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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I was arrested one day after writing about Jessica Garrison's purchase of a $400,000 Mountain Brook home for $30,000, suggesting I had struck a nerve


House at 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook, AL
(From trulia.com)
Most people who get arrested probably have at least some idea of why it happened. I have the distinction of being arrested on Oct. 23, 2013, in Shelby County, Alabama, and I still don't know why it happened. I clearly had not committed a crime--not even the officers who beat me up in my own garage and doused me with pepper spray suggested I had. And the officers showed no warrant and made no statements that would explain what was happening.

I do, however, have plenty of clues. Here are a few: (1) Republican political operative Rob Riley and lobbyist Liberty Duke had filed a defamation lawsuit, claiming I had written posts about them that were false and defamatory--even though they never came close to proving their case, and proceedings showed that, as a matter of law, my reporting was neither false nor defamatory; (2) Shelby County officers started showing up on our property (two and three at a time, with multiple vehicles) about 10 days after I had broken a story about U.S. Circuit Judge Bill Pryor and his ties to 1990s gay pornography. (Pryor now is on Donald Trump's list of 11 possible nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court.) (3) Retired Judge Claud Neilson, who is from Demopolis and just happens to be a long-time associate of Birmingham attorney and former state attorney general Bill Baxley, somehow was appointed to hear the Riley/Duke case and granted a preliminary injunction on material that had not (and still has not) been determined at trial, before a jury, to be defamatory. That tramples more than 200 years of First Amendment law, which prohibits such "prior restraints" on free speech in defamation cases.

I probably could list more than a dozen other clues, but for now, let's focus on what might be the most intriguing clue of all. It involves a house at 119 Main Street, in the fashionable Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook. GOP operative Jessica Medeiros Garrison bought the home a few months before I started writing about her extramarital affair with Attorney General Luther Strange (for whom she served as campaign manager in 2010 and 2014).

About this time, multiple news outlets were reporting on Strange's efforts to prosecute Democrat Lowell Barron, former president of the Alabama Senate, for allegedly providing excessive compensation to a female campaign aide. The charges against Barron sounded exactly like what Strange had done with his female campaign aide, Jessica Garrison--and the prosecution eventually dropped the Barron charges.

Here is where it gets really interesting: On October 22, 2013, I wrote a post with the headline "How did Jessica M. Garrison pay a modest $30,000 for a Mountain Brook house valued at $400,000?" I was arrested the next day and spent five months in jail, becoming the only U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006.

Does that indicate someone found my reporting on the Garrison house transaction to be highly sensitive, enough that they wanted to make sure I could not write anything more about it for a while? That's how I take it--and I had already seen signs that it was a sensitive topic.

I sent an e-mail to Garrison, seeking an interview or comment about the real-estate transaction. Two days later, her attorney sent me a message threatening a lawsuit. Who was her attorney? Bill Baxley, long-time associate of Claud Neilson, the judge who unlawfully had me incarcerated.

Our reporting had shown that, according to public records from her divorce/child custody case, Garrison had the 119 Main Street address at least by May 2012, but the property was not sold at a foreclosure auction until July 12.

Was the house subject to open bidding via "pubic outcry" on the courthouse steps, as required by state law? Doesn't look like it. Was it sold "off the grid," in a rigged fashion, so that Garrison could get a sweetheart deal? Is that one of the advantages of being Luther Strange's mistress, the kind of favor one receives for being a "good girl" and keeping Republican sleaze on the down low? A reasonable person, examining the evidence we have at the moment, might answer, "Yes."

Did Garrison actually pay just $30,000 for a Mountain Brook home with an appraised value of $439,900? Was that the plan, but it changed slightly when I started writing about the transaction--and the boatloads of cash Strange had funneled to Garrison and her companies?

Finding answers to those questions is complicated by the presence of two foreclosure deeds on the house. The first foreclosure deed is dated July 20, 2012, and states--in so many words--that Robert C. and Hilary J. Maxwell had foreclosed on a mortgage with Renasant Bank and "in consideration of . . . $30,000" auctioneer Burt W. Newsome did "grant, bargain, sell, and convey" the described property (Lot 17, Block 8, according to the survey of Crestline Heights) to Jessica Medeiros Garrison.

The plain language seems to state that Jessica Garrison had paid $30,000 to become owner of the property at 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook.

But then a second foreclosure deed appeared almost one year later, dated June 18, 2013. It states that the Maxwells had defaulted on a mortgage with Countrywide Bank, later assigned to M and T Bank. The auctioneer this time was Michael Corvin of Corvin Auctioneering and--surprise, surprise--Jessica Garrison was the "highest" and "best" bidder, at $411,921.68. That brings the total for the two sales to $441,921.68, roughly $2,000 over the appraised value. (Both foreclosure deeds are embedded at the end of this post.)

According to the deed, Corvin did "remise, release, quit claim, and convey" unto Jessica Garrison"all of its right, title, and interest in and to the following described property. (Lot 17, Block 8, Crestline Heights).

Corvin seems to be saying that Jessica Garrison now was owner of the house. But wasn't she already owner of the house, based on proclamations in a foreclosure deed filed about one year earlier?

What was going on here? Why were there two foreclosure deeds?

I don't claim to be an expert on foreclosure law, but this seems to be the answer to the second question: The Maxwells, it appears, took out two mortgages on the property--one on June 27, 2007, for the much higher figure (roughly $400,000) and one on August 6, 2007, for the lower figure (roughly $30,000).

So why was the smaller mortgage handled first in the foreclosure process, with the larger mortgage seemingly ignored until about one year later? Why did the first foreclosure deed indicate Jessica Garrison had full ownership rights for only $30,000--and her child-custody case indicates she knew the house was hers before it ever went up for "public auction"?

Does a timeline of events shine light on these questions? Let's take a look:

July 20, 2012 -- The first foreclosure deed--with Garrison paying $30,000--is filed on the Mountain Brook property.

May 8, 2013 -- I publish the first post that mentions Garrison's address as 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook and Strange's steady flow of cash to companies that Garrison owns.

May 15, 2013 -- I publish a post about the Lowell Barron case, noting that the charges sound almost exactly like transactions between Garrison and Strange.

June 18, 2013 -- Second foreclosure suddenly appears in the public record, with Jessica Garrison producing a winning bid of almost $412,000.

It appears that Jessica Garrison owned the Mountain Brook house free and clear, for the sum of $30,000, until I published her address and wrote about the dubious case Luther Strange was bringing against Lowell Barron.

Was that the reason the second foreclosure deed appeared, bringing the total paid to roughly the appraised value of the house, and making it look like Jessica Garrison didn't receive such a sweetheart deal? If so, who arranged for the second foreclosure deed and who actually paid for the Mountain Brook home? Was it Jessica Garrison or was it someone else?

Was the price of my investigative reporting on the matter to be beaten up inside my own home, doused with pepper spray, and dragged off to jail--thanks to a judge that Bill Baxley, Jessica Garrison's lawyer, possibly hand-picked?

If the answer to that last question is yes, it raises the specter of organized crime, which almost certainly violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).

Are the Mike Hubbard and Robert Bentley cases ugly? For sure. But circumstances surrounding Jessica Garrison's Mountain Brook house might be even uglier.







25 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wrote about the Garrison house deal on one day and got arrested the next? I didn't realize that. That certainly should cause a few raised eyebrows.

Chuckles said...

There might be an explanation for the two foreclosure deeds, but I don't understand how she could know she had the Mountain Brook house when it hadn't even gone up for sale yet. Maybe Ms. Garrison has "ESPN." Hah.

Anonymous said...

If someone was doing Ms. Garrison favors, you have to wonder why? Was it because she was, despite her protestations, Luther Strange's mistress? Maybe she still is? Maybe she had secrets on Strange -- or others -- that could be damaging if released for public consumption?

Anonymous said...

Just from looking at the foreclosure deeds, you can tell that the Countrywide/M&T mortgage was taken out on September 7, 2007. The loan secured by that mortgage was probably used to purchase the house. About five weeks later, on August 6, 2007, the Maxwells took out a loan from Renasant Bank and secured it with a second mortgage. Renasant foreclosed its second mortgage in 2012. When Garrison bought the house at the Renasant foreclosure, she bought subject to the Countrywide/M&T mortgage. That meant she would be responsible for the debt secured by the Countrywide/M&T mortgage if she wanted to stay in the house. M&T then foreclosed its mortgage. Garrison was the purchaser at that sale thereby taking out that mortgage. Have you looked to see if Garrison mortgaged the property to pay the purchase price at the M&T foreclosure sale? Now I have no clue how Garrison knew she would be living on Main Street prior July 2012. Have you tried contacting the Maxwells or Burt Newsome?

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for your insights, @1:57. No, I have not spoken to Maxwells, Newsome, etc. but that's on my to-do list.

Anonymous said...

Just gotta say that when you jumped in that hornet's nest, there were no shortage of players (er... I mean hornets) to swat at as they attacked. Your sources have proved many times that you have the true stories of the Alabama elite on edge!

DM
Phenix city

Anonymous said...

This is @ 1:57. There is a typo in my comment. The first sentence should say that the Countrywide/M&T mortgage was taken out in June 2007.

Anonymous said...

From the first and second page of the scribd doc you titled Garrison foreclosure Deed2:

The document states that M&T Bank gave notice of the foreclosure by publishing notice of same in the Alabama Messenger three times before the sale. The issues of May 11,2013, May 18, 2013,and May 25, 2013.

So maybe the timeline in your post needs an addition. The bold indicates my suggested addition. NOTE: I didn't verify the accuracy of these other timeline entries or any other allegations, I'm only supplying the date of the claimed publication of notice from the document you posted here.

Does a timeline of events shine light on these questions? Let's take a look:

July 20, 2012 -- The first foreclosure deed--with Garrison paying $30,000--is filed on the Mountain Brook property.

May 8, 2013 -- I publish the first post that mentions Garrison's address as 119 Main Street in Mountain Brook and Strange's steady flow of cash to companies that Garrison owns.


May 11, 2013 -- The first of three published notices of foreclosure is claimed to be published by M&T Bank in the Alabama Messenger.

May 15, 2013 -- I publish a post about the Lowell Barron case, noting that the charges sound almost exactly like transactions between Garrison and Strange.

June 18, 2013 -- Second foreclosure suddenly appears in the public record, with Jessica Garrison producing a winning bid of almost $412,000.


With respect to the June 18, 2013 timeline entry, I believe that if you are able to verify the publication of notice of foreclosure by M&T Bank claimed on May 11,18 and 25 of 2013 that the June 18, 2013 entry probably should be reworded.

With respect to the publication date claimed of May 11, 2013, what was the date the notice was placed for publication? Or, as an approximation, what was the publication deadline for the May 11, 2013 issue? (Don't think you probably will be able to get answers from M&T Bank or the Alabama Messenger on this point.)

Second the suggestion above to research and post whether any mortgages were recorded on this property once the series of events began (June 27, 2007 to now).

Anonymous said...

I failed to suggest the verification that publication was done as claimed in the first foreclosure.

Anonymous said...



http://www.independent.com/news/2007/oct/28/it-all-started-when-they-published-his-address/

http://archive.azcentral.com/news/politics/articles/20131219new-times-journalists-were-arrested-dead-night.html

"“What are you in for, White boy?” the man asked.

Lacey answered.

“Writing.”

Thomas dropped the charges against the newspaper men five days after their arrest and fired Wilenchik. Wilenchik denied he had ordered the arrests, claiming he had no such authority, and Arpaio’s chief deputy, David Hendershott, filed an affidavit claiming that he had ordered the arrests himself.

Lacey and Larkin sued.

On Friday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors settled their federal lawsuit for a reported $3.75 million, a large chunk of which is to cover attorneys fees."

Anonymous said...

LS can you check for a lost comment? Submitted at around 5pm today. It was lengthy and if it has been lost I will resend it.

Anonymous said...

So real estate auctions around foreclosures are unbiased and fair. Is that what you're saying?

legalschnauzer said...

Good point, 5:06. I believe they must be published three weeks in a row before the sale. In this case, with the house being in JeffCo, I think that would mean publication in Bham News.

Wonder if there were any other bidders? Or were other bidders kept away as a "favor" to Garrison?

legalschnauzer said...

@6:26 -- Is it the one that now appears at 5:03 and references Alabama Messenger?

I found it in my spam folder, for some reason. Not sure how it got there. It's possible I hit the wrong key and sent it there by mistake. Hope this solves the problem.

Anonymous said...

That is the missing comment @ 5:03 pm. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Good point, 5:06. I believe they must be published three weeks in a row before the sale. In this case, with the house being in JeffCo, I think that would mean publication in Bham News.

The document you have posted as Garrison-Foreclosure-Deed1 states on page one that notice of foreclosure of the property was published in the Birmingham News on May 31,2012, June 7,2012 and June 14, 2012. Prior to the sale on July 20, 2012 to Jessica Mederios Garrison which is mentioned in this same document.

Wonder if there were any other bidders? Or were other bidders kept away as a "favor" to Garrison?

This is why foreclosures require publication in a publication of record. I would think it would be smart to verify that the proper publications happened as claimed on the document just to be sure.


Robby Scott Hill said...

Transactions in real property for less than the fair market value have tax consequences. Consult your local Tax Professional!

Anonymous said...

sTATEMENT OF eCOMONIC iNTEREST?

Anonymous said...

Gov Bentley was not the first person to wanted you Shut up.

Anonymous said...

Were any of the persons mentioned in this post required to file the "Statement of Economic Interest" with the state due to their elected or appointed positions?

legalschnauzer said...

That's a good question, @12:22, and I'm not sure about the answer. Would welcome insight from others. I believe that's the form I had to file (every year, I think) when I was a state employee at UAB. I'm not sure if Jessica Garrison ever has been a state employee. Don't think she has been, so this might not apply to her. As for others mentioned, I'm not sure.

I think Shirley Salloway Kahn, former VP at UAB, got in doo-doo over failure to disclose information on the economic interest form.

legalschnauzer said...

Very interesting point, Rob. How should a concerned citizen proceed? You think the IRS might be interested in some of Ms. Garrison's machinations.

BTW, I've got more interesting info coming on JMG's housing situation.

legalschnauzer said...

You are correct, @12:14. My wife, Carol, and I were being abused long before Bentley ever took office -- and there is little doubt (none in my mind) that originated with the Riley clan and its associates.

legalschnauzer said...

Rob: For the record, I had a visitor to the blog today from the IRS. Couldn't tell what he was searching for. Perhaps interested in JMG? That would be an interesting turn of events.

Robby Scott Hill said...

With Teapublicans in the House of Representatives trying to impeach their Commissioner, the IRS should be very interested in the financial dealings of Republicans, but since Obama has been looking forward instead of looking back, I wouldn't expect much from them. American History is full of Congressmen & politicos receiving zero interest "mortgages" without origination fees or penalties for late payments & complicated sales that put tax free money into their pockets without raising eyebrows at the IRS. If I were Commissioner Koskinen, I'd start looking into some of it before the Teapublicans had a chance to take me out.