considered among 10 known personality disorders, and the two conditions share quite a few traits. In fact, psychologists place both of them in Cluster B of personality disorders, which are marked by erratic and dramatic behavior.

Both disorders are considered almost impossible to treat, and those who have them can inflict significant emotional damage on others.

This is from "Sociopath Next Door," an article by Allan Schwartz, Ph.D., at mentalhelp.net:

Perhaps the most difficult for the rest of us to understand is that the sociopath has absolutely no conscience. In other words, they are without any sense of morality or guilt. The cannot and do not empathize with others and how they feel. When most of us look at other people we feel a sense of commonality and shared humanity. That is why we find it difficult to believe that there is a type of person who does not share the kind of compassion and connectedness that characterizes most of humanity. . . .

No one knows what causes sociopathy except that there is accumulating evidence that it stems from parts of the brain that are abnormal. In other words, it's a biological problem that may be inherited. Early life experiences, such as having been abused, may contribute to worsening the sociopathy.

Hubbard has been indicted on 23 corruption charges, and the e-mails with Riley could become central to a criminal trial. But the psychological component of the communications might be of most interest to the public right now--and it paints a very ugly picture of politics in Alabama.





Friday, March 13, 2015

Al.com's Kyle Whitmire proves his ignorance about the law surrounding the Don Siegelman prosecution

Kyle Whitmire
Al.com's Kyle Whitmire, in the midst of a column yesterday urging President Obama to pardon NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, declared that the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was "fair."

The premise was that Snowden has been wronged and is deserving of a presidential pardon while Siegelman got what he deserved. We agree with Whitmire about Snowden, but the reporter simply reveals his ignorance about the Siegelman case. He also proves that just because an individual attends a court proceeding, it does not mean he has a clue about what went on.

By the way, this is the same Kyle Whitmire who admitted a few weeks back that he possessed court documents showing Republican political figure John Merrill had engaged in an extramarital affair and chose to hide them away in a drawer. That snafu became a statewide story when we broke the news that Whitmire ignored, publishing documents that exposed Merrill's dubious actions in a Tuscaloosa County divorce case styled Brinyark v. Brinyark.

Whitmire's actions in the Merrill case, plus his statements yesterday about the Siegelman case, add to the mountain of evidence that Alabama's largest news organization has a wildly biased viewpoint that favors the GOP. Did Whitmire feel the need to slam Siegelman in order to get back in good graces with his editors after bringing public embarrassment to al.com? I can see how a reasonable person might think that.

How does Whitmire sum up the Siegelman case? From yesterday's column:

Siegelman's sentence was stiff, and the man who delivered it, U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, has proven himself to be a hypocrite. However, the former Alabama governor is right where he belongs.

Why should we put any stock in that assessment? Well, because our guy Kyle--by God--was at the trial:

The Free Don Siegelman narrative has been repeatedly proven to be fiction. . . .

I was there for Siegelman's trial, and it was fair. The former governor personally secured campaign loans. He all but extorted Richard Scrushy, among others, for money to pay them off. Scrushy obliged, and in return Siegelman reappointed him to the Alabama Certificate of Need Review Board, an appointment that was crucial for HealthSouth.

What good is it to attend a trial when you don't understand the law relevant to the case? Even worse, what kind of reporter are you if you apparently are too lazy to bother looking up the actual law? The answers to those questions place Mr. Whitmire in an unfavorable light--as do his words from Thursday's column. A brief dissection leaves Kyle standing naked in the public square:

* Who has repeatedly proven that the "Free Don Siegelman narrative" is a fiction? Whitmire doesn't say--and that's likely because no knowledgeable reporter or analyst has done it.

* How does Whitmire know the Siegelman trial was fair? He doesn't because he clearly has no understanding of the relevant law. The central charge was federal funds bribery under 18 U.S. Code 666. That statute is so muddled that many public officials have no idea whether they are following the law or not. That's why case law, in the form of McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991), was central to the case.

Both sides agreed that McCormick was controlling law, and it's central finding is this:

. . . only if “payments are made in return for an explicit promise or undertaking by the official to perform or not to perform an official act, are they criminal.”

This summarizes what commonly is called a "quid pro quo" (something for something) transaction. It is illegal, and if the prosecution proves beyond a reasonable doubt that two parties reached an "explicit" agreement on such a deal, it is grounds for a conviction.

If you want to find the guts of the Siegelman case, it's right there in McCormick. But you notice that Kyle Whitmire in his column never mentions McCormick or any of its provisions. He also never mentions that no "explicit agreement" was proven at trial, and no such instruction was given to the jury. In essence, the unlawful jury instruction provided by Judge Fuller (who is likely to face impeachment proceedings related to an assault on his wife) means that Siegelman and Scrushy were convicted of a "crime" that does not exist.

For anyone who wants to understand how the Siegelman case was, in fact, grossly unfair, we encourage a close reading of our post titled "How the 11th Circuit cheated Don Siegelman: A summary." It spells out five key mistakes that an appellate panel made in failing to overturn the Siegelman convictions.

Most alarming is this: By law, Siegelman and Scrushy could not even stand trial. That's because the alleged misconduct at the heart of the case took place almost one full year outside the five-year statute of limitations (SOL). Here's how we explained the facts and law related to the SOL:

So how did the government get away with bringing this case, much less winning it? It drafted an indictment that was vague, and when Siegelman/Scrushy moved for a bill of particulars that would have required a few specifics, the judge denied it. Defense attorneys raised the limitations defense in a proper manner for a case involving a vague indictment. But the trial court, and the 11th Circuit, wrongfully ruled that they had waived the defense.

It's public record that the alleged transaction took place in summer 1999, and the indictment came in May 2005. That's more than five years, so by law, the government had no case--but Fuller let them bring it, and the 11th Circuit allowed unlawful convictions to stand.

Kyle Whitmire would have us believe that such a wildly corrupt process was "fair"? No one with functioning brain cells should buy that.