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Friday, December 30, 2011

A Toast to Clark Griswold, Our Man of the Year

Clark Griswold

Time magazine has named its Person of the Year, and that reminds us that we need to announce our equivalent award.

We would call it Person of the Year, too, but our winner isn't a person; he's a dog. Our winner is a guy, though, so we will call him Man of the Year.

His name is Clark Griswold, and he's a Dutch shepherd mix who lives with his humans in Elbert County, Colorado. Possibly without his knowledge, Clark has become an Internet sensation, bringing joy and laughter to the 81,863,350 people (at last count) who have viewed the "Ultimate Dog Tease" video on YouTube.

For accuracy's sake, we should note that 81.86 million individuals probably have not viewed the video. We feel certain that many have watched it more than once. Heck, I've watched it about 50 times myself--and I still LOL every time.

Anyone who can bring that much joy to the world, especially in a sucky year like 2011, deserves our admiration and gratitude. That's why Clark Griswold is our Man of the Year--and it's why we wanted to share the back story of the Talking Dog Video That Went Viral.

First, let's view the video. It's 1:21 of sheer brilliance. It's funny, clever, touching, insightful . . . well, the list of adjectives goes on. Every word is perfectly written, the voices couldn't be better, its timing is impeccable, the set-up is stunningly creative (and simple). It's like the perfect little song that will live forever--sort of the "Surfer Girl" of videos. I don't think it's an overstatement to call this a masterpiece. Let's take a look:



I love this video so much that "What was in there?" "The maple kind?" and "Covered it with what?" have become catch-all questions for any occasion in our household.

Mrs. Schnauzer: I went to the grocery store . . .

Me: What was in there?

Mrs. Schnauzer: and I bought some cereal . . .

Me: The maple kind?

Mrs. Schnauzer: and I brought it home, opened the box, poured the cereal in a bowl, and . . .

Me: Covered it with what?

At that point, the bowl goes flying past my head. But it's worth it every time.

How did the greatest video in the history of the Internet come to be? A lot of moving parts had to fall into place. Clark, who is now about two years old, was adopted from a shelter at Colorado Puppy Rescue. His family quickly learned that he liked to "talk," looking at them and moving his mouth, with all sorts of doggy sounds coming out. They took a video of Clark "talking," and a family friend sent it to Andrew Grantham, a voiceover producer who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here is a story from a Colorado TV station about Clark's trip to fame:



Grantham proved to be the genius who could make Clark a star. You might say he's Clark's Phil Spector. It all was sort of a happy accident. From The Hamilton Spectator:

Grantham let the Star in on a little secret about the Clark video: He wasn’t planning to make a video the night he came across it. Grantham was just sorting through some of the videos pet owners had submitted. Then he saw Clark.

“I just picked it out and thought, ‘I want to play with this one today,’ and within a couple of hours, that one was done,” he says from Halifax.

Grantham imagined a story where a hungry man--"Food: You know, I just couldn't stop thinking about it"--engages his dog in a conversation about bacon ("the maple kind"), juicy steaks, and chicken covered with cheese and cat treats. Each time the dog thinks he is going to reach gastronomic heaven, someone else winds up with the prize.

It's kind of like life itself. Maybe that's why so many people identify with poor Clark. He's the lovable, noble, gullible guy who never quite gets what his heart desires.

Real life, however, has turned out pretty well for Clark, post video. He has his own Facebook page, with a burgeoning fan base. He and his humans have signed a number of endorsement contracts, and commercials that feature Clark are in the works.

To fully appreciate Grantham's creation, you have to watch the original raw video of Clark, followed by the voiceover version. I keep asking myself, "How did this guy in Canada take that raw footage and imagine a way to turn it into a classic that will last forever?"

Our hats are off to Clark Griswold, Andrew Grantham, and everyone who brought the Ultimate Dog Tease video to life. Here is the original video that Grantham turned into an Internet sensation. Talk about divine inspiration. Enjoy:


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Grass Roots Live On With a Classic Sound from the '70s

Rob Grill

This has been a tough year for our rock-star heroes. We wrote back in August about the death of Dan Peek, one of the founding members of the '70s super group America. As 2011 draws to a close, we can't help but think about The Grass Roots, one of my favorite bands of the late '60s and early '70s.

Two members of The Grass Roots' classic lineup died this year, leaving behind a string of infectious hits in a genre that has come to be known as "sunshine pop." Drummer Rick Coonce, who had settled near Vancouver, British Columbia, died on February 25 of heart failure. Lead singer Rob Grill died on July 11 near Orlando, Florida, from complications of a head injury he had sustained in a fall.

Grill had lived with pain for years from a degenerative bone disorder called avascular necrosis. That's the same condition that ended the career of Alabama's football/baseball superstar, Bo Jackson. Grill soldiered on, serving as The Grass Roots' front man through a multitude of personnel changes for more than 40 years.

It's never been cool to admit you like The Grass Roots. When I was in high school, the "deep" kids were into bands like Jethro Tull; Led Zeppelin; Deep Purple; The Moody Blues; Yes; and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Those bands were OK, but something about The Grass Roots connected with me. (Maybe I just wasn't deep enough for that other stuff.) Their 16 Greatest Hits album remains one of my cherished possessions, and I still break it out regularly to listen to "Sooner or Later," "Where Were You When I Needed You," "Baby Hold On," and much more--and those songs still sound great, even with all the crackling from a vinyl record that has made thousands of trips around the turntable.

How could they cram so many songs onto one vinyl record? Well, the Grass Roots rarely recorded a song that went more than three minutes. No drum solos or guitar excursions with these guys. They were a true singles band. From 1967 to 1972, The Grass Roots were on the Billboard charts for 307 consecutive weeks, a record even The Beatles could not match.

Grill later admitted in interviews that the band cared little about producing great albums; they just wanted to churn out hits. The minute one single started going down the charts, here came another to take its place.

Ask a music aficionado about rock bands with horns, and the answer is likely to include Chicago or Blood, Sweat, and Tears. But The Grass Roots actually were the first major American band to incorporate a brass section into their sound.

What was the appeal of The Grass Roots? The New York Times summed it up nicely in its obit of Grill:

The band’s style married elements of folk-rock, soul, blues and R&B. Its songs, whose close-knit harmonies evoked the British pop groups of the period, were bouncy, accessible and eminently danceable, often backed by an upbeat brass section.

“The Grass Roots weren’t the hippest band on the block,” The Boston Globe wrote in 1989. “But they were—and remain—a sure-fire guilty pleasure, a blissful package of pure pop.”

The Grass Roots grew from unusual roots. Originally called The 13th Floor, they were hired as a studio concoction to record songs for the production/songwriting team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri. Perhaps that is why the band has always had a faceless quality.

I had an experience with that when Mrs. Schnauzer and I went to the 2006 City Stages festival in Birmingham. Taylor Hicks had just won American Idol, and he was one top attraction. But the real draw, for me, was The Grass Roots.

The Hicks show started late and ran long, and Mrs. Schnauzer was determined to see all of that. But I had to leave to catch The Grass Roots on another stage. After all, I had been wanting to see them live for 34 years. As I settled into a prime spot near the front of the stage, a short, older guy with long hair came bopping down a sidewalk, about an arm's length from me. He was talking to himself and seemed genuinely content in his own little world.

"Who's the space cadet?" I wondered to myself. When the band took the stage and broke into their opening song, "Wait A Million Years," my mouth fell open. The "space cadet" was Rob Grill. I had not even recognized one of my all-time favorite singers. I still regret that I missed out on a chance to tap Grill on the shoulder and briefly thank him for all the years of great music.

Grill was the only member of The Grass Roots' classic lineup on stage that day. Has the band experienced a few personnel changes over the years? According to their Wikipedia page, The Grass Roots have had 33 members from 1966 until now--and I'm pretty sure that's leaving out a few.

One founding member, guitarist Creed Bratton, is best known now for playing himself on TV's The Office. Bratton left The Grass Roots in 1969, but he played on their four earliest albums and on about eight charting singles. Here he is on "Let's Live for Today," the band's first major hit. That's Bratton next to drummer Rick Coonce (at 1:30), with Grill and Warren Entner out front:



Bratton came from a folk background, and he left when the band started moving in a pop/R&B direction. He was replaced by keyboardist Dennis Provisor, who became an integral part of The Grass Roots sound. Here is the band with "Heaven Knows," featuring Provisor on keys, with some outlandish '70s "threads":



What's the quintessential Grass Roots song? "Midnight Confessions" was their highest charter, at No. 5. But my vote would go to "Temptation Eyes." The song has a slight edge--at least by Grass Roots standards--and is right in Grill's vocal wheel house. It even has a guitar solo, a rarity in a Grass Roots song:



I have to include one song from 1972's Move Along, which most Grass Roots fans consider to be the band's best studio album. "The Runway" from that album proved to be the band's last single to hit the Top 40. I can recall buying a 45 of the "The Runway" and wearing out the grooves on it. Here is a stereo version of a song that rocks in classic Grass Roots style. Dig those horns:



For all of the hits they produced, The Grass Roots missed on several. Some of the band members, especially Provisor, were solid songwriters. But most of the band's hits were penned by outside writers. That's probably why the band has not been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is a gross injustice IMHO.

As The Grass Roots developed a reputation for turning unknown tunes into hits, they got innundated with material. But sometimes, their ears and judgment betrayed them. They passed on "Loves Grows Where My Rosemary Goes," which reached No. 5 for the British group Edison Lighthouse in 1970. They passed on "Drift Away," which reached No. 5 for Dobie Gray in 1973--and was reincarnated by Uncle Kracker in 2003. It's hard to imagine anyone singing that song better than Dobie Gray, but I still wish The Grass Root had recorded it.

Another that got away was "Don't Pull Your Love," which went to No. 4 for Hamilton, Joe Frank, and Reynolds in 1971. This song sounds so much like The Grass Roots that I thought it was them for years.
It was written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, the songwriting team that wrote or produced numerous Grass Roots hits--along with "Rhinestone Cowboy," by Glenn Campbell; "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I've Got)," by The Four Tops; "One Tin Soldier," by Coven (from the movie Billy Jack), "Nightshift," by The Commodores; "Baby Come Back," by Player; and "We Built This City," by Starship.

The Grass Roots have been good sports about the songs that got away, and often play them in concert. Grill said in interviews that he wanted fans to know what a Grass Roots version of those songs would sound like. I know, from having seen the band in 2006, that their versions sound pretty darned good.

Here is the current lineup of The Grass Roots, with Mark Dawson replacing Grill on bass guitar and lead vocals. This is from a July 2011 show in Iowa, roughly one week before Grill's death. No original members are in the band these days, but the music lives on and Dawson does a nice job of filling in for one of the great singers in rock-and-roll history.

If The Grass Roots pass this way again, I plan to be there. Here's The Grass Roots version of "Don't Pull Your Love." Enjoy:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Newt Gingrich Is A Matrimonial Saint Compared to Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins

Newt Gingrich

The political world is aflutter with reports that GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich lied about key elements of his 1980 divorce. But we can show that Gingrich is a paragon of matrimonial virtue compared to a Wall Street titan who has left his ex wife and two daughters on food stamps in Alabama.

Newt Gingrich might be a scuzzbucket in the spouse department, but he's got a ways to go if he's going to catch Ted Rollins, the CEO of Campus Crest Communities. Rollins' company completed a $380-million Wall Street IPO late last year, based on its projected strength as a developer of student housing near universities across the country.

Investors probably were attracted by the fact that Rollins belongs to one of America's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control and other profitable enterprises. Court records show that Rollins owns multiple private jet craft and has engaged in business ventures with his cousin, R. Randall Rollins of Atlanta. Randall Rollins is chairman of Rollins Inc., the parent company for Orkin, and his stock worth in 2005 was estimated at a cool $763.8 million. Gary Rollins, Randall's younger brother and president of Rollins Inc., had a 2005 stock worth of $791 million.

It seems a safe bet that the overall wealth for both Randall and Gary Rollins has easily topped the $1 billion mark by now. And that gives us some idea of the financial waters in which Ted Rollins swims.

So why are Sherry Carroll Rollins (Ted's ex wife) and their daughters (Sarah and Emma) on food stamps in Birmingham, where they now live? The answer seems to be this: Ted Rollins came up with schemes in his divorce case that Newt Gingrich could not even imagine.

To be sure, Gingrich did not behave honorably in his first divorce. And public records show that he has been lying about what transpired in that case. Reports CNN:

Newt Gingrich claims that it was his first wife, not Gingrich himself, who wanted their divorce in 1980, but court documents obtained by CNN appear to show otherwise.

The Republican presidential candidate, now in his third marriage, has been peppered with attacks and questions about his divorce from Jackie Gingrich for the past three decades.

Questions about his past--and what that past tells voters about his personal behavior--have re-emerged as he has returned to the political scene 13 years after he resigned as speaker of the House.
A new defense that has arisen as Gingrich entered the presidential race this year is the insistence that she, not he, wanted the divorce.

How should the Gingrich campaign spin these latest revelations, which threaten to sink his bid for the White House? I have a suggestion: Shower the press with details about the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case--it has connections to Gingrich's home state of Georgia; that could be the hook. Newt will look like George Bailey, the famed Jimmy Stewart character from It's A Wonderful Life, compared to Ted Rollins.

Ted Rollins
How might the Gingrich campaign proceed? Well, it could compile a brief "scorecard of marital sleaze" and show how Newt stacks up against our guy, Ted. Here's how it might look:

* Jurisdiction--By all accounts that we've seen, the Gingrich divorce case was filed in the proper jurisdiction and never left there. In Rollins v. Rollins, Sherry Rollins filed for divorce in Greenville, S.C.--where the family lived--and the case was litigated there for roughly three years. Infidelity was one of the grounds cited in Ms. Rollins' divorce complaint. When judges in Greenville issued several unfavorable rulings for Ted Rollins, the case mysteriously got shifted to Alabama, contrary to volumes of law saying that can't happen.

Marital Sleaze Scorecard: Ted Rollins 1, Newt Gingrich 0

* Housing--Support for a wife and two daughters was an issue during the pendency of the Gingrich case. Jackie Gingrich stated in a court filing that Newt failed to provide sufficient funds for food and utilities. That's bad, but it's nothing compared to Ted Rollins' actions. A South Carolina judge ordered Ted to make sure that Sherry Rollins and the children had "undisturbed possession" of the marital home while the divorce case was pending. Did Ted Rollins follow that order? Nope. A bank kicked Sherry Rollins and the children out of the house when the mortgage went unpaid, and that's when they fled to Alabama, where Sherry Rollins had family.

Marital Sleaze Scorecard: Ted Rollins 2, Newt Gingrich 0

* Deadbeat Dad--Documents obtained by CNN indicate that Jackie Gingrich and her children struggled to make ends meet during the 1980 divorce case. But records also show that Newt Gingrich made a relatively modest salary then, so there was not a lot to go around. Ted Rollins, on the other hand, owns multiple private planes and has been involved in a number of apparently successful business ventures. Public records, and interviews with Sherry Rollins, show that Ted Rollins failed to make court-ordered support payments for some 33 months.

Marital Sleaze Scorecard: Ted Rollins 3, Newt Gingrich 0

* Court Orders--Documents obtained by CNN show that Newt Gingrich failed to abide by provisions of his final divorce judgment. That's bad, but Ted Rollins made a habit of violating court orders while his divorce case was ongoing. Rollins violated orders regarding shelter, discovery, legal expenses, child support, alimony . . . well, you get the idea.

Marital Sleaze Scorecard: Ted Rollins 4, Newt Gingrich 0

* Child-Support Forms--More information on the Gingrich divorce case is likely to surface in the coming days, but for now, we see no sign that Newt Gingrich provided false information in a sworn document. Ted Rollins, on the other hand, signed an Alabama child-support document (called a CS-41), stating that he made roughly $50,000 a year--and his only source of income was from a mortgage company in Brentwood, Tennessee. A guy who flies around in private jets and has family ties to multiple billionaires makes 50 grand a year? Does anyone in his right mind think that document, signed under oath, was truthful and accurate?

Marital Sleaze Scorecard: Ted Rollins 5, Newt Gingrich 0

As you can see, Ted Rollins is pitching a shutout on our Official Marital Sleaze Scoreboard (brought to you by Hooters). Gingrich is way behind and appears to have little chance of catching up.

Our advice to the Newster: Figure out a way to compare yourself to Ted Rollins. Your "family values" will be glowing by comparison. It just might save your presidential campaign.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Case of the Montana Blogger Hits Close to Home Here in Alabama

Crystal L. Cox

Journalists are supposed to approach a story with an objective mindset. But I must admit that I have fallen short of that standard in  reporting on Crystal L. Cox, the Montana blogger who was hit with a $2.5-million defamation judgment earlier this month.

Cox apparently upset some powerful folks out west with her reporting on alleged corruption in bankruptcy courts and the real-estate industry. One of those powerful folks, an Oregon attorney who had served as trustee in a bankruptcy case, sued Cox.

The bankruptcy case involved a company with three executives who are facing federal fraud and money laundering indictments, so a powerful stench was in the air from the outset. But a federal jury found that Cox had published defamatory reports about Kevin Padrick, a lawyer/principal with Obsidian Finance Group of Lake Oswego, Oregon, and trustee in the bankruptcy case of Summit Accommodators.

Why have I struggled to maintain objectivity about the Crystal Cox case? Probably because it hits so close to home. As a citizen journalist myself, I pull for bloggers like Crystal Cox to shine light on corporate and governmental misdeeds--especially since the mainstream media has pretty much given up on its role as a watchdog. Also, I know what it's like to incur the wrath of powerful forces who would prefer that their shady acts remain out of the spotlight. Such forces cost me my job at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and even cheated my wife out of her job at a Birmingham insurance company--all because I have written accurately and aggressively about official misconduct in our area.

I even know what it's like to face threats of a defamation lawsuit. Unlike Cox, I have not actually been sued, and I suspect that's partly because I have supported my reports with public documents and citations to actual law and published reports. That's where a bachelor's degree in journalism and 30-plus years of professional experience come in handy.

In essence, the bad guys in our Legal Schnauzer posts know they are bad guys--and they know my reporting is accurate. That doesn't mean they can't sue me, but it does mean they can't win, under the law--and they probably don't welcome the enhanced scrutiny a lawsuit would bring.

My years of experience on the front lines of journalism give me an advantage that not all bloggers have. But I think citizen journalism needs reporters from all sorts of backgrounds. That's why I wanted Crystal Cox to prevail in the lawsuit against her. And that's why I'm trying to figure out why a jury, assuming it wasn't tainted, went against her.

I've seen signs that the judge made several incorrect rulings leading up to the jury verdict. We also have seen reports that indicate Cox got sloppy in her reporting--and might have acted with questionable motives. We will address those issues in an upcoming post. But first, I want to examine the issues that caught Cox' attention and show why they hit so close to home here in the Schnauzer household.

Cox has worked as a real-estate broker and says the industry is set up to protect agents and leave consumers holding the proverbial bag. "Boy, when something bad happens to a real-estate consumer," Cox says in one video, "everybody runs, don't they?" Cox says she wants to help ensure that consumers are protected in real-estate transactions and, ultimately, to get the National Association of Realtors (NAR) out of real estate.

Both of those sound like noble goals to me. Cox says NAR is a powerful lobbying presence that pushes for laws to protect agents and leave consumers vulnerable. In other words, it sounds an awful lot like the American Bar Association and its affiliate state bars, which are notorious for protecting lawyers and screwing clients who file complaints.

Why does all of this hit close to home? For Mrs. Schnauzer and me, our journey through legal hell started with a real-estate transaction that I have described as "curious" and "under the table." Fred Yancey, the football coach at Briarwood Christian High School in Birmingham, sold his house to a guy named Mike McGarity, who just happened to have a substantial criminal record. This left us with a criminal for a next-door neighbor, setting off a series of events that has turned our lives upside down over the past 10-plus years.

A real-estate agent named Phyllis Tinsley was in the middle of the Yancey/McGarity transaction, and here's how we described it in an earlier post:

Here's a brief overview of what happened when Fred Yancey sold his house to Mike McGarity:

* There was never a for-sale sign in the yard;

* There was never an ad in the local newspaper or in our main area "shopper" publication;

* The house was never listed with the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS), according to an appraiser I consulted;

* Even though the house was never listed, a real-estate agent named Phyllis Tinsley was involved in the deal. At the time, Tinsley worked for Prudential Realty, but she now has her own real-estate company. Her husband, Roye Tinsley, is a real-estate appraiser.

* Phyllis Tinsley told my wife that she happened to see a for-sale-by-owner sign at McGarity's house in Cahaba Heights and stopped to talk with him. That, Tinsley said, is how she found a prospective buyer. And how did she find a prospective seller? She happened to be in our neighborhood and knocked on Fred Yancey's door. Lo and behold, he was looking to sell his house!

Maybe real-estate agents sell houses this way all the time. But it sure seems like a strange way to do it to me--awfully inefficient.

Did Ms. Tinsley just stumble upon Mike McGarity, without anyone telling her he was interested in buying, and then stumble upon Fred Yancey, without anyone telling her he was interested in selling?

Phyllis Tinsley's version of events never has added up to us. We long have suspected that someone engineered the deal to keep Fred Yancey on the sidelines, winning lots of football games at Briarwood Christian School. If we had to suffer because of the criminal next door . . . well, it doesn't appear Coach Yancey and his Briarwood benefactors really care about that.

I also don't have a hard time buying Crystal Cox' stories about corruption in bankruptcy courts. I am intimately familiar with a bankruptcy case involving a Birmingham attorney. Public documents show that one of the attorney's former clients challenged the discharge of debts, and in the process, showed that the lawyer had filed a false bankruptcy petition. In short, the lawyer had hidden assets in a bankruptcy case, and this can be a federal crime. It's covered under 18 U.S. Code 152.

The trustee in the case was Thomas E. Reynolds, an attorney with the Birmingham firm Haskell Slaughter. Overseeing the case was Thomas B. Bennett, chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Alabama. Did Reynolds or Bennett do anything about an apparent crime that took place under their noses? No, they did not. The attorney's debts were discharged, post haste. And that little problem of hiding assets? Reynolds and Bennett looked the other way.

Does bankruptcy-related fraud happen often? An article from tampabay.com indicates it is pretty much rampant--and such crimes rarely are prosecuted.

Crystal Cox might have made some mistakes in her reporting. But our guess is that she was snooping into some dark corners that desperately needed light. And that's why powerful forces wanted to shut her up.

(To be continued)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Our Four-Legged Friends Help Provide A Genuine Christmas Spirit

We spent the past 12 months writing largely about human depravity--the kind that leads to legal actions and, too often, to innocent parties getting cheated in courts of law.

Covering the "justice" beat in postmodern America can make one a tad cynical about the human condition. So what to do in this season that is supposed to be marked by thankfulness and good cheer?

Here in the Schnauzer household, we turn to our four-legged friends. We give thanks for Murphy Abigail Shuler, the wonderful miniature schnauzer who inspired this blog and gave us so much joy for 11 years, before her death on January 14, 2004. We give thanks for our current "babies," the brother/sister Tonkinese combo of Baxter and Chloe. They are a never-ending source of wonder, curiosity, and amusement. They remind us every day that there is a loving God up there somewhere--although his presence often is obscured by the actions of warped humans who seem to feed on creating misery and torment for others.

We also are thankful for those who, through the wonders of YouTube, create videos that makes us smile--or even LOL--at the antics of our animal friends. One expert at this is Andrew Grantham, a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia, who created the greatest video in the history of the Internet and gave new meaning to a character named "Clark Griswold."

Just a few days ago, Grantham released his latest creation, a charming combination of talking animals and "The Twelve Days of Christmas":



Want to sense the deep meaning of the season, the kind that should last all year long? Check out this video of a mother cat comforting one of her kittens, who seems to be having a nightmare. It has drawn more than 39 million views, making it one of YouTube's top 10 videos for 2011:



We can't leave this subject without a return visit from one of our favorite interest groups--"The Holiday Dogs of Hungary." Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 23, 2011

Is This Now the Scariest Arrest Photo in the History of Mankind?

Randy L. Curmin

I used to think actor Nick Nolte would forever hold the record for the scariest arrest photo ever taken. But it looks like we have a new champ--and I don't think he's going to lose the title any time soon.

Yep, I'm starting to think that Randy L. Curmin, of Johnson City, Tennessee, has left our guy Nick in the dust. Check out Curmin above, and you will immediately be impressed by the Don King/finger-in-the-light-socket thing he's got going on with his hair. Adds to the dramatic effect, doesn't it?

How would you like to wake up to that mug in the morning? Wow!

How did Mr. Curmin earn his spot on the police blotter? It took some effort. Reports the Johnson City Press:

Police charged a man with aggravated assault Wednesday morning after he allegedly waved around a butcher knife at people and made a threat that someone needed to die, according to a police report.

Johnson City police were called to 103 S. Beech St. just before 8 a.m. Wednesday where they were told that Randy L. Curmin, 30, of that address, had been in an argument with Sherry Young over his treatment of their dog that had become sick in the house, according to a police report.

Nick Nolte
Just when we thought Mr. Curmin could not appear more "charming," we learn that he apparently was mistreating the family dog.

I would have guessed that Curmin was too busy styling his hair--applying gel, mousse, and other "product"--to get upset at a dog. But looks like I was way off target.

Here's more from the Johnson City Press:

Young was trying to calm down her two-year-old daughter when Curmin reportedly retrieved a butcher knife from the kitchen. According to the report, he looked at Young and her daughter and said “somebody has to die today.”

Curmin then went into the bedroom where the dog was. The dog reportedly yelped and then was quiet.

Young got scared that he had killed the dog, so she left the house with her daughter and called police.

Police found the knife on top of the TV in the bedroom.

The guy in the photo above was waving a butcher knife and saying "somebody has to die today"? I can see how that might cause alarm.

There is one happy note to this story. The dog, it appears, will be OK:

Curmin told police he did not recall what happened, according to the report.

The dog was not killed, according to police.

There's more good news:

Curmin was charged with two counts of aggravated domestic assault.

He was taken to the Washington County Detention Center, where he was being held on $50,000 bond.

I hate to deprive Nick Nolte of an honor he has held with distinction for so many years. But Randy Curmin has turned the "scary arrest photo" into an art form. I don't see anyone taking the award from him in our lifetimes. Nick will just have to step aside.

Sort of gives you that warm holiday feeling, doesn't it?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Judge's Ruling on Montana Blogger's Case Has Been Widely Misinterpreted

Crystal L. Cox

A federal judge recently found that a Montana blogger could not claim protections afforded mainstream journalists, and that ruling led to a $2.5-million defamation judgment against the blogger.

News outlets have reported that the ruling, by U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez of Oregon, has  implications for bloggers across the country. In fact, the story hit close to home here recently when I had an e-conversation with a prominent figure in the progressive blogosphere. This was a gentleman I do not know well, but I have admired his work from afar for years, and he stated that his organization now might be at heightened risk because of the Montana blogger's case.

That's when I decided Legal Schnauzer needed to provide clarification on this issue. It's true that Judge Hernandez' ruling might set off a chain of events that someday could have broad implications for non-traditional journalists. But that process could take 10 years or more, and Hernandez' finding could be completely overturned along the way. For now, the ruling has implications for only one blogger--and that's Crystal L. Cox, the Montana woman who was on the wrong end of the $2.5-million judgment.

In fact, the outcome might not even have much impact on Cox. She has stated that she doesn't have the necessary funds to pay the judgment. And Kevin Padrick, the Oregon lawyer who sued Cox, acknowledges that he is not likely to receive much, if any, of the judgment.

So what should the public make of the Crystal L. Cox ruling? In my judgment, not a whole lot. Should people pay attention to Crystal L. Cox and her work as a citizen journalist? In my judgment, they should.

Cox, a feisty resident of Eureka, Montana, bills herself as an investigative blogger, real estate broker/owner, and real estate whistleblower, among other things. She blogs at a host of sites, including crystallcox.com, crystalcox.com, investigativeblogger.com, industrywhistleblower.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com.

Reporting on Obsidian Finance Group landed Cox in legal hot water. Obsidian is based in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and according to its Web site, the firm "is particularly adept at finding unique financial and structuring solutions to the most difficult problems." Kevin Padrick, a lawyer by training, is a senior principal and co-founder of Obsidian.

Padrick served as a trustee in a bankruptcy case involving Summit Accommodators, a company that "helped property owners conduct real estate transactions in a way to limit taxes." Summit apparently was not above board in its activities. Three executives face federal fraud and money laundering indictments.

Cox determined that Padrick was not above board either. In a post dated December 22, 2010, she referred to Padrick as a "corrupt thug, thief, and a dirty lawyer"--and that was just in the headline. This is from the body of the post:

Kevin Padrick of Obsidian Finance LLC is a Criminal, he has broken many laws in the last 2 years to do with the Summit 1031 case and regardless of the guilt of the Summit 1031 principals, Kevin Padrick is a THUG and a Thief hiding behind the Skirt tails of a corrupt un-monitored bankruptcy court system and protected by Corrupt Bend DA and Corrupt Bend Oregon Judges.

Was Cox' reporting on target? I'm not sure, but I've read enough public documents from bankruptcy court here in Birmingham to make me think these proceedings often are rife with corruption.

Did Cox get careless with her reporting? Did she come to sweeping conclusions that she could not back up? That's possible. Cox writes on so many different Web sites that it's difficult to make an assessment of her reporting. She appears to have some ability as a researcher, but she makes frequent use of inflammatory language and some of her work is written in a disjointed style, on a complicated topic, making it hard to determine what she has or has not proven.

Kevin Padrick
This much is clear: Padrick and his colleagues at Obsidian did not appreciate Cox' reporting efforts. They claimed her posts were false and defamatory, that she had hurt their business. A federal jury in Oregon wound up agreeing with them.

What's my take? Cox might have made some missteps in her reporting, but I'm guessing she was poking around in some seriously dark corners. I'm also guessing that the jury verdict might not hold up if Cox is able to mount an appeal.

Why do I say that? Judge Hernandez made two key conclusions that appellate judges might not agree with--(1) That Cox was not protected by shield laws that keep mainstream reporters from having to reveal their sources; and (2) That Cox was not protected by an Oregon law that requires a party to demand a retraction before seeking damages for defamation in court.

How did the judge reach these conclusions? From a report at Raw Story:

U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez ruled that Cox was not protected by Oregon’s shield law, which allows journalists to protect their sources.

“Although the defendant is a self-proclaimed ‘investigative blogger’ and defines herself as ‘media,’ the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system,” he wrote in his decision. “Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law.”

Hernandez also argued there was no proof that Cox adhered to journalistic standards and noted that she had no professional qualifications as a journalist. He also noted that the shield law does not apply to defamation cases and that the bankruptcy case was not in the public interest.

The post was defamation, Hernandez said, because a reasonable person would be led to believe the blog post was factual. But Cox refused to reveal her source and could not back up her facts.

How is a bankruptcy case, conducted in a court that is financed with taxpayer dollars, not in the public interest? I have no idea where the judge came up with that one.

I intend to follow Crystal L. Cox' work. She appears to base much of her reporting on public documents, as we do here at Legal Schnauzer. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism and 30-plus years of professional experience in the field, and Cox does not have those sorts of credentials. But I think it's important to avoid "news elitism," to avoid assuming that people like Crystal Cox can't do serious journalism. Cox' experiences seem to have taught her that the real-estate industry has set up rules to protect its own interests, at the expense of the public interest. I have come to similar conclusions about the legal industry.

Ms. Cox probably could use the guidance of a seasoned editor. But she has stated that she does not intend to let the $2.5 million judgment stand in the way of her reporting. Is that a good thing for the cause of transparency? I suspect that it is.

As for the findings of the federal judge in Oregon, the public should keep this point in mind:

Marco Hernandez is a district judge, and his rulings have absolutely no precedential value. Legal precedent can only be set by appellate courts, and even then, different circuits do not always incorporate the findings in other circuits.

If Crystal Cox is able to appeal the jury verdict to the Ninth Circuit, which covers Oregon, it might be upheld or it might be overturned. Either way, there is no guarantee that other circuits will follow the Ninth's lead on similar cases. Issues raised in the Crystal Cox case might someday land before the U.S. Supreme Court. But who knows if any of us will live long enough to see that.

The Associated Press has reported that the Cox case has "implications" for bloggers around the country. But that is not true. It has implications, as of now, for one blogger, in one case, in one federal district court.

And Crystal Cox, to her credit, does not plan to go away quietly.

Here is a video of Cox discussing the real-estate industry and some of the potential pitfalls of buying a house. To my ears, she makes a lot of sense--and her voice needs to be heard, not silenced:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Abramoff Bolts From Radio Interview When Confronted By Tribal Leader

Jack Abramoff

The rehabilitation of Jack Abramoff hit a snag this week when the confessed GOP felon bailed out during a radio interview that included a surprise encounter with a Native American lobbyist and whistleblower.

Abramoff appeared Monday on the San Francisco-based Peter B. Collins Show, one of several media stops since the release this fall of Abramoff's book. Monday's interview seemed to be going smoothly, with Abramoff proving genially evasive on a number of questions, including some about Alabama politics. But the tone changed when Collins welcomed Tom Rodgers to the conversation.

Rodgers, who is part Blackfoot Indian and part Irish, runs a Washington lobbying firm and is credited as one of three Native American whistleblowers who helped expose Abramoff's crimes. Shortly after Collins introduced Rodgers--and Rodgers launched into one of several questions he wanted to ask Abramoff--the audience could hear a click and then a dial tone.

Collins interrupted Rodgers, who apparently did not understand what had happened. "Tom, Jack Abramoff hung up on us," Collins said.

"Jack hung up?" Rodgers said. "Wow!"

"I guess there are limits to his ability . . . to confront his own wrongdoing," Collins said to Rodgers. "You were very polite in the way you were addressing him. He seemed to be willing to talk to me about many issues, but I guess talking to you, ear to ear, was too much for him."

The interview can be heard at this link to the Peter B. Collins Web site. (The Alabama segment starts at about the 25:00 mark.) A followup about Abramoff's hasty exit can he heard at this link.

Abramoff apparently sensed that Rodgers' arrival meant the heat was about to get turned up. And he was right about that. Rodgers said he had planned to focus his questions on two primary subjects:

* Allegations that Abramoff and fellow GOP felon Michael Scanlon had gone to a Native American council with a plan to take out life insurance on tribal elders and apply those death benefits to lobbying bills.

* Allegations that Abramoff and his associates had paid news reporters for favorable coverage or placement.

Rodgers joked about his role in the Collins interview, saying he thought it was "about time an Indian gets to ambush a white guy."

Peter B. Collins
Did Abramoff bail out, without even a goodbye, when he sensed that things were about to turn ugly for him, derailing his effort to rebuild a shattered image? That's how it looks from here.

"I thought there was an opportunity here for Jack Abramoff to really come clean about the way he manipulated one tribe against the other in an effort to super serve his high-paying clients . . . ," Collins said. "These issues with Native Americans are at the center of the misdeeds he partially admits to, and partially accepts responsibility for, in his book and on this rehabilitation media tour he's on right now."

Until being confronted by Rodgers, Abramoff proved adept at deflecting questions on a number of topics, including his role in using $20 million from Mississippi Choctaws to defeat gaming initiatives in Alabama.

Abramoff denied playing any role in the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. "The only operation I put in motion was to beat him in the election," Abramoff said. "I don't want anybody to go to prison. Am I remorseful we went after him politically? He was on the other side from what our clients wanted. Our clients didn't want to have gambling in Alabama."

Susan Ralston, who worked for Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig, went on to serve as a deputy under Karl Rove in the Bush White House. And powerful evidence suggests that Rove led the effort to target Siegelman.

Did Abramoff, Collins asked, ever enlist Susan Ralston to run interference or communicate messages that helped lead to the Siegelman prosecution? Abramoff said he had not.

What role did Abramoff play in helping Bob Riley get elected in 2002? "I don't know about that. I wasn't involved at that level. All I did was direct our people to activate the coalition we had built to beat gambling."

Was Michael Scanlon, who used to work for Riley, involved in the 2002 election? "Very much so."

Did Scanlon participate in the efforts to prosecute Don Siegelman? "I doubt it. I've never heard of anything like that."

How do Abramoff's answers hold up in the wake of his retreat once Tom Rodgers arrived?

Rodgers himself provided some perspective. "If you look at the whole pattern of interviews, there is an enormous amount of deflection, a very limited acceptance of any personal responsibility. . . .

"The fact he could not participate in this dialogue means any apology still rings hollow."

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Is Someone Trying to Set Me Up for an Arrest on Bogus Criminal Charges?

Jarrod Massey

Why would a star witness in the Alabama bingo prosecution, which is set to begin a retrial on January 30, 2012, want to communicate with your humble blogger?

I've been asking myself that question since I received an e-mail from Jarrod Massey in late October. Massey, a former lobbyist for pro-gambling interests, pleaded guilty to various federal charges and testified against other defendants in the first trial--which ended with zero convictions on August 11.

Why would Massey want to talk with me? I can think of only one reason: Someone in officialdom is using him to help set me up for an arrest on bogus charges. Is this a case of The Schnauzer simply being paranoid? Perhaps. But I consulted a friend who has a legal education and extensive experience in government. His verdict? He thought it sounded like someone was trying to lure me into a conversation with Massey so that I could be framed for witness tampering or obstruction of justice.

I value this friend's opinion, and I know that both federal and state prosecutors in Alabama can be grotesquely corrupt. I also know that my reporting has agitated some powerful figures in our state and beyond. That's why I got fired from my job at UAB after working there for 19 years. It's also why I have received numerous anonymous e-mails that could be interpreted as death threats.

Suffice to say, that I have not returned Jarrod Massey's messages, and I don't plan to any time soon. Nothing against Mr. Massey personally; I've never met him and know very little about him. If something is fishy about his e-mails, I'm not sure he realizes it. Perhaps he is just doing what he's told.

That a star witness would contact a journalist, while the witness is waiting for a high-profile case to be retried, raises all sorts of questions. But first, let's look at what's been on Jarrod Massey's mind. Here is his first e-mail, which arrived on October 27:

from: Jarrod Massey jarrod.massey@aol.com
to: rshuler3156@gmail.com
date: Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 8:49 AM
subject: Points of Mutual Interest
mailed-by: aol.com
Important mainly because of the words in the message.

Mr. Shuler:

I am sure you recognize my name, but if not I am the Jarrod Massey implicated in the federal bingo investigation. In light of your post today on your blog I want to be clear before I state anything further that I have absolutely no interest in discussing Judge Thompson's recent order or anything for that matter directly related to pending trial points. It is out of an abundance of caution that I state this in writing as a pretext to my comments to follow.

I would however welcome an opportunity to discuss my past associations with Dax Swatek. In summation, he is a very unscrupulous sort who is well protected by the Riley net and his linked-at-the-hip connection to Billy and Leura Canary and the Bradley Arant law firm. This of course is nothing you are not already familiar with. I can point you in the right direction for your information gathering purposes. You'll find it quite interesting.

If you are interested in having a discussion in person feel free to contact me on my mobile at 334.467.3337 or at home 334.270.0894 to schedule.

Sincerely,

Jarrod Massey
jarrod.massey@aol.com

When I did not respond to that message, Massey followed up with another one on November 1:

from: Jarrod Massey jarrod.massey@aol.com
to: rshuler3156@gmail.com
date: Tue, Nov 1, 2011 at 8:29 AM
subject: Fwd: Points of Mutual Interest
mailed-by: aol.com
signed-by: mx.aol.com
Important mainly because of your interaction with messages in the conversation.

Mr. Shuler:

I assume you are not interesting in discussing? If so, please contact me by phone as referenced below. I am starting a job this week that has somewhat odd working hours. The best time to reach me will be post 9:30pm in the evenings or 7:00-11:00am daily.

Jarrod Massey
jarrod.massey@aol.com

As you can see, Massey is quite familiar with some frequent characters on my blog. He knows I have written extensively about Dax Swatek, Bob Riley, Bill Canary, and Bradley Arant. I have no doubt that Dax Swatek is an unscrupulous individual, and I feel certain that Jarrod Massey could shine light on him and other bad actors.

But let's consider the environment in which these communications took place. I'm not an expert on the process that surrounds a federal criminal case, but here is my understanding of some key issues:

* Prosecutors generally want a witness to stay underground until it's time to take the stand. Anything the witness says to an external party, such as me, could come back to bite the prosecution on its collective fanny.

* For that reason, it's hard to comprehend that prosecutors would want Jarrod Massey to communicate with a journalist--unless the prosecutors had an ulterior motive in mind.

* When a witness has entered a guilty plea and agreed to testify against other defendants, he is at the mercy of prosecutors. If he pleases them, they can push for a greatly reduced sentence. If he displeases them, they can turn on him in an instant. I see no way that Jarrod Massey would contact me on his own, without approval of federal (or maybe state) prosecutors. And that tells me that prosecutors are using Jarrod Massey to serve some agenda.

We should keep in mind that the content of this blog already has cost me my job--and yet I am still writing; in fact, I'm writing about even more sensitive subjects now than I was before I got unlawfully terminated at UAB. So what else can corrupt forces do to shut me up? I can think of only two alternatives--try to cook up a bogus arrest or assassinate me.

That sounds melodramatic, I know. But given the string of mysterious deaths in our state over the past 12 to 18 months, I don't rule out anything.

As for Jarrod Massey, I would be happy to talk with him someday, once he is out from under the thumbs of federal prosecutors. I'm sure the two of us could have an enlightening conversation. But for now, he could have pictures of Dax Swatek, Bob Riley, Bill Canary, and the whole Bradley Arant law firm having sex with goats . . . and I'm not interested.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Is Republican Greed Driving an Alabama "Marriage" Made In Hell?

David Bronner

Wherever he goes in Alabama, David Bronner likely is the smartest guy in the room. The Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), under Bronner's direction for the past 38 years, probably is the best-managed entity in our state.

Wherever Leura Canary goes in Alabama, or any other state, she likely is the most corrupt person in the room. As U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama during the George W. Bush years (and two years of the Obama administration), Canary is best known for ramrodding the Don Siegelman case, which is likely to stand as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.

So why would a smart guy like David Bronner want to hire a slime ball like Leura Canary to work in RSA's legal office? Our guess is that Bronner actually wants no part of Leura Canary. But since Republicans took over the Alabama Legislature in January 2010, they have been trying to get their grimy hands on an RSA investment nest egg that reportedly tops $32 billion, making it the 43rd largest pension fund in the United States.

If Canary actually winds up joining the RSA staff in January 2012, as was recently reported in The Montgomery Independent, it almost certainly will have nothing to do with her legal skills, which appear to be pretty much nonexistent. Instead, it will represent Bronner's effort to compromise with Republican thugs and keep them from pilfering Alabama pension funds.

How thuggish have Alabama Republicans been acting toward Bronner? The answer appears to be "pretty darned thuggish," even by GOP standards. And that makes us wonder if we should take a second look at a curious death connected to David Bronner, one that we generally have not included in our coverage of mysterious deaths that have darkened the political landscape in Karl Rove's Alabama.

Montgomery journalist Bob Martin wrote about Canary's likely hiring at RSA--a story that originated with the Inside Alabama Politics (IAP) newsletter--and noted the pressure that Bronner was facing:

Bronner told IAP he will hire Canary in January to “beef up” his legal department and because she will bring courtroom experience to his legal staff and replace the retiring Lindy Beale, who has handled legislative and legal matters, and Bill Kelly who will transfer from the legal office to handle another RSA Division.

Two capitol observers told me they believe Canary is being hired because of other reasons; one of them being that Bronner needs to improve RSA’s relations with the Republican-controlled legislature.

Readers who have followed the Siegelman case quickly will note something curious in Martin's last sentence. It strongly hints that Leura Canary is seen as a political figure who will do the bidding of certain Republicans. Did the bogus prosecution of Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy help her earn that reputation?

Martin does not disclose other possible "reasons" that Bronner would hire Canary. But Martin's words suggest that such a hire would be made while Bronner holds his nose to ward off an overpowering stench. Martin's words also suggest that, figuratively speaking, Republicans have a gun cocked and pointed at Bronner's head--and the big losers could be Alabama pensioners and anyone with investments in RSA.

Why would Alabama Republicans resort to thuggish tactics? For one, it's in their DNA; they can't help themselves. Second, with Mississippi Choctaw gambling funds seemingly drying up, they need another source of revenue for their underhanded political endeavors. RSA represents a $32-billion pot of gold that could make certain GOPers very powerful--and very rich. Third, and most importantly, Republicans have not been able to infiltrate RSA through the legislative process.

Almost from the moment they took over the legislature, Alabama Republicans started pushing a pair of bills that would have given politicians more control over RSA. Here is how an editorial at al.com explained it:

Two bills that were unsuccessful in the recent session, HB524 and HB525, would have drastically changed the makeup of RSA's two Boards of Control--one for retired teachers and one for retired state employees. Generally, the bills would have required more board members to be appointed by the governor and other politicians, and fewer members to be elected by the retirees.

Bronner fought the bills and has come out the winner--so far. But what kind of price has he had to pay. The Bronner family suffered a tragic loss earlier this year, shortly after Republicans took over the Alabama Legislature and began a full-court press on David Bronner and RSA funds.

Allison Bronner, David Bronner's youngest daughter, was found dead at her Birmingham home on March 3, 2011. Allison Bronner, 25, was a third-year student at the University of Alabama School of Law and reportedly worked at a Birmingham firm and planned to focus on securities law. She was described as an outstanding student--bright, energetic, and engaged in numerous charitable and community activities. She reportedly had received multiple job offers in Washington, D.C.

Allison Bronner
The Crimson White, the University of Alabama's student newspaper, reported that Allison Bronner apparently died of natural causes related to a recent illness. We've seen no other details in the press about health problems she might have experienced.

Is there any firm information that points to suspicious activity connected to Allison Bronner's death? We don't know of any at the moment. But when someone dies unexpectedly and has connections to Alabama's power structure--given our state's toxic political environment over the past 10 to 15 years--questions should not be summarily dismissed.

As for the GOP's RSA-related bills, they failed to pass in the 2011 legislative session--in fact, they did not come close to passing. But it appears GOP leaders have not given up on the idea of sticking their hands in the RSA cookie jar. We suspect that's why Leura Canary might wind up on the RSA payroll--for her "legal expertise," of course.

Does Bronner have strong feelings about the possibility of mixing politics with control of RSA? Yes, indeed. Consider this July 2011 article on the subject from al.com:

Bronner said allowing political appointees “will have a devastating effect on the RSA.”

“It potentially opens the funds to criminal activities like those that have occurred in Illinois, New York and California,” Bronner wrote in the July edition of The Advisor, his monthly newsletter to RSA's 330,000-plus members. “Much less looking back at some of the past Alabama governors, who would have used the RSA as their political piggy bank.”

Bronner is known as opinionated guy who doesn't pull punches. You can see how he earned that reputation.

Was Bronner thinking of former GOP Governor Bob Riley when he referenced those who might use RSA "as their political piggy bank"? I think you can bet on that. After all, Riley is famed as the beneficiary of $13 million in Mississippi gaming funds that were laundered through GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon.

Abramoff has admitted in his new book, Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America's Most Notorious Lobbyist, that he spent $20 million in Alabama to protect Mississippi Choctaw interests.

Gee, I can't imagine why Bronner would be concerned about the Alabama GOP engaging in "criminal activities."

So why does Bronner want to hire Leura Canary, who long has been one of Bob Riley's staunchest allies? Answer: he doesn't. But for now, Bronner probably sees it as the best way to ensure that Republicans don't steal pension funds intended for Alabama teachers and state employees.

Alabama pensioners, and investors from around the globe, would be wise to pay attention to this story. Our guess is that the GOP is trying to pull off a political version of the Enron scam. David Bronner is doing his best to fight them off.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ted Rollins' Lawyer Once Again Crawls Out of the Woodwork

Ted Rollins

A North Carolina lawyer who represents Campus Crest Communities CEO Ted Rollins has reappeared after our post yesterday about Mr. Rollins' status as a deadbeat dad.

We reported that court documents show Ted Rollins owes $200,000 to $350,000 in unallocated family support, which includes child support. We further showed that Rollins has been behind on support payments for more than six years and was under a contempt order from South Carolina for more than 30 months.

It's unclear why the contempt order was lifted because records show that Ted Rollins never has paid the full amount ordered by a judge. Also, a judge ordered Ted Rollins to ensure that his ex wife, Sherry Carroll Rollins, had undisturbed possession of the marital residence in Greenville, South Carolina, while the divorce case was pending. Did Ted Rollins follow that order? No, he did not. The mortgage apparently went unpaid, and Ms. Rollins was kicked out of the house and forced to flee with the couple's two daughters, Sarah and Emma, to Alabama.

How did Ted Rollins get away with that? What kind of person leads Campus Crest Communities as it builds student-housing complexes on college campuses across the country?

The public record provides a troubling answer to that question: Ted Rollins' company completed a $380-million Wall Street IPO last year, and he owns multiple private jet craft, but he is a deadbeat dad.

That cannot be disputed, but Rollins and his attorney dispute it anyway. Chad Essick, of the firm Poyner Spruill, threatened me with legal action, for the second time, yesterday. Mr. Essick apparently enjoys ripping off threatening missives without bothering to check what the public record reveals about his client.

Like many lawyers I've encountered, Mr. Essick seems to have no interest in facts, law, or justice. He's Ted Rollins' highly paid bully, so he threatens anyone who dares to report accurately about the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case, which represents the most grotesque example of judicial/legal corruption I have encountered--and I don't make that statement lightly.

So let's see what Mr. Essick had to say, in an e-mail sent at 9:41 a.m. on December 14, 2011:

Mr. Shuler,

It is my understanding that you have been making statements to my client, Ted Rollins, as well as others, that Mr. Rollins is currently a fugitive from justice. I am putting you on notice that this statement is patently false, and to the extent you continue to make such statements, appropriate action will be taken. Furthermore, I’ve also been notified that you have made statements that Mr. Rollins is a “deadbeat dad” and does not meet his obligations to his children. These statements are also false. In my letter dated October 17, 2011, I made you aware that Mr. Rollins makes all of his court ordered child support payments and provides support for his children above and beyond what he is obligated to pay by the Alabama courts. The mere fact that you disagree with the decisions of the Alabama courts in no way makes Mr. Rollins a “deadbeat dad” that fails to meet his obligations to his children. The continued publication of false and misleading information will not be tolerated.

Chad Essick

Here is my reply, sent at 10:16 a.m. yesterday:

Mr. Essick:

Your understanding is flawed. Records from South Carolina show that Ted Rollins was a fugitive from justice for more than 30 months. Records further show that Mr. Rollins never paid the full amount he had been ordered to pay by a South Carolina court.

I asked Mr. Rollins about these matters, which I am entitled to do under the law. As for your contention regarding Mr. Rollins currently being a fugitive from justice, that was incorporated in a question I asked him directly, with no publication to a third party.

As for the "deadbeat dad" issue, I published that in a post this morning--and it is true, based on public documents in South Carolina and Alabama, plus my interviews with Sherry Rollins. If you wish to speak with Ms. Rollins and ask her how much she has received of court-ordered payments, feel free to do so. If Mr. Rollins can produce documents proving that he paid his South Carolina obligations, I would be happy to write a post showing that. I asked him about the amount owed prior to publication, and he refused to respond to my questions.

The public record shows that Ted Rollins owed substantial amounts from a court order in South Carolina, and he has never paid it. That is fact, and I will continue to report on relevant matters. I also will give Mr. Rollins every opportunity to respond to my questions on these matters--as I have done throughout my research.

Anyone who files a groundless legal action against me will be countersued for abuse of process and any other applicable torts--and I will seek sanctions and costs.


Roger Shuler

I sent Ted Rollins a list of written questions via e-mail on Dec. 2 regarding public documents that show he is a deadbeat dad. I asked him to respond by Dec. 6 if he wished to have his answers incorporated in my article. He did not respond, and the article ran yesterday, Dec. 14.

Isn't it interesting that Ted Rollins refuses to be interviewed on these matters--and refuses to answer questions in writing, even after stating that he would be "more than happy" to do so--and then sics his lawyer on a reporter for writing factually about Rollins v. Rollins?

Isn't it also interesting that a lawyer dashes off threatening letters, claiming certain reported items are not true, when public documents show that they are true?

I'm reporting on matters of public record. It's available in the Alabama court records for anyone to see. Why are Ted Rollins and Chad Essick uncomfortable with that? My guess is they do not want the public to know, or understand, that our court system was grossly abused in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case.

Chad Essick is following an old maxim of the legal profession: "If the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. If the law is on your side, pound on the law. If neither one is on your side, pound on the table."

Mr. Essick is "pounding on the table." That's all he and Ted Rollins can do when confronted with the truth about Rollins v. Rollins.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ted Rollins, CEO of Campus Crest Communities, Is A Deadbeat Dad


Campus Crest Communities, a Charlotte-based developer of student housing, completed a $380-million Wall Street IPO in late 2010. So why do court documents show that CEO Ted Rollins is a deadbeat dad?

Rollins derives a handsome income from convincing college students and their parents to live in one of his 30 or so properties near campuses around the country. Rollins also appears to make a nice income from various investments and family enterprises.

But documents from Rollins' divorce case show that he stiffed his own children on support payments over a 33-month period from 2002 to 2005.

Rollins' teen-aged daughters, Sarah and Emma, now live in Birmingham with their mother, Sherry Carroll Rollins. Judges in the divorce action found that Ted Rollins owns multiple private jet craft and belongs to one of America's wealthiest families--the folks behind Rollins Inc., the parent company for Orkin Pest Control and other profitable businesses.

Why would a man of such means be a deadbeat dad? Why have support payments that were due more than six years ago still not been paid? We will put those questions, and others, to Ted Rollins in writing--although he has a tendency to not respond to our e-mails.

How big a deadbeat dad is Ted Rollins? To answer that question requires some background--and some math.

Sherry Carroll Rollins filed a complaint for divorce on June 5, 2001, in Greenville, South Carolina, where the family lived. The case was litigated in South Carolina for roughly three years and included a court order requiring Ted Rollins to maintain the mortgage and insurance payments on the former marital residence. A judge found that Sherry Rollins was entitled to "undisturbed use, possession, and occupancy" of the home "during the pendency of this action."

Were Sherry Rollins and the children undisturbed in their home? Not exactly. The mortgage was held by First National Bank of Oneida in Scott County, Tennessee. Former U.S. Sen. Howard Baker was a long-time board member of the bank and also was a close ally to John W. Rollins, the business magnate who was Ted Rollins' father. Court-ordered payments on the home apparently were not made, and officials from First National Bank kicked Ms. Rollins and her children out on the streets. They fled to Alabama, where Ms. Rollins had family.

Ted Rollins
Ted Rollins proceeded to file a divorce complaint against Sherry Rollins in Alabama, even though jurisdiction already had been established in South Carolina and could not lawfully be moved. Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson did not let the actual law keep him from taking the case and giving Ted Rollins a judgment that was so extraordinarily favorable that his ex wife and children now are on food stamps.

Why was Shelby County such a friendly jurisdiction for Ted Rollins? Well, his primary business lawyers are at the influential Birmingham firm of Bradley Arant. It appears that someone made sure Sherry Rollins and her daughters were the victims of legal "home cooking," Alabama style.

Shelby County, of course, is the same locale where Mrs. Schnauzer and I were on the receiving end of numerous unlawful rulings in a bogus lawsuit filed against me by a criminally inclined neighbor named Mike McGarity. So I was not at all surprised to learn that another adult, Sherry Rollins, had received a monstrous cheat job in Shelby County. I was slightly surprised to learn that a judge in Shelby County, a conservative outpost that touts itself as a "great place to raise a family," would go out of his way to screw two children.

You might call Al Crowson the "Jerry Sandusky of the Alabama legal world." What would you call Ted Rollins, the man who sat by while his own kids got hammered in court? "Deadbeat dad" probably is not a strong enough term to describe this guy.

To fully grasp the depravity of Ted Rollins' actions, you need to follow me with some math through several steps:

* A second pendente lite order, issued on February 8, 2002, in South Carolina, required Ted Rollins to pay $4,500 a month during the pendency of the divorce case. A pendente lite is a temporary order, issued while discovery is pending, to make sure that parties in a divorce case have support while the case is heard.

* A contempt order, issued on October 17, 2002, in South Carolina, found that Ted Rollins was behind on his court-ordered payments by $70,410--$50,000 in attorney fees and $20,410 in family support. (See contempt order below.)

* After the case unlawfully was moved to Alabama, attorney G. John Durward Jr., wrote a letter to Judge Crowson that claimed his client, Ted Rollins, no longer owed support in South Carolina. Durward attached a South Carolina order stating that Ted Rollins had made a lump sum payment of $14,175 that left him with a support balance of zero. How could the balance be zero when Ted Rollins owed $70,410, and there is no record in the file of him paying that amount? John Durward's letter does not address that issue. (See Durward's letter below, with the accompanying court order.)

* A final judgment of divorce was issued in Shelby County on July 18, 2005.

How do the numbers stack up? When a contempt order was issued against Ted Rollins in October 2002, he was already behind on support by $70,410. From that date until the final judgment of divorce in July 2005 was 33 months--and throughout that time, Ted Rollins was under a court order to pay $4,500 in unallocated family support.

If you multiply $4,500 over 33 months, you find that Ted Rollins owed $148,500. When you add the $70,140 arrearage that apparently never was paid, you get a total of $218,910.

Sherry Rollins states that after she moved to Alabama, she received a payment from the state of South Carolina for $100,000. Why that figure? What was the explanation? She does not know.

As for the other $118,910, Sherry Rollins says that never has been paid--and there is no indication in court documents that it has been paid. Therefore, Ted Rollins is a deadbeat dad.

Rollins and one of his current attorneys, Chad Essick of the North Carolina firm Poyner Spruill, seem to acknowledge this in a recent letter to me. I had e-mailed Mr. Rollins several questions in writing, per his request, and part of the response from his lawyer was this:

You have suggested in your articles that Mr. Rollins does not adequately provide for his children and has missed child support payments. This is entirely false. Mr. Rollins has never failed to make a monthly payment as required by Alabama courts.

Note the clever wordplay from Mr. Essick. He states that Ted Rollins has never failed to make a monthly payment "as required by Alabama courts." He makes no reference to the South Carolina court order, and the payments that Mr. Rollins failed to make there.

In fact, Mr. Rollins still owes $118,910. And that amount almost certainly is conservative.

The South Carolina court had ordered Ted Rollins to maintain mortgage and insurance payments on the family home. Sherry Rollins states that the monthly mortgage payment was roughly $4,500. A judge had ordered Ted Rollins to make sure that Sherry Rollins and their daughters had undisturbed use of the home throughout the pendency of the case. The case went on for roughly another 33 months, and payments obviously were missed because Ms. Rollins was kicked out of the house and wound up having to provide for her own shelter.

How many payments for shelter and insurance did Ted Rollins miss? It's unclear, but since Sherry Rollins was forced to flee to Alabama in 2003, he almost certainly missed at least 24 months. That would add another $108,000 to his unpaid amount, bringing the total to $226,910.

We should note that the first pendente lite order in South Carolina called for Ted Rollins to pay $8,355 a month ($3,355 in child support, $5,000 in alimony). That was reduced to $4,500 a month in unallocated family support, based on a motion for reconsideration from Ted Rollins' attorney. But the court's order on reconsideration never makes it clear why the reduction was justified. The reduction seems odd, considering that a judge had found that Rollins has substantial business interests, multiple private planes, and significant family wealth.

Curiously, Sherry Rollins' lawyer never objected to the reduction in payments. Is that a sign that her own lawyer was working against her? Based on my experiences in court, and a review of the Rollins v. Rollins file, I would say the answer is yes.

If the original pendente lite order had stayed in place, Ted Rollins would have owed $8,355 over 33 months, which comes to $275,715. When the $70,410 is added for the South Carolina arrearage, plus our conservative estimate of $108,000 in missed housing-related payments, that would bring the total to $454,125.

With credit for his $100,000 payment, Mr. Rollins would owe $354,125.

The bottom line? Our figures, based on public documents and statements from Sherry Rollins, show that Ted Rollins owes somewhere between $200,000 and $350,000 in family support. That amount has gone unpaid for more than six years.

How big a deadbeat dad is Ted Rollins? You make the call.

Below is a court order from October 2002, showing that Ted Rollins was behind on his court-ordered support payments by $70,410. After that is a letter and court order, from May 2005, showing that Rollins had made a payment of $14,175 and that--somehow--gave him a balance of zero.

How do you owe $70,410, pay $14,175, and wind up with a fully paid balance? We have no idea.

Court records show that, from October 2002 to May 2005, Ted Rollins was under a court order to pay $4,500 in family support, plus mortgage and insurance payments on the former marital residence. That's roughly 31 months of payments, and there is nothing in the record to indicate that was paid. How do you skip more than 30 months of court-ordered payments and wind up with a fully paid balance? We have no idea on that one either.

The Rollins v. Rollins file is filled with such legal and financial skulduggery. We are left with this overarching question: Did Ted Rollins' financial clout, from being a card-carrying member in one of America's wealthiest family, help him buy some mighty friendly "justice" in Alabama?

Ted Rollins Contempt Order


Ted Rollins Durward Letter