We recently discovered information that might answer both of those questions--and it involves Neilson's connections to Birmingham attorney Bill Baxley.
The Riley lawsuit and a similar one from fellow Republican operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison, according to multiple sources, were part of a coordinated effort by legal and political elites to shut down my reporting on this blog. In fact, the two lawsuits were filed within roughly one month of each other--and they are the only two defamation cases I've faced in almost 37 years as a professional journalist. The Garrison case led to a $3.5-million default judgment, which I am seeking to overturn--and a hearing to vacate it is set for Thursday (June 18) in Jefferson County Circuit Court.
How best to explain all of the unseemly alliances that are present here? We invite you to follow us on this brief trail of nasty Alabama intrigue:
* Who represents Jessica Garrison in her defamation lawsuit? That would be Bill Baxley.
* Who represents Sonny Reagan, the former deputy AG who was forced to resign from the Attorney General's Office over allegations that he had leaked grand-jury information from the ongoing criminal investigation in Lee County? That would be Bill Baxley and Rob Riley.
* Who has represented House Speaker Mike Hubbard, former Governor Bob Riley, and Minda Riley Campbell before the Lee County grand jury? That would be Rob Riley.
* Who, according to e-mail evidence, received leaked grand-jury information from Sonny Reagan? That would include Rob Riley, Bob Riley, and Mike Hubbard.
* And who, once again, has been Reagan's chief attorney? That would be Bill Baxley.
As you can see, an unholy alliance has formed between Bill Baxley and members of the Riley political cult, especially first son, Rob Riley. Baxley, on paper, is a Democrat, and the Rileys are Republicans. But the Alabama political scene is filled with strange bedfellows who, despite having different political affiliations, share the goal of catering to elites and protecting the state's corrupt legal, political, and corporate culture.
So who should wind up overseeing Rob Riley's lawsuit against me--and unlawfully ordering me to jail for five months? That would be one of Bill Baxley's old buddies, retired Judge Claud Neilson.
One case they worked together is styled Carson v. State. Another is styled Lee v. State. You can click on the links and see their names, side by side. By 1976, Neilson was a circuit judge, and he ruled in Baxley's favor in a case styled Moore v. State. How many cases did they work together? How many times did Neilson, rightly or wrongly, rule in Baxley's favor? We don't know, but the connection between them is obvious and documented.
Does that mean Baxley helped arrange for Neilson to handle the Riley/Duke lawsuit against my wife and me? Does that mean Baxley helped ensure that Neilson would repeatedly cheat us--on behalf of Baxley's comrade, Rob Riley? Does that mean Baxley, Neilson, Riley (and perhaps others) were part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice and deprive me of my civil rights? Did Bill Baxley play a major role in making sure I wound up in jail, contrary to more than 200 years of First Amendment law?
I will let readers make up their own minds about those questions. You can rest assured my mind already is made up.
Here is another question to ponder? Bill Baxley once was known as a crusading young attorney general who stood up to the Ku Klux Klan, sought justice for victims of race-based violence, and generally behaved as a courageous progressive voice against oppression and thuggery. How did he become a lawyer who now seems to stand up mainly for white, elitist, right-wing, corporate interests?
How did that transformation happen? We will take a closer look at that question, including some disturbing information from a Baxley family member that shows how "Bulldog Bill Baxley" was neutered. Baxley, our source says, has struggled with a number of personal demons, and his enemies obtained evidence of Baxley in a number of situations that . . . well, let's just say that evidence helped turn him into a lap dog for conservative interests.