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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why Do Ex Wives Of Campus Crest CEO Ted Rollins Tend To Issue Warnings About Possible Child Abuse?


Ted Rollins
Birmingham resident Sherry Carroll Rollins did not realize it at the time, but she now says Ted Rollins' first wife tried to warn her that he might abuse her two sons from a previous marriage.

Sherry and Ted Rollins were married for 14 years before their divorce was finalized in 2005, right here in my backyard, Shelby County, Alabama. Ted Rollins grew up in one of the nation's wealthiest families, the folks behind Orkin Pest Control, and he has gone on to become CEO of Campus Crest Communities, a Charlotte-based developer of student housing that has received more than $400 million in Wall Street support.

Public documents reveal that the fears of Monica Bulich, Ted Rollins' first wife, came true. He was convicted in 1995 of assaulting his stepson, Zac Parrish, who was 16 years old at the time. Two years before that, social-services officials in North Carolina investigated Ted Rollins for possible child sexual abuse, based on a citizen complaint.

We do not know what prompted Monica Bulich to warn Sherry Carroll about what might be ahead for her. But we do know about some of what went on during Ted Rollins' second marriage. And in an example of history repeating itself, we know that Sherry Carroll Rollins sent a warning to the woman who would become Mrs. Ted Rollins, No. 3.

What drove Sherry Rollins' concerns? Once her divorce was complete, she knew that Ted Rollins was about to marry a woman named Holly Matheson, from Greenville, South Carolina. And the new woman in Ted Rollins' life had a son, Ethan Matheson, who was about 10 years old. That just happens to have been the age of Zac Parrish when Ted Rollins entered his life.

"Funny how Ted chooses wives with young boys," Sherry Rollins says. "Seems to be a pattern."

Sherry Rollins decided not be silent about her concerns:

I know [Ted] is still doing the same things to someone; just don't know who the victim is. I wrote Holly an anonymous letter when I heard she was marrying Ted. I told her he had abused a young boy, and he would do it again. I sent it to her from Asheville, North Carolina. I don't know what she thought or if she heeded the earning. I fear Ethan was Ted's interest in marrying her. I wonder if Ethan is alright.

Ethan Matheson is the same age as Sarah Rollins, one of two daughters (along with Emma Rollins) that Ted and Sherry Rollins had together. He now is a freshman at Colorado State University, one of the schools that soon will be home to The Grove, the banner under which Campus Crest builds student apartment complexes.

Sherry Rollins says her daughter and Ethan Matheson have become fairly good friends. "Sarah says that Ethan hates Ted and says he is crazy. I wish Zac could talk to Ethan. . . . I wonder if [Ted] has gotten to Ethan."

Did Ethan Matheson become a victim when his mother married Ted Rollins? We do not have a sure answer to that question, but Sherry Rollins provides important history:

Ted got with Holly when Ethan was 8 years old. Ted had met Holly and Ethan, as Ethan was a little boy in Sarah's class at school. He came to our house for Sarah's birthday party, with his mom and dad. We always saw them at school, at events. So when [Sarah, Emma, and I] left Greenville, Ethan was 8 years old. Ted moved in with Holly and Ethan when Ethan was 9 or 10. 
I sent her the letter in 2005, after my divorce--so Ethan was by then 10 years old. I told her I was afraid that Ted might harm him, as he had already done to another boy. I never signed my name and signed it as someone concerned about the safety of her child.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Author Disputes Official Story of 9/11 Terror Attacks, Then Winds Up Dead In the California Desert


9/11 author Phillip Marshall,
with his children
The author of a recent book that questions the official story of 9/11 was found dead earlier this month--along with his teen-age son and daughter and the family dog--at their home in the desert community of Murphys, California.

Authorities concluded that Phillip Marshall and the other victims died on February 2 from a murder-suicide. But a prominent investigative journalist recently visited Calaveras County, spoke to many of Marshall's neighbors and friends, and found powerful reasons to doubt the official finding.

Marshall published The Big Bamboozle: 9/11 and the War on Terror in 2012. But Wayne Madsen, based in Washington, D.C., reports that Marshall was working on a new 9/11 book that might have contributed to his death.

Madsen's full three-part series is available via subscription at Wayne Madsen Reports (WMR). We have received permission to quote from the report. At a post titled "A Black Ops Hit Made to Appear as a Suicide," Madsen writes:

Philip Marshall, the retired United Airlines pilot, 9/11 analysis author, and one-time Iran-contra era associate of CIA/DEA informant Barry Seal, did not shoot his two teen-age children and himself. That is the conclusion of everyone who knew Marshall after he moved to the Sierra Nevadas community of Murphys ten years ago after he sold his home in Santa Barbara. Friends said Marshall was looking for more seclusion. 
Marshall, who believed that the Bush family, allied with Saudi and neo-conservative interests, pulled off the 9/11 attack to engineer a government coup d'etat, was working on a fourth book that promised to reveal some new blockbuster information.

The Santa Barbara View apparently was first to raise questions about Marshall's death. From a February 6 piece titled "Phillip Marshal Wrote About Conspiracies; Was He the Victim of One?"

Former airline pilot Phillip (alternately, “Philip”) Marshall spent a great deal of time around Santa Barbara last year preparing for the release of his controversial 9/11 conspiracy book “The Big Bamboozle: 9/11 and the War on Terror.”

During the editing and pre-marketing process of Marshall’s book, he expressed some degree of paranoia because the nonfiction work accused the George W. Bush administration of being in cahoots with the Saudi intelligence community in training the hijackers who died in the planes used in the attacks.

“Think about this,” Marshall said last year in a written statement, “The official version about some ghost (Osama bin Laden) in some cave on the other side of the world defeating our entire military establishment on U.S. soil is absolutely preposterous.”

Marshall went on to say: “The true reason the attack was successful is because of an inside military stand-down and a coordinated training operation that prepared the hijackers to fly heavy commercial airliners. We have dozens of FBI documents to prove that this flight training was conducted in California, Florida and Arizona in the 18 months leading up to the attack.”

What was the result of Marshall's research on 9/11? Here is how he put it in writing to Santa Barbara View:

“After an exhaustive 10-year study of this lethal attack that used Boeing airliners filled with passengers and fellow crew members as guided missiles, I am 100 percent convinced that a covert team of Saudi intelligence agents was the source of logistical, financial and tactical resources that directed essential flight training to the 9/11 hijackers for 18 months before the attack,” Marshall wrote. “This conclusion was determined six years ago, and all subsequent evidence has only served to confirm this conclusion.”

Marshall was not alone in that assessment. Reports Santa Barbara View:

On March 1, two former U.S. senators, who headed separate 9/11 federal investigations, also raised the possibility of Saudi involvement in the attacks that killed 3,000 people and spurred the global War on Terror. In sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, former senators Bob Graham and Bob Kerrey, who saw top-secret information on the Saudis’ activities, said they believe that the Saudi government played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.

“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of 9/11 victims and others. Graham headed a 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the attacks and has claimed he was muzzled into silence about his committee’s findings in 2002 by former Vice President Dick Cheney and other top members of the Bush intelligence community.

In his own sworn affidavit, Kerrey said “significant questions remain unanswered” about the role of Saudi institutions. “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the (9/11) attacks has never been fully pursued,” Kerrey said in a March 1, 2012, New York Times article.

Madsen's on-site reporting produced a number of reasons to question the murder-suicide finding:

Neighbors and friends of Marshall contradicted a number of Calaveras County Sheriff's Department findings about what they quickly concluded was a murder-suicide by a crazed killer. Furthermore, one close professional colleague of Marshall believed a federal "black ops" team prevailed upon the Sheriff's Department to come up with the rapid murder-suicide explanation.

WMR learned from a local media source in Calaveras County that Sheriff Gary Kuntz is dragging his feet on providing local newspapers with two critical reports: the toxicological report on Marshall's and his son's and daughter's bodies and the GSR (Gunshot Residue) report on the bullets fired from what was reported to be Marshall's 9 mm Glock, which neighbors reported was never loaded.

Where is the Marshall investigation headed? It might be too early to say, but Madsen reports that the official story seems to contain a number of holes:

The Sheriff . . . stated that no gunshots were heard by neighbors on the evening of January 31 or early morning of February 1 because the houses are far apart. In fact, the houses are extremely close together and one neighbor stated she could "hear Phil whistling from inside his house." Police immediately denied that a silencer or other noise suppression device could have been used in the four shootings that included single shots each to Marshall, son Alex, daughter Macaila, and Shih-tzu dog "Suki," the latter found in a bedroom. One neighbor reported hearing an unusual noise during the evening of January 31, a Thursday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Age Difference Might Explain Much of the Ugliness That Led Rollins Divorce To Be A Colossal Cheat Job


Ted Rollin
We have covered the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case mostly in terms of unlawful court rulings, given that Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson issued a final order even though he did not have jurisdiction to hear the case in Alabama.

But Rollins might have become the most flagrant courtroom cheat job I've encountered because of simple numbers--as in those found from a date of birth. And the key numbers are present in an information sheet that Ted Rollins filed with his divorce action against Sherry Carroll Rollins in Alabama. (Document can be viewed at the end of this post.)

Sherry Rollins' date of birth is listed as 5/31/1952. Ted Rollins' date of birth is listed as 9/12/1962. That means she was 39 years old and he was 29 when they got married on December 7, 1991.

Under normal circumstances, none of that information should raise eyebrows. There is nothing unusual or improper about a man being attracted to a woman who is 10 years (or more) older than him. And we feel reasonably certain that Sherry Rollins had no problem attracting the attention of normal guys in a variety of age ranges.

But our research indicates Ted Rollins was not a normal guy, with normal interests--and it's not just because he comes from a family--the people behind Orkin Pest Control--that has abnormal wealth.

Just before she got married to Ted Rollins, Sherry Carroll spoke via telephone with Monica Bulich, who was Ted Rollins' first wife and had been divorced from him a few years earlier. Sherry Rollins says Ms. Bulich made a curious statement that she did not understand at the time. But Ms. Rollins now says she believes it was a warning that Ted Rollins' primary interest might be in her sons from a previous marriage, who were ages 10 and 16.

Here is part of Monica Bulich's message: "I know what he wanted with me; you just have to ask yourself what he wants with you--an older woman with two kids and nothing . . . "

What, by the way, did Ted Rollins want with Monica Bulich? Sherry Rollins says she was told that Ted's parents fixed him up with Monica, knowing she was a bright student who could help him get through graduate school at Duke University. She had an undergraduate degree in biology from Boston College and had worked for the Rollins family as a nanny to the four children (each separated by one year in age) that John Rollins Sr. would have with Michele Rollins. As Sherry Rollins understands it, Monica Bulich wound up doing much of Ted Rollins' graduate work for him, and they eventually got married at Duke Chapel.

What did Ted Rollins want with Sherry Carroll? That is where her age enters the picture. At 39, she was old enough to have one adolescent son and another who was about to enter adolescence. We now know that public documents show Ted Rollins physically abused the youngest boy and was the subject of a social-services investigation for possible child sexual abuse, based on a citizen complaint in North Carolina.

With the power of hindsight, Sherry Rollins says she thinks Monica Bulich saw the abuse coming and tried to warn her. "I think she knew he was after my sons," Ms. Rollins says.

That, Sherry Rollins says, is why Ted Rollins agreed to marry her without a prenuptial agreement, contrary to standard practice in his family. And it probably is why he went to extraordinary lengths--with assistance from his billionaire cousin, Randall Rollins--to ensure she would not receive an equitable share of marital assets that accumulated over 14 years, prior to their divorce in 2005.

Here is a portion of Sherry Rollins' statement to Legal Schnauzer on these matters:

I believe [Ted] knew he was never going to take me seriously as a wife; Zac, Eric, and I were covers to keep his family from wondering if he was normal. His first wife wanted to have children with him desperately; he left her because of it. But he came and found me, with two young sons.

(To be continued)




Monday, February 25, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court's Reputation Sinks Into Toilet With Its Refusal To Review Paul Minor Convictions


Paul Minor
The U.S. Supreme Court announced last week that it would not grant certiorari review in the case of Paul Minor, a former trial lawyer from Mississippi. Citizens who closely followed the Bush v. Gore debacle after the 2000 presidential election already know the high court's reputation is in tatters. Any doubters ought to be convinced by the refusal to consider the Minor convictions, which probably are due to be overturned on at least a dozen grounds.

No. 1 on the list, for purposes of the SCOTUS petition, was that the high court's ruling in a 2010 case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling means the jury instructions in Minor were incorrect, and the convictions no longer rest on good law.

Minor's legal team, led by criminal-justice expert Albert Alschuler, makes a powerful argument to that effect in a 237-page petition filed with the high court. (The full petition can be viewed at the end of this post.) There can be no serious debate that Alschuler is correct, and here is why: Minor and two codefendants--former state judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield--were tried under the federal honest-services fraud statute and convicted on alleged violations of Mississippi state bribery law. But SCOTUS used Skilling v. U.S., 130 S. Ct. 2896 (2010) to establish a uniform national standard in honest-services cases and found that they must be grounded in federal law, not state laws.

Even the government has conceded in briefs and oral arguments that Skilling made the jury instructions in Minor incorrect, and that means the argument for overturning the convictions is about as close to cut and dried as the Supreme Court will ever find. So why did the justices refuse to hear the case? The message to the public seems to be this: "Even though this case was decided by bad law, and both sides agree on that, we simply can't be bothered with it. Next."

Is it any wonder that many Americans have lost faith in once-exalted institutions?

If the rule of law still meant anything in the US of A, the Minor convictions would be overturned on the Skilling issue alone. But Alschuler's petition for certiorari review provides alarming evidence that problems with the Minor case go way beyond that. That evidence reaches the level of frightening when you consider that Whitfield remains in federal prison, and Minor soon will be sent from a Pensacola prison to a halfway house in New Orleans to carry out his term. Teel was released in 2012 after completing his sentence.

Courts that are riddled with corruption and incompetence have ugly consequences for real Americans. Paul Minor, Wes Teel, and John Whitfield have received a graduate education in that fact of postmodern life.

Were these gentlemen convicted in a trial court that was fair, impartial, and firmly grounded in the law? Upon reading Alschuler's petition, a reasonable person can only respond, "Hell, no!" The U.S. Supreme Court, of course, apparently could not be bothered to read the petition.

The most shocking revelations come in pages 8-11, where Alschuler addresses the instructions that U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate gave the jury.

First, Alschuler points out that the instructions included the following language:

. . . you can fix it in your mind that when you see honest services, that you know we are talking about an alleged violation of the bribery laws of the State of Mississippi.

We now know that Skilling made that language an inaccurate statement of the law. In essence, the U.S. Supreme Court's own actions, in Skilling, made those words outdated and unlawful. Will the high court fix the problem on behalf of the Minor defendants--and other citizens who might someday find themselves convicted based on bad law? Nope.

Problems with the jury instructions in Minor go way beyond Skilling-related issues. Alschuler drives that home with this:

The instructions continued, "[T]he government must prove . . . that the particular defendant entered into a corrupt agreement for Paul S. Minor to provide the particular judge with things of value specifically with the intent to influence the action or judgment of the judge. . . ." They added, "To constitute the offense of offering a bribe, there need not be a mutual intent on the part of both the giver and the offeree or accepter of the bribe."

That language is likely to leave even a highly educated person scratching his head. One can only wonder how it affected the average federal juror in Mississippi. To put it bluntly, the instruction makes no frickin' sense--and Alschuler points that out with this not-so-subtle statement:

The court made no effort to reconcile its statement that an agreement was necessary with its statement that no mutual intent was required.

How do two people reach an agreement without having mutual intent? God only knows. But we send citizens to prison based on jury instructions such as these. And we have appellate courts and a Supreme Court that let it happen.

In a rare example of a lawyer communicating candidly about the ineptness of a federal court, Alschuler writes on page 26 of his petition:

". . . the district court's direction was cast in extraordinarily confusing language. It is virtually impossible to divine the instruction's meaning, but it appears to require an agreement between two people about what one of them will later intend. . . . The jurors could only have thrown up their hands."

No serious individual could argue, either before or after Skilling, that the Paul Minor case was correctly decided; even the government doesn't argue that. And yet, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the honest-services convictions, and the U.S. Supreme Court washed its hands of the matter. It all is one more sign that Americans should have no confidence in their justice system.

SCOTUS, in essence, is sending this message: "Welcome to the 'wild, wild West' of American justice. It's the environment we have, and it now bears our stamp of approval. If some of you decide to take matters of justice into your own hands, have at it--and good luck."




Friday, February 22, 2013

Alabama Anti-Gambling Activist Faces Tax Burden, Thanks to Money Flow From Riley To Hubbard


A. Eric Johnston
One of Alabama's most prominent anti-gambling activists could face a substantial tax burden because about $1 million in campaign contributions were routed through his non-profit organization to companies owned by House Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn), sources tell Legal Schnauzer.

A. Eric Johnston, director of Citizens for a Better Alabama (CBA), says former Governor Bob Riley funneled the money through CBA to two companies owned by Hubbard, a long-time Riley ally. That revelation came in a report yesterday from Bill Britt at Alabama Political Reporter.

Britt hints at a rift between Johnston and his "pro family" organization on the one hand, with Riley and Hubbard on the other--even though all have been seen as prominent conservative voices against gambling.

The source of the rift is not clear from Britt's article. But our sources say Johnston's group might lose its tax-exempt status because it accepted funds that wound up with Hubbard's companies. That could leave Johnston with a sizable bill from the IRS, one he did not see coming. "People in Montgomery know that Eric Johnston is sweating," one source says.

Did Riley and Hubbard combine to double cross Johnston, exposing him to major tax liability? Britt's article hints at that:

How did then-Governor Bob Riley and Chairman of the ALGOP Mike Hubbard route almost a million dollars in Republican campaign contributions through a nonprofit and back to a Hubbard owned company?

“Someone from the governor’s [Bob Riley’s] office would call and say you’re getting a check for $200,000 and you’re going to get a bill at the same time from [Mike] Hubbard’s deal and you need to pay that, that is what that money is for.”

Those are the words of A. Eric Johnston a Birmingham-based attorney and anti-gambling advocate who explains the operational relationship between Bob Riley, Mike Hubbard and his 501c(4), Citizens for a Better Alabama.

Mike Hubbard was the politician who was supposed to bring honest government to Alabama? Sure doesn't sound like it from Britt's article:

The picture Johnston paints appears to be a brazen orchestration of campaign funds by a sitting governor to benefit his most faithful ally, Mike Hubbard.

Citizens for Better Alabama (CBA) was a Birmingham-based, tax-exempt group that was the public face of opposition to Sweet Home Alabama, and to shut down legal casinos operated at VictoryLand and Country Crossings. According to archived versions of its website, the CBA – run by A. Eric Johnston – has “been an advocate for the family since 1991.”

How did Johnston get into a potential tax mess? It appears he made the mistake of trusting Bob Riley:

Johnston said he had been fighting gambling for years without much help. “We really never had a knight on a white horse. . . . We just had to fight it in legislature and kill the bills.”
But according to Johnston in the last year of Bob Riley’s last term as governor that all change when the governor decided to fight gambling in the state.

According to Johnston, when Riley became interested in ridding the state of bingo gambling he was contacted by the Governor who said he wanted to help Johnston raise money.

“I don’t know why he [Riley] decided to do it [fight gambling] other than it was a propitious time to do it,” said Johnston. “Whatever he was doing was good. He was stopping illegal gambling.”

Riley's actions might not turn to be so good for Johnston's wallet. Here's why:

At the time it seemed that Johnston had found his white knight. But there was a problem, rather than making a partnership with a crusading knight, it seems Johnston had unknowingly entered into a potential devil’s bargain.

After aligning with Riley and Hubbard in 2010, CBA raised and spent over $1 million after never taking in over $50,000 in a year ever before.

Based on 2010 campaign finance and other records, the CBA was a crucial conduit for passing campaign cash through the 501c(4) into a potentially lucrative aspect of Mike Hubbard’s financial bottom-line. . . . 
Johnston said the money that his organization received was almost entirely for advertising, he said, “Mike was in that business and I thought it appropriate for him to handle it.”

Who was behind this financial shell game? Johnston points a finger squarely at Bob Riley. From Britt's report:

Money was being directed by Bob Riley, who told the head of the 501c(4) how the money was to be spent. Not just the large amounts but even the so-called small donations. “I would be informed by the governor’s office that I would be getting a check for 2 or 3 thousand dollars and we would have ad bills that cost that much,” said Johnston, “and that money would be for those bills.”

According to Johnston, “We ran a zero balance campaign. Whatever money came in was spent, a lot of it was coordinated through Mike Hubbard’s company.”

The Britt article references tax issues, but their implications are not clear:

Johnston supplied “Alabama Political Reporter” with a copy of CBA’s 990 IRS fillings. However, the document we received is different than the one that Johnston filed with the IRS, according to a comparison on Guide Star.

On the 990 fillings, Johnston does not itemize the over $700,000 he received from Hubbard’s Network PAC and Bob Riley’s Gov PAC. The rest of the money primarily originated with longtime big-money Bob Riley donors. Johnston, as the sole member of CBA, said, “I didn’t raise any money.”

I didn't raise any money? That sounds like the words of a man who is trying to say, "They should pay the IRS bill, not me."

That's exactly what is happening, our sources say. And Britt's report raises all sorts of questions. Did the Riley/Hubbard/Johnston scheme violate tax laws, campaign-finance laws? Did donors know their campaign contributions were going to Mike Hubbard's companies? Could this constitute fraud, money laundering, or other criminal acts under state and/or federal laws? Could Eric Johnston wind up serving as a witness against Riley and Hubbard?

As a way to unruffle feathers, and fend off a potential investigation, will Bob Riley's big-money donors bail Johnston out of a jam? Based on what I've been told from individuals familiar with Riley's business practices, Johnston probably shouldn't count on it.

Meanwhile, the CBA director might want to visit an emergency room to have his back checked for knife wounds--right between the shoulder blades.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Documents Related To AG's Raid At VictoryLand Prove Luther Strange Trampled All Over The Law


Raid at VictoryLand
Attorney General Luther Strange makes the extraordinary assertion in documents related to this week's VictoryLand raid that an Alabama circuit judge has no discretion in the issuance of a search warrant, as long as the application is presented in the proper form.

If the application adheres to certain technical requirements, Strange claims, a circuit judge must approve the search warrant. That was the attorney general's primary argument in seeking a writ of mandamus that would force a Macon County judge to approve the warrant. The Alabama Supreme Court apparently agreed because it issued the writ, ordering Judge Thomas Young to sign off on the search.

The high court unsealed documents in the case yesterday, and the Montgomery Advertiser posted them to its Web site last night. A review of the documents shows that, as we suggested in a post yesterday, Strange and the Alabama Supreme Court trampled legal procedure and precedent in their haste to shut down VictoryLand's electronic-bingo operation.

Most stunning was Strange's claim that a circuit judge essentially must play the role of rubber stamp when law-enforcement officials present him with a search-warrant application that meets minimum technical requirements. In such a situation, Strange suggests, a judge has no authority to determine if the contents of the application show "probable cause" to believe a crime has been committed.

In Luther Strange's world, a judge is supposed to sign any form that law enforcement places before him--as long as all the boxes are properly filled in. Strange must not be familiar with the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guards against searches and seizures that are not judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause.

With the apparent intention of proving that the U.S. Constitution does not apply in Alabama, Strange turns in his petition to Rule 3.9 of the Alabama Rules of Criminal Procedure and to Code of Alabama 15-5-5. He claims that both prove Judge Young had a mandatory duty to approve the search warrant at  VictoryLand. On page 13 of his petition for a writ of mandamus, Strange titles the key section "The trial court has an imperative duty to issue the warrant, and the State has a clear right to the issuance of the warrant."

Unfortunately for the attorney general, his citations to law do not say what he wants them to say. In fact, upon close reading, Strange's own petition undercuts his argument. The two sections of Alabama law that Strange cites essentially say the same thing--and the heart of it is this, taken from the rules of criminal procedure:

If the judge or magistrate is satisfied that probable cause to believe that grounds for the application exists, the judge or magistrate, in the case of a warrant issued on affidavit, shall issue a warrant naming or describing the person and particularly describing the property and the place to be searched.

Strange claims that use of the word "shall" means that issuance of the warrant is mandatory. But the clear language of the full rule shows a warrant "shall" issue only when a judge or magistrate is "satisfied that probable cause . . . exists."

Reaching into the way-back machine, Strange pulls out a case from 1899--Benners v. State, 26 So. 942 (Ala., 1899)--for the proposition that a judge has a duty to approve a warrant application that is "regular in form, and full in substance."

Benners is so old that we can't find it on the Web, but Strange makes no showing in his petition that the ancient state case precludes a judge from fulfilling his Fourth Amendment duty to make a determination on probable cause. Even Strange seems to acknowledge this when he writes:

As the Benners decision shows, it has long been the law of this State that when a circuit court is confronted with an affidavit from the State establishing probable cause to issue a warrant, the court has no discretion to decline to issue the warrant.

This is a poor attempt at legal hocus pocus. Strange claims, on the one hand, that a judge "has no discretion to decline to issue the warrant." But he admits that comes only after the judge is "confronted with an affidavit from the State establishing probable cause."

Despite much huffing and puffing, Strange concedes Judge Young had the discretion to determine whether the attorney general's office had met the requirements for probable cause--and the judge decided in the negative.

In a letter responding to Strange's petition, Judge Young says he denied the search warrant application for two primary reasons:

* Another law-enforcement officer, the sheriff of Macon County, had found the machines to be legal;

* The attorney general, if convinced that the bingo machines were illegal, could exercise his "plain view" authority to take action against VictoryLand.

The Petitioner, in essence, is asking this Court to sign an Order declaring these machines to be illegal, when there has been no such decision on this issue by any Court. If these machines were of such an illegal nature, as cited in the extensive briefs of the Attorney General, then why does the Attorney General need a warrant? This business is for public invitees and a search warrant would not be required if these machines were in plain sight and illegal.

Judge Young concludes with this big-picture statement:

The Fourth Amendment is sacred and should not be the subject of political agendas of Governors, Task Force(s), Attorney Generals or multi-million dollar industries. No Judge would issue a search warrant in any case under the aforementioned circumstances because of lack of probable cause establishing illegal activity nor should said Judges be ordered to do so.

Finally, Young made his feelings clear in a handwritten note at the bottom of the search warrant he was forced to approve. The warrant can be viewed at the end of this post, but here is how Young's note reads:

Based on the conflict in information known to this court at this time, I do not believe that this application for a search warrant provides sufficient probable cause. One month ago, based on this information, I declined to issue the warrant and the Criminal Court of Appeals supported the decision when they denied the Attorney General's first writ of mandamus, by unanimous decision. No new information has been provided to this date. The Supreme Court has now issued to this Court a Writ of Mandamus requiring the Court to sign the same warrant, despite this Court's opinion that it is improper according to the law. This Court will, as always, follow the mandates of the Supreme Court, although, it does so with the greatest judicial reluctance.

Documents in the VictoryLand matter make it clear that Strange disagreed with Judge Young's ruling--and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals' ruling that unanimously upheld it. Strange is entitled to disagree and seek redress. But his contention that Young did not have discretion to make the ruling is preposterous.

That the Alabama Supreme Court apparently agreed with such a flagrantly unconstitutional notion should frighten everyone living within the borders of this state.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Did AG Luther Strange and Alabama Supreme Court Skirt The Law In Launching A Raid At VictoryLand?


Roadblocks go up at VictoryLand
Did Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange follow proper procedures in seeking a search warrant, which was executed yesterday morning, for the VictoryLand casino in Macon County?

Did the Alabama Supreme Court follow established law in ordering that the search warrant move forward?

Did Strange have valid grounds for filing a lawsuit, announced yesterday, with the aim of shutting down casinos operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians?

The answer to all three questions, based on our initial research, appears to be no. In light of yesterday's events, can Alabamians cite reasons to have faith in our chief law-enforcement officer and our highest court? I can't think of any.

According to press reports, Strange first sought a search warrant via Macon County Circuit Court, and his petition was denied due to lack of probable cause. He then sought an order through the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals that would force the Macon County court to issue the warrant--and that, too,  was denied. Finally, the Alabama Supreme Court gave Strange what he wanted, forcing Macon County Circuit Judge Tom Young to issue the search warrant.

How did that happen? Strange sought an interlocutory order called a writ of mandamus, which is deemed under Alabama law an "extraordinary writ" that is to be issued only under limited circumstances. If granted, a writ of mandamus means a high court essentially tells a lower court, "You must take this action--now."

The procedure for seeking such a writ is governed by Rule 21 of the Alabama Rules of Appellate Procedure, and two provisions seem particularly pertinent to the VictoryLand issue. Rule 21(a)(1) states:

Application for a writ of mandamus or of prohibition directed to a judge or judges shall be made by filing a petition with the clerk of the appellate court having jurisdiction thereof with certificate of service on the respondent judge or judges and on all parties to the action in the trial court.

VictoryLand appears to qualify as a party to the action, and that means it should have been served with a copy of the petition. Did that happen in this case? We've seen nothing in press reports that indicates it did.

More about the procedure governing a writ of mandamus is found at Rule 21(b):

If the court is of the opinion that the writ should not be granted, it shall deny the petition. Otherwise, it shall order that an answer to the petition be filed by the respondents within the time fixed by the order. . . . The clerk shall advise the parties of the dates on which briefs are to be filed, if briefs are required, and of the date of oral argument. The proceeding shall be given preference over ordinary civil cases.

Was VictoryLand given an opportunity to file an answer to Strange's petition? Was it given an opportunity to file briefs or engage in oral argument? We've seen no signs that it was. VictoryLand's rights appear to have been short-circuited in a unilateral process that is contrary to law.

Did the Alabama Supreme Court have grounds for granting Strange's petition? If so, we can't find them.

Denial of a search warrant is a proper subject for a mandamus petition. Ex Parte State of Alabama (In Re: State of Alabama v. A.R.C. (2003). But a high court is required to exercise considerable restraint in considering such a request. The general rule is as follows:

"Mandamus is a drastic and extraordinary writ to be issued only where there is a clear, legal right in the petitioner to the order sought; only where there is an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; only where there is a lack of another adequate remedy; and only where there is properly invoked jurisdiction of the court. Ex parte Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union, 477 So. 2d 379 (Ala. 1985)."

Did Luther Strange have "a clear, legal right" to a search warrant for VictoryLand? The circuit judge in Macon County did not think so, and a high court is to override him only under "drastic and extraordinary" circumstances. Case law makes it clear that a high court, on a mandamus petition, is not to substitute its judgment for that of a lower court:

Generally, the writ will not be used to control or review discretionary acts by a lower court. Ex parte Edwards, 20 Ala.App. 567, 568, 104 So. 53, 54 (1925).

The Alabama Supreme Court has enumerated a very few exceptions to this rule, and none of them appears to apply to the VictoryLand matter, especially in light of this overriding principle:

We state again that only the rarest of circumstances merit intervention by mandamus. . . . We also point out that circumstances involving alleged errors of judgment, or errors in the exercise of judicial discretion, would not constitute grounds for invoking supervisory mandamus. Ex parte Nice, 407 So.2d 874 (Ala., 1981)

We have not been able to review all of the documents in the VictoryLand petition, but Strange almost had to be claiming that the trial court made an error in judgment or in the exercise of judicial discretion. If that was the case, the Alabama Supreme Court had no lawful grounds for granting the petition.

As for Strange's lawsuit involving the Poarch Creek Indians, it can only be for show, distraction, or both.  The Poarch Creeks are a federally recognized Indian tribe, operating as a sovereign nation with its own system of government and bylaws. And yet, Strange filed the case in state court.

How does Luther Strange figure that the State of Alabama has jurisdiction over the Poarch Creek Indians? That one is a head scratcher. Is it coincidence that Strange issued a press release on the Poarch Creek lawsuit on the same day he conducted a raid at VictoryLand? Probably not. One event apparently provided a smokescreen for the other.

What's a reasonable Alabamian to think? Well, our state has a "proud heritage" of electing public officials who are thugs, phonies, charlatans, or buffoons. Luther Strange seems determined to prove that he fits in all four categories.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ex Wife of CEO Ted Rollins Might Have Been Warned That She Was About To Marry A Child Predator


Ted Rollins
Sherry Carroll Rollins did not realize it at the time, but she probably received a warning that her husband-to-be might be a child molester.

She was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, with Ted Rollins, and they soon would be married. That's when the strange words came via a phone call from Monica Bulich, the woman who had been married to Ted Rollins previously.

Sherry Rollins did not pick up on what she now believes was a warning that Ted Rollins' main interest was not her, but her two young sons from a previous marriage. She now believes that is why Ted Rollins was willing to marry her without a prenuptial agreement. And the lack of a prenup probably explains why Ted Rollins went to extraordinary lengths in the Rollins v. Rollins divorce case to ensure that Sherry Rollins would receive almost nothing from the marital assets, even though she was entitled to an equitable share under the law.

The Rollinses wound up having a tumultuous 14-year marriage that ended with a divorce in 2005. Dissolution of the marriage came in Shelby County, Alabama, even though Sherry Rollins had initiated the proceedings in Greenville, South Carolina, where the family lived, and the case was litigated there for three years. Shelby County Circuit Judge D. Al Crowson did not have jurisdiction to hear the case, but he took it anyway and issued a judgment that was outlandishly favorable to Ted Rollins.

Court records strongly suggest that someone unlawfully paid Crowson under the table to issue a bogus divorce decree, leading to the worst courtroom cheat job I've encountered in the civil arena.

The unlawful outcome of Rollins v. Rollins becomes even more alarming when you consider that Ted Rollins, who belongs to one of the nation's wealthiest family, now is CEO of Campus Crest Communities. That company builds student housing near public universities around the country and has received more than $400 million in Wall Street backing. Ted Rollins' chief market is young people and their parents--even though he has a documented history of abusing young people.

Monica Bulich's words become prophetic when you realize that the Rollins marriage was marked by documented physical abuse of at least one of Sherry Rollins' sons. And Ms. Rollins has told Legal Schnauzer that she now believes her ex husband abused both of her sons.

It's undisputed that Ted Rollins was convicted in 1995 for assaulting his youngest stepson, Zac Parrish, who was 16 years old at the time. It's also undisputed that, two years earlier, North Carolina social services investigated Ted Rollins for child sexual abuse of the same stepson, based on a citizen complaint.

Did Monica Bulich, Ted Rollins' first wife, see this coming? Sherry Rollins now says she thinks the answer is yes.

These thoughts came to light when Ms. Rollins told me about a proposed prenuptial agreement that a family lawyer sent via fax the night before she and Ted Rollins were to leave for their wedding. The proposed prenup contained a number of extraordinary provisions--and it surfaced late, with no opportunity for negotiations--so Ms. Rollins refused to sign.

Here is how she recalls that moment, in a statement to Legal Schnauzer:

I remember when I read the prenup, I thought it was odd that he wanted control over my health care, and general power of attorney over me to sign any document for me. Had I realized and taken the time back then I would have realized the whole marriage was a trap. 
I remembered once again Monica Bulich's words on the phone to me when I was living with Ted in Charlottesville: "I know what he wanted with me; you just have to ask yourself what he wants with you . . . an older woman with two kids and nothing. . . ."

Sherry Rollins found those words confusing at the time. But they are not so confusing anymore:

I think she knew he was gay or bi. I think she knew he was after my sons. Wish I could talk to her now that she is much older; she must be 50 by now. I wonder if she could shed some light on her life with [Ted].

Sherry Rollins probably was off target on the science of child molestation. Studies tend to show that gay and bisexual men are no more likely than heterosexuals to molest boys. That means Ted Rollins' sexual orientation probably was not a factor in interactions with his stepsons. A report from the University of California at Davis puts it this way:

The distinction between a victim's gender and a perpetrator's sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don't really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children--boys, girls, or children of both sexes.

Researchers label some offenders as "fixated" because their interest is almost exclusively in children. Others are termed "regressed" because they have attained some level of mature sexual expression, but return to primitive forms under certain conditions. Extreme stress, for example, can lead them to return to return to an earlier, less mature psychological state and engage in sexual contact with children. From the UC Davis report:

The important point is that many child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals (in the usual sense of those terms) because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age. These individuals--who are often characterized as fixated--are attracted to children, not to men or women.

The American Psychological Association put it this way, in a 2001 report:

Studies on who commits child sexual abuse vary in their findings, but the most common finding is that the majority of sexual offenders are family members or are otherwise known to the child. Sexual abuse by strangers is not nearly as common as sexual abuse by family members.

Research further shows that men perpetrate most instances of sexual abuse, but there are cases in which women are the offenders.

Despite a common myth, homosexual men are not more likely to sexually abuse children than heterosexual men are.

Sherry Rollins might not have the science quite right--and she is not alone in that--but she clearly wishes now that she had understood what Monica Bulich was trying to tell her. She also wonders what Ms. Bulich saw or heard that led her to speak up.

This much is certain: Sherry Rollins saw and heard a lot during her 14-year marriage to Ted Rollins. In a case of history repeating itself, she also passed along a warning about his behavior.

(To be continued)

Monday, February 18, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Must Face A Comedy Of Errors In Considering A Review Of The Paul Minor Case

Paul Minor

How entrenched is the rot in our federal judiciary? How grotesque is the corruption and incompetence in U.S. courtrooms?

Those questions perhaps can best be answered by reviewing the Bush-era Paul Minor prosecution in Mississippi. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) now is considering a petition to review the Minor case and overturn the convictions of three men who went to federal prison for crimes they did not commit--in fact, for "crimes" that do not exist under federal law.

A decision on whether to review Paul S. Minor v. United States of America is expected any day from the high court. (The petition for certiorari review can be viewed at the end of this post.) If SCOTUS refuses to review Minor, it will be giving tacit approval to the current dysfunctional state of our federal justice system. The situation is particularly dire in the Fifth Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit, which stretch across the Deep South from Florida to Texas.

The Eleventh Circuit (Florida, Georgia, Alabama) is based in Atlanta, and its three-judge panel of right-wing nominees butchered the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The Fifth Circuit (Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas) is based in New Orleans, and it performed a similar hatchet job on the Minor case.

Portions of the certiorari brief in Minor describe the Fifth Circuit's actions in almost comedic terms. In fact, the appellate court's handling of the case would be downright laughable--if the stakes were not so high. Two citizens, former attorney Paul Minor and former state judge John Whitfield, currently reside in federal prisons because of convictions that are not supported by fact or law. A third defendant, former state judge Wes Teel, was released in 2012 after serving his sentence. A fourth defendant, former state judge Oliver Diaz, was forced to endure two trials before being acquitted both times.

Here is the gist of Minor's argument before SCOTUS: The bribery convictions already have been overturned, but the Fifth Circuit upheld honest-services fraud convictions; that ruling was incorrect based on the trial-court record, but it becomes doubly wrong in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in a 2010 case involving former Enron executive Jeffrey Skilling. The high court found in Skilling that the honest-services statute applies only in cases involving bribes and kickbacks. The high court also used Skilling to establish a uniform national standard for honest-services fraud.

And that brings us to one of many oddities in Minor. At the time the case went to trial, the federal circuits were divided on the role alleged state-law violations play in prosecutions under the honest-services statute. In the Fifth Circuit, proof of a state-law violation was an indispensable element of the crime, under a case styled U.S. v. Brumley, 116 F. 3d 728 (5th Cir., 1997). In other circuits state law was irrelevant.

That was a problem because state bribery laws, for example, vary wildly. In fact, they vary wildly just among the three states that make up the Fifth Circuit. At the time of the Minor trial, a defendant could be found guilty of a federal crime, based on a state-law violation in Mississippi, while the same behavior would not allow for conviction next door in Louisiana.

One outcome of Skilling is that SCOTUS cleaned up this mess and established a uniform national standard for honest-services violations, drawing on federal statutes and not state laws.

And that is where comedy enters the picture. When Minor was argued before the Fifth Circuit, post Skilling, even the government conceded the new opinion had radically changed the playing field, meaning the trial-court's jury instructions now were incorrect. But the Fifth Circuit upheld the convictions anyway?

Albert Alschuler, the criminal-justice expert who prepared the pending Minor petition, seems baffled by that one. This is from page 5 of the Minor petition for certiorari:

The Fifth Circuit's error was especially egregious because the government expressly and repeatedly waived any claim that the district court's instructions were correct. Prior to Skilling, Minor sought interlocutory review of a Fifth Circuit decision affirming some of his convictions and reversing others. After he filed his petition but before the government responded, this Court decided Skilling. Citing Skilling, the government then declared, "The [district] court's reliance on state law was incorrect because the honest-services statute 'establish[es] a uniform national standard.'"

The government went on to acknowledge that the instructional error was "plain." But that still was not enough for the Fifth Circuit to overturn clearly wrongful convictions. Alschuler adds this in his brief, perhaps to drive home the absurdity:

The government made the same concession in its brief to the Fifth Circuit. It did so again in oral argument, even after a panel member declared that she was "sort of appalled" by the government's concession.

Yes, a member of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals said she was "sort of appalled" because the government admitted a point of law that was beyond dispute. That's what passes for "jurisprudence" in postmodern federal courts.

The jury instructions at the Minor trial were hopelessly incorrect, on multiple grounds, long before Skilling came down. But the latest standard makes them even more wildly off target.

How goofy were the Minor jury instructions? The current petition before SCOTUS shines considerable light on that question. And that's where the comedy of errors continues.

(To be continued)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The University of Alabama Board Is Led By A Thug, So Why Shouldn't Football Players Act Like Thugs?


(Clockwise, from upper left) UA
football players Brent Calloway, Tyler
Hayes, Eddie Williams, and
D.J. Pettway
The University of Alabama football program today is splashed across the nation's sports pages--for all of the wrong reasons. But we really should not be surprised.

Four Crimson Tide football players have been arrested and suspended in connection with the beating and robbery of a fellow student. My initial reaction to the news probably was similar to that of many sports fans. It went something like this: "Those players are a disgrace, and they should be ejected from the campus immediately."

But then it occurred to me: Why should football players, some of whom probably are from disadvantaged backgrounds, be held to a higher standard than the president of the university's board of trustees?

I'm talking about Paul Bryant Jr., who sits atop the body that governs the three-campus UA System. As we have reported in a series of posts here at Legal Schnauzer, Bryant has documented ties to a $15-million insurance-fraud scheme. In 1997, a Philadelphia lawyer and entrepreneur named Allen W. Stewart was convicted on a variety of charges and received a 15-year prison sentence. He only recently was granted freedom.

Alabama Reassurance, one of Bryant's Tuscaloosa-based companies under the Greene Group umbrella, was implicated in the scheme. (See document at the end of this post.) Federal investigators were set to target Alabama Re after the Stewart conviction, but someone in the U.S. attorneys office for the Northern District of Alabama called off the probe.

G. Douglas Jones, a Clinton appointee and University of Alabama graduate, served as U.S. attorney at the time. Jones now is a lawyer at the Birmingham firm Haskell Slaughter and has refused on multiple occasions to answer our questions about the canceled Alabama Re investigation.

Paul Bryant Jr.
Powerful evidence suggests that Bryant Jr. and his business associates avoided federal prison terms only because of their ties to our state's white legal establishment. How did Bryant gain such exalted status? Well, it surely helped that his father, the late Paul "Bear" Bryant, was Alabama's Hall of Fame football coach. It also probably helped that, according to published reports, Bryant Jr. is a millionaire many times over.

Will the accused Crimson Tide football players receive the same considerations that were afforded to the man who now leads their university? It doesn't look like it; a large legal hammer appears set to come down upon them.

Is that partly because all four players--Eddie Williams, Tyler Hayes, D.J. Pettway, and Brent Calloway--are black? A reasonable person could come to that conclusion.

The victim of the attack surely wants the players prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law--and it looks like that will happen. The public probably supports swift and sure punishment--and that is understandable.

But before we rush to judgment on four UA freshmen, perhaps we should at least consider what Paul Bryant Jr. has gotten away with--and why he got away with it.

Joe Biden Provides Hope That Obama White House Finally Will Get Serious About The Siegelman Case


Dana Siegelman on HuffPost Live
The Obama administration's performance on justice issues has been dismal so far, but Vice President Joe Biden recently provided a glimmer of hope that the White House might be starting to get serious. And that could have an impact on the case of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, which generally is seen as the most blatant political prosecution in U.S. history.

Biden recently told Dana Siegelman, Don's father, that he supports freedom for her father, according to a new report from Huffington Post. Dana Siegelman is the driving force behind free-don.org, an online-petition Web site devoted to seeking a presidential pardon for her father.

How did Joe Biden enter the picture? Well, it happened because Dana Siegelman is an articulate, aggressive spokesperson for justice--and she crossed paths with the vice president at a Washington, D.C., meeting of Democratic party chairs on the day after inauguration. Lindsay Wilkes-Edrington, of Huffington Post, describes the encounter:

Siegelman's daughter Dana recently spoke to HuffPost Live about the fight to free her father, who is currently being held on bribery charges despite a six-year battle to overturn his conviction. Siegelman discussed an encounter she had with Biden during a meeting of the Democratic party chairs in Washington D.C.

"I was able to sneak up and shake his hand, I held it tight and told him I was on a mission to free my dad," she told HuffPost Live. "His eyes got very big and he generally announced to the people around me, and to me, 'I am too.'"

Dana Siegelman said Biden's words "meant the world" to her and seemed to indicate that the White House is aware that the Department of Justice hasn't been doing a thorough job.

So we finally know that someone in a high place is aware that the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder is performing poorly? Can we get an "Amen"?

Former Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith appeared with Dana Siegelman on an episode of HuffPost Live. Griffith said former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove had "his hands all over" the Siegelman case. Griffith also said that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, who presided over the trial, was not qualified to sit on the federal bench and clearly should have recused himself from the Siegelman case.

A direct link to the HuffPost Live segment is available here.

Don Siegelman is a long way from being out of the woods, and his daughter acknowledges that politics remains a tricky part of the equation:

Dana Siegelman told HuffPost Live that she thinks politics continue to play a role in why her father remains in prison.

"The president is aware he has to work with Congress over the next four years," she said. "The last thing he wants is a kickback from overturning a lot of these Bush appointees that are still there. I believe only 30 percentage of the Department of Justice has been replaced with Obama appointees. So you still have 70 percent. We don't know if they're pledging allegiance to the former president or not, but it is disheartening to see people who 10 years ago approved the prosecution against my father being the same ones denying his freedom now."

Joe Biden has been known to be a verbal loose cannon. He even has been known to draw the ire of Obama advisers for speaking off script. But the vice president is on target in this case. He finally is showing that the White House has a sense of moral authority, and Obama would be wise to follow suit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New UAB President Ray Watts Must Confront Moral Decay That His Predecessors Allowed to Flourish


Ray Watts

Dr. Ray Watts officially was named president last week of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the largest employer in our state and the No. 1 driver of economic activity in the metro area. Watts had been dean of the UAB School of Medicine before taking over for Carol Garrison, who abruptly and mysteriously resigned last August.

What challenges does Watts face in his new role? As a former UAB employee, with almost 20 years of service, I have a few thoughts on that question. And I decided to share them in an open letter to the school's new chief executive.

February 12, 2013 
Dear Dr. Watts: 
I used to think being president of UAB would be a pretty cool job. I became an admirer of the university quickly after moving to Birmingham from Missouri in 1978. I covered the early years of the Blazers athletics program under Gene Bartow for the now-defunct Birmingham Post-Herald and went on to work at the university in a variety of editorial position for almost 20 years. My employment came to an end in May 2008 when I was unlawfully terminated from my job by various forces under your predecessor, Carol Garrison. 
That experience taught me a number of inconvenient truths about UAB that I wish I had never known. And it's why I do not envy you in the task that lies ahead. 
The cold truth is that Garrison's reign was not just unpleasant for me; it was an unmitigated disaster for UAB as a whole. I chronicled some of the malfeasance and incompetence that took place on her watch in a post titled "UAB Dysfunction Doesn't Happen in a Vacuum." 
Perhaps Garrison's greatest failing was that she allowed a culture of fraud to take over the campus. The place is riddled with liars, cheats, and other bad actors. I submit that your No. 1 task will be to root out moral decay and restore a sense of integrity on the Southside. 
Am I overstating the problem? Well, consider a couple of examples from my own experience. 
Evidence at my grievance hearing showed there were no grounds for discipline of any kind, much less immediate termination. In fact, UAB's own committee found I should not have been terminated. But Garrison upheld the termination anyway. Indisputable evidence shows I was fired not because of any misconduct or performance issues on my part, but because I was reporting on this blog (on my own time, with my own resources) about the political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman--and that apparently was a hot topic that was not to be publicly discussed, even though I had a First Amendment right to do so. 
Am I imagining all of this? Not in the least. A UAB human-resources official admitted to me in a tape-recorded phone conversation that I was targeted because of my reporting on the Siegelman case. You can hear the conversation in a video at the end of this post. 
Here is where we get to moral decay, and it's apparent in an employment lawsuit I filed against the UA Board of Trustees and various individuals at UAB: The same woman who admitted I was targeted because of the reporting on the Siegelman case, denied in an affidavit that I was terminated because of my blog. At least four other UAB employees who had reason to know the truth made similar untruthful statements under oath. As I'm sure you know, their actions amount to perjury, which is a felony. 
The ugliness does not end there. William M. Acker Jr., an 85-year-old federal judge in Birmingham, granted summary judgment without giving me an opportunity to conduct discovery. That cannot be done under the law, and everyone with three days of law school knows it. How gross is Acker's misconduct? It would be the equivalent of a doctor giving a patient strychnine instead of aspirin. 
But why should this concern you? Individuals in the UAB Office of Counsel, led by John Daniel and Lisa Huggins, have to know that Acker ruled unlawfully in a way that benefits the university. In fact, a strong argument can be made that Acker engaged in criminal conduct, and this is spelled out at 18 U.S.C. 242 ("Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law") and a 1997 U.S. Supreme Court case styled United States v. Lanier
Did Daniel and Huggins knowingly engage in a conspiracy to violate Section 242 on UAB's behalf? If so, they and the university could have serious problems on their hands.
If you are like most medical folks I've met at UAB, your primary concerns center around biomedical research funding and revenue from patient care. But you have inherited a situation that involves criminal conduct on the part of UAB personnel, and you would be wise not to ignore it. 
Carol Garrison was like a lax parent who allowed 5 year olds to play with matches. You didn't create this situation, but it's your responsibility now. If you don't handle it properly, you might find flames--and the law--licking at your heels. 
UAB desperately needs new leadership. Garrison was preceded by two other failed presidents--W. Ann Reynolds and J. Claude Bennett. That means UAB has been running in place, at best, for more than 15 years. 
You clearly are a man of strong scientific credentials. But your presidency probably will be judged by your ability to restore integrity to UAB. Consider this quote from Theodore Roosevelt: 
"Unless a man is honest we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity; it hardly matters how great his power of doing good service on certain lines may be. . . . No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community.
I hope you will take those words to heart. I also hope you will prove to be the president that gets UAB back on the right track.

Sincerely,

Roger Shuler (aka "Legal Schnauzer")

Here is direct evidence of the moral decay that has become rampant at UAB:


Radio Veteran Explains Why Rush Limbaugh and Co. Have Come To Drown Out Liberal Voices On The Dial

Peter B. Collins

Why is talk radio dominated by right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh? Why have progressive voices largely failed to gain traction on the radio dial? What does it mean for our country when the federal airwaves are used to trumpet one viewpoint?

Peter B. Collins, who has more than 40 years of experience in radio, answers those questions and more in an insightful Truthout piece titled "An Insider's View of the Progressive Talk Radio Devolution."

I've been a guest on Peter B's San Francisco-based radio program many times, usually to discuss events related to the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. I consider Peter B. a friend, but he also is a sharp and courageous progressive, a compelling interviewer, and a darned good writer.

His Truthout piece provides the most concise explanation I've seen of the challenges liberal voices face in the world of talk radio. Peter B. is blunt enough to state that progressives, at times, have been their own worst enemies; some of their talk-radio wounds have been self-inflicted.

Recent events make the outlook even more grim than usual for progressive talk radio. Key outlets in Portland, Seattle, and Detroit have been lost--and that threatens the financial viability of syndicated shows hosted by Thom Hartmann, Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, and others.

How did we get here? Peter B. provides a brief history lesson and notes that we have both the Reagan and Clinton administrations to "thank":

Since the rise of Rush Limbaugh and the shift of hundreds of radio stations to wall-to-wall conservative talk in the 1990s, progressives have faced a decidedly uphill battle. In my experience, most station owners and managers have a strong bias to the right, and with a few exceptions, the rest just look for the easiest way to make maximum profit.

It's no accident that Limbaugh was recruited for the heavily market-researched model that was labelled "non-guested confrontation talk radio" after Reagan's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lifted the Fairness Doctrine in 1987. Clinton's 1996 Telecommunications Act removed ownership limits that led to rapid consolidation and the troublesome concentration of control by national operators we see today. Three companies control almost all of the talk radio stations with competitive signals in the major markets: Clear Channel, CBS and Cumulus.

The sad story of Air America did not help the progressive cause. Writes Peter B:

Air America raised the expectations of many of us--and consistently disappointed. Recruiting comedian and author Al Franken as their marquee star, his radio show was flat and not very funny. For some reason, he was paired with NPR veteran Katherine Lanpher, who was not permitted to say much. Topics and guests were safely anti-Bush and pro-Kerry, but real liberal, anti-war voices were not invited; Franken talked up his United Services Organization (USO) tours in Iraq as evidence that he supported the troops.

In its initial business model, Air America made two major blunders: bundling and brokering. Embracing antiquated practices from the 1950s, they tried to force affiliate stations to carry all of their programs; when most station owners rejected this "bundling," they were forced to lease time on stations, which was costly and disastrous.

You might think that a Democrat in the White House would help matters. But you would be wrong:

Despite the sharp decline in the progressive radio business, we all hoped that the end of the Bush presidency and the 2008 elections would produce new growth in lib talk. With the protracted primary battle between Obama and Clinton, and Obama's inspiring campaign against McCain, we expected to see a spike in ratings and affiliates and hoped the Obama campaign and other Democrats would spend money to reach our listeners, their voters. There was no measurable audience growth and only a precious few campaign dollars were spent on our programs and our affiliate stations.

In August of 2008, all of the progressive shows converged on the Obama coronation in Denver, but we were ignored by the Obama campaign. We were assigned a radio row in the basement of the convention hall, under an escalator. All the delegates and dignitaries whisked past us on the escalator, and when they reached the main floor, the first radio booth they saw was FOX News. Team Obama mostly declined our requests for interviews and we ended up mostly talking with Team Hillary. Schultz was so pissed that he pulled out after the second day and returned to his base in Fargo.

How bad are things for liberals on the radio dial? Peter B. sums it up:

Ratings range from flat to flat-lined: In 2012, Clear Channel-owned KPOJ in Portland and CBS-owned KPTK in Seattle showed audience numbers so low that they were not listed by Arbitron; Clear Channel's WDTW in Detroit barely showed a pulse at .1 percent, and the once-powerhouse, now-struggling media conglomerate recently agreed to donate WDTW to a local community group. In his second attempt at WVKO in Columbus, Ohio, Gary Richards was forced to sign off just before Christmas 2012. Progressive talker Jeff Santos waged a valiant four-year struggle in Boston, and I was a consultant in his effort last year to add eight new markets in battleground states; we had no choice but to lease air time, and once again the Democrats who had the most to gain failed to support the effort.

The only exception I've found is Madison, Wisconsin, market #100, where Clear Channel's WXXM-FM, "The Mic" jumped a full share point to a respectable 3.3 this fall. . . .

Al Franken is in the Senate, Ed Schultz appears to be doing well on MSNBC, Thom Hartmann has a nightly TV show on the RT network, Bill Press and Stephanie Miller are simulcast on Current TV (which has just been sold to Al Jazeera). But their radio shows face tough sledding and possible elimination in 2013.

Where is progressive talk radio headed? The future isn't bright, and we should not look for any help from the Obama administration:

As someone who took substantial personal risk in syndication and station ownership, I can tell you that progressive talk has not panned out as a viable business. Clinton's 1996 deregulation of broadcasting and the end of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 didn't help. I do think the FCC should require some balance of viewpoints on the stations it regulates, through the license renewal process, but there is simply no interest on the part of Obama and his appointees in regulatory reform--even as the president is pilloried by right-wing radio on a daily basis. Air America's parade of management blunders produced the downward spiral that brought us to this tipping point for progressive talk radio, and most station owners, rightly or wrongly, see that failure as an indication that audiences won't support liberal talk radio.

Is there any hopeful news? Peter B. has this:

In radio, we always like to end on an upbeat note. Here's the best I can muster: if you want to help keep the surviving progressive talk shows alive, subscribe to the podcasts of your favorite progressive hosts - it's a critical stream of revenue as these programs fight for survival.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Skillful Interviewer Helps Yours Truly Shine Light On The Obama Administration's Justice Priorities

Joan Brunwasser

The Q & A is one of my favorite journalism formats. In the hands of a skillful practitioner, a question-and-answer session can shine light on issues that might be missed or hidden in a standard narrative.

For my money, Joan Brunwasser of OpEd News is one of the most astute interviewers in the world of progressive online news. I've had the honor of being Joan's subject on a number of occasions, usually on matters related to the political prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

The results of our latest conversation went online over the weekend, focusing on issues raised in my post from last week, "Obama Justice Department Finally Takes a Stand, By Cracking Down on Traffic-Ticket Fraud in Philly."

Anyone who cares about justice--from any point on the political spectrum--would be wise to check out Joan's work. Here are highlights from my most recent conversation with her:

Joan Brunwasser (JB): You recently wrote a biting piece entitled "Obama Department Of Justice Finally Takes A Stand, By Cracking Down on Traffic-Ticket Fraud in Philly." Surely, you jest.

Roger Shuler (RS): I wish it was a joke, but it's not. Eric Holder and company actually have indicted nine traffic-court judges in Philadelphia for a widespread scheme to fix tickets. This is such a low level of court that you don't even have to be a lawyer to sit on that bench. And yet, the Obama DOJ is going after them. And two of the judges are charged with fixing one ticket each. 

Most people who care about justice probably don't have a problem with corrupt officials being outed, whether it's in a high-level position or not. But when you think about the justice-related problems the Obama administration has ignored--the Don Siegelman case in Alabama, the Paul Minor case in Mississippi, to name just two--you have to wonder, "Who is minding the store?"

Then we focused specifically on the Siegelman case and the unlawful actions of U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller. It's a case that the Obama DOJ has refused to touch:

JB: Let's go back to Don Siegelman for a minute, Roger. Don's conviction for a non-crime put at risk every single public official, past, present or future, who accepts campaign donations. That's a scary thought. Can you explain that one to us?

RS: It is scary on a number of levels, Joan. Most Americans probably understand the definition of a standard bribe--a person holds an office, someone offers him money or another incentive to provide a favor, and the favor gets done. That's what I call an "everyday bribe"; people understand what that is. But in the context of a campaign contribution, the law is different. And that's because our system is built around candidates raising funds in order to run for office.

I'm not sure bribery law regarding a campaign contribution even is spelled out via statute, so many officeholders have no way of knowing what it is. It is spelled out in case law, in a U.S. Supreme Court case styled McCormick v. United States. That says prosecutors must prove "an explicit agreement," also known as a quid pro quo ("something for something" deal) in order to convict for an alleged bribe in the campaign context. . . .

Fuller's jury instructions, contrary to law, did not require that an "explicit agreement" be present.

That means Don Siegelman resides in a federal prison because he violated a "crime" that Judge Mark Fuller created; it's not based on real law. This might be the scariest part of all about the Siegelman case: You can be convicted in our country of a "crime" that a judge simply pulls out of thin air on the bench. There is nothing that requires a judge to base his jury instructions on the real law.

Joan asked about Obama's curious inaction on Bush-era irregularities in the justice system:

JB: How do you explain the president's reluctance to take on any of the hard but important cases like Siegelman's? Is he afraid? If so, of whom? Of what? 
RS: I can only guess at an answer. I think it's possible that Karl Rove has some damaging information about the president or his associates, and Obama doesn't want to risk any kind of counter attack from the GOP. I also think it's possible that a genuine inquiry would go right to the top of the Bush family, and Obama simply does not have the stomach for such an ugly fight. 
How is this for irony? The Democratic Party, since passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, has consistently stuck its neck out to stand up for justice issues. In the process, it has paid a huge electoral price, just as Lyndon Johnson predicted. But now we have our first black president turning his back on the very justice issues that have given his party its moral authority. On the really big issues of the past 40 years, Democrats have always been on the right side of history. Now, it looks like Obama is going to break with that tradition--and in essence, that leaves us with two major parties that are both dysfunctional and ineffective on justice issues.
No wonder Anonymous and the Occupy movement have come to hold out hope for many Americans. We certainly have seen no reason to hope that Obama or Holder will restore the rule of law in our country.

What does this mean for our future? Joan raised that issue:

JB: So, where does that leave us, Roger? We've already seen how movements can be and have been infiltrated, compromised and neutralized. Is there any hope for massive grassroots pressure that can accomplish nothing less than the restoration of fairness in our court system? Without that, everyone is at risk and democracy is just a concept that doesn't very much resemble present reality.

RS: I think it leaves us in a state of decline. Broken justice systems are a classic hallmark of dysfunctional societies. Press reports about the recent rape/murder case in India stated that a number of citizens witnessed the attack but refused to come forward because they did not trust the justice system. They did not want to get involved in a process they knew to be corrupt.

We probably aren't at that level yet, but that's where we seem to be headed.

You can read the full interview here.