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Monday, October 31, 2011

Should Mike Hubbard's Book Be Called "Scam In the State House"?

Mike Hubbard

House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) made news recently with reports that he plans to write a book called Storm in the State House, about the Republican Party's 2010 takeover of the Alabama Legislature.

A followup report, from Bob Martin of The Montgomery Independent, indicates Hubbard might want to change the name of his tome. Scam in the State House probably would be a more appropriate title.

If Hubbard's ethics looked shaky in the initial article, they look positively Nixonian in the followup.

We learned in the first article that since 2007, the year Hubbard became Alabama Republican Party chair, about $136,000 of taxpayer funds have been used for what appear to be purely partisan activities. The money went to David Azbell, of the Montgomery lobbying firm Swatek Azbell Howe and Ross (SAHR), with at least $80,000 going for public-relations work on behalf of the House Republican Caucus. An  undetermined portion of the total appears to have gone for Azbell's work in "helping Hubbard with research, writing, and editing" on Storm in the State House.


Particularly curious is the fact that Azbell's monthly check shot from $2,000 to $8,000 in March 2011, about the time Hubbard began to express interest in writing a book.

All of this raises troubling questions:

* Why is it OK, ethically or legally, for taxpayer dollars to be used for partisan PR work? Azbell's work apparently did not promote the work of the Alabama House as a whole; it promoted the interests of the House Republican Caucus. How does that promote of the interests of Alabama taxpayers?

* Why is it OK, ethically or legally, for taxpayer dollars to be used for production of a book on a partisan subject--the GOP takeover of the legislature?


* Could these actions, if proven, constitute violations of state and federal laws?

We learn in Martin's second report that Hubbard seems to be running the State House with a form of "boss style" politics that would be fitting in Richard Daley's Chicago or Tom Pendergast's Kansas City.
Writes Martin:

Hubbard is also president of the Auburn Network, which is owned by IMG College and was recently purchased from ISP Sports. State records and other reports I have seen show that since State Fiscal Year 2008, over $4 million in state funds have been spent on advertising with the Auburn Network or its parent company. This is the firm which has the contract to broadcast Auburn football games and other Auburn sports events . . . and, of course, sell advertising for those events.

It is the observation of most Goat Hill regulars that Speaker Hubbard has a virtual iron grip on the passage or failure of legislation before the House. Therefore is there any state agency with legislation and budgets before the House who would not want to please the Speaker by patronizing his business? I doubt it.

Is Hubbard running a "pay to play" scheme? It sure sounds like it--and that's not just The Legal Schnauzer talking. Writes Martin:

Some Capitol observers have suggested that the very nature of these transactions between Hubbard or Hubbard’s business and state agencies amounts to “silent intimidation.” Some have used stronger language.

Martin proceeds to list state agencies that have spent serious bucks with Hubbard companies--in an apparent effort to gain favor with the speaker:

The Alabama Department of Public Health has purchased the greatest amount of that $4 million-plus in advertising, nearly $2.2 million.

The Alabama Secretary of State has spent $135,000.

The Alabama Department of Public Safety, Alabama Department of Human Resources, The Emergency Management Authority, The Forever Wild Trust Fund, and the Board of Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors started purchasing ads after the 2010 General Election when Hubbard was elected Speaker.

The Department of Human Resources paid $15,000 from the Public Welfare Trust Fund to the company in December of 2010; the Department of Public Safety $63,000 in February of 201l; and the Forever Wild Trust fund $60,000 in September of this year.

If you have a conscience, this information might make you want to wretch. If that won't do it, this piece of propaganda from Mike Hubbard's personal Web site surely will:

"Serving as a Member of the Alabama Legislature has been an honor and a privilege," Hubbard said. "I have consistently worked for the betterment of District 79 as well as to restore honesty and integrity to government and to make those charged with your tax dollars accountable."

You were going to "restore honest and integrity," and you were going to "make those charged with your tax dollars accountable"?

Exactly how are you doing that, Mr. Speaker?

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Back and Forth With "Ron Burgundy"

Ron Burgundy

When we last reported on "Ron Burgundy," our favorite contrarian reader, "Ron" said he found it "far fetched" that certain vulgar comments have arrived here from someone at the Business Council of Alabama (BCA).

I responded by giving Ron the IP address that was attached to the comment. That prompted the following reply from Ron. It turns out he's not a fan of the vulgar dude, either:

According to my searches I received "invalid address." I don't know if it worked for you or not, but it sure didn't for me. I would first like to distinguish myself from the moron who commented as "Legal Rottweiler." While my comments may be offensive to you (rightfully so) I will never stoop to calling you "autistic." Pretty childish if you ask me. More so than being named Ron Burgundy at least.

Also, you have yet to name your sources. If it is such a big deal to you that I remain anonymous then why are you insistent on leaving your sources anonymous. If they are legitimate and have this scandalous information than let them be made public! Let us all glorify them for their good work.

Lastly, while I resent your work and your personal opinions I do respect the fact that you are pursuing a difficult task that is digging up dirt on our corrupt government. I think you have an uncanny ability to get under people's skin and I wish you would set your aim on some more noteworthy recipients. (maybe the Obama administration or GOP candidates)

Hopefully that was more coherent. Stay classy, San Diego.

Since Ron was having trouble running the IP address, I thought I would help him out--and respond to a couple of his points:

Ron:

I didn't say your anonymous status is a big deal to me. But I think you stated that parts of my reporting were inaccurate, and I replied that I would be glad to interview your and/or the Canarys to help correct any inaccuracies. (I apologize if I have mixed up you and Mr. Rottweiler; I'm going from memory here.) I can't do that, of course, if I don't know who you are. You have every right to remain anonymous, just as I have the right to engage in the common journalism practice of using anonymous sources.

There has been some jocularity in our communications, but you probably can appreciate the seriousness of this issue. One of my sources has specifically stated that he/she would fear for his/her safety if his/her identity were to become known. Given a number of curious deaths in Montgomery over the past 12 months or so (Ralph Stacy, Bob Caviness)--and the fact I've received death threats myself--I can understand those feelings.

Anyway, on the subject of the IP address, here is what I found when I keyed the address into one of many lookup sites on the Web:


General IP Information

IP: 216.77.58.7
Decimal: 3628939783
Hostname: 216.77.58.7
ISP: BellSouth.net
Organization: Business Councile Of AL - MGM
Services: None detected
Type: Corporate
Assignment: Static IP
Blacklist:

Geolocation Information

Country: United States
State/Region: Alabama
City: Montgomery
Latitude: 32.3934
Longitude: -86.3222
Area Code: 334
Postal Code: 36104



As you can see, there is no doubt about the origination point of certain ugly comments.


Roger

So we have established the geolocation of the IP address 216.77.58.7. As for other issues, Ron and I probably will agree to disagree. But I appreciate his reference to San Diego, which is a signature Ron Burgundy line. I've been to SD a couple of times, and it's one of my favorite places. It's also interesting that Ron seems to share my disdain for GOP candidates (some in his case, pretty much all in my case), and neither of us is particularly high on the Obama administration. Give peace a chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What About the Motives of Prosecutors In the Alabama Bingo Trial?

Myron Thompson

A federal judge last week correctly pointed out the impure motives of Republican legislators who served as witnesses in the Alabama bingo trial.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson also had a point when he stated in a new order that a prominent defendant had financial incentives to commit acts of bribery.

But Thompson ignored the most important question: What about the motives of federal prosecutors who launched a clearly flawed case in the first place?

We do have some interesting news on that front. The Montgomery Advertiser reports that local prosecutors Louis Franklin and Steve Feaga have been removed from the bingo-trial team. That means the case will be handled totally by Washington, D.C.-types on the second go-around.

That, however, does not address the big question about the prosecutors--and Thompson did not address it in last week's order either. (See the full order below.)

Yes, Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Rep. Benjamin Lewis (R-Dothan) revealed they were driven not by a desire to clean up corruption in Montgomery, but by racist thinking and political opportunism. And yes, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor was under the kind of financial duress that could lead a man to cross the boundary from lawful lobbying to unlawful bribery.

But regardless of what one might think about Beason, Lewis, and McGregor, they would not have been in position to commit questionable acts if federal investigators and prosecutors had not launched a bogus case to begin with.

The important questions in the Alabama bingo trial are as follows:

* What motivated federal prosecutors to bring a case that was so flawed it produced zero convictions the first time around?

* Why do federal prosecutors seem determined to retry the case on issues where the original jury was deadlocked?

* What hugely important constitutional protections did the bingo prosecutors violate?

That last question represents the "big enchilada" because it goes to the heart of the political prosecutions that started under the George W. Bush administration and have continued under the Barack Obama "justice" department.

That last question goes to the heart of the Don Siegelman case in Alabama, the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, the Cyril Wecht case in Pennsylvania, the firings of U.S. attorneys from one end of the country to the other . . . well, you get the idea--it's a big deal.

Which makes us wonder why Myron Thompson doesn't raise it? Here's our best guess: Myron Thompson is a lawyer, and the prosecutors are lawyers--and lawyers are duty bound by the unwritten rules of their corrupt tribe to protect one another. That's why, we suspect, Myron Thompson feels free to rip into non-lawyers such as Scott Beason and Milton McGregor. But question the motives of federal prosecutors? It's the rare judge who will do that. And Myron Thompson is not that kind of ballsy judge.

In his order, Thompson does briefly touch on the motives of prosecutors. But he does not do it in any substantive way:

To be absolutely clear, there is no indication whatsoever that the prosecutors in this case condoned or shared any of the biases of their cooperating witnesses. But eliminating bribery will treat only one symptom of political corruption in this State. To cure the larger disease, it is essential to address with equal force the politics of racial prejudice and exclusion.

Why is there "no indication whatsoever" that prosecutors were driven by biases? Because no one--including Thompson--has scrutinized them.

The problem with the Alabama bingo prosecution has been evident from the outset: At the heart of the case were efforts by lobbyists to influence legislators on bingo-related bills. Evidence shows that the lobbying was a two-way street--some influence peddlers favored electronic bingo, others were against it.

But prosecutors scrutinized only the actions of those who were for electronic bingo. God only knows how many acts of bribery and fraud were committed by anti-bingo forces. The public will never know about those because they did not fit into the prosecutors' agenda.

That, by definition, is a political prosecution--and the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits it. Judge Thompson surely knows that. So why is he ignoring the issue?

We have not ignored the issue here at Legal Schnauzer. In fact, we faced it head on in a post titled "Don Siegelman and the Evils of a Political Prosecution." Here are the basics:

The U.S. Supreme Court has held "selectivity in the enforcement of criminal laws is, of course, subject to constitutional constraints." U.S. v. Batchelder, 442 U.S. 144 (1979).

The nation's highest court also has found that the Equal Protection Clause prohibits selective enforcement "based upon an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification." Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448 (1962).

Clearly, enforcement based on political affiliation falls under the kind of arbitrary classification that is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment.

Here are the specifics:

Federal courts generally have accepted the two-pronged test for selective prosecution set out in U.S. v. Berrios, 501 F. 2d 1207 (1974):

To support a defense of selective or discriminatory prosecution, a defendant bears a heavy burden of establishing, at least prima facie, (1) that, while others similarly situated have not generally been proceeded against because of conduct of the type forming the basis of the charge against him, he has been singled out for prosecution, and (2) that the government’s discriminatory selection of him for prosecution has been invidious or in bad faith, i.e., based upon such impermissible considerations as race, religion, or the desire to prevent his exercise of constitutional rights. These two essential elements are sometimes referred to as ‘intentional and purposeful discrimination.’

What does this mean in everyday lingo? Perhaps it best can be explained by looking at the Siegelman case.

The record is clear that Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy violated no law because an explicit quid pro quo ("something for something" agreement) was not present--and federal judge Mark Fuller gave improper jury instructions on that point of law. But even if the jury instructions had been correct--and the evidence had shown an unlawful agreement--the Siegelman prosecution still would have been unlawful. That's because prosecutors did not pursue "similarly situated" individuals who had engaged in roughly the same conduct. In legal terms, prosecutors engaged in "intentional and purposeful discrimination" against Siegelman and Scrushy--the defendants were "singled out."

Prosecutors are engaging in the same behavior against McGregor and the other bingo defendants.

Judge Myron Thompson got some things right in last week's order. But he did not even address the most important issue of all.


Bingo Order--GOP Racists

"Ron Burgundy" Returns to Defend the Honor of Leura and Bill Canary

Ron Burgundy

We introduced you last week to a reader named "Ron Burgundy," who sent us comments under an obviously fictitious name in an effort to counter our report about marital troubles for Alabama GOP heavyweights Leura and Bill Canary. "Ron Burgundy" has made a return visit.

Also coming out of the woodwork again is a reader we have named "Mr. Dick Cheese," a Canary defender with a foul mouth, a disregard for punctuation, and an apparent inability to string together coherent sentences.

We offered up the original missives from "Ron" and "Dick" in an effort to help our readers understand how Republican thugs really think and communicate. In that spirit of public service, we provide the latest from a couple of guys who sound like characters from an X-rated graphic novel.

What's on "Ron Burgundy's" mind? Check it out:

Today I saw your article that you wrote on your responses to the Leura Canary articles. I found it humorous. I realize my last email may have seemed rather rash and hard on you, but since then I have rallied how truly insignificant you and your blog are. I would still like to know who your "multiple sources" are. If you were to write a paper and cite your text as "multiple sources" it would be invalid and so sir I would like legitimate sources. Yes, I am a Will Ferrell fan. Also, I would like to know why believe that the comment about "dick cheese" came front the BCA? That seems a little far fetched to me.

I have to admit that I kind of look forward to hearing from "Ron." He's an insulting cuss, but I have to give him high marks for coming up with a clever cover name, one that automatically interjects a touch of humor into the proceedings. Here's how I responded to our very own "anchorman":

Ron:

If my blog and I are "insignificant," why are you writing me again? In fact, why did you write me the first time?

If my blog is insignificant, why are you afraid to reveal your true identify so we can have a legit discussion. If I reveal your identify, no one reads my blog anyway, right? It's insignificant, right?

I posted the IP address from which the comment came. My blog analytics show that very clearly, and they show it came from BCA. Analytics also show that someone (or several someones) from BCA are spending quite a bit of time reading my blog. Why are they reading my insignificant work?

I would suggest you take the IP address I posted and run a geolocation on it. You will find where it came from. Here is the IP address:

216.77.58.7.

Why would you be concerned about that, though, considering that my blog is insignificant?

Why am I "being watched"--your words--if I'm insignificant?


Roger

As you can tell, I was not in a fun-loving mood when I wrote that reply. If I had it to do over again, I'd try to throw in something to tickle Ron's funny bone. Perhaps I could have noted that the movie version of Ron Burgundy had a dog named "Baxter," and Mrs. Schnauzer and I have a cat named "Baxter." In fact, our cat--who already had his name when we adopted him at age 1--probably received his name from Ron's dog.

As for Mr. Dick Cheese (MDC), I don't see anything amusing about him. He comes across as a truly disturbed individual. Here is part of his latest "charm offensive":

you clearly don't know how to use fucking facts. Name some sources, I guarantee my contrary evidence is more legitimate than anything you can pull out of your well laid ass.

If MDC had been to Sunday School since his previous missive, it apparently didn't take. Here is my reply:

If your evidence is so strong, please share it--along with your true identity.

Also, I would be glad to interview both Bill and Leura Canary on this and other matters. I assume you know them, so please feel free to relay this offer. Would be glad to interview you, too.

What do you say?

How did MDC respond? Apparently by changing his name to "Legal Rottweiler" and responding on a different post:

Legal Schnauzer is a run in the mill autistic human being. He has not produce a single citation/ form of evidence showing who his so called "informants" are, and that he has requested an email. I honestly feel sympathy for all of the followers of this blog who believe all of the BS he says. I, being close friends with the Canary's, can truthfully inform you that all of the information provided by Legal Schnauzer is false. I do agree with what Ron Burgandy previously said about him lying.

PS- If your gonna name your blog after a dog, don't name it after a "pussy of a dog"

MDC refers to me as an "autistic human being." He must have no idea what autism is or he enjoys making sport of people with disabilities. Either way, he clearly is a Republican. My response:

You appear to be a rottweiler with no teeth, afraid to reveal his real identity. I can hear you shivering all the way from your post in Montgomery.

I would be happy to interview you, Billy, Leura and anyone else you would care to bring along.

Let me know when you want to set it up.

Want more disturbing stuff from Mr. Rottweiler? Remember, this appears to be the same guy whose original post came from a computer at the Business Council of Alabama. Really makes you wonder about the kind of folks hanging around at the BCA offices:

If you would like to know my identity then i would like to report you as an internet predator, you sick fuck. Do you honestly think i would put my name and information on this blatantly shady and misinforming website? I think that this all reinforces my previous statements, you sir are in fact autistic.

This is the last item I am posting from Mr. Rottweiler. I think we have a strong enough sample size to see that this fellow is in danger of becoming unhinged--as if he were ever "hinged" in the first place.

As for "Ron Burgundy," I wouldn't mind hearing back from him. He clearly has a sense of humor, which indicates there is at least a hint of humanity there. That puts him ahead of many Republicans.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Attorney In Rolando McClain Lawsuit Has A Deeply Checkered Past

Rolando McClain

The attorney who filed a lawsuit for driving-related misconduct against NFL standout Rolando McClain has serious driving infractions on his own record, plus other instances of unlawful conduct.

Allan L. Armstrong is a lawyer in Birmingham, Alabama, the state where McClain grew up and went on to star as a linebacker at the University of Alabama. Armstrong filed a lawsuit last November, alleging that McClain twice struck UA student Matthew Mangham with a vehicle in 2008. Darrell L. Cartwright, also of Birmingham, serves as co-counsel in the case.

Mangham was able to leave the scene, but now is seeking at least $75,000 for injuries related to the incident. The lawsuit claims that McClain, after the accident, left "to secure additional members of the University of Alabama football team to provide an intimidating and menacing presence." McClain allegedly then found Mangham and assaulted him, causing severe and permanent oral injuries.

The complaint states: "Upon information and belief, Defendant McClain has a history of aggressive and violent behavior, including previous assaults and other criminal activity."

Much the same thing could be said about Allan L. Armstrong, the lawyer who wrote the complaint--and that's not based "upon information and belief;" it's a matter of public record.

In fact, it could be argued that McClain's driving record is tame compared to Armstrong's.

On October 5, 2000, Armstrong was arrested for DUI, carrying a concealed weapon, and driving left of the center line. The case numbers in Jefferson County Circuit Court are 1-CC-2000-4481, 4482, and 4483. Those cases apparently were transferred to another jurisdiction, probably a municipality, and the outcome is not clear from the file at alacourt.com.

Less than one year later--on August 27, 2001--Armstrong was arrested again, on the same three charges. This time, it was in Shelby County, Alabama. Court documents indicate that Armstrong pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving, and Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson entered a finding of "nol prossed" (not prosecuted) on the weapon charge. The case numbers in Shelby County Circuit Court are 58-CC-2001-1075, 1076, and 1077.

Several questions come quickly to mind about the Armstrong cases:

* Did the legal community give him preferential treatment because he is a lawyer? Were they particularly quick to cut him slack because his brother is U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Armstrong, of the Northern District of Alabama?

* My understanding is that it's common for a driver to plead guilty to reckless driving on a first DUI offense. But why was Armstrong allowed to make a lesser plea when this was his second DUI in less than a year?

* Why was the concealed-weapon charge nol prossed, considering that it was Armstrong's second such offense in less than one year?

* Why does Allan L. Armstrong make it a habit to carry a concealed weapon? And why is he unwilling, or perhaps unable, to obtain a permit to carry a weapon? My understanding is that pistol permits are easy to obtain for most people in Alabama. Is there something in Allan Armstrong's background that prevents him from qualifying for a gun permit?

As for McClain, he won the Butkus Award as the top college linebacker in the nation and became an immediate starter in 2010 for the Oakland Raiders, who picked him in the first round (eighth overall) in the NFL draft. McClain was the Raiders' second leading tackler and was named to The Sporting News' All-Rookie Team.

McClain reportedly signed a five-year, $40-million contract, with $23.5 million of that guaranteed. Did that help make him a target for a lawyer such as Allan Armstrong? Apparently so.

Personal Note: This story hits close to home because Mrs. Schnauzer and I made the colossal mistake of hiring Armstrong and his compadre, Darrell Cartwright, to represent us in two cases related to abusive debt collectors. Somewhat to our credit, we did not seek out Armstrong and Cartwright. We only became aware of them when Cartwright contacted me after reading several posts on my blog about debt-collection issues.

Armstrong and Cartwright proceeded to undermine our case in several ways. I will provide detailed descriptions of their actions in future posts. But for now, let's say I was motivated to investigate them--and I came up with some pretty horrifying information, especially regarding Armstrong.

In fact, his record of lawlessness goes well beyond the realm of driving. We soon will be reporting on Armstrong's various run-ins with the law, and it's likely to leave you asking this question, "How in the world is this guy an officer of the court? How does he still have a bar card?"

Court records also show that Armstrong has experienced significant financial difficulties in recent years. That might help explain why he helped cheat my wife and me--and why he is going after Rolando McClain. Much more on that also is coming at Legal Schnauzer.

For now, the lawsuit Allan Armstrong filed against Rolando McClain--when viewed in light of Armstrong's own driving record--presents a classic example of the hypocrisy that seems to permeate the legal profession.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Taxpayers Are Helping Pick Up The Tab For An Alabama Republican's Book Deal

Mike Hubbard

(Updated at 8:10 p.m. on 10/26/11. See end of post.)

Records indicate that taxpayers are helping pay for an upcoming book about the Republican Party's takeover of the Alabama Legislature. The book, to be called "Storm In The State House," reportedly will focus on Mike Hubbard's exploits as party chair from 2007 through 2010--and as speaker of the house in 2011.

A Montgomery Independent story from last Friday shows that the Alabama House of Representatives has spent $136,000 of public money to pay for research, writing, and editing on the book. The Independent also pointed to signs that Hubbard had signed off on the use of public funds for a book that glorifies him and the Republican Party.

Someone apparently did not want that story to receive too much exposure; it quickly was pulled from the Independent's slot at al.com--and has not returned. The fine folks at alabamacorruption.blogspot.com (also known as Vincent Confidential) were on the ball and copied the article before it disappeared.

That led to an enlightening post yesterday:

"Disappearing Ink--Al.com Vaporizes Montgomery Independent Story Critical of House Speaker Hubbard's Planned Book "Storm in the State House"

Why would the elites who control Alabama's mainstream press want to keep the Hubbard story under wraps? Probably because it shines light on the cozy relationship that Hubbard and other Alabama GOPers have with the Swatek Azbell Howe and Ross (SAHR) lobbying firm of Montgomery.

How stench-inducing is that relationship? Vincent Confidential (VC) spells it out?

For a brief time on October 21, 2011, a potentially explosive story ran on Al.com entitled “Researcher For Hubbard Book Paid By House.” The Montgomery Independent authored the story, based on information from Inside Alabama Politics, that revealed David Azbell of Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross had collected $136,000 of public money via an authorization from the Alabama House of Representatives and presumably green-lighted from the likely source of Mike Hubbard.

Azbell had been (and may still be) acting as a consultant with Hubbard on the book charged with the duties of “research, editing and writing.” From 2007 until March of this year, Azbell was collecting $2,000 per month for “public relations work for the House Republican Caucus ." In March of 2011, the sum jumped four fold to $8,000 per month for duties unclear to the Montgomery Independent before deadline of the story prior to the October 21st publication.

As suddenly as the story appeared, it quickly disappeared.

Sounds like someone touched a nerve, doesn't it? And the folks who run al.com clearly are more interested in protecting conservative elites than in educating the public.

Fortunately, our friends at VC do want to educate the public. And they put the GOP scam in perspective:

Azbell’s deal with Hubbard seems to suggest that cronyism is alive and well in the Republican controlled state house despite Mike Hubbard himself lambasting the democrats for the same sins the ‘shakedown Alabama’ crowd, led by the virtuous as a pole cat Hubbard, are perpetrating against the public:

“For the past 136 years, Alabama Democrats have held the majority in both the Alabama House and Senate. And what have we gotten in return? They have given us a substandard education system, rampant government corruption, wasteful spending. . . .  If you believe . . .  our public officials are honest and squeaky clean and all of your hard-earned tax dollars are being spent wisely, nothing I can write in this column can convince you we need a change."

The winds of change Mr. Hubbard and the Republicans promised Alabamians seem to be more of the same old ill winds than the cleansing breeze heralding a bright and promising "new day of ethics and accountability in Alabama."

We do need a change, but we got shorted on our investment by putting our faith in Hubbard and Co. Perhaps he has a good explanation for using taxpayer money to publish his rah rah propaganda book, but we're hard pressed to imagine one no matter how you look at it.

VC then trains its sights on one of our "favorite" Republican slimeballs--Dax Swatek, whose greasy ways have earned him much "digital ink" here at Legal Schnauzer. Reports VC:

Hubbard's choice of Azbell and the timeline of his 'contract' with the House is interesting to ponder. According to the Montgomery Independent story, Hubbard's book has been in the works since 2007. Swatek, Azbell, Howe and Ross formed their political powerhouse group that same year touting itself as an organization of "credibility, integrity and ethics that we think is important in this new day in Montgomery" and who think they are "better" than anyone else at "tackling this thing" known as Alabama politics.

VC even unearthed a video of Dax Swatek and one of his partners discussing the SAHR firm. A Schnauzer warning: The video below includes Dax Swatek discussing "integrity" and "ethics." That kind of talk from an oily GOPer has been known to induce vomiting.

This is the guy whose father, Pelham attorney William E. Swatek, has a 30-year record of unethical acts with the Alabama State Bar. We summed up Bill Swatek's distinguished career in the following post (and Dax is an apple that did not fall far from the tree):

Bill Swatek: A Portrait of Alabama Sleaze in the Age of Rove

After you view the Dax Swatek video below, and manage to stop guffawing, you probably will want to take a long, hot shower. In the meantime, let's consider a few questions about Mike Hubbard's sweet deal with SAHR:

* Is it a crime to take public funds and use them for a private venture?

* If so, which statutes (federal or state?) were violated?

* What kind of punishment could someone receive for violating such statutes?

* How does the behavior in the Hubbard/book story compare with the case of former Gov. Guy Hunt? In the 1990s, Hunt was prosecuted and convicted for taking campaign funds and using them on personal items. Do the actions of Hubbard and Co. at least equal Hunt's transgressions? Could they be worse?

* If the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Hunt violated the law, what would it find regarding the actions of Hubbard, Azbell, Swatek, and others?

Clarification at 8:10 p.m. on 10/26/11--Records show that David Azbell has received $136,000 of public funds since 2007, and The Montgomery Independent (MI) reported as follows:

Last month the political newsletter Inside Alabama Politics reported that Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard of Auburn had turned his attention earlier this year to writing a book on the rise of the Republican Party in Alabama. . . .

Former Riley administration Press Secretary David Azbell is helping Hubbard with research, writing and editing.
It is undetermined at this time how much of Azbell's fees was for his work on the State House book and how much was for other services. Reports show that $80,000 was for public relations work on behalf of the House Republican Caucus. Editor Bob Martin tells Legal Schnauzer that MI plans to report more on Mike Hubbard's activities this week.

Update at 9:05 p.m. on 10/26/11--Bob Martin said he would have more on Mike Hubbard, and he was true to his word. We just discovered the latest: State Agencies Bow to the Speaker.


Monday, October 24, 2011

CEO Continues to Tussle With Progressive Blogger

Ted Rollins

Ted Rollins and his lawyer seem to take a perverse delight in poking sticks at the Legal Schnauzer.

Rollins, the CEO of Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities, is represented by Chad Essick, of the North Carolina firm Poyner Spruill. They started by sending a letter that pretty clearly threatened a lawsuit if I continued to report fully and accurately on Rollins' actions that are connected to Alabama, where I live.

They have followed with a second letter, one that seems designed mostly to insult me and attack the credibility of Sherry Carroll Rollins, the victim of hideous legal shenanigans in a divorce case Ted Rollins (her ex husband) instituted in Alabama.

Mr. Rollins and Mr. Essick apparently have not learned two of life's important lessons: (1) Schnauzers do not suffer fools gladly; (2) Schnauzers bite, and when they do, it can involve significant pain for the bitee.

I have written that Rollins v. Rollins is "No. 1 on my 'hit parade' of courtroom abuse." Put another way, it's the most blatant example of courtroom corruption in a civil matter that I've uncovered--and that's saying something. I stand by that statement, by the way.

The case was heard in Shelby County, Alabama, and Mr. Rollins received an extraordinarily favorable judgment, even though Mrs. Rollins had sued him for divorce some three years earlier in Greenville, South Carolina--where the couple had lived and where numerous court orders already had been entered. Simple jurisdictional law--call it Law School 101--shows that such a judicial heist cannot be done. But Alabama Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson did it anyway, violating all sorts of law that perhaps is best explained in a case styled Wesson v. Wesson, 628 So. 2d 953 (Ala., 1993) Here is the key finding:

Once jurisdiction has attached in one court, that court has the exclusive right to continue its exercise of power until the completion of the case, and is only subject to appellate authority.

Legal doctrine doesn't come much shorter or simpler than that. Based on the clear language in Wesson, Sherry Carroll Rollins and the two daughters she had with Ted Rollins (now teens and living with their mother in Alabama) received a "shaft job" that would make Isaac Hayes blush.

The corruption in Rollins v. Rollins is so transparent and blatant that it cannot be seriously argued. But Ted Rollins and his lawyer apparently feel a need to massage the case anyway. Their second letter, which might charitably be called a massive load of feces, can be read in its entirety below.

Chad Essick starts by informing me that the first letter was not meant to be seen as "threatening." Rather, it was to inform me that Mr. Rollins and his company have retained legal counsel "based on concerns about inaccurate and misleading information you have published." How is that different from a threat of litigation? Beats me.

Mr. Essick then refers to my work as "reporting" (with quotation marks) and then states that he wants to ensure that my work is "accurate, unbiased, and free of the conspiracy theories that you seem so determined to create."

Memo to Mr. Essick: Insults are way less effective than you might imagine when dealing with journalists.

Here is another rhetorical tactic that has proven over the years to be ineffective: Stating you aren't going to do something and then doing it. Mr. Essick writes: "Frankly, we see no need to engage in a legal debate with a non-lawyer over a case that has long been settled by the courts." Then, he proceeds to initiate such a debate.

There is only one problem for Mr. Essick and his client: Rollins v. Rollins can't be debated; it was handled in a manner that is contrary to clear law, as outlined in Wesson v. Wesson above. The primary questions about Rollins v. Rollins now are as follows:

* Why was it handled in an unlawful fashion?

* Who caused it to be handled in an unlawful fashion?

* How did certain individuals benefit from it being handled in an unlawful fashion?

* How many federal and state laws were violated in the process?

* How many individuals would wind up in orange jump suits if actions related to Rollins v. Rollins were investigated fully?

I am seeking answers to those questions, and that process seems to make Mr. Rollins uncomfortable. The observant reader might ask this questions: If the Rollins divorce case was handled lawfully, why are Mr. Rollins and his lawyer concerned about my reporting--which is based on documents that come straight from the court file?

We soon will address some of the issues Team Rollins raises in an effort to muddy the waters--on a case where the waters are crystal clear. But first, let's present my response to Chad Essick's second letter. Suffice to say, Mr. Essick fails to show that there is anything inaccurate or misleading about my reporting:

Mr. Essick:

I am in receipt of your letter, via e-mail, dated October 17, 2011. I agree that there is no point in debating actions taken by judges and lawyers in Rollins v. Rollins. But you raise a few issues that require a response from me:

* You reference "personal attacks" that I've made against Ted Rollins. This is inaccurate. I am a journalist, with 30 years of professional experience in the field. I am reporting on matters of public interest, in Shelby County, Alabama, where I live--and in North Carolina, South Carolina and states around the country where Ted Rollins does business as head of a publicly traded company. My reporting has been based on public documents and published reports in multiple news outlets. This is what journalists do; it's not a matter of "personal attacks."

* You're assertion that it's false and inaccurate to "suggest" that Rollins v. Rollins was unlawfully moved from South Carolina to Alabama is not supported by the record. By the way, I haven't "suggested" that the case was unlawfully moved, I have flat out stated such and cited relevant case law to prove it. That point can't seriously be debated by people who know the law, as I'm sure you do.

* You're statement that I've "suggested" Mr. Rollins has missed child-support payments is false. I did ask him in an e-mail about payments that Sherry Rollins said were late (and public documents indicated were late). And I made a brief reference to that in a post, noting that payment had soon been made. But I have not reported on Mr. Rollins missing child-support payments--not yet, anyway.

* You state that I have "attacked" Ted Rollins about the support of his children. Again, I am a journalist reporting factually about matters of public record in a court of law, on issues that involve use of public resources. It is a fact that Ted Rollins' two children qualify for food stamps, and they currently receive food stamps. That's not an "attack," it's journalism.

* If Mr. Rollins would like to clear up questions about his financial status at the time he signed a CS-41 document under oath in Alabama, perhaps he should make certain documents available for review. These might include (but not be limited to) his tax returns for the past 10 years; documents related to his interest in Campus Crest Communities, St. James Capital, the Crescent Center, and other ventures over the past 10 years; documents related to any trust or investment accounts from which he derives income; documents related to any real-estate or development properties in which he has an interest; documents about any financial connections he has to Rollins, Inc. in Atlanta. My understanding is that such documents were sought during the discovery phase of Rollins v. Rollins, but for the most part, were not produced.

* I understand your concerns about the CS-41 document that I have published, but you are addressing them to the wrong person. I obtained that document from the public court file, as maintained at alacourt.com. Anyone on planet earth with an Internet connection can gain access to alacourt.com and see that document. It is public in every way, and my use of it violates no privacy laws. The Alabama Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) is responsible for documents that appear on alacourt.com. If you are concerned about Mr. Rollins' Social Security Number appearing at alacourt.com, I would suggest you address that issue with AOC. If Mr. Rollins is the victim of identify theft, I would suggest that you prepare a lawsuit against AOC because it is the entity that put his identifying information in the public domain.

* In your next-to-last sentence, you reference "matters that are personal" to Mr. Rollins and his family. I'm sure you are aware that Rollins v. Rollins is a court case, that it was litigated with court personnel and facilities that are funded with taxpayer dollars (including mine), and that the case file is a matter of public record. When Mr. Rollins sued Sherry Rollins for divorce, it was not a "personal matter"--it was a public matter. When he sued her in Shelby County, where I live and where I have seen judges unlawfully treat non-favored parties, it became a matter of great interest to me.

In closing, the public record shows that Alabama courts, which I help fund, were used in an abusive and unlawful fashion in Rollins v. Rollins. I doubt that you ever have set foot in a Shelby County courtroom. Well, I have--and I've seen how the actual law is treated like a play toy, how constitutional rights to due process and equal protection are butchered, how innocent parties can be brought to the edge of ruin by corrupt judges and lawyers.

You can be assured that I will continue to report on the Rollins case, and other matters of injustice, in an aggressive and factual manner.


Sincerely,


Roger Shuler


Ted Rollins--Letter No. 2

Friday, October 21, 2011

Alabama Republicans Acted With Racist Motives, Federal Judge Says

Scott Beason

Republican legislators acted with racist and political motives when they testified for the prosecution in the federal Alabama bingo case, a U.S. District judge says in a new ruling.

Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) and Rep. Benjamin Lewis (R-Dothan) drew harsh words from Judge Myron Thompson. The public likely will focus on Beason's role in the story because he has received national attention for sponsoring Alabama's strict and controversial immigration law. But Lewis, now a state district judge in Houston County, is a close ally to former Governor Bob Riley and was appointed to a judgeship by Riley. Democrats have pointed to that appointment as a possible quid pro quo in exchange for Lewis' no vote on bingo legislation.

Considering Lewis' close ties to Riley, and Riley's close ties to current House Speaker Mike Hubbard, Judge Thompson's ruling could be seen as a full-blown condemnation of the Alabama GOP. Reports al.com:

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in an order today lambasted two key prosecution witnesses in the State House vote-buying case as being motivated by political ambition and racial prejudice.

Thompson said Republicans Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale and former Rep. Benjamin Lewis of Dothan had ulterior motives when they assisted investigators in the case. Beason and Lewis were key prosecution witnesses in the case, in which VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor and others were charged with offering and taking bribes to try to get a gambling bill approved in the Alabama Legislature. The two Republicans said they approached FBI agents after they felt gambling interests made improper offers to try to secure their votes on the bill.

Ironically, Thompson ruled for the prosecution in the order--while thrashing the prosecution's two key witnesses. At the crux of his order, Thompson found that statements of alleged co-conspirators could be admitted at trial. (See the full order below.)

Benjamin Lewis

The public, however, is likely to remember Thompson's words about GOP legislators:

"The evidence introduced at trial contradicts the self-serving portrait of Beason and Lewis as untouchable opponents of corruption. In reality, Beason and Lewis had ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias," Thompson wrote.

"The court finds that Beason and Lewis lack credibility for two reasons. First, their motive for cooperating with F.B.I. investigators was not to clean up corruption but to increase Republican political fortunes by reducing African-American voter turnout. Second, they lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent," Thompson wrote.

Those words pretty much shoot holes through the GOP's contention that it is driven by a desire to bring "honest government" to Alabama. A federal judge obviously is not buying it. From al.com:

Beason wore a wire for the FBI, and the recordings picked up a conversation among Republicans talking about the effect a gambling referendum would have on voter turn-out during an election.

They talked about how "every black, every illiterate," would be taken to the polls on "HUD-financed buses."

In another conversation, Beason used the word "aborigines" to refer to people at Greenetrack, a casino in predominately black Greene County.

Thompson said such statements "demonstrate a deep-seated racial animus and a desire to suppress black votes."

Racist rhetoric, political hi jinks, voter suppression? Yep, that's the kind of "honest government" Alabamians can look forward to from the GOP.


Bingo Order--GOP Racists

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Republican Thugs Send Vulgar Messages to Legal Schnauzer

Leura Canary

Editor's Note: The following post contains vulgar language that some readers are likely to find offensive. We generally try to run a clean shop around here, but we feel a full description of certain language is necessary to tell the following story.

I'm used to receiving ugly anonymous responses to some of my work here at Legal Schnauzer. Cockroaches don't like it when someone turns on the light in a dark room.

But even I was taken aback by the nastiness of certain comments to a recent post about the rocky marriage of GOP power couple Bill and Leura Canary.

I've debated about whether to bring attention to the ravings of individuals who appear to be pretty disturbed. But I think this provides insight into the mindset of certain folks in conservative Alabama circles. And the more people know about such thugs, the better.

The first comment came on the post itself. Here is how it read, including some curse words I've never heard before:

Anonymous said...
fuck ass don't open your shit filled mouth before researching your fucking facts dick cheese.

October 12, 2011 11:20 AM

Dick cheese? Is that something you find in Wisconsin? I never heard that term in the Ozark woods where I grew up.

A little research on my blog analytics revealed that the comment almost certainly came from the Business Council of Alabama (BCA) in Montgomery. It even revealed an IP address: 216.77.58.7.

That was the second of two anonymous comments, and I wasn't sure if "Mr. Dick Cheese" was responding to me or anonymous commenter No. 1. Here is how that one read:

Anonymous said...

Oh the secrets that will come out! I wonder if Freddie is worried - or if Billy even knows about Freddie?
October 10, 2011 9:10 PM

This person seemed to be taking special delight in the subject matter of my post, and I suspect that's what really set off Anonymous No. 2. "Billy" pretty clearly was a reference to Bill Canary; I'm told that's what Leura Canary calls her hubby. But what about "Freddie"? I expressed my confusion with this comment:

legalschnauzer said...
Anon No. 2:

I detect some hostility. Is it directed toward me or toward Anon No. 1, who referenced "Freddy"?

Who is "Freddy"? I asked a trusted source about that, and the best guess seems to be that it's Frederick Menner, a U.S. Justice Department official who worked for a while as Leura Canary's chief assistant before being reassigned not long before Canary stepped down in spring 2011. Why would someone at BCA become incensed over an apparent reference to Frederick Menner? I have no idea.

Ron Burgundy
Here is an article that references Mr. Menner. Looks like he has ties to Louisiana. Why did he wind up in Montgomery, Alabama? Not sure.

Another nasty comment came in the form of a message to my regular e-mail account. The sender called himself "Ron Burgundy" and took steps to disguise his digital footprint. Other than the fact that he must be a Will Ferrell fan, I don't have a clue who it might be. Here is "Ron Burgundy's" message:

Dear, Sir.
Your slanderous comments regarding the Canary's marriage are completely uncalled for. I know that you liberals tend to pull random information out of your asses, but I highly recommend you know your facts before you post them on you amateur blog. Of course you are entitled to freedom of speech, but you are not entitled to slander. I would like to know, sir, where you got your information regarding the possibility of their divorce? I know for a fact that your post is nothing but moronic, scammed lies. Either you have been incredibly misinformed or you are intentionally misinforming others. I am reporting your blog to google. I hope that the Canary's file a lawsuit against you and that you are sued for everything that you are worth. Next time you think about posting anything that is complete BS, remember that you are being watched.

These people seem to be obsessed with dicks and asses, don't they? And I'm being watched? Imagine that.

I replied to "Ron Burgundy" thusly:

Ron:

I received my information from multiple sources in the Montgomery area, people who are well informed on legal and justice matters in Central Alabama, and the post is not slanderous. If you would like to discuss these issues, I would be glad to do that. I also would be glad to interview Bill and Leura Canary, on this and other topics, if they are willing.

Assuming that your real name isn't "Ron Burgundy," I'm going to need your true identity before any meaningful discussion can take place.

As you can see, I offered to sit down for interviews with Bill and Leura Canary. I've received no reply from them--or from "Ron Burgundy."


Update at 11:45 a.m. on 9/20/2011--A helpful reader has educated me about the term "dick cheese," through the Urban Dictionary. You can check out the link here:

Dick Cheese

Gross, isn't it? Kind of made me want to lose my lunch--and I haven't even had it yet. I've got to keep up better with slang. I just recently discovered what OMG means. Anyway, I figured "dick cheese" was not a compliment, and I was right about that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Republican Party In Alabama Is Infested With Indian Gaming Cash

Mike Hubbard

Sentient beings in Alabama have known for a long time that the Republican Party in our state is a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian gaming interests.

Even non-sentient beings should be aware of that now, following yesterday's report that the Poarch Creek Indians gave more than half a million dollars to help the GOP take over the Alabama Legislature in 2010.

The story shines significant light on the gaming interests that help control the Alabama GOP--while the GOP claims to be against gambling. It also helps explain the driving forces behind the federal bingo trial that targeted mostly Democrats in the Alabama Legislature.

We've known for years that Bob Riley's run to the governor's mansion in 2002 was fueled with some $13 million of gaming money from the Mississippi Choctaws, laundered through GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon. Now we know that former Alabama GOP chair and current House Speaker Mike Hubbard has been singing from the Riley hymnal.

Alabama political insiders have been saying for months that Hubbard loves to crow about his role in the GOP's 2010 takeover of the state legislature. Now we know, to a great extent, how he did it. Will federal law-enforcement officials take a look at Hubbard and his acolytes for possible signs of money laundering, election violations and other misconduct? Time will tell. For now, we have this from al.com:

The Poarch Creeks, based near Atmore, gave the Alexandria, Va.-based Republican State Leadership Committee $350,000 before the November 2010 election and another $200,000 in January of this year.

The RSLC pumped more than $1 million to Alabama campaigns in 2010, largely to the Alabama Republican Party and a political action committee aimed at helping Republicans take over the Alabama Legislature. It also gave to a group that opposed legislation aimed at allowing electronic bingo machines at non-Indian casinos.

That last sentence, in bold, might be the most illuminating news in the whole story. It tells us that the Poarch Creeks supported both the GOP and a group that opposed electronic bingo at non-Indian casinos. Curiously, the al.com piece does not name this "anti-gambling" group. Our guess is that it's Citizens for a Better Alabama (CBA), a shadowy outfit that is led by a Birmingham-area lawyer named A. Eric Johnston.

CBA sponsored a "Special Report" that was inserted into some 40 Alabama newspapers at the height of last year's bingo controversy. If our guess is correct about the identity of the unnamed group in the al.com story, we now know for sure that CBA fights certain kinds of gambling by taking money from other kinds of gambling.

Eric Johnston's group was perhaps the most outspoken opponent of Sweet Home Alabama, the plan that would have legalized electronic bingo at VictoryLand, Country Crossing, and other sites in the state. Milton McGregor (VictoryLand) and Ronnie Gilley (Country Crossing) were among those who wound up under federal indictment. Yesterday's report indicates the Poarch Creek Indians played a leading role in bringing that political prosecution to fruition.

Let's not forget the testimony of Rep. Barry Mask (R-Wetumpka) during last summer's bingo trial. From an al.com report at the time:

Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, testified today that VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote for a gambling bill when he promised Mask "significant help" if he voted for the bill.

But Mask conceded on cross-examination that he was the one who first mentioned his upcoming fundraiser during a conversation with McGregor. He also said the Poarch Creek Indian casino in his district likely benefited from the failure of the gambling bill.

Was Barry Mask little more than a paid chump for the Poarch Creeks? Yesterday's report indicates that Alabamians need to be asking that question.

They also need to be asking lots of questions about Mike Hubbard. Get a load of Hubbard's tap dancing when contacted for yesterday's al.com piece:

Hubbard, who was spearheading GOP efforts to win a majority in the Alabama Legislature, said he asked for assurances that the money the RSLC gave Alabama Republicans hadn't come from gambling interests.

"We were assured that none of our contributions came from gambling sources," Hubbard said.

Hubbard said an official with the RSLC disclosed to him that the group accepted gambling money as an organization.

"I told him we weren't interested in it," Hubbard said.

Hubbard said he has no control of where the RSLC got its money.

"But at the end of the day, we don't know exactly where all of their money comes from. All we know is that it came from sources that are supportive of Republican efforts to defeat the Democrats," Hubbard said.

Translation: Hubbard knew the money probably came from gaming interests, and he took it anyway.

A spokesman said the Poarch Creek tribe is nonpartisan, giving to both parties. But at least one Alabama Democrat saw through that:

House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said it's not realistic to think the Poarch money to the RSLC wasn't given to impact Alabama races.

"The RSLC is nothing more than a washing machine for the Alabama Republican Party to hide millions of dollars in contributions to state candidates," Ford said.

"The Poarch Creek Indians did not give the RSLC money for campaigns in other states. The RSLC simply took the Poarch Creek money, pretended it went to another state, sent the money back to Alabama Republican campaigns and then concealed the true source of the money," Ford said.

I'm not a federal prosecutor, but that sounds like a description for a classic money laundering operation--with Mike Hubbard in the middle of it.

Are we to believe that Mike Hubbard is going to bring "honest government" to our state? All living beings in Alabama, sentient and non-sentient, should have serious doubts about that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Michele Rollins: A Wealthy Republican Has Grandchildren on Food Stamps

Michele Rollins

You might say that Michele Rollins is the "unofficial queen of Jamaica." As the chair of Rollins Jamaica Ltd, the holding company for the island nation's famed Rose Hall Development, Michele Rollins is a prominent figure in the West Indies.

You might say that Michele Rollins is a major player in Republican Party politics. A close friend of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rollins ran as a Republican in 2010 for a U.S. House seat from Delaware. She lost in the primary but left her mark as a proud member of the GOP's "Let Them Eat Want Ads" Caucus during a severe economic downturn.

You might also say that Michele Rollins is rich. Her personal financial disclosure with the Federal Election Commission reports a family fortune ranging from $92 to $350 million.

So why does Michele Rollins have grandchildren in Alabama who are on food stamps?

Michele Rollins is the widow of John W. Rollins Sr., who made mega bucks in pest control, truck leasing, outdoor advertising, and other enterprises. John W. Rollins was the father of Ted Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities and the focus of our reporting about a troubling divorce case he launched in Alabama.

That means Michele Rollins is Ted Rollins' stepmother. And that means Michele Rollins is step-grandmother to Ted Rollins' two teen-aged daughters, who live in Birmingham with their mother, Sherry Carroll Rollins. And as we reported recently, Sherry Carroll Rollins and her daughters are on food stamps, largely because of an extraordinary divorce judgment Ted Rollins received in Shelby County, Alabama--even though jurisdiction already had been established in Greenville, South Carolina, and the case could not lawfully be heard in another court.

All of which leads to this stunning fact: Michele Rollins, who has been described in profiles as "one of the wealthiest women in the United States," has grandchildren on food stamps.

How could that happen? With the apparent help of his lawyer friends at the powerful Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant, Ted Rollins managed to get a divorce judgment that requires him to pay the whopping sum of $815 a month in child support (plus $500 a month in alimony). This for a man whose company completed a $380-million IPO last year on Wall Street, a guy who has the use of multiple private jets.

If you do the math, and check federal guidelines, you see that the $1,315 a month in support for three people qualifies for food stamps. That Ted Rollins, what a guy!

Rose Hall Resort in Jamaica

It's not like Michele Rollins isn't aware of the situation. In an e-mail dated September 20, 2011, I presented a series of questions about the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, and its aftermath, to Ted and Michele Rollins. One of the questions involved the fact that members of their family tree in Alabama are on food stamps. I received no answers to my questions.

Should we be surprised? Probably not.

The Rollins clan has a history of underhanded dealings. John W. Rollins Sr. had 10 children, with three wives, and that wing of the family is based mostly in Delaware. John's older brother and business partner, O. Wayne Rollins, headed a wing of the family that is based mostly in Atlanta. That includes R. Randall Rollins and Gary Rollins, Wayne's sons who now head up Rollins Inc. That wing of the Rollins family is  embroiled in several internecine legal disputes that have been the talk of Atlanta for roughly the past year.

As for Michele Rollins, she makes quite a show of leading efforts to assist underprivileged children in Jamaica. But upon closer examination, signs of hardheartedness are unmistakable. While running for Congress, Rollins said in a talk with constituents that she was against extending unemployment benefits:

"I know this is a bad market and a very bad time. But you just cannot keep paying people, cannot keep taxing us to pay people to do nothing, because they will continue to do nothing for a very long time."

Rollins later tried to back away from that in an interview with Greg Sargent, of The Washington Post:

In an interview with me, Rollins clarified that she was not by any means suggesting the unemployed were "lazy."

"I didn't mean that unemployment benefits discourage people from working," Rollins said. She added that she does support "continuation" of benefits, though she said it was also crucial to "find the money" to pay for it. She claimed that all she meant to say was that "jobs aren't out there."

But Rollins did tell her constituent that giving people benefits risks ensuring that people "will continue to do nothing."

Michele Rollins seems to be against federal benefits--except when they are headed in her direction. A Delaware political blog reports that Rollins took a bonus in 2010 from funds paid by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was designed to bail out financial institutions. Reports the Delaware Liberal blog:

Michele Rollins was elected to the Wilmington Trust Board of Directors in 2007. During the market collapse in 2008, Wilmington Trust, like many other financial institutions, received a $330 million bailout from TARP. Unlike many other financial institutions, Wilmington Trust has as of yet failed to pay that money back. Instead, it paid its top executives $31.5 million in bonuses, including to Michele Rollins. Indeed, she saw her compensation she received from her position on the Wilmington Trust Board quadruple AFTER Wilmington Trust took the TARP funds.

What about Michele Rollins' grandchildren in Alabama? She would not answer our questions about them. And public records indicate she might have played a role in helping to ensure that they and their mother would be cheated in Rollins v. Rollins.

Here is a neat summary of Michele Rollins apparent position on her grandchildren: Let 'em eat food stamps!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Could a Private Investigator Uncover the Truth in the Major Bashinsky "Suicide"?

Arturo Gatti

If I were a member of Birmingham's Bashinsky family--and had plenty of money, as they seem to have--I would promptly put in a call to Paul Ciolino.

Who is Paul Ciolino? He is a Chicago-based private investigator who recently announced that he had helped determine that the death of boxing great Arturo Gatti was not a suicide, contrary to the official findings of authorities in Brazil. Gatti was found dead in his room at a Brazilian resort in July 2009, and it was ruled a suicide by hanging.

The private investigation proved so compelling that officials in Brazil announced that they are reopening their official inquiry. What did the PIs find? Reports the Associated Press:

Experts said . . . Gatti suffered a head injury before being strangled. They also said the strap he allegedly used wasn't strong enough to hold up his body.

Noted forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht says the position of the body and other evidence shows Gatti was the victim of strangulation.

One can only wonder what the Gatti PIs would make of the Major Bashinsky case. A prominent lawyer and the son of a well-known Alabama businessman, Bashinsky was reported missing in March 2010, and his body was found floating in a golf-course water hazard. Officials found that Bashinsky died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, although there have been no reports of anything that might have driven the affluent, 63-year-old attorney to take his own life.

The Bashinsky autopsy report presents no scientific evidence that points to suicide. News reports, and the autopsy report itself, have been filled with inconsistencies and unanswered questions.

Circumstances surrounding the Arturo Gatti death have been bizarre from the outset--but they probably have nothing on the Bashinsky case. Gatti lived in New Jersey, and here is how a newspaper there described his death:

The immensely popular Gatti, who was born in Montreal but called Jersey City home, was found dead in his room by his wife, Amanda Rodrigues, on July 11, 2009. She was initially charged with murder but on July 30 the charges were dropped and Rodrigues was released by Brazilian authorities. Gatti's death was ruled a suicide by hanging.

Authorities in Brazil said at the time that Gatti was drunk and despondent over his failing marriage. They said he used Rodrigues' purse strap to hang himself, as his wife and son, Arturo Jr., slept upstairs.

Brazilian officials actually came up with a more believable story than the one we've been handed in the Bashinsky case. They at least stated that Gatti was "drunk and despondent over his failing marriage."

Major Bashinsky death scene
Alabama officials have never given any reason that Major Bashinsky might have wanted to kill himself. In fact, multiple news outlets have reported that Bashinsky refilled a prescription for cholesterol medication just hours before his disappearance. Does that sound like the act of a man who planned to kill himself?

What does a private investigator think about the official explanation in the Arturo Gatti case? Not much:

Ciolino told The Jersey Journal . . . that the Brazilian investigation was "half-assed" and "The autopsy was totally incomplete. They did a lot of things that were not acceptable practice anywhere in the world. It was just totally inaccurate."

We have published the medical examiner's report in the Bashinsky case (see document below), and we'd say that investigation would have to improve to reach the "half-assed" level.

The Bashinsky family would not have to go all the way to Chicago to find a capable PI. I'm sure we have plenty of them right here in Alabama or elsewhere in the South.

For the record, we do not know that someone in the Bashinsky family hasn't already consulted a PI. We only know that nothing has been reported about it. In a disturbing twist to the Major Bashinsky story, one of his cousins, Charles "Bubba" Major, was reported to have expressed doubts about the official finding and wound up dead himself--also reportedly a suicide.

Bubba Major was one of Alabama's finest golfers, and I interviewed him several times during my days as a sportswriter at the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald. Bubba Major was a big man, with a big personality, and I got the impression that he would not be easily intimidated or quieted. Did he ask too many questions for his own good regarding the death of his cousin?

Perhaps now is a good time to clear up something. I've had several readers ask, "Who do you think murdered Major Bashinsky?" or "Why do you think he was murdered?" I've never said that I think Major Bashinsky was murdered. The main point I've tried to get across is this: The information that we have from news accounts and the autopsy report does not lead to a conclusion of suicide; in fact, it doesn't even point very strongly in that direction.

Based on my research, the manner of death in the Major Bashinsky case should have been classified as "undetermined"--and a serious investigation should have ensued. That never happened. And that's why another set of professional eyes needs to take a look at the case.

If I were a friend or relative of Major Bashinsky--and had the necessary resources--I would not rest until a real investigation was conducted.

Actually, I am aware of one private investigator who has taken a brief look at the Bashinsky case. He was not being paid by anyone, so he could only do so much. But he visited the apparent crime scene and talked with individuals at a key location in the Bashinsky story. He discovered information that adds even more doubts to the official finding of suicide. We will examine that information in an upcoming post.

Bashinsky Autopsy

Friday, October 14, 2011

Alabama Is Not the Only State Where Obama Has Helped Persecute Members of His Own Party

George Holding

As a resident of Alabama, I've been operating under the assumption that ours is the only state where the Obama Justice Department has shown utter ineptitude on the appointment of U.S. attorneys. But I was wrong about that.

Leura Canary, the abominable George W. Bush appointee who ramrodded the Don Siegelman prosecution in the Middle District of Alabama, stayed on for more than two years of Obama's term. That allowed her to be at the controls for a federal bingo case that targeted mostly Democrats and produced zero convictions.

I figured the White House let the Canary debacle continue because the president knows he never is going to win a deep red state, and therefore does not care what happens in Alabama. But it turns out that Obama let a similar situation fester in North Carolina, a state that he won in 2008.

And just as in Alabama, it appears that Obama's weakness has allowed a Bushie to launch a politically motivated prosecution--under a Democratic administration. With "friends" like Obama, citizens who take justice seriously do not need enemies.

The target in North Carolina is former presidential candidate John Edwards. And the embedded Bushie was George Holding, who stayed on as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina until July 8 of this year. Holding announced his resignation roughly one week after an indictment was issued against Edwards. How convenient.

At the heart of the case against Edwards are payments made to his mistress, Rielle Hunter, in an effort to keep the affair secret. Edwards' behavior was disgusting, but was it criminal?

Legal experts say the Edwards case is built on a shaky foundation of weak evidence and untested legal theories. The kind of transaction in question rarely, if ever, has been defined as a political contribution--and that is the legal crux upon which the case rests?

The Edwards case appears to be skimpy on its face, and for some reason, that does not sit well with the former senator's defense team. It claims the Obama DOJ lacked the backbone to stop a bogus prosecution--and that's a familiar story for those of us who live in Alabama. Josh Gerstein, of Politico, explains:

President Barack Obama's appointees at the Justice Department lacked the political courage to stop a Bush-appointed federal prosecutor from indicting former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) on campaign finance-related charges even though the prosecution's theory is completely unprecedented, Edwards's lawyers said in a court filing Tuesday.

Edwards's defense team argued in a motion filed last month that the U.S. Attorney who oversaw the investigation, George Holding, was politically hostile to Edwards. A former aide to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), Holding announced his resignation a week after obtaining Edwards's indictment in June on charges that he effectively accepted nearly $1 million in illegal campaign contributions by allowing two wealthy supporters to pay expenses incurred by Edwards's mistress and a daughter the couple conceived.

Holding also worked for Judge Terrence Boyle, whose appeals court nomination Edwards blocked in 2001.

Powerful evidence suggests that Holding was hostile toward Edwards. We also know that Holding had political ambitions. He now is running, as a Republican, for a Congressional seat from North Carolina's 13th District. Here is how one news outlet reported Holding's entrance into the race:

A former federal prosecutor whose office put a series of high-profile North Carolina Democrats in prison wants to replace one in Congress.

George E.B. Holding said Wednesday he will run for the Republican nomination for the 13th District seat now held by U.S. Rep. Brad Miller. . . .

The 43-year-old Republican stayed in his post three years into the Obama administration to avoid disrupting investigations into former presidential candidate John Edwards and former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley.

Holding's office brought public corruption cases that resulted in convictions against former state House Speaker Jim Black, former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps and former Rep. Frank Ballance.

It doesn't appear that Holding went after any corrupt Republicans. Hmmm . . . conducting political prosecutions against Democrats pays off in North Carolina? Same thing seems to happen in my state, where Leura Canary is set to accept a cushy legal position with the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA).

The criminal case against John Edwards appears to be preposterously weak. So why is it moving forward? Gerstein explains:

The defense motion goes on to argue that Holding stood to benefit politically whether the Obama folks killed the case or let it go forward. If they killed it, he could have claimed they were protecting a fellow Democrat. If it went forward, he would be viewed as wounding a Democrat of national prominence.

"Under the circumstances, it is understandable that the Obama Administration would stay out of this fight," the defense lawyers said.

While we are on the subject of politics, let's consider these questions: How ironic is it that our nation's first black president has shown consistent disdain for the words of the 14th Amendment, the fundamental building block for equal treatment under the law in America? Why would Obama expect Democrats to support him when he has allowed members of his own party to be brutalized in political prosecutions? Assuming that progressives take the 14th Amendment seriously--that they care about issues such as due process and equal protection--why would they show up at the polls for a president who repeatedly has dumped on the U.S. Constitution?

This is one progressive who will not be voting for Obama in 2012. I already had made up my mind on that subject, and the George Holding story only reinforces those feelings.