I was in Jefferson County Circuit Court yesterday to follow the DUI case of William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, the Birmingham businessman I've identified as a "person of interest" in my unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)
It turned out to be an interesting experience. Legal Schnauzer was there, but Chip Hazelrig was not.
Circuit Judge David Lichtenstein stated that Tommy Spina, Hazelrig's attorney, had contacted the court to say his client was dropping the appeal of his conviction in Mountain Brook Municipal Court.
Hazelrig was stopped by Mountain Brook officer Jerry S. Smith on August 10, 2007, after being clocked driving 112 mph in a 55 zone on Highway 280. Hazelrig was found guilty on May 7, 2008, of DUI, speeding, and driving with an improper tag. His license was suspended--for the sixth time--and he has some 20 traffic offenses on his record.
Hazelrig appealed the conviction to Jefferson County Circuit Court. But he apparently had a last-minute change of heart and decided to accept the verdict and his punishment.
Court records indicate that Hazelrig paid $1,163 in fines and court costs. He appealed the suspension of his license, and the Alabama Department of Public Safety agreed to reinstate his driving privileges in exchange for a $275 payment.
Why did Hazelrig drop his appeal? Well, it might have been easy because court documents indicate Mountain Brook waived his $1,000 appeal bond. Did the fact that Legal Schnauzer was sniffing the trail have anything to do with it? I don't know.
Perhaps Hazelrig had an attack of conscience and decided to take his medicine. If that's the case, I would say he made a wise decision.
Hazelrig remains a person of interest here at Legal Schnauzer. He gave a $5 million to UAB for construction of a new radiation oncology facility, and it's believed to be the largest individual donation in school history. Hazelrig has substantial business and political connections to Republican figures who almost certainly are not pleased to read the uncomfortable truths presented on this blog.
A $5 million gift will buy a lot of influence at most any university. And we know that Republicans in the Age of Rove have a proclivity for going after the jobs of people who cause them angst.
We also should note that Hazelrig's legal entanglements do not end with his colorful driving record.
His wife, Lynn S. Hazelrig, filed for divorce in 2005, and the case was handled by Judge R.A. Ferguson. Lynn Hazelrig initially was represented by Birmingham attorney Stephen R. Arnold, but he eventually withdrew from the case. Chip Hazelrig represented himself, and it appears the parties worked out a divorce arrangement on their own. It's hard to tell what happened in the case because Lynn Hazelrig requested that the court file be sealed, and Judge Ferguson granted that motion.
It's my understanding that divorce files are public record, except under rare circumstances, and it's unclear what circumstances existed that caused the judge to seal the file. My guess is that a regular person like you or me would have little chance of having our divorce file sealed. Do wealthy people get special consideration in Alabama courts? Looks that way.
Is it possible the judge unlawfully sealed the file? Given my experience with Alabama judges, I would say the answer is yes. This will be a question for further inquiry here at Legal Schnauzer.
Perhaps of more interest is a civil case involving W&H Investments, one of Hazelrig's companies. (By the way, Hazelrig has his hand in so many business pies, it's hard to tell exactly what he's up to. But his primary interests seem to be in real estate, oil, and gaming.)
The lawsuit, Estate of Sloan Bashinsky v. W&H Investments, involves heirs of one of Birmingham's most well-known business figures, Sloan Bashinsky. As CEO of Golden Enterprises, Bashinsky helped turn Golden Flake potato chips, and other assorted goodies, into snack-time favorites around the South.
Bashinsky died on August 2, 2005, and you can check out business filings related to his Last Will and Testament.
M. Owen Sims, John S. Stein, and John P. McElroy, all representatives of the Bashinsky Estate and Testamentary Trust, brought the lawsuit against W&H Investments, led by Hazelrig and his partner, Fred Wedell.
The case is complicated, and I am still examining the documents. But the main issue seems to be this: Bashinsky held interests in some 280-plus oil wells through a partnership involving W&H Investments, and the plaintiffs are seeking a proper accounting of those funds.
We will follow this case, and other issues involving Hazelrig, as we seek to discover the truth about why I was wrongfully terminated by UAB.
In an upcoming post, we will turn our attention to Hazelrig's political and business connections to prominent Alabama Republicans.