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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"Freaky Becky" Mason and "Dr. Love" Bentley look bad in Alabama's sex scandal, but another GOP insider--no stranger to sleaze-- looks almost as bad as they do


Jessica Garison, with Luther Strange
(From marieclaire.com)
Rebekah Caldwell Mason yesterday became the first major casualty of the sex scandal enveloping Alabama Governor Robert Bentley. To be sure, "Freaky Becky" Mason and "Dr. Love" Bentley don't look so good in the public eye these days. That especially seems to be the case now that we know Bentley pressured law enforcement to target me and attorney Donald Watkins in order to silence Web-based reporting on the gubernatorial liaison. And this morning, we have reports that Bentley is likely to face articles of impeachment as early as next week.

It looks grim for Bentley and Mason, but someone else looks almost as bad as they do--and she is a GOP insider who has been the subject of numerous posts here at Legal Schnauzer.

We're talking about Jessica Medeiros Garrison, former campaign manager and all-around "gal pal" to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.

Garrison filed a defamation lawsuit against me for reporting, accurately, that she had an affair with Strange. Last October, Garrison somehow caught the attention of Liz Welch, a writer for women's fashion magazine Marie Claire. The two combined on an "as told to" article that touted Garrison's $3.5-million default judgment in the case and defamed me in more ways than I can count.

Did the "dynamic duo" of Garrison and Welch mention that her default judgment was void, as a matter of law? Nope. Did they mention that Garrison's lawsuit was built almost entirely on a mountain of fraud and perjury? Nope. Did they mention that Garrison's lawsuit, as a matter of law, proved that my reporting was NOT false or defamatory--and Garrison has publicly stated that she plans to try to have my articles censored, even though they've never been proven false or defamatory at trial? Of course not. That would take a level of honesty and integrity that Garrison and Welch apparently are not capable of reaching.

Which brings us to Garrison and Mason--and how their two stories of sleaze intersect. In her haste to defame me, Garrison apparently thought it would be a good idea to jump on the Mason/Bentley "love train." After all, I was the journalist who had broken the gubernatorial-affair story last August 31, almost seven months before the national press went gaga over it last week.

Garrison was in the process of trying to con the public into believing my reporting about her affair with Luther Strange was inaccurate, so she must have thought it was a good time to try to convince the public my reporting on the Bentley/Mason affair also was false.

In the wake of Mason's resignation--not to mention audio recordings of Bentley stating he liked to caress Mason's breasts and explore her nether regions--that doesn't look like such a good idea now.

For one thing, the Bentley/Mason contretemps could go way beyond the groping and groaning of two "family values" Christians who let lust lead them astray. Just how ugly could it get? Consider these words from Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, in a Facebook post titled "Bentley Unmasked." Some highlights:

Federal and state criminal investigators are hot on the trail of Alabama’s newest “Bonnie and Clyde” couple. Bentley’s case is dripping with evidence of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and racketeering violations under federal law, among other charges. At the end of the day, Robert Bentley is nothing more than a lovesick “swinger” and hardcore “racketeer” who ran a criminal enterprise out of the governor’s office and who sponsored his illicit love affair with taxpayer dollars and donations/funneled money to various organizations. . . .

Reports are flooding into our Facebook news team about certain “pay-to-play” contracts that implicate Bentley and Rebekah directly. It seems that the loving couple found an effective way to circumvent public oversight, transparency and competitive bid laws by channeling millions of public dollars into entities like the Workforce Councils of Alabama and others legitimate agencies and then directing the recipient agency to execute vendor contracts with certain special friends and supporters.

Now that federal investigators are following the money, Bentley has stopped talking.

Doesn't sound like anyone would want to hitch a ride on that train wreck. But Jessica Garrison did just that a few months ago. Here is what Garrison told Liz Welch, who apparently is incapable of asking a single question that might help determine if her source is trustworthy or full of horse feces:

I wish that's where my story ended. In a way, it is—but another chapter just opened.

The week before last, I got a call from a man who works in Alabama politics. He was upset about rumors swirling around the recent announcement of Governor Robert Bentley's impending divorce. Bentley's wife filed papers in late August, which prompted the same blogger who lied about me to write that the cause was primarily the result of an affair with one of his aides, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

I had no idea if any of this was true—all I knew was that it brought back all the anxiety, stress, and sadness that had consumed me for months when I was the target of the same man.

I have since learned that Rebekah has retained a lawyer, and while I don't know the details of her case, I do know this: I am proud of her for fighting for her name and reputation. If more women fight back, then maybe, just maybe, people like Shuler will stop seeing us as easy targets—and more as forces better not reckoned with.

What was Garrison trying to accomplish here? Three or four things seem apparent:

(1) She was trying to "climb in bed with" Rebekah Mason and Gov. Bentley (pardon the terrible pun). She wanted to be seen as their ally, as someone who had been through an experience similar to theirs.

(2) She wanted the public to know that the mean old journalist who had "lied about [her]" was now targeting Ms. Mason in the same reckless manner.

(3) She is proud of Ms. Mason for retaining a lawyer to fight for "her name and reputation," issuing a thinly veiled threat to other journalists that they best not report on white, female GOP operatives.

Garrison's narrative was weak to begin with, but now it has sprung massive leaks:

Rebekah Caldwell Mason
* If Garrison is saying her experience was similar to that of Mason and Bentley . . . well, that means she, in fact, had an affair with Strange. After all, we now know my reporting on Mason and Bentley was right on target. The public record shows that, as a matter of law, my reporting on Strange and Garrison also was on target.

* If Garrison wants the public to believe I "lied" about Mason the way I "lied" about her . . . well, the public now knows I didn't "lie" about Mason. That seems to blow a major hole in the Marie Claire claim that I lied about Garrison. It certainly shows that I am a professional journalist, I take my reporting here seriously, and I have darned good sources.

* If Garrison is fired up about Mason's fight for "her name and reputation" . . . well, that fight isn't going so well at the moment. Our guess is that quite a few Alabamians now think of Mason as a "political slut" and a "power-hungry whore." Mason will be lucky if she avoids the term "federal inmate." Based on Donald Watkins' insights, Mason might want to start considering how she will look in an environment where "orange is the new black."

The bottom line? Jessica Garrison went out of her way to side with Rebekah Mason, in an apparent effort to bolster her claim that I have a habit of reporting inaccurately on matters of political intrigue. Well, the Mason case now shows that I have a habit of getting it right--and Mason's career as a political advisor is toast.

Perhaps the public needs to take another look at my reporting on the Garrison/Strange affair. That's because--as a matter of law, and otherwise--it's on target.

In an effort to add levity to the proceedings, let's check out the 1976 KISS classic, "Calling Dr. Love." Sounds like Ms. Mason put out several calls to "Doctor Love"--and he was more than willing to respond. (BTW, is it just me, or does this song need a little more cowbell in the intro?)


Rebekah Caldwell Mason becomes first major casualty of the sex scandal enveloping Alabama Governor Dr. Robert Bentley; who will be next to hit the exits?


Rebekah and Jon Mason
Rebekah Caldwell Mason resigned this afternoon as senior political advisor to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, almost exactly seven months after we broke the story of her extramarital affair with the governor.

Mason becomes the second major Alabama political figure to step down in the past year in the wake of investigative reporting that originated with this blog. The other was former U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, known mainly for causing former governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to be unlawfully sent to prison,

Fuller formally resigned on August 1, 2015, after revelations that he had beaten his second wife in an Atlanta hotel room. That came not long after our reports that Fuller's divorce from his first wife included allegations of domestic violence and substance abuse. Once wife-beating stories surfaced, the earlier reports about Fuller's first divorce probably sealed his fate because they showed a pattern of abusive behavior in his personal life.

As for Mason, she stepped down with her version of the classic "I want to spend more time with my family" bit:

I have resigned as Senior Political Advisor to Governor Bentley and will no longer be paid from his campaign fund. I have also ended my work with the Alabama Council For Excellent Government. My only plans are to focus my full attention on my precious children and my husband who I love dearly. They are the most important people in my life. Thank you for your prayers for our family.

No word if Mason's future plans include allowing a non-spouse, who happens to hold a powerful public position, to caress her breasts and explore her nether regions. Imagine what she and Bentley would have done if their relationship had been "physical."

Where does the Bentley scandal go now? For the answer to that question, we turn to Birmingham attorney Donald Watkins, who has more than a little knowledge about high-level criminal-defense work. Watkins also knows how low Bentley can go when threatened. According to reports earlier this week, Bentley targeted Watkins and me for law-enforcement attention in an effort to halt our reporting on the Mason affair.

Watkins' thoughts can be found via a Facebook post titled "Bentley will not resign; feds must indict him." Here are highlights:

It's official. Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley is not resigning. Instead, he is throwing political consultant/swinging partner Rebekah Mason and her husband Jonathan under the bus. Bentley is also expected to sacrifice chief legal advisor David Byrne in a desperate bid to save his job.

Bentley is privately telling a few trusted friends that Rebekah and Byrne are to blame for everything involved in his "sex for power" scandal and public corruption activities because he simply trusted them and relied upon their professional advice. He is also claiming that Rebekah started flirting with him early on in their professional relationship and eventually seduced him around 2014. According to Bentley, he gave in to Rebekah's charm, but has now come to his senses.

Remarkably, Bentley thinks the public will forgive him if he distances himself from Rebekah. The governor is implementing the deal he struck with AL.com in exchange for their editorial board support. He is forcing Rebekah to resign.

Bentley must be hoping Mason doesn't notice the bus that just steamrolled her. But Watkins has other ideas:

If I were Rebekah's lawyer, I would strongly recommend that she contact the federal agents who are investigating this matter ASAP because Bentley has already decided his course of action. Rebekah should tell federal investigators all that she knows.

That sounds like wise counsel to me; it's the same approach indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard should have taken months ago with Bob and Rob Riley. Hubbard was not smart enough to follow that path. How smart will Rebekah Mason be in making her next move?

After all, resigning will not free her from the scrutiny of criminal investigators.

Gov. Robert Bentley is not the first to abuse law-enforcement power to target my wife and me; oily Alabama lawyer Rob Riley beat him to the punch


Rob Riley: He invented
abuse of police powers
against Legal Schnauzer
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has pressured law enforcement to seek dirt on me in an effort to stop our Legal Schnauzer reporting about the governor's affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, according to a report this week from Bill Britt, of Alabama Political Reporter (APR). I have followed Britt's work for several years, and I see him as an excellent journalist with solid sources, so I believe the report is on target. But I do not believe Bentley is the first to use law enforcement against my wife, Carol, and me. In fact, it's obvious the idea did not originate with Bentley.

That leads to this question: Are the federal and state authorities investigating Bentley's misuse of law-enforcement resources to target me also going to scrutinize others who have done the same thing.

By "others," I'm referring to Homewood attorney Rob Riley (son of former Gov. Bob Riley, 2003-11) and the conspirators who helped him have me unlawfully arrested and thrown in jail for five months (from October 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014). Thanks to Rob Riley and Co., I became the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006 and the only one to be imprisoned in the Western Hemisphere in 2013. My research indicates I'm the only journalist in American history to be incarcerated because of a defamation lawsuit (which had no basis in law or fact) that sought a preliminary injunction and resulting contempt order that have been unlawful under First Amendment law for more than 200 years.

Who were Riley's conspirators? Some are obvious from the public record. Riley's co-plaintiff was lobbyist Liberty Duke, and her attorney was Christina Crow, of Union Springs. Almost all members of the Riley Jackson Law Firm--Jay Murrill, Jeremiah Mosley, Keith Jackson, Francois Blaudeau--played a role in representing their boss/partner. Claud Neilson, pulled out of retirement in Demopolis to serve as "judge,"rubber stamped every document the Riley firm prepared for him, so it seems likely he was in on the scheme. Several Shelby County deputies--especially Chris Blevins, Jason Valenti, and Mike DeHart--trampled our Fourth Amendment rights, so their boss at the time (former sheriff Chris Curry) likely was involved.

I strongly suspect U.S. Circuit Judge William H. Pryor was a conspirator, given that law enforcement started swarming our home shortly after I reported about Pryor's ties to gay pornography, via full-frontal nude photos that appeared at badpuppy.com in the 1990s.

How did abuse of law-enforcement authority take shape in the Riley case? Let us count just a few of the ways:

(1) Officers trampled our property for more than a week in the days after the Pryor/gay porn story broke. Birmingham Attorney David Gespass later viewed the unlawfully sealed case file--after visiting me in jail--and reported no summons had been issued at the time the sheriff's department started flexing its muscle. The deputies' story--and they came 2-3 at a time, always in multiple vehicles, often parked to block our driveway--apparently was that they were trying to serve us with the complaint in the Riley lawsuit. But if no summons had been issued, they could not have been attempting lawful service. Without a summons, officers had no lawful grounds to be on our property and they were committing criminal trespass and invasion of privacy. The evidence suggests the officers, in fact, were trying to arrest us, not serve us.

Liberty Duke
(2) Since we refused to fall for the "swarm the property" con game, Officer Mike DeHart was dispatched to attempt an even more dubious tactic. After conducting surveillance on our house for roughly two hours--according to sheriff's department records--DeHart stopped us in the parking lot of the North Shelby County Library, supposedly because I had rolled through a stop sign in our neighborhood. I knew the traffic-violation claim was bogus the minute it left DeHart's lips, but he only gave me a warning for that. But then the real fun began: DeHart extended the traffic stop, contrary to decades of Fourth Amendment law, to "serve" me with papers in the Riley lawsuit. If Gespass is correct, DeHart actually didn't serve me at all because his papers did not include a summons. Thus, I had no reason to appear the next day for a hearing. (DeHart did not even bother trying to serve Mrs. Schnauzer, who was with me at the time of the traffic stop.) Since our encounter with DeHart, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued an opinion in a case styled Rodriguez v. U.S. (2015), driving home the point that his actions were a gross violation of our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. (A traffic stop, by law, is a seizure.) DeHart could not extend the traffic stop unless he had reasonable suspicion that our vehicle was connected to criminal activity. Even DeHart, as dense as he apparently is, never hinted at that. Once he returned the traffic-related documents (license, registration etc.) he, by law, had to let us go. But he didn't do that.

(3) When I challenged DeHart's "service" as unlawful, filing a motion to quash service, Deputy Chris Blevins and several colleagues (including Jason Valenti, who threatened to break my arms) were dispatched to our home to arrest me--no matter how many constitutional violations it took. As I pulled our car into the basement garage of our house, Blevins entered without showing  a warrant, saying he had a warrant, or even stating his purpose for being there. This violated state and federal law, but he then beat me up--violently shoving me to a concrete floor three times and dousing me with pepper spray. I then was dragged to the back seat of a squad car and driven to the Shelby County Jail in Columbiana, where I stayed for five months. as the story made international news.

Without a summons, Blevins and Co. were trespassers and kidnappers. That's how ugly the Riley case got.

What about Robert Bentley's abuse of law-enforcement power? What forms has it taken? We don't have a definitive answer to that question, but available evidence points to some very ugly actions, indeed--almost as if Bentley borrowed directly from the Rob Riley playbook.

Bottom line: If Robert Bentley is under criminal investigation, in part, because of his actions toward me, Rob Riley and Co. also should be investigated.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Web press breaks story on sex scandal involving Alabama's "family values" governor Robert Bentley--and also raises issues about possible criminal acts


Could Gov. Robert Bentley, and mistress Rebekah Caldwell
Mason, have criminal charges in their futures.
(From alreporter.com)
Perhaps no story in recent months illustrates the value of the Web press like the sex scandal involving Alabama's "family values" governor, Dr. Robert Bentley, and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, which exploded on the national stage last week. The Web press has not just focused on the titillation factor, although the word "breasts" has proven to be a prominent component to the story. The serious side of the story, about misconduct and possible criminality, also made its debut in the digital arena.

Maybe that's why Bentley pressured law enforcement to target me and attorney Donald Watkins in an effort to shut down reporting about the gubernatorial love nest. Maybe he feared our reporting would go beyond groping and groaning and focus on abuse of the governor's official position. If so, Bentley was right to be fearful of that.

How do we know? Well, the story of the Bentley/Mason extramarital affair broke here, at Legal Schnauzer, last August--almost seven months before national news outlets, such as The New York Times, Washington Post, and Rachel Maddow Show, took notice last week. And we did not just ouline the story's "T and A" elements, the kind that tend to make a blog's page views soar. We also addressed the unsexy notion that the public trust had been betrayed, the state's government had been compromised, and criminal acts might be involved.

Consider the following words from our original report--and then we invite you to consider them in light of recent reports that members of Bentley's cabinet had received raises (double-digit percentage increases in some cases) that one state senator called "outrageous." From Legal Schnauzer on August 31, 2015:

Rebekah Caldwell Mason, sources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. "He's been impotent as governor for at least the last six months," one source told Legal Schnauzer. "People have been going into his office and saying, 'Do what I want or I'm going to play the girlfriend card.' People have been running all over him."

What happens when an "impotent" governor allows people to "run all over him" because he's afraid they will play the "girlfriend card" if they don't get their way? Is that the kind of thing that leads to "outrageous" raises for cabinet members?

Well, consider some of the details about the pay-raise story, from Associated Press:

While many cabinet members are making more money this year, four cabinet members received raises of about $70,000, according to state pay records.

The salaries of Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Jim Byard, Alcoholic Beverage Control Board Administrator Mac Gipson, Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Insurance Commissioner Jim Ridling increased from $91,014 to about $164,000. The pay increases were first reported . . . by the blog Inside Alabama Politics.

Did Byard, Gipson, Magee, or Ridling apply improper pressure to get their raises by playing the "girlfriend card" with Bentley? We don't have a yes-or-no answer to that question yet. But our blog raised the specter of such chicanery last summer.

As one of our sources said in the original report:

I have . . . been told that Bentley's trooper facilitated the affair, and that the state jet was used extensively to facilitate it. And that Bentley and Mason actually used it as a bedroom at times when Mrs. Bentley was still living in the mansion. . . . The use of state resources to facilitate an affair would surely violate state law. . . .

Here's how we tried to put the story into perspective--and this was almost seven months ago:

The Bentley-Mason affair, in the aftermath of Dianne Bentley's divorce complaint, has left the governor's administration teetering. Legal fallout from the affair could have ugly consequences, including Bentley's resignation and a possible criminal investigation.

It's no secret that sex "sells"--and helps drive blog page views. But has the Bentley/Mason story been about more serious matters? Yes, it has--right from the start.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Gov. Robert Bentley pressured law enforcement to target Legal Schnauzer and Donald Watkins in an effort to silence reporting on Rebekah Mason affair


Robert Bentley: From sex scandal to criminal misuse
of law-enforcement resources.
(From apr.com)
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley pressured law-enforcement officers to target me and attorney Donald Watkins for our Web-based reporting on the governor's extramarital affair with senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, according to a report this morning at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

APR publisher Bill Britt said sources told him that Bentley's actions were a glaring violation of law, and these matters (and others) currently are part of a criminal investigation. From today's article:

Gov. Robert Bentley pressured law enforcement officers to use federal and state resources to target those critical of his relationship with senior advisor Rebekah Caldwell Mason, according to high ranking officers and staff.

In an effort to find potentially damaging information on those who spoke out against the couple, Bentley instructed top law enforcement agents to investigate private citizens, in direct conflict with the law, said those close to the matter. (These individuals spoke on background to alreporter.com because of a criminal investigation surrounding this and other matters).

Two individuals with detailed knowledge of the incidents say Bentley ordered the use of the National Crime Information Center, (NCIC) and the Law Enforcement Tactical System (LETS) to find any incriminating evidence that might be used against attorney Donald V. Watkins, and Legal Schnauzer blogger Roger Shuler.

I broke the story of the Bentley/Mason affair here at Legal Schnauzer on August 31, 2015. The story exploded on the national scene last week when Spencer Collier, former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), told reporters he had seen and heard direct evidence of an inappropriate relationship between the governor and his aide. That story quickly was followed by the release of audio recordings that had Bentley talking about touching Mason's breasts from behind, reaching "under" her to apparently touch her behind and the area between her legs, and stating more than a dozen times that he loved her.

Watkins, at his Facebook page, published a multi-part series titled "Forbidden Love: Robert Bentley's Secret Love Affair." (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.) Here are just a few of the details Watkins' reporting added to the story:

The Governor’s relationship with Rebekah Mason raised eyebrows around the Capitol and with Mrs. Bentley. Rebekah Mason was quickly emerging as the Governor’s voice on any important speech or comment made by him during his first term. In time, Rebekah Mason would run the state of Alabama through her special personal relationship with Bentley.

By July 2013, Rebekah Mason had moved out of the governor’s office to serve as the communications director for Bentley’s re-election campaign. After the election, she became Bentley’s “Senior Political Advisor”. The two became inseparable. Bentley fell in love with Rebekah Mason. She became his paramour. After achieving paramour status, Mason had unfettered access to state trooper transportation, the state aircraft, the Governor’s mansion, and a host of other state resources and privileges typically reserved for the First Lady.

In an interview with Bill Britt, Watkins said he was not surprised to be receiving special attention from the governor. Writes Britt:

In an interview with alreporter.com Watkins said, “I knew he was targeting me, I have known for years that Bentley was upset by my public criticism of his administration and his policies.”

Watkins said Bentley first targeted him in 2013 using banking regulators: “We came under excessive regulatory review and are still under excessive regulatory review,” said Watkins.

He said in 2014 Bentley asked the SEC to investigate his businesses, even through they are not under SEC regulation. “That investigation went nowhere,” said Watkins.

But again, in 2015, Bentley sought a criminal investigation, according to Watkins, “I provided the investigators with all the documentation and that case was close within 30 days.”

“Every case started with a hint or a suggestion of impropriety on my part by Bentley’s Office and each case went nowhere,” said Watkins.

ALEA was twice asked to conduct a criminal investigation into Watkins, this has been confirmed by law enforcement officers.

As for me, I should not be surprised at anything, given all my wife, Carol, and I have been through since first encountering rocky legal waters in Shelby County some 16 years ago. I've been arrested and thrown in jail for five months; we lost our home of 25 years to a foreclosure that almost certainly was wrongful; we were evicted from an apartment in our new "home" of Springfield, Missouri, even though we had filed an appeal that put an automatic stay on the proceedings; during the eviction process, I watched three deputies surround Carol as she tried to retrieve some of our personal belongings, slamming her to the ground and yanking on her arms so violently that it badly bruised one and broke the other in a way that required trauma surgery for repair.

Washington Post report about
The White House Plumbers
(From Washington Post)

Despite all of that, Bill Britt's report has left me in a state of . . . well, I guess you could call it "dumbfoundedness." It's well established by now that Robert Bentley is a creep and a phony, but I did not see him as fundamentally evil. But today's news suggests Bentley has stooped to a Nixonian level of political chicanery. Carol and I have periodically wondered aloud to each other--somewhat in jest--if our e-mail and cell phone are secure, if someone has gone through our personal financial and health records, if someone has influenced one-time friends (even family members) to harm us or work against us.

The answer to all of those questions now appears to be yes. And God only knows what else Bentley and his henchmen have been up to. We long have thought our No. 1 enemies were associated with former Governor Bob Riley and his son, Rob "Uday Hussein" Riley. We have little doubt that the Rileys reside in an "ethics-free zone" where they re convinced they can get away with most anything. But it now seems the Bible-thumping Robert Bentley is every bit as crazed as are the Rileys.

From Bill Britt's article:

The Alabama Political Reporter has already confirmed the US Department of Justice is investigating the firings at ALEA, and if actions against Collier and others were part of a cover-up orchestrated by Bentley and Mason.

Shuler, on his site Legal Schnauzer, has written numerous articles on Bentley and Mason. In an August 2015 post he wrote, “Rebekah Caldwell Mason, a married mother of three from Bentley’s home base of Tuscaloosa, was the governor’s mistress in an affair that sources say raises a number of possible legal issues–including use of the state jet and a state trooper’s services for personal reasons that had nothing to do with Bentley’s official role.” He also wrote, “[S]ources say, quickly became more than just a communications director to Bentley. Their affair became so widely known that it diluted any moral authority the governor might have had. He’s been impotent as governor for at least the last six months,” one source told Legal Schnauzer. “People have been going into his office and saying, ‘Do what I want or I’m going to play the girlfriend card.’”

While the media’s and public’s attention has been primary focused on the alleged affair, Bentley’s real problems are the issues before law enforcement.

As president, Richard Nixon had a special investigative unit called The White House Plumbers, Their role was to stop media leaks and harass or punish perceived enemies of the administration. Has Dr. Robert Bentley, the mild-mannered dermatologist from Tuscaloosa, morphed into that kind of political crook?

It sure looks that way from here--where we apparently have been one of his targets for quite some time.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Will an Alabama version of "Deep Throat," the world's most famous anonymous source, bring down Governor Robert Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason?


Mark Felt, who later was revealed as "Deep Throat,"
the anonymous source who broke open
the Watergate scandal.
(From theguardian.com)
The story of an extramarital affair between Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason received national coverage this week, portrayed mainly as a tale of sex, lust, betrayal, deception, greed, and possible criminality. It also, however, is a story of journalism--and much of the reporting on that angle has been botched. In the process, one of the nation's most fabled newspapers apparently forgot its own history--and reporting techniques--that helped uncover perhaps the most notorious political scandal in American history.

National reporters generally got it wrong about who broke the Bentley/Mason story. Credit tended to go to al.com and columnist John Archibald, who discussed the story on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Maddow even made a comment that the story provided an example of why communities should support their local newspapers, many of which are on life support.

As much as we like Rachel Maddow--and we like her a lot--she got it wrong. Yes, al.com deserves credit for breaking comments from former ALEA chief Spencer Collier about his knowledge of the affair--and for bringing the audio recording, which revealed Bentley as a creepy phony, to public light.

But al.com did not break the story. Legal Schnauzer, this blog, broke the story on August 31, 2015. We not only broke the story about the affair, but we provided insight into how the affair had turned the Bentley administration into a dysfunctional mess, which might be the most important angle going forward. (More on all of this in upcoming posts.)

For months, al.com would not even mention the word "affair" in its coverage. And it's likely, given the substantial blow back we received, the story never would have reached the light of day if a one-man blog, which happens to have extremely knowledgeable and reliable sources, had not broken it.

Which takes us to The Washington Post. Yes, one of the most powerful entities in journalism put the Bentley/Mason story on a national stage. But it gave zero credit to the blog that actually broke the story roughly seven months ago. In fact, it gave pretty much a backhanded slap to the Web press in general--and, get this, it's all because our original story was based on anonymous sources.

Yep, here is how WaPo reporter Amber Phillips put it:

Here's the story: On Tuesday, the two-term governor fired the state's top cop. That same day, the now-fired top cop told AL.com that Bentley had been having an affair with one of his top advisers. And he said he could prove it.

The governor has denied affair rumors in the past, calling them "ridiculous. . . . "
Bentley hasn't been able to shake that over the past year, whether in unsubstantiated blogs or in the halls of Alabama's capitol, there has been a rumor swirling he was having an affair with his chief adviser, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. (Mason is married, but Bentley's 50-year marriage officially ended this fall, an abrupt ending that Bentley has said shocked him.)

So you have The Washington Post taking shots at "unsubstantiated blogs" (primarily this one, we presume), and it's apparently because the story broke via anonymous sources.

According to her LinkedIn page, Ms. Phillips graduated from Texas Christian University in 2008, which suggests she is roughly 30 years old. It sounds like she is a bright young woman and a promising reporter, with quite a bit of international experience. But does she know much of anything about a little political scandal called Watergate--and her newspaper's historic role in breaking it.

Amber Phillips, Washington Post
(From LinkedIn)
Watergate came to light in 1972, long before Ms. Phillips arrived on this earth--so perhaps, to her, it's just a lengthy chapter in a history book. But for those who might have forgotten, reporting on the story revolved around a D.C. insider who went by the code name "Deep Throat." He acquired that name because he wished to remain anonymous, probably because his life would have been in danger if his identity was revealed. (In 2005, "Deep Throat" was revealed as William Mark Felt Sr., who was a deputy director of the FBI at the time Watergate broke. Felt died in 2008.)

How important was "Deep Throat" to famed reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein? This is from the Wikipedia entry on the Watergate scandal:

Chief among the Post's anonymous sources was an individual whom Woodward and Bernstein had nicknamed Deep Throat; 33 years later, in 2005, the informant was identified as William Mark Felt, Sr., deputy director of the FBI during that period of the 1970s, something Woodward later confirmed. Felt met secretly with Woodward several times, telling him of Howard Hunt's involvement with the Watergate break-in, and that the White House staff regarded the stakes in Watergate extremely high. Felt warned Woodward that the FBI wanted to know where he and other reporters were getting their information, as they were uncovering a wider web of crimes than the FBI first disclosed. In one of their last meetings, all of which took place at an underground parking garage somewhere in Rosslyn from the FBI on June 22, 1973, Felt also planted leaks about Watergate to Time magazine, the Washington Daily News and other publications.

Did Post editors--and readers around the country--consider Woodward and Bernstein's work to be "unsubstantiated" because they relied on an anonymous source--one whose code named was inspired by a pornographic film? Of course not. Their work was considered groundbreaking and has been hailed in numerous books and films; they remain probably the most famous reporting team in journalism history--a team that brought down a corrupt president, Richard M. Nixon.

So why would the Post take a slap at a journalist for using anonymous sources--especially one whose reporting now has proven to be right on target? Is it ignorance, arrogance, or a combination of both? It's hard to say.

But history shows that an anonymous source helped bring down a president. Perhaps such a source will bring down Robert Bentley and Alabama's "de facto governor" Rebekah Mason.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

To "Doctor Love" Bentley, putting his "hands under" aide Rebekah Mason is not a form of sexual activity




Dr. Robert Bentley has proven he is not much of a governor for Alabama, but he sure has potential as a highly creative sex educator.

Bentley acknowledged at a press conference yesterday making "inappropriate remarks" to aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but he denied the two had engaged in "sexual activity." But an audio recording published at multiple news outlets has Bentley talking fondly to Mason about "putting my hands under you." He also says, "When I stand behind you, and I put my arms around you, and I put my hands on your breasts . . . hey, I love that, too."

Sounds like "Doctor Love" was doing more than talking dirty. How would he know he loves certain activities if he had not already engaged in them?

Where are such acts not regarded as sexual activity? Maybe on "Planet Lovetron," made famous by the late basketball quipster Darryl Dawkins. But on this particular planet, where most of us live, Bentley's words undeniably describe that "sexy thang." And Bentley must think the people of Alabama are abominably dense if he expects them to buy his story.

The "Love Doctor," with his aide
who has bodacious boobs and
a fine behind.
The real dunderhead, of course, is Bentley himself. Via national coverage at The New York Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, and The Rachel Maddow Show, Bentley comes across as the creepy grandpa everyone hopes they'll never have to spend time with alone.

In a sign that karma really is a "bee-atch," former First Lady Dianne Bentley, who ended her 50-year marriage to the governor because of the Mason affair, played a major role in exposing the "lovebirds." That's from the conservative Alabama political site Yellowhammer News and a report by publisher Cliff Sims:

Yellowhammer was given exclusive access to the content of audio recordings captured by Dianne Bentley, Governor Bentley’s ex-wife, during which Governor Bentley makes sexual advances on and recalls sexual encounters with Rebekah Mason, his former communications director who has since become his most senior external advisor. Mrs. Mason’s husband, Jon, also serves in the Bentley administration as Director of Serve Alabama, the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service.

One of the recordings was captured while Governor and Mrs. Bentley were visiting their beach house.

Mrs. Bentley, who had suspected the affair, went for a walk on the beach, but left her cell phone behind recording the audio of what took place in her absence.

During that time period, Governor Bentley can be heard making a phone call to “Rebekah” that includes sexual references to their time together. The Governor also expressed a desire to “FaceTime” so they could see each other.

Maybe Mrs. Bentley has a future as a private investigator, a female Barnaby Jones. (Barnaby was famous for going into bars and asking bartenders for a cold glass of milk. That's the kind of wholesome guy Mrs. Bentley needs and deserves. Unfortunately, Buddy Ebsen, the great actor who played Barnaby [and Jed Clampett] has gone to that big TV studio in the sky.) Anyway, here's more from Yellowhammer:

A second recording appears to have been made at the Governor’s residence.

In the recordings, the Governor calls Mrs. Mason “baby” and discusses how much he enjoys standing behind her and touching her breasts. He also references a past encounter and says if they are going to do “that” again, they will need to start locking the door and also consider moving “Wanda’s” desk further away, presumably referencing executive assistant Wanda Kelly, whose Capitol office is just outside of the Governor’s.

References were also made to encounters that took place at Blount House, a 12,336-square-foot, Georgian-style home in Montgomery that serves as a second Governor’s Mansion. The property was donated to the state in 2008 by the family of the late businessman Wynton “Red” Blount. It was valued at $28 million at the time.

Perhaps "Dr. Love" Bentley deserves credit for something. Unlike other conservative politicos who have taken a "wide stance" with their marriage vows, Bentley at least did the "schwing thing" with a woman--and she's pretty good looking, at that.

Perhaps it's reassuring to some that lurking beneath that Montgomery Burns exterior was an inner Hugh Hefner all along.

One final note: This has not been widely reported, but the taping of Bentley's apology video included a number of outtakes. Here they are:



Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Text messages and audio recordings confirm extramarital affair between Gov. Robert Bentley and aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason, former ALEA head says


Gov. Robert Bentley and
Rebekah Caldwell Mason
(From HBTV.us)
Text messages and audio recordings "of a sexual nature" suggest Gov. Robert Bentley and chief aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason had an extramarital affair, says the former chief of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA).

Spencer Collier, whom Bentley fired yesterday, said he has heard an audiotape of a conversation between Bentley and Mason that left no doubt about the nature of the relationship. On the tape, Bentley makes comments about Mason's "breasts and behind," Collier says.

Before we examine the "rest of the story," allow us to line up our trumpet players for a clarion call. Who broke the story of the Bentley-Mason affair? We did. Who took significant heat for reporting that was based on extremely knowledgeable anonymous sources? We did. Who has been sued twice for "defamation" by Republican operatives--Rob Riley/Liberty Duke and Jessica Medeiros Garrison--and absorbed childish taunts from various Alabama news outlets? We have. Have either the Riley/Duke or Garrison claims ever been proven at trial (a jury trial is required, by law, in defamation cases). Nope, there never has been a trial in either case. Since they never have proven their claims in any adversarial proceeding--much less an actual trial--that means, by law, my reporting is true.

In the Garrison case, I was hit with a $3.5 million default judgment that is not remotely supported by law; in fact, that judgment, by definition, is void because I never received notice of the default hearing, and an Alabama lawyer who examined the file said the record shows no one even attempted to give me notice.

In the Riley case, I was hit with roughly $30,000 in attorney fees--never mind that state law prohibits an award of attorney fees against a non-lawyer party who is representing himself, as I was.

A number of news outlets have made light of the money I allegedly owe, without ever mentioning that neither order has any basis in law or fact. Does that chap my fanny? Yes, it does.

But let's look at the scoreboard now: Legal Schnauzer's reporting on the Bentley-Mason affair, a story we broke last August, is true. Our reporting on Rob Riley/Liberty Duke and Jessica Garrison, as a matter of law, is true.

Spencer Collier
(From alreporter.com)
The score? By my count, it's Legal Schnauzer 3, Republican thugs/shysters 0.

That sound you hear are trumpets blaring, not only for Legal Schnauzer but for the Web-based press in general--without which all of these stories, plus news of U.S. Judge Bill Pryor's gay-porn nudie photos--never would have reached public view. (And by the way, the Pryor story is accurate too, so I guess that makes the score 4-0.)

Now that we are done patting ourselves on the back, let's take a closer look at Spencer Collier's revelations. This is from a report at al.com:


Spencer Collier, head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency until he was fired today, said this afternoon he has seen and investigated text messages and audio recordings "of a sexual nature" between Gov. Robert Bentley and his chief advisor, Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

It is the first on-the-record confirmation of a long-rumored affair from someone claiming personal knowledge of what took place, though people close to the governor argue it is the last gasp of an angry man.

But Collier lays out times and dates.

Collier, who was placed on medical leave by the governor last month, said he saw and heard evidence of the relationship in 2014 and approached the governor – who he considered a friend and father figure. He said the governor confirmed the relationship, but vowed to end it quickly.

"It's a horrible, ugly episode and I am ashamed to have been around it," Collier said. "But I told him I would never lie for him."

Here is where things really heat up:

Collier said the first evidence of an affair arose Aug. 2, 2014, when Stan Stabler – who took his place as the head of ALEA – saw a text message from Mason on Bentley's cell phone. Collier said Stabler saw the message after the governor dropped his phone at a Business Council of Alabama conference at Point Clear.

He said Stabler notified his then-boss, former Bentley security officer Ray Lewis, of the "sexual nature" of the text. . . .

Three days later, at 3 p.m. on Aug. 5, 2014, Lewis brought a laptop to Collier and played an audiotape of conversations between the governor and Mason, Collier said. The tape, purportedly created by a Bentley family member hoping for an "intervention," left no doubt about the relationship, he said.

"'If we're gonna do what we did yesterday we're going to have to lock that door,'" Collier says Mason said.

The governor responded, Collier maintains, with improper comments about "her breasts and behind."

Gee, imagine if Bentley weren't such a "man of God" with "conservative, Christian values." Without that, he probably would have turned the Governor's Mansion into something that looks like a scene from Caligula.

Ashley Madison customers revealed: James F. Henry, of prestigious Bradley Arant firm, is among many lawyers on the list at extramarital-cheaters site


James F. Henry
(From babc.com)
A Birmingham attorney, who practices health-care law at the state's largest firm, appears as a paying customer at the Ashley Madison extramarital-affair Web site.

James F. Henry is the second lawyer from Bradley Arant Boult and Cummings (BABC) that we've found on the list. The other is Rob Campbell, the husband of fellow attorney Minda Riley Campbell and the son-in-law of former governor Bob Riley.

According to his biography at the BABC Web site, Henry has been listed among the best health-care lawyers in the United States from 2012-16. He has a "preeminent rating" from Martindale-Hubbell. Here's how the bio describes Henry's practice:

Jim Henry has extensive experience representing a broad spectrum of health care providers, including hospitals, senior housing and long term care facilities, physicians and physician practices, hospices, home health providers, pharmacies, and medical equipment providers. His practice encompasses operational counseling, regulatory advice, and protecting the rights of health care providers before various regulatory agencies and in state and federal courts. Jim regularly provides advice and counsel in matters relating to Stark law, the Anti-Kickback Statute, HIPAA, contract arrangements, survey and certification, licensing, reimbursement and others.

If you are a doctor charged with malpractice or an administrator charged with health-care fraud, Henry is the guy you want to see at BABC. It seems his specialty is getting such "professionals" off--or with minimal damages. And this case suggests he is pretty good at it--although the favorable ruling came from ancient U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr., who is notorious for protecting corporations, health-care providers, educational institutions, and other "elites." From the Henry bio:

In addition to providing daily advice and counsel to health care providers, Jim handles litigation in the state and federal courts in Alabama and Mississippi. Jim has extensive experience in defending cases involving allegations of health care fraud and malpractice. He has also prosecuted numerous appeals of federal and state agency determinations.

543 Bristol Lane, Homewood
(From redfin.com)
How does Henry accomplish all of that while maintaining a presence at Ashley Madison? Well, we aren't sure. We sought comment from him, and he has not responded so far. Imagine how good he would be if he gave legal work his undivided attention.

Public records show that Henry is married to Kelly Jo Henry, and they have owned a home at 543 Bristol Lane in Homewood for more than 10 years. The home's estimated value is $345,800.

Those familiar with the Birmingham real-estate market know that houses in Homewood tend to be outrageously overpriced. The number above probably is the assessed value of the Henry home, but it's sales price probably would be around $500,000 or more.

It's unclear from the public record if Henry and his wife have children. Considering that their house has five bedrooms and more than 3,000 square feet, it seems likely that they have multiple children.

Come to think of it, that home might list for about $750,000 in Homewood.


Previously:

(1) Edgar C. Gentle III--attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

(2) Stewart Springer--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

(3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

(4) Robert M.N. Palmer--attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)

(5) Thomas Plouff--attorney, who is licensed in Alabama and has a practice in Chicago (3/17/16)

Monday, March 21, 2016

"Do Not Publish" stamp on appellate opinion might be a sign that you got screwed--and that Antonin Scalia's wealthy friend got a fishy favorable outcome


Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals
in Atlanta
Why should an unpublished opinion favoring Antonin Scalia's wealthy hunting buddy--the man who owned the ranch where Scalia died last month--raise eyebrows?

It's because unpublished opinions enhance the possibility of judicial corruption--and the likelihood that it will be covered up. Being tagged "unpublished" means they are not likely to see the light of day--and if they do, they won't be taken seriously. Hence, the possibility for hanky-panky, which is likely to favor connected individuals--such as Scalia's friend John B. Poindexter.

Even one of the nation's leading experts on legal ethics considered unpublished opinions to be a dubious practice. (More on that below--and in an upcoming post.) We agree with him and here, based on research and personal experience, is why:

If you ever are involved in a federal-court case and decide that the trial court's finding is wrong and must be appealed, you will go through a lengthy and expensive process and likely wind up with an opinion that upholds the trial court and carries a "Do Not Publish" stamp in the upper right-hand corner.

A 2009 report in The National Law Journal found that more than 85 percent of opinions issued in the Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) are stamped "Do Not Publish." The Fourth Circuit (Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland) had the highest percentage of unpublished opinions (95 percent). From 2000-2008, the national rate for unpublished opinions topped 81 percent.

In theory, "Do Not Publish" opinions allow appellate judges to decide that certain cases have no precedential value and can be struck from the official record, so as not to clutter up the federal reporters that carry binding case law. In reality, unpublished opinions can be used to cheat litigants, especially every-day citizens who, courts probably assume, can't understand legal writing anyway.

I know because I've had it happen to me three times. Contrary to what federal judges might think, many regular folks can read simple declarative sentences. That, plus the ability to conduct relatively simple online research, is enough to allow you to understand many court opinions--if you take the time to read them closely, without allowing your eyes to glaze over.

Am I a lone voice, howling in the wilderness about this issue? Not by a long shot. The Web site justicedenied.org published an article in 2006 titled "Non-published and non-precedential opinions stealthily harm the innocent." From the article:

Use of non-published opinions, which with very rare exceptions are non-precedential, has reached the point that they are a significant factor affecting the handling and outcome of state and federal civil and criminal cases.
The innocent are one class of litigants affected by the surreptitious and pervasive use of nonpublished opinions. They are likely affected more profoundly than any other identifiable group, because non-published opinions are being used by judges (and prosecutors) as a tool to deny under the cover of darkness the very thing the courts are not just touted as offering, but which is their very reason for existing — to offer litigants the opportunity for “justice. . . .”

Any institutional procedure that undermines the likelihood that a person will be fairly and impartially treated is unacceptable in a society committed to observing “justice” as a real and vibrant guidepost, and not just a meaningless catchphrase intended to placate the masses of people who will never find out how illusory of a concept it can be within the four corners of a courtroom.

Whew, I wish I had written that. Those are some of the most powerful words ever published here at Legal Schnauzer. And Justice Denied did not stop there. It quoted the late Monroe H. Freedman, who was professor and former dean at the Hofstra University School of Law. The following words are from a 1989 speech, so you can only imagine how bad the situation is now:

Frankly, I have had more than enough of judicial opinions that bear no relationship whatsoever to the cases that have been filed and argued before the judges.

I am talking about judicial opinions that falsify the facts of the cases that have been argued, judicial opinions that make disingenuous use or omission of material authorities, judicial opinions that cover up these things with no-publication and no-citation rules.”

That's not a "crazed blogger" talking. Those are the words of a law professor and former dean who lectured annually for 30 years on legal ethics at Harvard Law School. You can't get much more eminent in the field than that, and Monroe Freedman pulled no punches about the reality of modern courtrooms.

Heck, some judges have recognized profound constitutional issues that unpublished opinions raise. From The National Law Journal:

In 2000, the 8th Circuit went so far as to declare that a circuit rule allowing unpublished opinions without precedential value violated Article III of the Constitution. See Anastasoff v. U.S., 223 F.3d 898 (8th Cir., 2000)Judge Richard S. Arnold’s opinion held that the “judicial power” in Article III, though undefined, is limited and that courts do not have the power to issue decisions—whether published or unpublished—without precedential value, because precedent is the very foundation of the common law system. Although later vacated on other grounds, 235 F.3d 1054 (8th Cir. 2000), the decision generated much debate among judges and legal scholars.

Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the problems inherent with unpublished opinions. Again, from The National Law Journal:

The Supreme Court has criticized the practice of issuing unpublished decisions in consequential cases. Reversing an unpublished 4th Circuit decision, the Supreme Court “deem[ed] it remarkable and unusual” that, in holding an Act of Congress unconstitutional, the court of appeals “found it appropriate to announce its judgment in an unpublished per curiam opinion.” U.S. v. Edge Broadcasting Co., 509 U.S. 418, 425 n.3 (1993). Similarly, Justice John Paul Stevens’ dissent in County of Los Angeles v. Kling, 474 U.S. 936, 938 (1985), denounced the 9th Circuit’s decision not to publish its opinion as “plainly wrong,” likening it to “spawning a body of secret law.”

I would argue that all federal appeals are "consequential" to the parties involved, and that all appellate opinions should be published and kept in reporters. That would go a long way toward forcing appellate judges to issue honest and legally sound opinions. I also would point out to Justice Stevens that the Ninth Circuit hardly is alone in "spawning a body of secret law." In reality, an alarming number of appellate judges create a body of rogue opinions, which do not represent actual law at all. I know it, Prof. Monroe H. Freedman knew it--and now, you know it.

The late Prof. Monroe H. Freedman
How does this work in the real world? I'm going to show you exactly how "Do Not Publish" opinions were used to cheat my wife and me on federal appeals--not once, but three times. My hope is that this information will help readers understand what is happening if they find themselves in similar circumstances someday.

I will link to the opinions in each of my cases--such appellate rulings can be easily found on Google Scholar--and then briefly describe how each opinion is flawed and contrary to binding precedent. That goes to the reason that "Do Not Publish" is stamped on such opinions--they conflict with the actual law, and if published in reporters, would create mass confusion for lawyers, judges, and litigants. It would be like introducing a cancerous cell into an otherwise healthy body; if such a "cell" is published, and then multiplies with other rogue "cells," havoc ensues--and you no longer have a healthy body of law.

By the way, the Eleventh Circuit requires judges to issue opinions. It used to have Rule 36-1, which allowed for affirmances without opinions. But that rule was rescinded in 2006, supposedly because the court terminated very few cases in that fashion. Other circuits have varying rules, but in the Eleventh Circuit you are entitled to an opinion.

You are not, however, entitled to an honest, or legally justified, opinion. And if your opinion has "Do Not Publish" in the upper right-hand corner, that's a sign it might conflict with the actual law--meaning you've been screwed, just as I have been.

(To be continued)

Obama nominee Abdul Kallon once defended company where women were called "cunts," "bitches," and "whores"--and marketing staff was the "whore's den"


Abdul Kallon
(From al.com)
The fate of Obama Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland remains up in the air. But the fate of another Obama nominee--Abdul Kallon for a seat on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals--should be sealed. Kallon should be soundly rejected, especially by liberals who tend to care about the civil rights of minorities. Research into Kallon's past shows that he considers the rights of minorities to be ripe for trampling.

How is this for irony? America's first black president and Alabama's only black member of Congress have trumpeted Kallon's nomination. Neither President Barack Obama nor U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) apparently are aware that Kallon spent much of his law career working against the interests of black people.

On top of that, Kallon has worked against the interests of women. Black Americans and women are supposed to be major constituencies of the Democratic Party. But Obama and Sewell support the elevation of an individual who has worked to ensure employers can get away with discriminating against blacks, women, and other minorities?

Unreal.

Want proof of Kallon's tendency to trample the rights of women? Look no further than McCormack, et al v. Campus Crest Group, et al. (WD of NC, 2011), a case involving allegations that Charlotte-based Campus Crest Communities and then CEO Ted Rollins engaged in vile discrimination and harassment against blacks and women.

Regular readers will recognize the name Ted Rollins. He has appeared frequently here at Legal Schnauzer because of his central role in a divorce case that caused his ex wife, Sherry Carroll Rollins, and two children to wind up on food stamps in Birmingham. The chief corporate law firm for Rollins and Campus Crest was Bradley Arant, of Birmingham. Before Obama nominated him as a U.S. district judge, Kallon worked at Bradley Arant and was actively engaged in defending Campus Crest against allegations in the McCormack case.

What was it like for women to work at Campus Crest? Consider this from an earlier post about McCormack:

Campus Crest Communities, which develops student housing near college campuses, is charged in Charlotte federal court with creating a work environment that is hostile to women and African-Americans. Two plaintiffs in the lawsuits, Nicole McAuliffe and Heather McCormack, say they were terminated after complaining of a sexually hostile work environment at Campus Crest. A third plaintiff, Tammy Hughes-Brown, says she has faced discrimination because she is an African-American. . . .

Nicole McAuliffe was hired as an area manager at Campus Crest's Charlotte headquarters in October 2008. She was paid a salary of $82,500, with a bonus potential of $50,000. But she quickly discovered that the workplace was hostile and demeaning toward women, driven largely by Chief Operating Officer Brian Sharpe. McAuliffe's complaint states:

"Sharpe, on a frequent and/or daily basis, used the term “fuck” and “fucking,” in his verbal communications in the workplace. Sharpe further referred to women in the office as “cunts,” “bitches” and “whores” and referred to Defendant’s marketing team as the “whore’s den.” On more than one occasion, Sharpe, in the presence of Plaintiff and others, referred to Shannon King as a “cunt.” On another occasion, while on the corporate jet with Sharpe and others, Sharpe made derogatory and misogynistic remarks about Heather McCormack, Defendant’s Vice-President of Administrative Operations, calling her a “fucking bitch” and threatening to “rip her fucking head off.”

This language did not come from a low-level supervisor. It came from the company's COO. Here is more about the threatening and demeaning language women were subjected to at Campus Crest:

Shannon King, who had been executive vice president and chief marketing officer, resigned from Campus Crest in October. McAuliffe's complaint provides insight into why King and other women might have been uncomfortable at Campus Crest:

"Also, Sharpe, in Plaintiff’s presence, complained about a race discrimination complaint made by another female employee of Defendant and stated he “couldn’t believe she had fucking done this [made a complaint]” and that “if our employees don’t want to work,  they should fucking get out.” On yet another occasion, Plaintiff heard Sharpe shout sex-based obscenities at McCormack and observed that Sharpe had become so angry and agitated that he popped a blood vessel in his eye."

 According to the complaint, Rollins and Chief Investment Officer Mike Hartnett tolerated Sharpe's behavior. In some instances, Rollins contributed to the hostile work environment:

"Further, Plaintiff heard Ted Rollins frequently yell at Heather McCormack to “go get the fucking money.” On yet other occasions, Rollins insisted that all attractive female applicants for employment be introduced to Brian Sharpe; alternatively, if Rollins saw an attractive applicant for employment in the office, he would bring Sharpe in to meet her."

Did Abdul Kallon stand up to such racism, sexism, and bullying? Nope. He tried to protect the bullies, to make sure the victims would get as little justice as possible.

Barack Obama and Terri Sewell want the public to believe that such a man is fit to sit on a federal appellate bench where civil-rights cases frequently land? Who are they trying to kid?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ashley Madison customers revealed: Alabama attorney Thomas Plouff, who has a practice in Chicago and a physician wife in Birmingham, appears at cheaters site


Thomas Plouff
(Fifth in a series)

An Alabama attorney, who has a practice in Chicago and a physician wife in Birmingham, is a paying customer of the Ashley Madison (AM) extramarital-affair Web site, records show.

Thomas Plouff, a Notre Dame graduate and former assistant U.S. attorney, has taught at Samford University's Cumberland School of Law. He is married to Dr. Anne Marie Oberheu, who had a rehabilitation-medicine practice in Birmingham, for a number of years.

The couple has two daughters, Lauren and Caroline Plouff, who both attended Altamont High School. Lauren Plouff will graduate this year with a civil engineering degree from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana.

Dr. Oberheu had a major impact on the direction her husband's legal career took. From Thomas Plouff's bio at his Web page:

I left the United States Attorneys Office in 1993. I knew I wanted to continue as a trial attorney, which in my mind left two options: defending criminals or personal injury work, as these are the areas where trials are most frequent. My wife having eliminated the former, I became a personal injury attorney in Chicago. It was the right decision. I have had the good fortune of being the lead trial attorney on jury verdicts that include a record $5.3 million jury verdict for a knee injury in a trip and fall case; $1.2 million jury verdict for an unoperated compression fracture at L5 in a construction case; and most recently, June 2007, $11.11 million medical malpractice jury verdict for failure to diagnose bacterial meningitis.

The family's home base had been Birmingham, but it recently became Durham, North Carolina. Oberheu and Plouff purchased a house there, and she now is medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

Dr. Anne Marie Oberheu and
daughter, Caroline Plouff
Dr. Oberheu grew up in an accomplished family. Her father, Dr. Ken Oberheu, served a two-year residency in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan and went on to launch the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Program at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. Her mother, Marilee, while a student at the University of Dayton, was one of the first women to receive The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Award.

Anne Marie Oberheu's uncle is Gerry Faust, who was the famed football coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati before moving into the college ranks as head coach at Notre Dame. He later was head coach at the University of Akron. Dr. Oberheu's mother's full name is Marilee Faust Oberheu.

Dr. Oberheu clearly comes from a distinguished background, and she has raised two daughters who apparently are heading down a similar path. Why is her husband fooling around on Ashley Madison?

We don't have an answer to that question. We twice contacted Thomas Plouff, seeking comment for this post, and he has not responded.


Previously:

(1) Edgar C. Gentle III--attorney at Gentle Turner Sexton and Harbison, Birmingham, AL (3/8/16)

(2) Stewart Springer--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL. (3/9/16)

(3) Richard W. "Dick" Bell--attorney, solo practice in Birmingham, AL (3/14/16)

(4) Robert M.N. Palmer--attorney and bar association president in Springfield, MO (3/15/16)