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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Marco Rubio, with a curious late-night arrest in his background, was a "very extroverted homosexual" in high school and college, according to new report

Marco Rubio, as part of a Chippendales/Village People
dance troupe
(From Wayne Madsen Report)

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio was known to be a "very extroverted homosexual" in high school and college, according to a new report. Rubio has a curious arrest in his background, which has been reported in the mainstream press but has largely been brushed off by his campaign staff. A close Rubio friend, even now, is involved in the gay-pornography business.

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C., reports that Republican insiders have said Rubio did little to hide his homosexuality while in high school at South Beach Miami and at the University of Florida.

The Wayne Madsen Reporter (WMR) is a subscription Web site, but we have received permission to report certain items from the site. The full Rubio article, dated January 29-31, can be read at the bottom of this post. The story involves Rubio's 1990 arrest at a park known as a gay pick-up spot, an event his campaign has tried to keep under wraps. From the Madsen piece:

In 1989, a year before Rubio was arrested with his friend Angel Barrios and another unidentified male friend in Alice Wainwright Park in south Miami, ostensibly for drinking beer in a car after closing time in a park known as a pickup locale for gays, Rubio sang and danced in a South Miami High School troupe. The song and dance troupe was based on the Chippendales but with a very gay theme: half Chippendales and half Village People. Rubio omitted his participation in the dance troupe in his biography, "American Son."

Rubio's college career got off to a rocky start, so he apparently turned to other not-so-savory activities, with ties to drugs and gay porn. Reports Madsen:

After flunking out of Tarkio College in Missouri, Rubio returned to Miami where he hung around with his old high school friend Barrios. Barrios started an on-line gay porn business called Flava Works, which is still in business today live streaming sexual acts between black and Latino men.

In order to prepare for the University of Florida, Rubio attended Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville. Republican sources have told WMR that Rubio, Barrios, and two other students shared a townhouse in Gainesville that was known locally as a "coke house," where cocaine was readily available, as were almost non-stop parties in what amounted to an off-campus gay frat house. In 1987, Rubio's brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia, was busted by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for his role as a key figure in a cocaine smuggling ring in south Florida.

A photo has surfaced of a man who looks like Rubio at a 1995 "foam party" in South Beach. Rubio claims to have met his wife, a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader, at such an event, but Madsen says that story doesn't add up:

A man believed to be Marco Rubio at a South Beach
"Foam Party" in 1995
(From Wayne Madsen Report)
After graduating from the University of Florida, Rubio attended the University of Miami Law School. In 1995, Rubio claims he met his wife, Miami Dolphins cheerleader Jeanette Dousdebes at a "foam party" in South Beach. There is one thing wrong with Rubio's story: foam parties in South Beach were almost exclusively gay events held at gay clubs like "Warsaw Ballroom" and "Amnesia," the latter name befitting some of Rubio's memories of his time in Miami. The following is a description of foam parties in a Miami New Times article by reporter Steven Almond, titled "Foam Sex," published in the June 8, 1995 issue:

"The scene generally features several hundred scantily clad bodies packed onto a dance floor and writhing to bone-rattling music under strobes and colored lights. Nothing new, right? Until suds come gushing out of a machine suspended over the dance floor. As if on cue, various forms of passionate embrace begin. Kissing. Petting. Rubbing. Because the foam froths up waist high, it acts both as a lubricant and camouflage. Mutual masturbation is an occasional component, generally beneath the cover of foam. As the evening wears on, a few men pair off and sit together in the foam that builds up outside the partitioned-off area."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hartselle, Alabama, mayor Don Hall, who resigned even though he denied using Ashley Madison, actually did use the marital-cheating site, records show

Don Hall, former mayor of Hartselle, Alabama
(From hartselle.org)
An Alabama mayor who resigned from office, even though he denied using the Ashley Madison Web site, actually did use the extramarital-affair site, records show.

Don Hall's resignation as mayor of Hartselle, Alabama, took effect on November 30, 2015. The Hartselle City Council accepted Hall's resignation on August 28 and granted him a leave of absence until he officially left office. According to a report at al.com, Hall denied using Ashley Madison. but our research shows he spent more than $400 at the site.

Here is how the Washington Times reported on Hall's decision to step down":

Local news outlets report that Hall resigned one day after city officials scheduled a meeting to consider what actions they could take after his name appeared on a list linked to the website intended to facilitate cheating. Hall denied using the website and said he doesn’t know how his name got on the list. Hall said he performed all his duties as mayor and would step down because he believed it was best for the city.

Our research indicates Hall has every reason to know how his name got on the list. That's because his credit-card information is present, and it shows seven transactions, totaling $467.14. (See summary of Don Hall's Ashley Madison account at the end of this post.)

Here's how Hall described himself on the site:

Looking for that special person who is not afraid to step out side the box and develop a special discreet friendship. Would love to find someone that would like to share some special time together, not just a one time only . . .

The billing address on the account is as follows:

1803 Hayes St SW Hartselle, AL 35640

That's the same address listed on the Web for the Don Hall for Mayor campaign, which was established in 2012.

Hall has company when it comes to politicians caught in Ashley Madison scandal. The Washington Post reported last August on at least four such cases. Here is al.com's summary of the Post's findings:

Earlier this week, The Washington Post reported the names of other political and public officials whose names were included in the Ashley Madison leak, including Florida state prosecutor Jeff Ashton, Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Doré, Australian City Councilman Craig Ogilvie and Baton Rouge, La., City Councilman Ryan Heck.

The Washington Post story was published just a few days after the Ashley Madison story broke, and the actual number of political figures on the site probably is several thousand times higher than the five we've highlighted above.

(Note: The summary below lists Hall's account-creation date as 4/22/15, but it shows payments from 2010, 2012, and 2013. Our technical sources said quite a few Ashley Madison customers had more than one account, and that probably explains the date discrepancies in the Hall summary.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ted Cruz wins Iowa caucuses with anti-gay rhetoric that appeals to evangelicals, but his campaign is fueled, in part, by gay financiers from New York City

Ted Cruz and gay real-estate executive Mati Weiderpass
Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucuses last night, in part by using anti-gay rhetoric to appeal to Christian evangelical voters. But Cruz's campaign is fueled, to a significant extent, by gay financiers from New York, according to a new report.

Wayne Madsen, an investigative journalist based in Washington, D.C., reports that Cruz's run the the White House appears to be driven by stunning hypocrisy. Cruz questioned Donald Trump's "New York values" and has consistently condemned homosexuality. But the Cruz campaign seems to have a fondness for New York and the financial support of homosexuals.

Can this story get any more curious? Yes, it can. A dead body was found a few months ago at a luxury Central Park townhouse that was the site for a Cruz fundraiser.

The Wayne Madsen Reporter (WMR) is a subscription Web site, but we have received permission to report certain items from the site. The full Cruz article, dated February 1-2, can be read at the bottom of this post. Here's how Madsen sets it up, providing insight into a powerful group of gay money men known as the "Lavender Mafia":

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio appear to have more things in common than merely their Cuban heritage. After Donald Trump launched a blistering attack on GOP presidential hopeful Cruz, Cruz responded by questioning Trump's "New York values." Trump cautioned Cruz by saying that while the junior senator from Texas claimed he did not care for New York values, he certainly was willing to accept New York campaign contributions. An examination of Cruz's financial support from New York yields close connections between the Christian evangelical, who has condemned homosexuality as a sin, and some of New York's top gay financiers and real estate moguls, all of whom are also major supporters of Israel. And one other "problem" for Cruz: there is a dead body involved.

After staking his political career on bashing equal rights for gays, including pushing for a constitutional amendment allowing states to ban gay marriage, on April 20, 2015, Cruz and his wife Heidi, a Goldman Sachs executive, were feted at a reception at the 230 Central Park South mega-townhouse of one of Manhattan's most well-known gay entrepreneurs, Ian Reisner, who was joined by his one-time partner, Mati Weiderpass. Reisner is a co-founder of Parkview Developers and a former managing director of the Bank of America and derivatives trader for Salomon Brothers. Weiderpass is a military veteran and former marketing manager for Swatch. At the reception, Reisner, who, as of last year, was a registered Republican, handed Cruz a check for $2700, the maximum amount permitted under federal election law. Reisner and Weiderpass previously donated to former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. Among Reisner's and Weiderpass's circle of friends is Ken Mehlman, the former Republican National Committee chairman who is also gay.

The mid-town reception was not the only Cruz connection to New York's Wall Street gay community. Cruz has stated that openly-gay San Francisco investor Peter Thiel, is a good friend of his. Other gay New York businessmen also attended the political bash at the Reisner townhouse.

How does the dead body come into play? Madsen explains:

Six months [before the fundraiser], a 23-year old bar manager named Sean Verdi had been found unconscious in a bathtub in Reisner's townhouse, the very same private apartment where the Cruz reception was held. Verdi's social media pages referred to his fondness for parties in New York and Florida.

A half hour after emergency medical personnel arrived at Reisner's residence, Verdi was pronounced dead, reportedly from a drug overdose of a combination of cocaine and Ecstasy. The New York City medical examiner later concluded that Verdi died from acute intoxication from the ingestion of alcohol, ketamine, MDMA [Ecstasy], and ethylone. Reisner and Verdi, along with two other men, left the Bar-Tini Ultra Lounge in Hell's Kitchen, where Verdi served as manager, on the evening of October 29, 2014, for Reisner's townhouse. After Verdi became sick, Reisner claimed he put Verdi into the shower and then into the bathtub, where he was later found unconscious the next morning. The incident was publicized in the New York media, however, Cruz and his wife still agreed to attend a political reception at a location where an extremely suspicious incident had taken place a half-year earlier. After Verdi's death, Bar-Tini went out of business.

The financial support of Cruz did not sit well with many influential New York gays, who tend to be liberal. Writes Madsen:

After liberal gays found out about the Cruz reception, they immediately castigated Reisner and Weiderpass, even organizing a boycott of their gay-oriented businesses, which include the "Out NYC" hotel in Hell's Kitchen and the Pavilion nightclub and Sip-n-Twirl bar, both gay entertainment locales; the Blue Whale restaurant; and the Botel hotel in Fire Island Pines on Long Island. The Fire Island resort has been a longtime center for the production of gay porn and drag queen shows. Reisner's liaison to the Fire Island business community is Omar Sharif, Jr., the gay grandson of the late Egyptian actor. Reisner's plans include opening an Out Hotel in Chicago in Boy's Town, the gay entertainment district that, in the past, attracted such notable politicians as former GOP Representative Aaron Schock, then-congressman Rahm Emanuel, and an Illinois state senator named Barack Obama.

After being taken to task by New York's powerful and liberal gay community for hosting Cruz, Reisner defended the reception by claiming it was to thank Cruz for his unwavering support for Israel. The reception for Cruz was not Reisner's only fundraiser for an anti-gay Republican. The real estate magnate had also hosted a reception for Wisconsin's anti-gay GOP senator Ron Johnson. New York's politically-active gay community is sometimes called the "Lavender Mafia," because of their power and influence. While most of this mafia is liberal, there are those who support conservative causes and candidates. Former Texas Republican Governor Rick Perry, who recently endorsed Cruz, was involved with Texas's influential conservative Lavender Mafia and, as WMR previously reported, Perry himself is a member of that same grouping of conservative but closeted gay politicians.

Monday, February 1, 2016

U.S. judge Myron Thompson agrees with us that jury instructions for bribery, as in the case of ex Alabama governor Don Siegelman, are an unwieldy mess

U.S. Judge Myron Thompson
Former federal prosecutor Stephen Feaga, in a recent op-ed piece for the Montgomery Advertiser, tried to convince the public that jury instructions in the Don Siegelman case were correct. We have shown that Feaga's claim is wildly off target, and a judge who has served on the federal bench in Alabama for 35 years agrees with us.

Myron Thompson, nominated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980, wrote in a 2012 opinion that jury instructions in federal bribery cases long have been filled with murky, inexact, confusing language. Thompson, writing in an opinion for the Alabama bingo trial (U.S. v. Milton E. McGregor, et al), said the problem goes beyond the case that sent Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy to prison. Thompson said federal appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court have for years done a poor job of defining the line that marks legal and illegal transactions between public officials and campaign donors.

Thompson offered the jury instructions he crafted for the bingo case, which resulted in zero convictions, as an example of what should be consistently used across the country. Thompson even called on the nation's highest court to clarify the law, perhaps by using his suggested instructions.

It's now roughly three years later, and we've seen no clarity from the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Siegelman remains in federal prison for "crimes" that might exist under the flawed jury instructions of former federal judge Mark Fuller--but do not exist under the actual law.

Why is this issue profoundly important? Because we have a political system that relies on campaign contributions--and First Amendment law that guarantees donors the right to support the candidate of their choosing. This is how we explained it in a July 2012 post about Thompson's opinion:

In fact, public records show that the federal bingo trial resulted in no convictions mainly because Thompson presented clear, detailed jury instructions that dovetail with actual law.

It's not, of course, that public officials accused of bribery, extortion, and the like always should go free. But the standards for convictions in the context of campaign contributions, Thompson writes, must be strict so as not to conflict with First Amendment guarantees. Courts, however, have repeatedly used poorly defined terms that make it impossible for public officials, campaign donors, and the public to understand the line between lawful conduct and a federal crime.

How would Thompson help clear up a messy situation? From our 2012 post:

In his opinion, Thompson cites the jury instruction he used in the Alabama bingo trial and shows how it fits with, and illuminates, the case law that has come to govern such issues. Here is the key component of the jury instruction Thompson says should be used consistently in public-corruption cases. It focuses on the definition of a "quid pro quo" (this for that), which must be present under the law for actions to be criminal:

"Therefore, the solicitation or acceptance by an elected official of a campaign contribution does not, in itself, constitute a federal crime, even though the donor has business pending before the official, and even if the contribution is made shortly before or after the official acts favorably to the donor.

"However, when there is a quid pro quo agreement, orally or in writing, that is, a mutual understanding, between the donor and the elected official that a campaign contribution is conditioned on the performance of a specific official action, it constitutes a bribe under federal law. By this phrase, I mean that a generalized expectation of some future favorable action is not sufficient for a quid pro quo agreement; rather, the agreement must be one that the campaign contribution will be given in exchange for the official agreeing to take or forgo some specific action in order for the agreement to be criminal. A close-in-time relationship between the donation and the act is not enough to establish an illegal agreement."

Fuller's jury instruction in the Siegelman case fell woefully short of the kind of clarity Thompson seeks. Here is how we have described it:

Fuller's jury instruction did not require an explicit agreement as outlined in McCormick, much less one that had to be stated orally or in writing. Fuller let the jury believe that an agreement could be implied or inferred. The Eleventh Circuit inexplicably allowed the unlawful jury instruction to stand--and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the matter.

Appellate courts simply have not done their jobs on the Siegelman case, causing a massive misuse of public funds that should draw Congressional review.

How badly have the nation's highest courts botched this issue, which can (and has) sent innocent individuals to prison?

Consider the Eleventh Circuit: Its own rules (Rule 35, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) state that the purpose of en banc review is "to secure or maintain uniformity of the court's decisions" or to address panel decisions that are in "direct conflict with precedent of the Supreme Court or of this circuit." The three-judge panel's ruling in Siegelman clearly conflicts with McCormick, it conflicts with the circuit's own findings in U.S. v. Davis, 30 F.3d 108 (11th Cir., 1994), and it destroys any semblance of uniformity on the pertinent law. But the full Eleventh Circuit declined review.

Consider the nation's highest court: U.S. Supreme Court Rule 10 states that certiorari review is properly considered when "a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter." The Eleventh Circuit's finding in Siegelman conflicts with McCormick, with Davis, and with similar rulings in other circuits. So why did the Supreme Court punt on Siegelman? To be sure, certiorari review is at the court's discretion; it's not a matter of right. But perhaps we no longer need a Supreme Court if it is not going to hear critically important cases that so clearly meet its own criteria.

Thompson nails the key issue with this paragraph from his bingo opinion:

It is often true that “unexamined assumptions have a way of becoming, by force of usage, unsound law." McCormick, 500 U.S. at 280 (Scalia, J., concurring). In the public-corruption context, courts have been particularly lax in the use of certain words–-explicit, express, agreement, promise, and quid pro quo-–that should have clear legal meanings. Imprecise diction has caused considerable confusion over the scope of federal corruption laws as applied to campaign contributions. Uncertainty in this area of law breeds corruption and chills legitimate political speech.

To what kind of "corruption" is Thompson referring? It's not absolutely clear, but I believe he's saying that confusing language in the law encourages prosecutors to bring dubious charges and judges to give jury instructions that can lead to bogus convictions. No other reference to corruption makes sense in Thompson's statement. I believe he is pointing squarely at prosecutorial and judicial corruption--and perhaps dishonest political figures (can we say "Karl Rove"?) who might push like-minded prosecutors to use flawed law to take out enemies on the other side of the political fence.

Steve Feaga wants us to believe everything was fine and dandy with the jury instructions in the Siegelman case. Informed Americans should not buy it. And a federal judge with 35 years of experience provides a detailed explanation of why the law, in its current state, is so bad--and so dangerous to our political process.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Laquan McDonald and my wife, Carol, played central roles in showing the public that police charges of "assaulting an officer" can be complete fabrications

The shooting of Laquan McDonald in Chicago
Laquan McDonald and Carol Tovich Shuler had very little in common, but they helped show the public that police officers are prone to falsely allege that a citizen has assaulted an officer--especially when the cops know they have engaged in, or witnessed, misconduct.

McDonald, a 17-year-old black male, died in 2014 when a Chicago police officer shot him 16 times--even though video now shows that McDonald was moving away from officers, not toward them, at the time he was shot. Police apparently wanted him for questioning about a series of car break-ins.

Shuler, my wife of 26 years, is a 56-year-old white female with a spotless personal and professional record--except for one or two bogus black marks that political forces in Alabama caused because she was married to a journalist/blogger who reported uncomfortable truths about the state's ruling elites. Shuler was valedictorian of her high-school class and made straight A's throughout college.

Not exactly the type to be assaulting a police officer--and that's because she didn't. But then, neither did Laquan McDonald.

Carol Shuler, thankfully, survived her encounter with rogue cops. Deputies from the Greene County Sheriff's Department--about six of them, plus Sheriff Jim Arnott himself--were on hand when at least three of them surrounded Carol and brutalized her during an unlawful eviction, leaving her with a shattered left arm and heavy bruising. With the help of intense physical therapy, she is recovering, but caregivers have said her injury was so severe that she probably will regain only 75 percent usage of her left arm, at best.

Laquan McDonald did not survive--his life snuffed out much too soon, in a hail of police gunfire. But here perhaps is the thing Laquan McDonald and Carol Shuler most had in common. Cops on the scene, apparently aware that citizens had been the victims of gross police misconduct, immediately concocted bogus narratives of "assaulting a police officer."

Consider, for example, the behavior of Jim Arnott. Here's how we spelled it out in a post titled "Missouri Sheriff Jim Arnott shows that his immediate tendency is to lie when confronted with police brutality." From that post:

Carol was trying to enter our apartment to retrieve some of our belongings, as she had been told she could do. Specifically, she was trying to get our cat's litter box and was headed to the front door for that purpose, when a deputy jumped her. I saw the whole thing from about 15 feet away, while seated in the driver's seat of our automobile, which was parked in the driveway. Arnott saw it from a vantage point about 10 feet closer than mine.

And what was the sheriff's immediate reaction to seeing one of his deputies brutalizing a 55-year-old woman who was trying to get her cat's "latrine"? Arnott's response was to lie. He pointed at Carol and said, "She assaulted a police officer."

That statement is absurd to anyone who witnessed the event. And it's even more absurd when you consider that Carol wound up with a severely broken arm that required surgery, and there is no indication that any of the half dozen or so officers on hand--armed with at least one assault rifle and numerous handguns--suffered the slightest scratch.

What are the implications of having a sheriff make such bogus claims against you? Well, it goes way beyond a mere inconvenience, as we described earlier:

Because of Arnott's lying eyes--and lying tongue--(Carol) apparently was going to be charged with assaulting a police officer. The deputy who drove her to the jail told her she was facing a felony and likely a $100,000 bond.
At some point, Carol (likely in shock; she would receive treatment with oxygen) announced that her arm was killing her. Someone finally took notice, decided this might be serious, and had her transported to Cox North Medical Center, a few blocks from the jail.

That's where X-rays showed Carol's arm was broken so badly that it would require a trauma surgeon, not an orthopedist, to repair it. She now has roughly 10 screws and multiple titanium plates that probably will stay in her arm as long as she lives. But Jim Arnott's immediate reaction, upon seeing his officers assault Carol, was to claim she had assaulted them.

Carol Shuler
Hundreds of pages of documents released in early December show that Chicago cops concocted a false "assaulting an officer" claim against McDonald, much like the one Arnott created on the spot against Carol. This is from a Chicago Tribune report about documents in the McDonald case, much of them coming from the Chicago PD's internal investigation:

In December 2014, the department officially recorded the shooting as a justifiable homicide.

"McDonald committed aggravated assault against the three officers, finally forcing Officer Van Dyke, in defense of his life, to shoot and kill McDonald," according to a report of that determination.

One report claims McDonald "battered" three officers. Another claims that Officer Jason Van Dyke, who fired the 16 shots, was "injured." From the Tribune article:

Again and again in reports, Van Dyke's account is supported by the other officers at the scene, each one describing the teen as a threat to the veteran cop. Four officers claimed that McDonald advanced toward Van Dyke, even though the video shows him walking away. Two others said he turned or raised an arm toward him
How police viewed the shooting, though, was clear. In the report that closed the investigation, filed in March, a detective offered this terse assessment.

"Criminal attacked officer," the report says, "that officer killed criminal."

Chicago cops viewed Laquan McDonald as a thing, a sub-human, one against whom they could easily lie--as proven by video of the shooting below.

Cops in Springfield, Missouri, apparently viewed Carol Shuler the same way. They apparently were not bothered in the least to arrest her, handcuff her, and send her to jail--for a "crime" she did not remotely commit. And if her arm had not been broken, she probably still would be in jail because I could not have possibly paid the $10,000 required for her release.

Much of the reporting on police misconduct has focused on the racial angle--and that's understandable given that black Americans clearly have suffered from cop abuse for decades. But the Laquan and Carol stories provide another side to the issue.

They tell us that cops, when they need to protect one of their own, are willing to look beyond race. When you are abused by a cop, other cops are prepared to lie and heap more abuse on you--without regard for the color of your skin.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Records show Alabama steel exec Bill Upton admitted to having sex with young woman who called him "Daddy," but he still received favorable divorce order

Bill Upton, president of Vulcan Steel Products
The president of an Alabama steel company admitted to having an extramarital affair with a young woman he had raised as his daughter but still received a favorable divorce order from a private judge in Jefferson County, court documents show.

William D. "Bill" Upton Jr. is president of Vulcan Steel Products, which is based in the Birmingham suburb of Pelham. Upton sued his wife, Linda S. Upton, for divorce in 2010 and received a stunningly favorable judgment, even though he admits in court papers to having sex with Gincie Walker, a young woman the Uptons had helped raise for roughly a decade and who called Bill Upton "daddy" for years.

Bill Upton and Gincie Walker now are married and live in Mountain Brook. Linda Upton also has remarried and lives in the Shook Hill home she and Bill Upton shared for more 30 years, as he (along with significant help from Linda and her parents) built a business empire.

It's common for a wife/mother and children to receive the marital residence in a divorce, especially where the husband/father has admitted to flagrant marital misconduct. But Linda Upton lost custody of all her non-adult children--all have special needs, and she raised them from early ages--even though we can find nothing in the record to indicate she was found to be an unfit mother. Linda also wound up paying Bill Upton for his share of the marital home, even though he was the party in the much stronger financial decision--and he was the party who admitted to marital misconduct.

Why did a court, headed by private judge Gary Pate, look favorably upon Bill Upton, even though he admitted to behavior that comes close to meeting the definition of incest? Court documents describe Bill Upton as a multimillionaire, and that might have been one factor in his favor. Also, George R. Fernambucq, of the Birmingham firm Boyd Fernambucq and Dunn, represented Bill Upton. Fernambucq's name has been prominently mentioned in at least two lawsuits that allege widespread "hunting-club corruption" in Alabama divorce courts.

Did Bill Upton's association with Fernambucq help him in Jefferson County court, no matter what Upton had admitted to? It almost certainly didn't hurt.

Gincie Walker Upton
Meanwhile, Linda Upton was represented by MaryLee Abele, the same Mountain Brook attorney who could not keep Sherry Carroll Rollins from being the victim of a grotesque cheat job administered by Judge D. Al Crowson in Shelby County.

Bill Upton filed for divorce, but court documents show it was his own egregious behavior that precipitated the breakdown of the Upton marriage. A Motion for Relief from Judgement, dated March 1, 2013, includes the following language under "4. Gincie Walker is William D. Upton's girlfriend." The Q and A is taken from "Defendant's Exhibit 4, William D. Upton's Deposition, p. 64." (The Motion for Relief from Judgment can be read at the end of this post.)

Q: Is Gincie Walker the only time you've had sexual intercourse with anyone during your marriage other than Linda [Upton]?

A: [William D. Upton Jr.] Yes.

Linda Upton's Motion to Alter or Amend, filed on December 17, 2012, contains the following language. (The motion can be read at the end of this post.)

1. The Husband openly admits his infidelity with a mental patient/former sibling of the minor children, who are now constantly exposed to their father's romantic relationship with the woman and who are clearly suffering as a result of this Court's Order awarding primary custody to the husband; who has never been the primary care-giver of the children.

Why does the document refer to Gincie Walker as a "mental patient." Here's how we explained it in an earlier post:

Gincie Walker had grown up in an abusive home in Shelby County before settling into the Upton family when she was in her mid to late teens. Linda and Bill Upton have one biological son and had adopted or fostered a number of special-needs children over about a 20-year period. Court records state that Gincie Walker has multiple-personality disorder, and she was in her mid to late 20s when the affair with Bill Upton started; she now is in her early 30s.

The Uptons never officially adopted Walker, but they parented her throughout adolescence and well into early adulthood. Sources state that she was treated as, and seen as, the Uptons' daughter.

A reasonable person could conclude that Bill Upton preyed on a young female family member who had a severe mental disability. And yet, an Alabama court granted him custody of other children.

How could this happen? What were its repercussions?

We will address those questions in upcoming posts.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ashley Madison hack ranks among the top scandals of 2015, even though the press barely has touched key elements of the extramarital-cheating story

The hack of the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site is one of the top 10 scandals of 2015, according to USA Today. Meanwhile, Wired magazine named Ashley Madison (AM) one of the 11 biggest hacks of the year.

Those rankings come even though major elements of the AM story have barely been touched in the press. We plan to change that in 2016. In fact, we maintain that the most important aspects of the AM story still are be uncovered.

The New York Post seems to be of a similar mindset. In late October, it published a story titled "The storm isn't over yet for Ashley Madison cheaters." That headline gets to the heart of an AM issue that largely has gone uncovered.

Who are the Ashley Madison paying customers? Who are these people, the ones willing to cough up cash in hopes of lining up a partner to help cheat on their spouses? Are these "cheaters" (to borrow an NY Post term) from the fringes of society. Are they borderline criminals or sociopaths, the types known for failing to abide by societal norms?

Our examination of AM lists from two states--Alabama and Missouri--suggests the answer to those last two questions are a solid no. In fact, we've found that many AM customers would be considered among our nation's "best and brightest," enjoying status as true elites.

We're talking doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, dentists, chiropractors (lots of chiropractors), military leaders, law-enforcement officials, wealth managers (lots of wealth managers, especially in the "old money" areas of Birmingham), CEOs, COOs, Sr. VPs, and much more.

Who are these elites who seem drawn to cheating, and what do their dalliances with AM say about their values and ethics? We intend to examine those questions closely in the early weeks of 2016.

Meanwhile, what are others saying about the Ashley Madison story? This is from USA Today:

Hackers who stole customer information from the cheating site AshleyMadison.com dumped nearly 10 gigabytes of data to the dark web this year, fulfilling a threat to release sensitive information including account details, log-ins and credit card details, if Avid Life Media, the owner of the website didn't take Ashley Madison.com offline permanently.

In August, the group who hacked into Ashley Madison, doubled down, posting what appears to be another 20 gigabytes of data — including the CEO's emails.

Analysis of the email addresses in the databases show that most come from webmail providers, said Robert Hansen, vice president of WhiteHat Labs at the computer security company WhiteHat Security, which independently studied the data.

The top most-used domains were Gmail.com, with 8.7 million, Yahoo.com with 6.6 million, Hotmail with 6.2 million and Aol.com with 1.2 million, Hansen found.

Surprisingly, there were at least 13,000 addresses from military and government emails with .mil and .gov addresses.

Here is Wired's take:

The breach of AshleyMadison.com, a site that touted itself as the premier platform for married individuals seeking partners for affairs, was loud and flashy and deserves the award for brazenness. Exactly one month after their hack of the cheating site went public, the hacker or hackers behind the breach made good on a threat to release sensitive company data, dropping more than 30 gigabytes of internal company emails and documents, as well as details and log-in credentials for some 32 million accounts with the social networking site. The data included names, passwords, addresses, and phone numbers submitted by users of the site. Although many of the personal account details were fabricated by users to remain anonymous, the hackers also released seven years worth of credit card and other payment transaction details, which exposed the real names and address of many customers. Reality TV star Josh Duggar was among those exposed by the breach. The company has been hit with several lawsuits from irate customers who accused the cheating site of being negligent in protecting their data.

Perhaps the essence of the Ashley Madison story can be found in a 2013 Newsweek article titled "Wall Street Loves a Cheater." The story was written roughly two years before the hack, but it speaks volumes about the way financial elites viewed a site whose motto is "Life is short; have an affair." From the Newsweek piece:

Headlines in tabloids and even so-called respectable newspapers – think of the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal – and gossip television shows underscore America's fascination with unfaithfulness. In recent years, websites devoted to relationships, including match.com and JDate, have become publicly traded companies (the latter's parent company's ticker symbol: LOV). America has plenty of "sin" businesses – gambling, liquor and cigarette companies are pillars of the New York Stock Exchange. Even the American Association for Retired People, better known for tips on arthritis and prostate screenings, reports a steep drop in the percentage of members who think nonmarital sex is wrong – to 22 percent in 2009, from 41 percent a decade earlier. "Ashley Madison is attracting people who may have always been inclined to cheat," says Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at Weill Medical College at Cornell University. "But the site is also providing a previously unavailable opportunity to those who might in years past have chosen not to cheat. . . . "

American investors who get in on Ashley Madison would join a clutch of Canadian hedge funds that have already made a killing, raking in over $90 million in cash dividends since 2009, Biderman says. But like a cheating spouse, those Canadian investors don't want their identities known. Ashley Madison "is a remarkably good business," says one money manager at a Canadian asset management firm with $1 billion in assets who declines to name himself or his firm, citing fears of a public backlash. He says his firm has made 25 percent a year on its stake since investing in 2008. "It's recurring, has high margins, high free cash flow, requires little capital, has a rock-like balance sheet and is exceptionally well run by its passionate CEO."

That "passionate CEO," Noel Biderman, resigned in August after the site was hacked in July.  E-mails leaked from the hack show that Biderman himself had engaged in multiple affairs, suggesting he was a bit too passionate for his own good. The company now is awash in lawsuits, totaling more than $500 million, and the litigation figures to drag on for years.

Maybe the company wasn't so well run after all.

Noel Biderman
The Birmingham law firm Heninger Garrison Davis has filed multiple class-action lawsuits against Biderman and Avid Life Media (Ashley Madison's parent company).

That means there will be multiple Alabama angles as the Ashley Madison story plays out in 2016. According to a report at Business Insider, Alabama leads the nation in per-capita spending on Ashley Madison.

Who are some of those big spenders? We will be shining light on that question in the weeks ahead.

Monday, January 25, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court restricts judge's discretion in Florida death-penalty sentencing, while ignoring an almost identical issue in the Don Siegelman case

To a great extent, the whole purpose of appellate courts in the United States is to ensure laws are applied in a uniform fashion. With that in mind, we have new evidence that our nation's highest courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), are failing miserably.

I joined Andrew Kreig, attorney and journalist with the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project, for a discussion last week about inconsistency in the courts on the Peter B. Collins Show (PBC) out of San Francisco.

The issue began to take shape when SCOTUS refused on January 11 to hear the latest appeal in the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. Attorneys for Siegelman argued that trial judge Mark Fuller improperly based sentencing, in part, on conduct for which the defendants were acquitted. That, Siegelman argued, interfered with his Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury.

Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, two of the court's most conservative justices, had indicated in a dissent from a 2014 case (joined by liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) that they were ready to take on that very issue. Assuming those three voted to hear the Siegelman appeal, that means a yes from only one other justice was needed for the court to accept the case. But no other support was forthcoming, not even from Obama appointee Sonia Sotomayor.

Consider the irony when SCOTUS, one day after refusing to hear the Siegelman case, released Hurst v. Florida, which involved almost the identical judge-vs.-jury question present in Siegelman. Here is how the Orlando Sentinel described the issues in Hurst:

By an 8-1 vote the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida's capital sentencing scheme unconstitutional, saying in death penalty cases juries – not judges – must spell out at least one reason why the defendant should be put to death.

Under the old system, jurors listened to evidence then voted on whether to recommend life in prison without the possibility of parole or death. Their decision did not need to be unanimous.

The final decision was left to a judge.

In Tuesday's majority opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that by having the judge make the final decision, Florida was violating a defendant's right to be tried by a jury of his peers.

The test case involved Timothy Lee Hurst, who was convicted of murdering his boss in a Pensacola Popeye's restaurant in 1998.

The U.S. Supreme Court did not convert his sentence of one of life in prison. It merely threw out his death sentence. He is still a convicted murderer. It's now up to the state to figure out what sentence to mete out and how to do it.

Yes, you read the highlighted section above correctly. Sonia Sotomayor, who apparently voted not to hear the Siegelman case, wrote the majority opinion finding that Florida's capital-sentencing scheme was unconstitutional because it "was violating a defendant's right to be tried by a jury of his peers."

Sonia Sotomayor
That is precisely the argument Siegelman made regarding the sentencing in his case. So why did the high court hear one case--and essentially rule in favor of the Siegelman view--and ignore the case that involved Siegelman himself? If that question leaves you scratching your head, join the crowd. It certainly had Andrew Kreig, Peter B. Collins, and I scratching our heads.

From the PBC Web site, which includes links to audio of our discussion, and notes a number of Siegelman-related issues that were raised:

In the Siegelman case, now-disgraced Judge Mark Fuller sentenced the former governor for acts the jury had acquitted Siegelman of. In the recent death penalty case, styled Hurst v. Florida, the Supreme Court overturned Hurst's death sentence and struck down part of Florida's capital punishment system because the judge unilaterally imposed the death penalty after the jury merely recommended by 7-5 vote that Hurst be executed.

We discuss how this principle should have been applied to the Siegelman appeal, which was based on Fuller's over-sentencing of Siegelman.

We also talk about President Obama's failure to pardon or commute Siegelman's sentence, and the former governor's recent stretch in "the hole" after prison officials abruptly cut off an interview he was doing with a substitute host on the Thom Hartmann radio show. We discuss the new documentary expected this summer that recaps the layers of injustice in this case, which will be narrated by Martin Sheen.

Is consistency supposed to matter in our courts of law? Consider Rule 35 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which addresses the circumstances under which en banc review can be conducted. The rule holds that such a full-panel review is appropriate when it "is necessary to secure or maintain uniformity of the court's decisions."

Rule 10 of the U.S. Supreme Court holds that "certiorari review is properly considered when "a United States court of appeals has entered a decision in conflict with the decision of another United States court of appeals on the same important matter."

What does this tell us in light of the high court's recent handling of the Hurst and Siegelman cases? The lesson seems to be this: Consistency matters on paper; in real life, not so much.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Rob Riley plays leading role in letter--and perhaps other documents--that could prove wrongdoing in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman

Rob Riley
Birmingham attorney Rob Riley, the son of former Alabama Governor Bob Riley, is a central character in a letter--and perhaps other documents--that are sought in a new lawsuit designed to unearth evidence of possible misconduct in the Don Siegelman prosecution.

Joseph Siegelman, the former governor's son and an attorney with The Cochran Firm in Birmingham, is suing the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), seeking documents about his father's prosecution. Multiple lawyers, using a variety of legal routes, have sought such documents for roughly 10 years. But the government, which seems particularly sensitive about items related to the supposed recusal of U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, has refused to turn them over.

The new effort from Joseph Siegelman focuses heavily on a letter that the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) prepared for U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI). Adam Zagorin, of the Project on Governmental Oversight (POGO), wrote an article that mentioned the letter--and we reported on it in December 2014 and January 2015. The title of Zagorin's article is "Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor."

The government might have downplayed evidence of a political prosecution, but the Conyers letter makes clear the evidence is there. (See full letter at the end of this post.)

In his federal complaint, Joseph Siegelman states that the DOJ admits in the Conyers letter that several of its officials "acted improperly" in the Don Siegelman case. The complaint goes on to state:

Among those officials was the Assistant U.S. Attorney (“AUSA”) in charge of the Siegelman prosecution who communicated directly with the campaign manager of Mr. Siegelman’s gubernatorial opponent. The letter discusses an email from the AUSA to the campaign manager informing him that the AUSA “and a small group of like-minded conservative prosecutors” within the U.S. Attorney’s office were pursuing Siegelman.

The identity of the assistant U.S. attorney remains unknown, for now. But the campaign manager in question was identified more than a year ago as Rob Riley. From our original report on the subject:

A federal prosecutor communicated with prominent Alabama Republican Rob Riley during the investigation of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman, according to a report released yesterday.

Riley was serving as campaign manager for his father, Bob Riley, who was Siegelman's chief political opponent at the time. The revelation seems to support claims that Siegelman supporters have been making for years--that unlawful political motivations played a pivotal role in the prosecution.

Adam Zagorin wrote the article, titled "Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor," for Project On Government Oversight (POGO). The information about Rob Riley is included in a letter, dated June 3, 2010, from Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich to U.S. Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.), who was then chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary. (See full letter at the end of this post.)

A Justice Department internal affairs unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), was critical of several government attorneys involved in the Siegelman case, but concluded that the evidence "did not establish that political motivation played a role" in the case.

OPR's conclusions do not square with evidence that a chief prosecutor was communicating with Rob Riley during the Siegelman investigation. From our report:

Here is Zagorin on the communications between a member of the prosecution team and Rob Riley:

"In 2002, during the Justice Department’s investigation of Siegelman’s administration, a federal prosecutor emailed the son and campaign manager of Siegelman’s principal Republican opponent updating him on the confidential probe, according to a Justice Department document obtained by the Project On Government Oversight and reported here for the first time.

"In the email, the prosecutor said he had been “thwarted” after starting an investigation “into the Siegelman administration.” He added that it was “frustrating for me and a small group of like minded conservative prosecutors” to “fight the tide in order to do the job we are sworn to do.”

Perhaps most disturbing is this: It does not appear OPR bothered to interview Rob Riley--or the prosecutor. Was OPR interested in getting at the truth? Doesn't look like it, as Zagorin makes clear:

In listing the people OPR interviewed, the Justice Department letter summarizing the probe does not name Rob Riley, the son of and campaign manager for Siegelman’s political rival Bob Riley and the recipient of the “like minded conservatives” email. As a result, it is unclear whether OPR contacted him.

The DOJ letter also offers no indication of why the prosecutor emailed Riley in the first place, and on whose instructions, if anyone’s. Nor does it say whether Riley replied or took any subsequent action. It does not explain how the “small group of like minded conservative prosecutors” fit into the picture, or why the prosecutor injected his own political leanings and those of his colleagues into the matter.

John Conyers
(From politics365.com)
The unanswered questions also include who may have “thwarted” the conservative prosecutors and why, and what penalty the prosecutor faced, if any, for sending the email.

“I do not recall receiving the email in 2002, but I had nothing to do with the U.S. Attorney’s Office pursuing charges against Don Siegelman,” Rob Riley told POGO, noting that the contact would have occurred more than a decade ago. “I also do not recall being contacted by OPR one way or the other.”

Rob Riley has a habit of issuing such oily, limp-wristed responses when he is pressed with tough questions. Let's see, where have we heard them before?

Maybe Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit will put Rob Riley under the kind of pressure he's never experienced before.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Will Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit against Justice Department produce evidence that officials admitted to wrongdoing in prosecution of his father?

Joseph Siegelman
(From wiat.com)
Joseph Siegelman, an attorney with The Cochran Firm in Birmingham, has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking documents about the prosecution of his father, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The new lawsuit suggests certain DOJ officials have admitted to misconduct during the course of the Siegelman investigation and trial.

Siegelman associates have been seeking documents about the case, especially regarding the supposed recusal of then U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, for roughly 10 years. Alabaster attorney John Aaron filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in 2006 and followed up with a lawsuit in 2009. Aaron learned that more than 1,000 documents exist related to the Canary recusal, but the government has refused to turn them over.

Joseph Siegelman filed a FOIA request last year with the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), but the request was denied. Joseph Siegelman now has filed a lawsuit, which appears to go well beyond the Canary-recusal issue. (Please see full lawsuit at the end of this post.) From a report at WAFF in Huntsville:

The son of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is suing the Office of Professional Responsibility, a branch of the United States Department of Justice. Siegelman is serving a federal sentence for bribery and conspiracy at Oakdale Prison in Louisiana.

Siegelman’s son, Joseph Siegelman, is suing for records obtained during the Office of Professional Responsibility’s, or OPR’s, investigation into Siegelman’s prosecution and conviction. The OPR investigates Department of Justice attorneys accused of professional misconduct.

The filing states that the OPR opened an investigation after multiple national media outlets reported on the Siegelman case and raised questions about the prosecution. These outlets reported prosecutors placed undue pressure on witnesses, communicated with the jury, communicated privately with the judge, and withheld evidence from the defense.

Could Joseph Siegelman's lawsuit produce devastating information about the prosecution? According to WAFF, the answer appears to be yes:

The lawsuit also notes an article written by the Project On Governmental Oversight. That article mentioned a letter summarizing the OPR investigation. That letter reportedly includes admissions from “several” officials who acted improperly.

In June 2015, Joseph Siegelman filed a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request for the OPR findings. The OPR denied that request based on an exemption for inter- or intra- agency memos or letters, an exemption for personal privacy interests, and an exemption for records compiled for law enforcement.

Joseph Siegelman says the OPR is wrong in [its] reasoning and is illegally withholding the information. He has requested a trial before a federal jury. Don Siegelman’s release date is set for August 8, 2017.

From the Joseph Siegelman complaint:

On December 11, 2014, the Project On Government Oversight (“POGO”), an independent nonpartisan non-profit organization, published an article entitled, “Justice Department Downplays Evidence of Politics in Probe of Governor.” The article discussed a letter sent from the Office of Legislative Affairs of the DOJ to the Honorable John Conyers on June 3, 2010 which purported to summarize the findings of OPR’s investigation.

In that letter, the DOJ admits that “several” of its officials involved in the Siegelman case acted improperly.

Among those officials was the Assistant U.S. Attorney (“AUSA”) in charge of the Siegelman prosecution who communicated directly with the campaign manager of Mr. Siegelman’s gubernatorial opponent. The letter discusses an email from the AUSA to the campaign manager informing him that the AUSA “and a small group of like-minded conservative prosecutors” within the U.S. Attorney’s office were pursuing Siegelman.