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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Log in Alice Martin's Eye

Before we move forward with our tale of corruption involving Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, let's examine some material that helps put our story into context.

First, let's consider a famous verse from the New Testament:

"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"

Matthew 7:3, New American Standard Bible

Most of the wrongdoers in my tale of legal intrigue appear to be professing Christians. In fact, the worst offender of all--Shelby County Circuit Judge J. Michael Joiner--has taught Sunday School at The Church of Brook Hills, which is just down the road from our house.

So why would a person profess to be a Christian and then turn around and act in blatantly corrupt ways?

Let's ask that question about Alice Martin. I would bet that Ms. Martin, as a devout Republican, is a professing Christian and regular church goer. But do her actions reflect any familiarity with Matthew 7:3, one of the most familiar verses in the Bible?

To help address that question, let's revist a post from a few months back on Scott Horton's No Comment blog at Harper's.org. Horton noted that Martin produced an indictment of Alabama Rep. Sue Schmitz ostensibly for "underperforming on her lesson plan" in her professional role as a teacher. At the heart of the Schmitz indictment are charges that she did not generate sufficient "work product" and evidently did not put in enough hours on her teaching job.

Horton goes on to hint that Martin's own work attendance is somewhat less than stellar. When it comes to examining work attendance, Horton writes:

"Why stop with school teachers under a private contract? Why not focus on public office holders, like a U.S. attorney, who only seems to straggle into her office on days when she’s giving a press conference? Perhaps the public inspection of absenteeism should start with those leveling the charges."

That's not the only example of Martin failing to notice the log in her own eye.

Martin first came to national attention for the prosecution of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy under the Sarbanes-Oxley Investor Protection Act of 2002.

According to Wayne Madsen, of Wayne Madsen Report, another company in Martin's district was under severe financial duress at about the same time. That company was Martin Industries, a Florence, Alabama-based manufacturer of grills, gas heaters, and hearths. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Decatur, Alabama, on Dec. 27, 2002. Martin Industries was eventually bought by a Canadian firm, Monessen Hearth Systems Company.

Court documents show that Martin Industries had amassed $63 million in debt. Were Martin and her staff of 44 lawyers and 104 asssistants at all interested in using the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley to investigate what led to such massive debt at Martin Industries? Was Martin concerned about harm to Martin Industries investors, as she had been in the HealthSouth case?

Answers: No and no.

Is it possible that Alice Martin wasn't interested because she is married to Louis J. Martin II, who was a vice president of Martin Industries? He retired at age 48 after the company declared bankruptcy in 2003.

This New York Times profile on Alice Martin mentions the financial woes of Martin Industries. But it fails to raise this simple question: Why is Alice Martin not looking into the causes of the huge financial losses at Martin Industries? Wouldn't you think the so-called "liberal media" would ask such an obvious question?

The Times story closes with this:

Ms. Martin says her zeal in pursuing the HealthSouth case is just a matter of doing her job. Last September, she said, President Bush and Attorney General John Ashcroft summoned the 93 United States attorneys to a conference on corporate fraud.

''They told us we had an important role in pursuing corporate fraud cases in an expeditious manner,'' she said. ''They said it was important to have 'real-time prosecutions' to help restore investor confidence.''

I guess they just aren't too concerned with the confidence of investors in Martin Industries.

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