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Thursday, November 20, 2014

From Tuscaloosa to Las Vegas to Russia, Rob Riley's connections to gambling industry run far and wide

Rob Riley
Rob Riley, the son of former "anti-gambling" Alabama Governor Bob Riley, has ties to national (Las Vegas) and international (Russia) gambling that go back a decade or more. The state's largest newspapers largely have ignored Rob Riley's hypocrisy on the issue. But that changed with a recent investigative piece by Josh Moon at the Montgomery Advertiser.

Rob Riley even initiated a business deal with VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, whose business was targeted for raids by Bob Riley in the final two years of his governorship (2008-10).

Does the Rileys' two-facedness on gambling know any boundaries? Based on Moon's reporting, the answer seems to be no.

The Decatur Daily exposed Rob Riley's ties to gambling in 2005, but the issue seemingly has been off limits for the state's metropolitan dailies. Josh Moon's article changes that, and it exposes the Riley family's duplicity for a widespread audience.

Rob Riley's interest in gambling seems to flow from his friendship with Robert Sigler, which started when both were students at the University of Alabama. Sigler went on to head Tuscaloosa-based parent company Crimsonica and Paragon Gaming, a Las Vegas company that started in 2000 to help Indian tribes develop casino gambling on reservations.

Public records show that Rob Riley was an attorney, board member, and registered agent for Crimsonica until at least May 2005. All of this from the son of a governor who once called electronic-bingo machines a "cancer" in Alabama.

Exactly what path did Rob Riley take into the world of gambling? Josh Moon spells it out, starting with Milton McGregor's claim that Bob Riley once sought a job for his son with VictoryLand:

In a way, McGregor says he was already doing business with Rob Riley. One afternoon in 2004, Rob Riley and his University of Alabama college roommate had shown up at McGregor's office unannounced to meet with the casino boss about possible investment opportunities.

Rob Riley's roommate, a former Wall Street worker named Robert Sigler, was the founder of a number of investment and finance companies, most notably Crimsonica and Global Trust Partners. McGregor said Sigler and Rob Riley pitched a number of investment opportunities. Rob Riley acknowledged going to McGregor's office, but said he went only because Sigler asked for an introduction and he was helping a friend.

Rob Riley was listed as the attorney and a board member for Crimsonica.

The most potentially lucrative business deal entered into by the group was a plan to set up a nationwide lottery in Russia — a plan that would ultimately go awry for many reasons, including the fact the Russian mafia didn't care for the idea.

The word "trust" in Global Trust Partners apparently was not meant to be taken literally. As for Rob Riley, he adopted his usual habit of resorting to fuzzy logic in an effort to explain away his proximity to gambling:

Rob Riley said he had no interest in (the Russian lottery) deal and warned Sigler that it wouldn't work. Ultimately, when the deal did fall apart, the investors — including McGregor, Sigler and Montgomery doctor David Thrasher — lost a substantial sum of money. There has been speculation through the years that Rob Riley also lost money, but he insists he had no involvement in the lottery deal, although he admits to losing money on some of Sigler's other ventures.

Let's see if we understand this. Rob Riley knew the Russian lottery plan wouldn't work, and he had no financial involvement with it, but he helped line up other investors anyway? Does that make sense to you?

Robert Sigler
Here is a more important question: If Rob Riley knew the plan wouldn't work, but still sought money for it from others, did he engage in a form of investment fraud?

The Russian-lottery deal remains a murky subject, but we've written about it several times. A post titled "International gambling operations have roots in Alabama" addressed a lawsuit by an investor named Bipinchandra Shah, who sought an unpaid $5.8-million court judgment for a defaulted loan. Shah, won the judgment in 2008 from the London Court of International Arbitration against a global investment partnership and a Russian bank. Here is how we described the Shah case, based on an article from The Distressed Debt Report (DBR):

Shah loaned RLI Partners of Gibraltar and affiliate Investment Lottery of Moscow a $3 million short-term bridge facility in 2005. The loan was to have been replaced by a $60 million facility from Alabama-based Global Trust Partners to jointly pursue the All Russian Electronic Lottery System project. Global Trust wasn't named as a party in the lawsuit. RLI and Investment Lottery had obtained an exclusive license from the Russian government in 2004 to develop the lottery, according to court documents. The Mobile Register reported in 2005 that Global Trust had intended to ultimately raise $300 million for the project, which involved the installation of 50,000 electronic terminals throughout Russia. After becoming fully operational within a few years, it was to have been the largest lottery system in the world, according to the report.

What went wrong with the deal? A complete answer to that question is hard to determine, but here is how we described it, again with assistance from DBR:

Global Trust bailed out of the financing, however, causing RLI and Investment Lottery to default on the bridge loan. A person close to the situation said that Global Trust ultimately found the project too risky and considered the business plan presented by RLI and Investment Lottery to be inadequate. The person said that Global Trust's investors lost millions of dollars of their own on the project. They are trying to recoup their losses through the Alabama state securities commission and lawyers in Russia.

Failures to obtain financing caused RLI to disband a company it created in Gibraltar and Moscow specifically to develop a Russian lottery.

RLI and Investment Lottery's license with the Russian government has since expired, according to people familiar with the situation.

For now, let's return to a Rob Riley quote from my interview with him in early 2013:

LS: You claimed in the newspaper the other day you don't know anything about gambling funds going to the RSLC and wound up in Alabama. Are you serious? They took gambling money from 2003, dating to the Mississippi Choctaws?

RR: No, no, I did not know that.

LS: Why do you not support gambling in Alabama? Is it on a moral basis?

RR: Yes.

Does Rob Riley sound like someone who really is morally opposed to gambling? Our answer to that is no. When Rob Riley gets involved with gambling operations, does he know what he's doing? The answer to that seems to be no, as well.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mainstream media finally unmasks Rob Riley for the hypocrisy of his longstanding ties to gambling

Rob Riley
Prominent Alabama Republican Rob Riley claims to be "morally opposed" to gambling, but he has documented and longstanding ties to the gaming industry.

Former Governor Rob Riley, Rob's father, has called electronic-bingo machines a "cancer," ignoring his own son's connections to gambling.

The state's largest newspapers have tended to overlook the Rileys' gross hypocrisy on the subject. But that finally has changed with a major  investigative article by reporter Josh Moon in the Montgomery Advertiser.

Moon shows that both Rileys have unmistakable ties to gambling, and when questioned on the subject, tend to provide answers that don't quite add up.

We have unmasked the Rileys for years here at Legal Schnauzer, as have other nontraditional news sites, and their gambling ties first came to our attention because of a story involving a Birmingham businessman named William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig.

In 2002, Hazelrig gave $10,000 to Bob Riley's campaign for governor. Riley returned the donation when news broke that Hazelrig was a stockholder in Paragon Gaming, which we described as "a Las Vegas-based outfit that was formed in 2000 to help Indian tribes develop casino gambling on their reservations."

The Riley family probably hoped the story would end there, but it did not. Paragon Gaming's parent company, it turned out, was called Crimsonica and was based in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The head of Crimsonica was a University of Alabama grad named Robert Sigler, and one of his close college chums was Rob Riley.

Chip Hazelrig
Sigler and Rob Riley, however, weren't just buddies. They also were business partners. Here is how we described the business relationship in an earlier post:

Crimsonica . . . (is) run by a UA grad named Robert Sigler. Evidently Sigler's devotion to UA is so great that he named his company after the university's mascot, the Crimson Tide.

We noted earlier that Chip Hazelrig was one of the four founders of Paragon Gaming. But the principal founder was Robert Sigler. And who was a Crimsonica attorney and board member? Why, none other than Rob Riley.

The Decatur Daily unearthed that little nugget from checking the Crimsonica Web site. Interestingly, the Web site has since become password protected, and Rob Riley's name has been removed from Crimsonica documents filed with the Alabama Secretary of State's Office.

He was a registered agent of Crimsonica until May 5, 2005.

Rob Riley told the Decatur Daily that he was not involved with "people in the gambling industry." But public records tell a different story.

We went on to describe Robert Sigler's international plans for his company:

And Robert Sigler has big ambitions when it comes to gambling. An article dated February 19, 2005, says Sigler was head of Global Trust Partners, an outfit that was trying to initiate a national lottery in Russia.

That activity was going on while Rob Riley was affiliated with Sigler's company--and while Bob Riley was residing in the governor's mansion.

So the Rileys fight a lottery in Alabama, the one Don Siegelman supported, but they have connections to a lottery in Russia? Hmmm.

As you can see, the mainstream press was not totally asleep on the Rob Riley/gambling story. The Decatur Daily picked up on his duplicity, but we can find no record of the state's major daily's addressing it.

That changed when Josh Moon decided to look into the matter for the Montgomery Advertiser. And Moon unmasks Rob Riley in a major way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Rob Riley claims to be "morally opposed" to gambling, but new article reveals his deep ties to the industry

Rob Riley
Prominent Alabama Republican Rob Riley claimed in a 2013 interview that he is "morally opposed" to gambling. But a major investigative article in last week's Montgomery Advertiser shows that Rob Riley has longstanding ties to the gaming industry,

Bob Riley, former governor and Rob Riley's father, denies that he sought a job for his son with VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor. Riley, who spent most of his final two years as governor crusading against non-Indian gaming facilities in the state, claims the allegation makes no sense.

But reporter Josh Moon, in perhaps the strongest piece of mainstream Alabama journalism during the 2000s, shows that the story absolutely makes sense--in part, because Rob Riley has worked with McGregor before, in a deal that turned out badly for the casino owner and other investors. Also, the younger Riley's interest in gaming apparently dates at least to connections he made while a student at the University of Alabama.

More recently, an October 2012 article shows Rob Riley still has a tendency to fondle gambling funds and then make dubious statements when questioned about it.

Rob Riley was involved in the funneling of $100,000 to an Alabama anti-gambling organization, through the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). The $100,000, it turns out, was Indian gambling money--from the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Here is how we reported it at the time:

Prominent Alabama Republicans this week said they did not know that funds used to fight non-Indian gaming in the state came from Indian gambling sources. A check of public records shows the Republicans almost certainly were lying.

A $100,000 check that went to an Alabama anti-gambling organization in 2010 originated with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and was funneled through the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), according to a report in the Montgomery Advertiser. The same article showed that Indian gambling money, via the RSLC, played a prominent role in the Republican takeover of the Alabama Legislature in 2010.

Three key Republicans connected to the story--Homewood attorney Rob Riley, conservative lawyer and activist A. Eric Johnston, and House Speaker Mike Hubbard--said they had no idea the RSLC took money from gambling sources. But a simple check of public documents on the Web shows the GOP trio either was lying or was stunningly out of touch.

The Alabama denials are even more hard to swallow in light of recent reports that two Las Vegas casino moguls--Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts, and Sherman Adelson, of the Las Vegas Sands, gave more than $625,000 to the RSLC in recent months. Another report shows that Caesars Entertainment Operating Company, of Las Vegas, has given $165,299 to the RSLC.

Investigators in the Alabama State House criminal probe, which has snared Mike Hubbard in a 23-count indictment, reportedly are interested in the RSLC episode. It helped show the public that Rob Riley does business with the RSLC--and the RSLC does big business with the gaming industry. Here is more from our earlier report:

We are supposed to believe that Riley, Johnston, and Hubbard were utterly in the dark about RSLC's ties to gaming? It's not a new development, by the way.

Records at campaignmoney.com show that RSLC received $15,000 from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians in 2003, followed by a $25,000 donation in 2005. Jack Abramoff, a former GOP lobbyist and now confessed felon, represented the Choctaws at the time. In 2006, the RSLC received $100,000 from Harrah's Casino Hotels.

Mike Hubbard
We learned about this after a Web search lasting about five minutes. But Riley, Johnston, and Hubbard are not capable of learning about RSLC's ties to gaming that go back roughly 10 years? These guys can't afford Internet service?

The RSLC was founded in 2002, and we know it took gaming money in 2003. That means RSLC's roots have been fertilized with gambling cash pretty much from the outset. But GOP insiders in Alabama don't know that?

I interviewed Rob Riley in January 2013, not long after the RSLC story had broken. Here is a portion of that interview:

LS: You claimed in the newspaper the other day you don't know anything about gambling funds going to the RSLC and wound up in Alabama. Are you serious? They took gambling money from 2003, dating to the Mississippi Choctaws?

RR: No, no, I did not know that.

LS: Why do you not support gambling in Alabama? Is it on a moral basis?

RR: Yes.

So, there you have it--Rob Riley is morally opposed to gambling. How then, do we explain his habit of, time and again, being connected to the gaming industry.

Is Riley a hypocrite of Biblical proportions, a man who is incapable of examining his own contradictory actions and statements? Is Riley simply the sort of fabricator who would make Jim Carrey's character in Liar, Liar blush?

We will ponder those questions further as we take a closer look at Josh Moon's reporting on the Riley family's unmistakable footprints in a gambling world that they supposedly abhor.

(To be continued)

Monday, November 17, 2014

"Anti-gambling" Governor Bob Riley sought job for his son, Rob, with casino owner Milton McGregor

Bob Riley 
Bob Riley, who spent much of his final two years as Alabama governor launching a crusade against non-Indian gambling, once sought a job for his son with VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor.

McGregor declined to hire Rob Riley, a Homewood attorney, and now believes that played a major role in Bob Riley's decision to instigate raids against VictoryLand, claiming the casino's electronic-bingo machines were illegal--even though voters approved a constitutional amendment approving e-bingo at the facility, and the machines had operated lawfully for five years before Gov. Riley took action in 2008.

That is one of many fascinating insights from last week's Montgomery Advertiser article titled "Gambling in Alabama: A high-stakes game of political intrigue." The article, reported and written by Josh Moon, probably is the most comprehensive look ever at a subject that has sullied Alabama's political landscape for decades.

Bob Riley denies seeking a job for his son during the meeting with McGregor. But the former governor comes across as uncomfortable and defensive when confronted with the story--and the overall tone of Moon's reporting leaves the impression that McGregor's version likely is the one much closer to the truth.

Moon's reporting goes well beyond Alabama, touching on national figures such as Republican felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, who both have documented ties to Bob Riley and his political campaigns. In my view, Moon's piece is must reading about corruption that eats at our democracy, and the article deserves strong consideration for some of the biggest prizes in journalism.

It gets off to a compelling start with a vivid description of a meeting between McGregor and Bob Riley:

In September 2008, Milton McGregor, the bombastic owner of VictoryLand, the state's largest casino, was summoned to the governor's office for a lunch.

Gov. Bob Riley's purpose for that meeting wasn't clear, but the request to meet wasn't particularly unusual. While McGregor and Riley weren't exactly close pals, the two were friendly enough at the time and various meetings had occurred between the two over the years. . . .

As he entered the governor's office that September afternoon, McGregor noticed that two small Chick-fil-A boxes had already been set out on the governor's long conference table. He asked if Riley was on a diet, but McGregor said he knew the small lunch was a sign that this meeting would be less about food and more about whatever it was Riley wanted to discuss.

"(Riley) wanted me to hire his son, Rob," McGregor said. "He didn't make any bones about it. He said to me, 'I know you're doing well. I've seen your numbers. I think any business doing that well during a Riley administration should benefit the Riley family in some way.'"

McGregor said he responded by asking Riley if the governor was implying that VictoryLand's success was a result of Riley's policies. Riley said no, but McGregor said that didn't quell the demands that Rob Riley, an attorney, receive a job working for McGregor.

"It wasn't a request, it was a demand," McGregor said.
Milton McGregor

That set the tone for what proved to be an unpleasant get together:
After McGregor declined more than once, he said Riley told him that he had seen the McGregors' personal tax returns, even cited income numbers that McGregor said were "pretty doggone accurate."

In a matter of minutes, the two men were in a heated argument, their voices so loud that eventually Riley's secretary popped open the door and asked if everything was OK. She was waved away and the argument continued for more than an hour, with Riley's later appointments, including a group of county commissioners, stacking up in the waiting area outside his office.

In McGregor's mind, the whole ugly scene was the catalyst for many of his subsequent troubles — the raids, the court rulings, the arrest and unsuccessful prosecution of him on federal charges and the slow crumbling of his business.

While McGregor remembers the lunch menu and  word-for-word dialogue, Riley's memory seems cloudy. He claims the meeting had nothing to do with Rob Riley's employment prospects, but he doesn't remember much about what it might have been about. He says the door to his office would have been open, with at least two people listening to every word, but he apparently did not supply those people's names.

Riley doesn't remember a heated exchange, or a secretary checking in to see if things were OK.

"It simply didn't happen," Bob Riley said. "Why on earth would I ask Milton McGregor to hire Rob? That makes no sense."

Moon proceeds to show why it would have made perfect sense, mainly because of the Riley family's long-time ties to gambling. Plus, Rob Riley already had done business with Milton McGregor.

(To be continued)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Football star Adrian Peterson and CEO Ted Rollins raise issues of race, social status in child-abuse cases

Adrian Peterson
Ted Rollins stepped down as CEO of Campus Crest Communities one day before National Football League star Adrian Peterson entered a plea agreement in a criminal case.

That's ironic because Peterson, a running back for the Minnesota Vikings and one of the NFL's most acclaimed players, faced charges that he disciplined his 4-year-old son with a switch (a tree branch with the leaves removed) in May. Peterson was charged with felony child abuse, which carries a possible punishment of two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Peterson has been on paid leave from the Vikings, and his no-contest plea means he will not spend time behind bars. But the NFL has rejected a request for Peterson's immediate reinstatement.

Where is the irony in all of this? Rollins brutally beat his 16-year-old stepson in 1995, but records indicate he never was threatened with a felony or jail time. Rollins was convicted of simple assault. His punishment? He was fined $100, charged $65 for court costs, and $250 in restitution to Franklin Regional Medical Center in North Carolina.

Why the hospital charge? The boy, who is Sherry Carroll Rollins' biological child from a previous marriage, was injured so badly that he required a trip via ambulance to the emergency room. Here is how Sherry Rollins described her son's injuries in an on-camera interview with Legal Schnauzer. Ms. Rollins now lives in Birmingham, Alabama:

I couldn't tell what his injuries were exactly. He was stumbling as he walked toward the house. His face was all blood . . . as if he had no eyes, completely covered. There was no way of seeing his eyes. How he walked, I don't know. He stumbled into the house as the ambulance was coming.

Ms. Rollins said her son had a broken nose and numerous abrasions and lacerations. She also said paramedics administered oxygen during transport to the hospital, a sign that blood loss was to the point that the boy was in danger of going into shock.

In short, injuries in the Rollins beating were life threatening. What about in the Adrian Peterson case? Here is how one news report described them:

CBS Houston, citing law enforcement sources and police reports, said Peterson beat his 4-year-old son with a tree branch in Spring, Tex., in May, causing cuts and bruises in several areas of the boy’s body, including his back, ankles and legs. Peterson told the police that the punishment was a “whooping” administered after the boy pushed another of Peterson’s children.

By most accounts, Adrian Peterson engaged in corporal punishment that, under the law, went too far. According to an eye witness account from Sherry Rollins (see video below), Ted Rollins beat her son so severely that it could have resulted in death.

Ted Rollins
Adrian Peterson faced a possible two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, on a felony child-abuse charge. Ted Rollins was charged with misdemeanor assault and received a $100 fine.

On top of that, Ted Rollins' career seemed to flourish in the aftermath. He became CEO of a public company that received more than $1 billion in Wall Street investor support. And it's not like Wall Street didn't know about the ugliness in Ted Rollins' background. A prominent analyst named Paula Poskon was told in fall 2012 about Ted Rollins' criminal history and initially reacted by stating, "Oh, my God!"

Did she take any significant action? Apparently not. She eventually tried to strong arm me into deleting her comments. She even threatened to lie about what she had said in a tape-recorded phone conversation.

Meanwhile, Adrian Peterson's career status remains uncertain.

Why the radically different treatment for Adrian Peterson and Ted Rollins? Peterson is black and grew up under difficult circumstances in rural Texas. Ted Rollins is white and grew up in one of America's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control, Dover Downs Gaming and Entertainment, and Rollins Jamaica resorts, among other enterprises.

Are these two cases a sign that "equal protection under the law," as stated in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, doesn't mean much these days?


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

CEO Ted Rollins, with ugliness in his personal life, steps down as head of Campus Crest Communities

Ted Rollins
Ted Rollins, the CEO who brutally beat his stepson and likely committed perjury in a grossly unjust Alabama divorce case, was forced out yesterday as head of Campus Crest Communities. The decision apparently was based on the company's slumping financial performance.

Charlotte-based Campus Crest builds student-housing developments near universities around the country. According to the firm's Web site, it has 81 properties in 27 states--and that includes five projects under The Grove brand that are in operation or planned for Alabama (at South Alabama, Troy, Jacksonville State, Auburn, and Alabama).

As of August 2013, Wall Street investors had showered roughly $800 million on the company, and that figure probably tops $1 billion by now.

Ted Rollins belongs to one of the South's wealthiest families. His cousins, Gary and Randall Rollins, are Atlanta billionaires and direct Rollins Inc., the umbrella company for Orkin Pest Control and other profitable enterprises. The Atlanta side of the Rollins family, and their public squabbles over trust funds and divorces, was recently spotlighted in an article by reporter Clare O'Connor at Forbes magazine.

Wall Street was well aware of the messiness in Rollins personal life. Paula Poskon, an analyst with Robert W. Baird and Company, learned in October 2012 that Rollins had been convicted in 1995 for assaulting his stepson in Franklin County, North Carolina. She also learned that Rollins had been the target of a social-services investigation, based on a citizen complaint, for possible sexual abuse of the same stepson.

Poskon's reaction to this news? "Oh, my God, I was not aware of any of that. . . . It certainly sounds like I need to do a lot more digging."

Did Poskon do more digging? Apparently not. A few months later, she tried to strong arm me into retracting her statements about Ted Rollins.

Wall Street did not get alarmed, it seems, until Campus Crest Communities took a financial nosedive under Ted Rollins' leadership.

One account yesterday, from streetinsider.com, said Rollins "resigned." Another article, from seekingalpha.com, said Rollins had "been terminated, effective immediately." It also said "the stock price soared" as the news got out.

The company stock (with NYSE symbol CCG) had not been soaring lately. From Street Insider:

Campus Crest Communities (NYSE: CCG) reported Q3 FFO of $0.15, $0.01 worse than the analyst estimate of $0.16. Revenue for the quarter came in at $28.3 million versus the consensus estimate of $27.83 million.

The company also announced additional changes in senior management, as well as its intent to acquire Copper Beech assets, discontinue its construction and development business, reduce joint venture exposure and sell non-core assets as part of the Company’s release of financial results for the three months ended September 30, 2014.

Effective immediately, Ted W. Rollins, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has resigned and will no longer be actively involved with the Company. The Independent Directors of the Board of Directors of the Company have elected Richard Kahlbaugh, lead independent director, as Executive Chairman and Interim CEO. It is intended that Mr. Kahlbaugh will guide the Company through the completion of its strategic repositioning.

What about that "strategic repositioning"? Here is what it entails:

* Discontinuing all construction and development to simplify the business model and focus on organic growth;

* Identifying cost savings at the property and corporate level to enhance profitability;

* Reducing joint venture exposure through select asset dispositions to reduce indebtedness and increase liquidity;

* Exploring strategic options for our projects in Montreal, to include capital solutions to reduce exposure, concurrent with ongoing efforts to drive occupancy; and

* Marketing development pipeline assets for sale to increase liquidity and simplify balance sheet.

It sounds like Rollins' company was about as messy as his personal life--and that is pretty messy. We first became aware of Ted Rollins via Rollins v. Rollins, his divorce from second wife, Sherry Carroll Rollins, a Birmingham resident. The case was heard in Shelby County, Alabama, before Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson, even though clear law shows jurisdiction already had been established in South Carolina, and the case could not be heard anywhere else.

Crowson essentially stole a case that belonged to another state and proceeded to grant Ted Rollins such a favorable judgment that it left Sherry Rollins and the couple's two daughters on food stamps over large portions of the past six years. I've called Rollins v. Rollins the worst courtroom cheat job I've encountered in seven years of writing about Alabama legal issues.

Why might Ted Rollins receive favorable treatment in Alabama. His corporate law firm, Bradley Arant, is based in Birmingham.

Wall Street knew Ted Rollins had a criminal conviction that involved the physical abuse of a child, but analysts and investors remained mostly silent about that. An Alabama judge unlawfully took a divorce case and issued a grossly one-sided judgment--and appellate courts upheld it with an "affirmed, no opinion" ruling. The legal community has been mute about that.

What does that say about the values of Wall Street? What does that say about the values of our "justice system"?

While we ponder those questions, here are documents from Ted Rollins assault conviction in North Carolina:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Did decision to take the stand in his own defense nail down not-guilty verdicts in Barry Moore case?

Barry Moore
Conventional wisdom in the legal world holds that a criminal defendant should almost never take the stand. The logic seems to be that by testifying in his own defense, the defendant allows prosecutors to pose potentially damaging questions that otherwise would go unasked.

State Rep Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) defied that logic and was found not guilty in the first trial arising from a Lee County grand jury investigation related to the activities at the Alabama State House.

Based on press reports, Moore was not a particularly effective witness. In fact, one account suggests he more or less confessed to at least one instance of perjury. But we suspect his decision to stand up and speak on his own behalf played a role in the non-guilty verdicts, on two counts of perjury and two counts of providing false statements.

A source who was present for the trial says the Moore defense team's  strategy apparently consisted of creating as much confusion as possible, perhaps to draw attention from taped phone conversations that seemed to show Moore was less than truthful before the grand jury about threats issued by House Speaker Mike Hubbard.

From our source:

My mother used to always tell me that I argue just to argue, and that is exactly what happened in this case. Moore’s legal team had no legal standing to argue on, so they resorted to arguing irrelevant facts that came across to me as absurd and laughable. The defense created such a foggy haze of ludicrous assertions that at times I forgot what Barry Moore was on trial for. This tactic clearly worked.

You can never overlook the element of race in an Alabama proceeding, so I asked our source about the racial makeup of the jury. He said it was seven whites and five blacks--two black males, five white males, two white females, three black females. Both alternates were white females.

Based on that, it doesn't seem race played much of a factor. (It would be interesting to know the identify of the foreman; I'm convinced that person almost always carried huge weight in a jury trial.)

A scatter-shot defense that left observers scratching their heads apparently carried the day. And I suspect Barry Moore helped himself by taking the stand. My guess is that, to many jurors, nothing screams "Guilty" like a defendant who won't speak for himself. That might not hold true if the defendant is a street thug with a long list of prior arrests and convictions. But in a white-collar case, where the defendant is likely to be fairly well spoken and the law often is murky, I think it makes sense for the defendant to put himself out there for questioning.

I see no reason for the Moore verdict to have any impact on future proceedings that grow from the Lee County investigation. But the case did provide us with a memorable quote. In one tape recording, political opponent Josh Pipken is heard telling Moore "most business leaders think you're a snake and stupid as well."

How's that for laying the cards on the table?

We don't know if Moore is stupid or not. But he was wise enough to take the stand in his own defense. And we suspect he owes his freedom, at least in part, to that decision.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Here is how the jury likely got it wrong with not-guilty verdicts in the perjury trial of State Rep. Barry Moore

Barry Moore
Confusion about one word, "knowingly," might have caused an Alabama jury yesterday to acquit State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) on all four counts against him.

Moore faced two counts of perjury and two counts of providing false statements, in the first trial to grow from a Lee County grand-jury investigation of State House corruption. That Moore was charged with two distinct crimes, and the relevant statutes treat the "knowingly" element in radically different ways, probably created enough confusion to give Moore not-guilty verdicts on all four counts.

In retrospect, prosecutors probably would have been better off to charge Moore only with perjury. That's because the second charge, providing false statements to any matter under investigation, probably caused the confusion that let Moore go free.

If jurors were confused, they were not alone. Some members of the press also appeared to be confused. Consider this from an al.com report on Wednesday about the trial:

Moore testified today that he did not willingly or knowingly tell the grand jury anything that was untrue, a required element for the charges.

We can find only one problem with that sentence--it isn't true; in fact, it's a flatly inaccurate statement of the law.

All reporter Mike Cason had to do was check the indictment to get an accurate read on the law. Apparently he didn't do that. The indictment correctly states that "knowingly" was an element of the charge under Counts One and Three (providing false statements), but it was not an element under Counts Two and Four (perjury).

A quick look at the relevant statutes shows a difference in the crimes. This is from the key portion of Code of Alabama 36-15-62.1:

Section 36-15-62.1

Providing false statements relating to any matter under investigation; penalties.

(a) Any person who knowingly commits any of the following in any matter under investigation by the Attorney General, or a prosecutor or investigator of his or her office, upon conviction shall be guilty of a Class C felony.

You can see that the word "knowingly" plays a prominent role in describing the offense. Now. let's take a look at the key section of Code of 13A-10-101:

Section 13A-10-101

Perjury in the first degree.

(a) A person commits the crime of perjury in the first degree when in any official proceeding he swears falsely and his false statement is material to the proceeding in which it is made.

(b) Perjury in the first degree is a Class C felony.

You can see that the word "knowingly," contrary to what al.com reported, is not an element of perjury. The offense is straightforward--you make a materially false statement in an official proceeding, and you have committed perjury. It doesn't matter whether the statement was knowingly
made or not.

That's important because Moore admitted on the stand that he gave at least one answer that was false related to a phone call with Josh Pipken, who wound up being Moore's primary opponent. From the al.com report:

Prosecutors say the recordings show that Moore was not truthful with the grand jury. Defense attorneys disputed that.

Moore acknowledged during his testimony today that one answer he gave during his testimony was wrong, but said it was because he didn't fully remember the phone call with Pipkin from seven months earlier.

Moore then proceeded to tell the jury that he did not willingly or knowingly tell the grand jury anything that was untrue. His reference to the grand jury means he was referring specifically to the perjury counts; the providing false statements counts involve statements made to investigators for the attorney general's office.

In other words, Moore told jurors that he did not knowingly commit perjury. But "knowingly" is not an element of the offense; it only applies to the false statements counts. And Moore's own words show he did make a materially false statement in an official proceeding.

What does it all mean? Moore probably presented a valid defense to the false statements charges, and the not-guilty verdicts on those might be proper. But based on our review of the relevant law and press reports on this week's trial, Moore offered no legitimate defense to the perjury charges. In fact, he appears he admitted to committing perjury in at least one instance.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

CBS Evening News receives a boost from Legal Schnauzer in report on wife-beating judge Mark Fuller

The most trusted organization in broadcast journalism produced a report last night on Mark Fuller, the Alabama federal judge who was charged in August with beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel room. CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley relied in part on nontraditional news sources in preparing the Fuller story.

How do we know? Legal Schnauzer was one of those sources. It's a classic example of how news gathering has changed, with the online press taking on more and more of a trusted role. It also is an example of a story that probably never would have reached the attention of CBS News, without aggressive reporting from nontraditional sources in the early stages.

The CBS piece, dated October 28, 2014, is titled "Ala. judge's spousal abuse case has some seeking his resignation."

Bianca Brosh, an assistant producer for CBS News, contacted me on October 14, and I posted that day on my Facebook page that a story about the Fuller case was in the works at the network. Brosh specifically asked about using a photograph of Fuller, taken by Phil Fleming of Montgomery, Alabama, that had run on my blog.

Blog statistics for Legal Schnauzer showed several visits from CBS Evening News to research our posts on the Fuller story. I'm guessing the network also checked out the reporting of Alabama attorney Donald Watkins, who has produced a number of important stories on his Facebook page about the Fuller case.

From the CBS story, written by Vicente Arenas:

Outrage over domestic violence reached a new high after revelations involving NFL players. Now, public condemnation is expanding with a call for justice involving a federal judge.

Mark Fuller of Alabama may have his criminal record cleared, despite evidence on a disturbing tape. . . .

The caller is the wife of Mark Fuller, a prominent federal judge who has presided over some of Alabama's biggest cases.

Prosecutors filed a misdemeanor battery charge against Fuller. But the case did not come to national attention until the video surfaced of NFL star Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee, later wife, Janay in a casino hotel elevator.

Now Fuller has been relieved of all his pending cases, and there are calls for his resignation.

As we noted in a recent post, the nontraditional press has done most of the heavy lifting on the Fuller story. But it's gratifying to see CBS News step into the fray, adding its substantial clout to a story that now is national and international in scope.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Could Jessica Medeiros Garrison's sealed divorce file help shine light on "secrets" in State House probe?

Jessica Garrison and Luther Strange
Could the divorce file of Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison contain information that might be pertinent to the ongoing grand-jury investigation in Lee County? That question has particular resonance as the first trial from the Lee County probe unfolds this week.

Based on at least one published report, the answer to the Garrison question seems to be yes--and that's because of an alleged "secret" involving the attorney general's office, which is conducting the Lee County probe.

Why then has the Garrison file remained sealed, even now that the divorce file of U.S. Judge Mark Fuller has been ordered unsealed in the wake of charges that he beat his wife in an Atlanta hotel room? The recent ruling on the Fuller matter indicates there are no lawful grounds for the Garrison file to remain outside of public view. That is especially the case with the possibility that the file contains information connected to the State House criminal investigation involving Speaker Mike Hubbard and other members of the GOP.

The trial of State Rep. Barry Moore (R-Enterprise) is going on this week in Opelika. It is the first trial to grow from the Lee County investigation, and Moore faces charges of lying to the grand jury and making false statements to prosecutors.

How could the Garrison divorce case have ties to a criminal matter? An August 18 article by Bill Britt at Alabama Political Reporter (APR) shines light on that question.

Britt reports that Kevin Turner, chief deputy to Attorney General Luther Strange, has tried to derail the Lee County investigation by having Special Prosecutor Matt Hart removed from the case. Turner filed what Britt describes as a "bogus" personal complaint in order to have Hart fired or removed from the white-collar crime division. The actions in Britt's report, if proven, come close to the definition of obstruction of justice (in federal law enforcement) or obstructing governmental services (at the state level).

What would cause Kevin Turner to be so bold, desperate, and perhaps stupid? Britt suggests it's because Turner holds a "secret" over his boss' head. From the Britt article:

Inside the Attorney General’s Office, the effort to sabotage the Grand Jury, by eliminating Hart, is thought to be the work of Strange’s closest ally, Turner.

The seemly unbreakable bond between Strange and Turner is rumored to be based on more scandalous motives, and not mere loyalty. As Strange’s driver and body man during the 2010 campaign for AG, there is speculation that Turner holds a dirty secret over his boss' head. Whatever the reason may be for Strange’s particular loyalty to Turner, there are more than a few questions raised by Turner’s recent actions against Hart.

Where does Jessica Medeiros Garrison fit into this picture? She managed Luther Strange's 2010 campaign, which would have more or less made her Kevin Turner's supervisor at the time. Any "dirty secret" that Kevin Turner has on Luther Strange, probably would be known to Garrison.

What's the nature of this secret? Is it personal, professional, political, financial--a combination of all the above? We don't know, but Garrison's divorce case ended in October 2009, and a related child-custody case went into 2011--all in the general time frame of the 2010 campaign for attorney general.

Could the sealed Garrison divorce file include information about the secret? It certainly could, and if so, that means it's relevant to the Lee County investigation--and Kevin Turner's actions that appear to be unethical (at best) and maybe criminal (at worst).

While citizens await news of more possible arrests in the Lee County case,  they should demand that Jessica Medeiros Garrison's divorce file be unsealed.

One member of the AG's staff, Sonny Reagan, already faces disciplinary action for allegedly leaking grand-jury information. Perhaps Kevin Turner's actions merit disciplinary action, as well.