Thursday, July 19, 2018

"Luv Guv" Robert Bentley, Alabama's former chief executive, claims his fondling of adviser Rebekah Mason was not inappropriate workplace behavior




Most rational Alabamians probably concluded that former Gov. Robert Bentley was a corrupt, dishonest rube about the time he resigned in April 2017, after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors. If there is any doubt that Bentley is a loon, it should be erased by Bentley's words in a deposition, revealed this week.

What is the surest sign Bentley is so narcissistic and self-righteous that his visions of grandiosity form a disconnect with reality? My No. 1 choice is this: Audio evidence shows that Bentley delighted in massaging the boobs and exploring the nether regions of married senior adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason, but he now says such behavior was not -- I repeat, NOT -- inappropriate.

If you have forgotten the contents of the Bentley audio, we have a transcript here, courtesy of Yellowhammer News. As for the deposition, we invite you to take a gander at these words from Bentley, on pages 176 and 177, and try not to spew. (The full deposition is embedded at the end of this post.) The questioning, from attorney Kenneth Mendelsohn, focuses on Bentley's divorce from his wife of 50 years, Dianne:

Q. Was the relationship between you and Rebekah Mason the reason for the divorce?

MS. MAYS: Object to the form.

A. It was one of the reasons, yes.

Q. And I understand you say that there was no consummation of your love, but Mrs. Bentley did not like the relationship that you had with Mrs. Mason?

MR. SEGALL: Object to the form.

A. No, she did not.

Q. And she believed that as a married man, and certainly a man that had been married for right around 50 years, that having such a relationship with Ms. Mason was inappropriate?

MR. SEGALL: Object to the form.

A. I'm sure that she did.

Q. Do you consider the relationship inappropriate? 
A. No.
Bentley even struggles to admit he owed the people of Alabama an apology. He decides to play the "clueless oaf" card, a role for which he is particularly well suited. From pages 177-178:

Q. And there have been a couple of occasions where you apologized to the people of the state of Alabama. Do you recall those?

A. I do.

Q. What were you apologizing for?

A. The first time I apologized was in a press conference, that was the day that Spencer [Collier] had his press conference; but at that time, I don't know what I was apologizing for, because I didn't know what I was even talking about. I didn't know what was released. You know, I apologized for inappropriate things that I may have said, but at that time I didn't know what those things were. And if I had it to do over again, I probably would not have had a press conference that day. But the second time that I apologized, then all of this had been brought out. I mean, I still didn't know what was on the tapes, I never knew that until they were actually released. So the second time that I apologized, it was up in Huntsville, and I wanted an opportunity to do that, I did do that. I said, "I own these. If it's my voice, I own them. I do not deny it, and I want to apologize to the people of the state and to anybody that was hurt from them."

Good Lord, this guy makes Shallow Hal sound like Alistair Cooke.





Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Donald Watkins says "Luv Guv" Robert Bentley did, in fact, order investigations of Web-based journalists who broke stories on Rebekah Caldwell Mason scandal


"Luv Guv" Bentley and Rebekah Caldwell Mason

Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, contrary to his sworn deposition testimony, ordered investigations of Web-based journalists, according to a report from attorney, businessman, and Facebook blogger Donald Watkins. In fact, Watkins says Bentley's attacks on him went beyond personal matters to targeting at least one of his businesses.

As we reported yesterday, Bentley admits in his deposition that he met with a cabinet member at least three times about investigating Watkins and me, as the two journalists who reported on the governor's extramarital affair with adviser Rebekah Caldwell Mason (and related scandals) for roughly seven months before the mainstream press rose from its slumber on the story. (A transcript of the deposition is embedded at the end of this post.)

The cabinet member was former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) secretary Spencer Collier, who brought the wrongful-termination lawsuit for which Bentley was deposed. Bentley acknowledges, under oath, meeting with Collier multiple times to discuss possible investigations of Watkins and me -- apparently on the grounds that accurate journalism was seen as a "threat" to the governor.

Bentley suggests that he never ordered any investigations, but Collier took it upon himself to proceed because the governor felt "threatened." Watkins says in his latest post, published yesterday and updated this morning, that is false. From the Watkins post, titled "Surviving Hatred In Alabama":

Online journalist Roger Alan Shuler published an article [yesterday] reporting that former Alabama governor Robert Bentley ordered the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (“ALEA”) to open a criminal Investigation on Shuler and me for exposing his marital cheating and public corruption scandal with his lover, Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Bentley was also the Chief Magistrate of Alabama when the order was given, but he provided law enforcement officials with no evidence that Shuler or I had engaged in any wrongdoing.

To his credit, then-ALEA Chief Spencer Collier refused to open the criminal investigation Bentley requested. Bentley later fired Collier.

In March 2017, Collier confirmed to me that Governor Bentley requested a criminal investigation that targeted me. Bentley's June 23, 2018 deposition testimony in Collier's wrongful termination case affirms this fact.

Watkins and I are pretty much on the same page, but I read Bentley's deposition testimony a bit differently than does Watkins. I understand Bentley to be stating, under oath, that he did not order an investigation, but he discussed it with Collier, who moved forward of his his own accord. Watkins, as I understand it, essentially says Bentley lied under oath -- and in doing so, Watkins breaks two important pieces of information:

(1) Collier told him more than a year ago that Bentley requested a criminal investigation of Watkins -- and, presumably, of me, too. Collier has stated publicly that Bentley used ALEA as a political tool;

(2) Collier refused to open the criminal investigations that Bentley requested.

As for me, I believe the Watkins/Collier version of events over anything Bentley might say -- under oath or not. Remember this statement from Bentley in a December 2015 interview with al.com's disappearing and discredited Chuck Dean, apparently referencing online reports from Watkins and me. Writes the discredited Dean:

Throughout the ordeal Bentley, reluctant to talk about the deeply personal issue, would only say it was a personal, family matter.

And he never addressed the unfounded rumors of an affair.

Until now.

"The rumors were not true," said Bentley.

The governor then seemed to let out months of pent up frustrations.

"There were people on blogs and people in the press who crossed the line. They truly crossed the line. People on talk radio crossed the line," said Bentley.

Bentley said it's hard as a public official to address the kind of rumors that were being spread and he said he felt to directly address them would only serve in some cases to give them credibility.

Bentley said the rumors hurt many people.

"There were many people - my own family and there were a lot of other families - many people, people that I love, that I care about, they went through some difficult times because people were able to say whatever they wanted to say. They were just ridiculous. I don't know how anyone could ever believe them."

We now know the "rumors" were true -- and Bentley knew they were true at the time he spoke these words. -- with Chuck Dean licking his boots, like Donald Trump bowing before Vladimir Putin. This is a so-called "Christian" governor lying to the public about his own extramarital affair -- and he found a limp-wristed journalist who swallowed every word. (Have we mentioned that Chuck Dean is discredited, and he seemingly has disappeared from the journalism scene?)

Donald Watkins
Three words that could apply to Bentley are "wicked," "loony," and "dishonorable," and the deposition testimony reveals he has learned nothing from his misadventures with the fetching Ms. Mason and her magnificent boobies. In fact, Bentley states under oath that "Home Wrecky Becky" now works at his dermatology practice, with a salary of $5,000 a month.

So, while Bentley continues to prop up the Mason household, he reportedly did his best to ruin one of Donald Watkins' businesses. From the Watkins Facebook post:

Unlike Spencer Collier, John D. Harrison, then-Superintendent of the Alabama State Banking Department, went along with a separate Bentley order to place my Birmingham-based bank and me under heightened regulatory scrutiny. Working in concert with the FDIC, the State Banking Department launched a full-scale, coordinated "Blitzkrieg" investigation of Alamerica Bank and me that has been ongoing for five years. To provide political cover for this illegal regulatory activity, the State Banking Department encouraged the FDIC to take the lead in trying to run me out of the banking business.

As an accommodation to the State Banking Department, the FDIC trumped-up baseless allegations that I violated Regulation O with respect to a loan the bank made to one of my business partners and a loan that was made to one of my sons. Regulation O governs bank loans to executives and directors of the bank. I was chairman of the bank at the time these loans were made, but I had no role in their application process, underwriting, or approval.

In my case, the FDIC has repeatedly refused to recognize that both loans fell squarely within the well-known, published exceptions to Regulation O. This has not been the case with similarly situated bank officers and directors.

Where does the banking matter stand? Well, it's ugly, and provides evidence that Bentley is tied to a probe that is drenched in racism. Writes Watkins:

I formally answered the FDIC’s allegations and denied all of the charges, while asserting my affirmative defenses. My case is in front of an FDIC administrative law judge, but it has been stayed indefinitely.

My case will likely have to start over in light of a June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring the process used by federal agencies like the FDIC and SEC for selecting and assigning administrative law judges to be unconstitutional. I lodged the same objection to the selection of the administrative law judge in my FDIC case.

Based upon what is happening in Washington, the public knows that federal regulatory agencies have become convenient tools for imposing and enforcing political agendas and for administering retribution against targeted individuals. My case is no different.

In fact, the "non-public" agency files in this state/federal regulatory investigation of Alamerica Bank are filled with racially derogatory references to me. What is worse, another Birmingham, Alabama-based federal agency that is involved in a parallel investigation of the same two loans transactions has at least two reputed white supremacists embedded in the agency who are reportedly actively working on my case.. . .

Alamerica Bank is one of only nineteen African-American-owned banks in the United States. Within this group, we are the only one that state and federal regulators are actively trying to collapse (without any success to-date).

For the record, no judicial body has ever found that I have violated any state or federal banking industry rule or regulation.

All of this -- plus Bentley's deposition testimony and his blatantly false statements to Alabama's largest news organization -- raise a number of troubling questions:

(1) Should Bentley be referred for a perjury investigation related to his testimony in the Collier lawsuit?

(2) Did Bentley violate Alabama ethics law by ordering that state resources be used for his personal mission to investigate journalists who had repeatedly broken stories about scandals in his administration?

(3) While a grand jury has cleared Bentley of additional criminal charges in the overall Mason scandal, should he be referred for an ethics investigation related to his apparent orders regarding Watkins and me?

(4) Why would Alabama Republicans overwhelmingly support incumbent attorney general Steve Marshall, a Bentley appointee, in yesterday's primary runoff election? It seems to be widely understood in Alabama that Bentley is fundamentally dishonest and corrupt, and yet, voters support his appointee, whose estranged wife died under mysterious circumstances just a few weeks ago. Does that make a lick of sense?





Trump and Putin might have thought Helsinki summit was private, but intelligence agencies from Finland and Sweden likely reported it in almost real time




Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin might have thought their meeting in Helsinki yesterday was virtually private, but that almost certainly was not the case, reports a D.C.-based investigative reporter. In fact, Wayne Madsen writes that a transcript likely was provided to key western political and military leaders in real time.

An article at the subscription-based Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), dated July 16-17, carried the headline "No note takers at Helsinki summit, but Trump-Putin conversation will be fully wired." How so? Madsen provides the details:


Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin's one-on-one summit in Helsinki, which, like Trump's meeting in Singapore with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, was without advisers and note takers but with only translators, will be fully monitored in real-time with transcription provided almost immediately to select Western political and military leaders.

To ensure that any secret deals made between Trump and Putin or discussions about the U.S. investigation of malfeasance with the 2016 election are fully known to others, Finland's top-secret signals intelligence agency, Viestikoelaitos (VKL), the academic-sounding Signals Experimental Institute, has likely had the summit venue, the Finnish Presidential Palace (Presidentinlinna), located on the Helsinki harbor waterfront and overlooking Market Square wired for audio and video surveillance. Working with the Finnish security and intelligence service, the Suojelupoliisi (SUPO), VKL will have its ears extended on to the Putin-Trump summit. When it comes to Russia, an old enemy, Finland takes nothing for granted, especially when it involves a one-on-one meeting between the leaders of Russia and the United States. This is particularly true when the summit involves an American president whose loyalties to his own country and NATO are under heightened suspicion.

As a former intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, Madsen has an insider's knowledge of such activities. He reports that Finland is sophisticated when it comes to signal intelligence:

The VKL, a department of the Finnish Air Force, is a third-party provider of signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the FIVE EYES cooperative alliance of the National Security Agency (NSA), Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Canadian Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). The FIVE EYES alliance also shares intelligence routinely with Germany, France, and NATO. During the renovation of the Presidential Palace, fully completed in 2015, new high-tech "security" systems should afford eavesdroppers all the surveillance of the Putin-Trump summit that is desired by the Finns.

Finland likely was not alone in following the Trump-Putin proceedings, Madsen reports. He was expecting Sweden to also be involved:

It will not be merely the VKL and SUPO that will have an ear on the Putin-Trump meeting but also the Swedish embassy, which is conveniently located near the Presidential Palace. The Swedish National Defense Radio Establishment or Försvarets radioanstalt (FRA), a Third Party agency for NSA and FIVE EYES, will also be listening in on the summit from its eavesdropping unit located on an upper level of the Swedish embassy in Helsinki. The FRA-run and NSA-equipped unit has been in use since the days of the Cold War.

Finland's President, Sauli Niinisto, will not have to worry about eavesdropping devices listening in on his dinner conversations or "pillow talk." Although the presidential office is located in the palace, Niinisto and Jenni Haukio, Finland's first lady, live at another location in Helsinki, the Mantyniemi official presidential residence.

The central parties to the summit, especially Trump (with his widely expressed disdain for NATO), might be clueless about the spying capabilities of those in the neighborhood. But they are not dealing with a bunch of rubes, reports Madsen:

Messrs. Putin and Trump may believe that their meeting will be strictly one-on-one. Ironically, their conversations will be known, in near real-time fashion and thanks to VKL and FRA, to key members of the Finnish and Swedish governments, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Theresa May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and even Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull -- all recipients of Trump's boorish bluster. In fact, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will only know what was said at the summit by nicely asking leaders like Merkel, May, or Trudeau to be cued in.

Trump believes he knows much more about the world by watching Fox News and reading the National Enquirer. Trump ignores intelligence reports and makes decisions based on his "gut feeling." Soon, Mr. Trump will discover that the Western intelligence agencies will provide his gut with a "feeling" -- a swift kick to the stomach.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Luv Guv" Robert Bentley admits in deposition that he talked with law enforcement about investigating me and Donald Watkins for our reporting on scandal


Robert Bentley's mugshot after guilty plea
and resignation.
Former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley talked with a member of his cabinet about investigating me and attorney/Facebook blogger Donald Watkins, according to a deposition in a pending lawsuit.

The deposition, conducted in June, is part of a wrongful-termination lawsuit that Spencer Collier, former secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), brought against Bentley and others. (A transcript of the full deposition is embedded at the end of this post.)

I apparently was targeted for investigation because I broke the story here at Legal Schnauzer, on August 31, 2015, about Bentley's extramarital-affair with aide Rebekah Caldwell Mason. Watkins followed up on my reporting, and that apparently prompted an investigation of him. In other words, Bentley and his team retaliated against Web-based journalists for accurately reporting on the "Luv Guv" scandal. In addition, it appears Mike Echols, Bentley's former CPA, was investigated.

The mainstream press largely ignored the scandal for roughly seven months -- and al.com reporters John Archibald and Chuck Dean attacked me for breaking it -- until audiotapes of Bentley and Mason surfaced in March 2016.

Reports of Bentley's team investigating Watkins and me have surfaced in several news outlets, including Alabama Political Reporter (APR), which published a Bill Britt story with the headline "Bentley Ordered Law Enforcement to Target Critics." In the deposition, Bentley admits he discussed such matters with . . . of all people, Spencer Collier. Here is Bentley, from page 207 of the deposition:

Spencer and I talked two or three times about all these things that had transpired, you know, the things that were on blogs and things like this. The thing about Donald Watkins, so much of that had been fed to him by, obviously, somebody, and so he was one of the ones that was putting out some of this material that I felt was somewhat threatening. So Spencer told me -- I remember on three occasions, Spencer said, "Now, Governor, you're not telling me to investigate this, because I don't know how they investigate things," but he said, "I am going to investigate this." He investigated -- I don't know how much they did on Donald Watkins, I don't know what they looked into it on it, I don't know what they used, but he was one of the ones that we talked about. The guy at Legal Schnauzer, whatever his name is, he was one of the others. I also gave Spencer some e-mails from my former accountant that Spencer felt like were extortion. So Spencer investigated some things. I don't know exactly how much was investigated, though.

Legal Schnauzer
Bentley seems to be laying the investigations at Collier's feet -- this was while Collier still was a loyal sergeant, before he, too, was investigated and then terminated. But Bentley's tone changes a bit on page 208 of the deposition, under questioning from Collier's lawyer, Kenneth Mendelsohn. Suddenly, it doesn't seem the investigations were all Collier's idea:

Q. And the things on Donald Watkins, Legal Schnauzer, and Mike Echols are all things that Spencer did on his own?

A. No. We had talked about it, but Spencer said, "If you feel threatened" -- basically, if we feel like that was a threat, if the governor feels threatened, then it's the duty of the law enforcement to do whatever they need to do. I don't know how much investigation was done.

Q. And what Donald Watkins was posting on his blog, or whatever you call it, his Facebook page --

A. Right.

Q. -- was matters concerning your relationship with Rebekah Mason?

A. Primarily, yes.

Q. The same thing with Legal Schnauzer?

A. I guess, yes.

On page 210 of the deposition, we find this, again with questioning from Mendelsohn:

Q. Do you have any information, other than what you just referred to about your conversations with Spencer, that he ever did any background checks on Donald Watkins or Legal Schnauzer?

A. I don't.

MR. MENDELSOHN: That's all I've got now.






Arrest of Russian operative Maria Butina on spying charges points to NRA-related communications that landed in the files of Trump AG Jeff Sessions


Maria Butina
Trump attorney general and former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was "in the loop" on communications that led to yesterday's charges against a Russian woman who stands accused of spying for Moscow by infiltrating the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an effort to influence the Republican Party and American politics. From a report at The Guardian:

Maria Butina, who purported to be a pro-gun activist, met American politicians and candidates to establish “back channels” and secretly reported back to the Kremlin through a high-level Russian official, according to the US justice department.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Butina, 29, had been “developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation”.

Butina was charged with conspiracy to act as a Russian agent within the US without notifying the attorney general. She was arrested on Sunday and appeared before a magistrate in Washington on Monday, officials said. In an affidavit, an FBI agent said investigators had searched Butina’s laptop computer and mobile phone.

According to a Rolling Stone (RS) report earlier this year -- and we reported on it in a post dated April 30, 2018 -- those "U.S. persons" included Jeff Sessions and his former chief of staff Rick Dearborn, who went on to become a member of the Trump transition team. The winding road that led from Butina to Sessions involved Vladimir Putin ally Alexander Torshin and Republican/NRA operative Paul Erickson.

Rolling Stone reported on an email between Erickson and Dearborn and describes Butina as "Torshin's protege."  It says Erickson and Butina had started a business together in South Dakota. From the RS report, which was built on a response from Democrats to a U.S. House Intelligence Committee report on the Trump-Russia scandal:

In particular, the Democrats strongly suggest that Putin ally Alexander Torshin was running an op through the NRA: "The Kremlin-linked individual" – Torshin – "appears to have used the group" – the NRA – "to befriend and establish a back channel to senior Trump campaign associates through their mutual affinity for firearms," the Democrats write, "a strategy consistent with Russian trade craft." (Torshin, a lifetime NRA member, was recently sanctioned by the Treasury Department and can no longer travel to the United States.)

The Democratic report also publishes a full excerpt of an infamous May 2016 email from Paul Erickson to the Trump campaign. (Previously, this email had only been reported in snippets by The New York Times.) Erickson is an NRA- and GOP operative who repeatedly visited a Torshin-backed gun-rights group in Moscow. He later started a mysterious business with Torshin's protege, Maria Butina, in South Dakota.

How close does this get to Jeff Sessions. According to RS, the answer is "real close":

The excerpt is illuminating: Erickson addressed the email – which included a proposed meeting between candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin – to Rick Dearborn, then a top Trump campaign staffer. But the full text suggests Sen. Jeff Sessions was directly in the loop. Erickson wrote: 
"I'm now writing to you and Sen. Sessions in your roles as Trump foreign policy experts/advisors. […] Happenstance and the (sometimes) international reach of the NRA placed me in a position a couple of years ago to slowly begin cultivating a back-channel to President Putin's Kremlin. Russia is quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S. that isn't forthcoming under the current administration. And for reasons that we can discuss in person or on the phone, the Kremlin believes that the only possibility of a true re-set in this relationship would be with a new Republican White House."

Where was the excerpt found? In Jeff Sessions' files:

Did Sessions, now the attorney general, receive a copy of this email directly? The report's footnote, sourcing the email, reveals the document came from "Attorney General Jeff Session [sic] Document Production." Rolling Stone asked for clarification from a spokesperson for Ranking Member Adam Schiff; he replied: "We cannot comment."

That this email was found in Sessions' files is a startling revelation. Sessions previously told House investigators that he did not recall the outreach by Erickson, according to The New York Times. And it may provide new context for why Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department's Russia investigation.

The Democratic report also reveals that Dearborn moved Erickson's message up the chain of command – and amplified when and where Putin hoped to meet with candidate Trump. "Dearborn communicated this request on May 17, 2016 to the highest levels of the Trump campaign, including Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Jared Kushner," the Democrats write.

Here is how we concluded our April post on Butina, Torshin, Erickson, Dearborn, and Sessions:

Russia's outreach efforts did result in a meeting with a Trump representative, and there is little doubt Jeff Sessions knew about it. There also is little doubt that Republicans on the intelligence committee tried to cover it up. Writes Dickinson:

"Torshin hoped to use the 2016 NRA convention to break the ice, and open a personal line of communication to "someone of high rank in the Trump Campaign," the report continues. "As explained in Dearborn's email, such a meeting would provide Torshin an opportunity “to discuss an offer he claims to be carrying from President Putin to meet with DJT." ("DJT" is a reference to Donald J. Trump.) "They would also like DJT to visit Russia for a world summit on the persecution of Christians at which Putin and Trump would meet.'"

Ultimately, Torshin met the future-President's son, Donald Jr., at the NRA convention. The Democrats upbraid the majority for "conveniently" concluding there was "no evidence that the two discussed the presidential election." The Democrats expand: "this relies solely on the voluntary and self-interested testimony of the individual in question . . . Trump Jr." The report adds: "The Majority refused multiple requests by the Minority to interview witnesses central to this line of inquiry, including Torshin, Butina, Erickson, and others."

How ugly could this get for the NRA -- with Jeff Sessions right in the middle of it? From RS:

"The Democrats conclude the NRA section of their report with a litany of questions the GOP majority refused to examine, writing that the GOP majority report "ignores significant outstanding questions about individuals who sought to set up this back channel, including why Torshin and Butina were interested in connecting the Trump campaign to Putin, what they sought to get out of that connection, why they enlisted the support of NRA colleagues, and whether others in the campaign were communicating with Russia through the NRA."

The Democrats also underscore that Republicans took no interest in getting to the bottom of allegations that Russian money illegally boosted Trump's candidacy. "The Majority refused to investigate," Democrats write, "whether Russian-linked intermediaries used the NRA to illegally funnel money to the Trump Campaign, to open lines of communication with or approaches to Trump or his associates, and how those approaches may have informed Russia's active measures campaign as it unfolded throughout 2016."

Butina, who has been in the United States, is the first Russian operative to be arrested in the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. If she cooperates with investigators or goes to trial, that could present a nightmare scenario for Jeff Sessions and some of his associates.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Rob Riley was among Alabama Republicans who pressured former Gov. Robert Bentley to launch AG investigation that would have halted Hubbard case


Rob Riley
Rob Riley was among several prominent Republicans who pressured former Gov. Robert Bentley to investigate the Attorney General's office during the Mike Hubbard trial, according to a report at Alabama Political Reporter (APR).

The revelation came from Bentley during a deposition in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by Spencer Collier, former secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). The pressure apparently was designed to target lead prosecutor Matt Hart and bring an end to the Hubbard case, reports APR's Josh Moon.

Jimmy Rane, owner of Great Southern Wood, was among others who joined Riley in pressuring Bentley. Reports Moon:

Former Gov. Robert Bentley said during a recent deposition that he was pressured by lawmakers, attorneys and major donors on numerous occasions during the Mike Hubbard trial to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the Alabama Attorney General’s Office — a move that likely would have torpedoed the case against the former House speaker.

Under oath during a deposition in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by former Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Secretary Spencer Collier, Bentley said Great Southern Wood owner and mega-political donor Jimmy Rane contacted him three different times about appointing a special prosecutor.

Additionally, Rob Riley, son of former Gov. Bob Riley and a Hubbard attorney, also contacted his office about opening an investigation of the AG’s office. Two more of Hubbard’s attorneys, Augusta Dowd and Lance Bell, also contacted Bentley about appointing a special prosecutor, Bentley said. Bentley also said three sitting legislators pressured him, but he said he didn’t remember who they were.

Bentley was not keen on the idea of his office getting involved in the Hubbard case. Writes Moon:

“I did not want the governor’s office to be involved in that trial in Lee County,” Bentley said during the deposition. “I wanted to stay neutral, because I had been getting pressure to do other things. I told them I had no plans to do anything. I told them to leave me alone.”

The push to appoint a special prosecutor was widely viewed as a defense strategy by Hubbard’s lawyers, meant to undermine the credibility of the prosecutor on a case Hubbard’s attorneys couldn’t win. Hubbard’s defense team filed motion after motion claiming that lead prosecutor Matt Hart had overstepped the law during his investigation of Hubbard or that Hart had leaked grand jury information to the media.

Ultimately, Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker dismissed those complaints, and a quick investigation by ALEA determined that Hart had not leaked grand jury information during the case.

Bentley's statement has ties to tomorrow's primary runoff elections in Alabama, especially the Republican AG race between Steve Marshall and Troy King:

Oddly, some of the major players in that case have gone from calling for investigations of the AG’s office to financially supporting Steve Marshall, the incumbent AG appointed by Bentley.

Rane, who was directly involved in one of the counts for which Hubbard was convicted, has dumped hundreds of thousands in donations into Marshall campaign account or into political action committees that have donated to Marshall.

Through his Great Southern Wood company, Rane has contributed more than $1 million in Alabama over the last year, with almost all of that money going through PACs. In total, Great Southern Wood dumped $218,000 into 11 PACs that donated to Marshall. Those 11 PACs gave Marshall $217,500.

Through his law firm, Rob Riley, who is still listed as an attorney for Hubbard — a man with a pending appeal that Marshall’s office is fighting — has donated $2,500 to Marshall.

Jarrod Ramos' fatal shooting at newspaper in Annapolis, MD, did not usher in an era of attacks on the press; those attacks already had started in Alabama


Jarrod W. Ramos
In the wake of the recent deadly shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland, several commentators have suggested it might usher in an era of attacks on the free press. If those commentators had been able to walk in my shoes over the past 10 years, they would know such an era already is under way -- especially in Jeff Sessions' Alabama.

Sessions and/or his acolytes have relentlessly attacked this blog since 2008, when I was cheated out of my job at UAB for reporting on the Don Siegelman case in a way that then Gov. Bob Riley (and his son, Rob "Uday" Riley, and Rob's legal partner, current U.S. Sen. Doug Jones) found displeasing.

The attacks became so flagrant that they included my kidnapping, from inside my Birmingham home without a warrant and no allegation of a crime, and a five-month incarceration (from Oct. 2013 to March 2014) in the Shelby County Jail -- making me the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, the only imprisoned journalist in the western hemisphere for 2013, and apparently the only journalist in U.S. history to be jailed due to an unlawful preliminary injunction in a defamation case. In other words, Alabama in the Sessions era became more of a First Amendment backwater than places like Venezuela, Chile, and El Salvador.

No one should be surprised that Sessions, in his role as Trump attorney general, has not ruled out  jailing journalists in the future.

The actions of shooter Jarrod W. Ramos in Annapolis were dreadful, but they did not start a movement that had not already been going on for a while. In fact, there are a number of parallels between the Ramos case and the attacks we've experienced at Legal Schnauzer. Let's take a look:

(1) Facebook as a platform for harassment -- The Ramos story started when he connected with a former high-school classmate, a woman, on Facebook. At first, the woman tried to be friendly and helpful when Ramos noted that he was struggling with some issues in his life. But she sensed something was amiss and tried to withdraw from the conversation, sparking threats, harassment, and stalking from Ramos. She pursued criminal charges, and Ramos was found guilty, with coverage of that case sparking his crusade against the Capital Gazette. Trolls of some nature -- from Alabama, Missouri, Russia, parts unknown -- have been attacking my Facebook account for months -- causing URLs to Legal Schnauzer to be blocked for anywhere from 30 days to a few hours. It's happened at least a dozen times since the first of this year.

(2) Baseless defamation claims as a mechanism to silence reporters -- Ramos brought a defamation lawsuit against the Capital Gazette (CG) that was almost laughably weak. Acting as his own lawyer (pro se), Ramos could not point to a single item in the CG's story that was false. It's hard to support a defamation claim when you admit the story in question is accurate. Ramos also seemed unaware that journalists are legally privileged to report on official and public proceedings, such as a court case. Ramos' lawsuit was no weaker than the sham defamation claim Rob Riley brought against Legal Schnauzer and me (even my wife, Carol, who had nothing to do with the blog until after I was thrown in jail) over my reporting on his "friendship" with lobbyist Liberty Duke. How irregular was the Riley lawsuit, which led to me being thrown in jail for "contempt" over a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited under more than 230 years of First Amendment law?

Rob and Bob Riley
a. Riley and Duke (the plaintiffs) never sought discovery to prove their case. (Maybe that's because they had no case.) Riley never has stated under oath that my reporting was false; Duke filed an affidavit making such a claim, but why didn't Riley follow suit? Did he and his colleagues think it was OK for her, a non-lawyer, to lie under oath, while such an act might put his bar card at risk?

b. Riley and Duke never asked for a trial or a jury, both of which have been required under decades of defamation law. Instead, they asked corrupt retired judge Claud Neilson (a Bill Baxley crony) to unlawfully act as a one-man censor.

c. As a matter of law, my reporting on the Riley/Duke relationship never has been found false or defamatory.

d. I never was hit with any money damages in the case, and Riley/Duke never made any valid request for such damages. They did ask for "sanctions" against me, but those are prohibited under Alabama law against a non-attorney representing himself -- as I was.

(3) Murder vs. kidnapping -- Thankfully, I was not murdered like the five CG employees that Ramos shot. But evidence suggests that one reason for suing Carol was to incarcerate both of us and possibly kill both of us -- with no one likely ever knowing what happened to us. Aside from that, I clearly was the victim of a state-sanctioned kidnapping. Officer Chris Blevins showed no warrant on the scene, never said he had a warrant before entering our home, never stated his reasons for being on our property (a violation of Alabama law), and could not produce a warrant when a judge ordered him (and prosecutors) to do so at my trial for "resisting arrest." Aside from the warrant issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that it is unlawful for a law-enforcement officer to enter a residence without a warrant for a "routine felony arrest." (See Payton v. New York, 455 U.S. 573, 1980.) My case involved no felony, no allegation of a crime at all -- and yet, cops broke into our home, which they clearly cannot do under law that has been around for more than 30 years.

(4) Attacking employment as an act of terror -- The victim of Ramos' harassment lost her job at a bank, under peculiar circumstances, not long after her Facebook interactions with him turned dark. She has stated that she believes Ramos contacted her employer and caused her to be terminated. There is zero doubt that Rob Riley, or someone affiliated with him, caused me to be cheated out of my job at UAB -- where I had worked for 20 years -- because of my reporting on the Siegelman case. Evidence also strongly suggests that Riley and legal buddy Doug Jones were alarmed about my reporting on a federal HealthSouth lawsuit, which wound up generating more than $51 million in attorney fees, with several million of that going to Riley and Jones. In fact, it has been reported that funds from that lawsuit largely helped finance Jones' run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Police abuse of Adam Finley in Walnut Ridge, AR, sparks federal lawsuit and national news coverage of a case where stupidity, not race, is the central issue





An Arkansas police officer sparked a federal lawsuit and national news coverage when he arrested a man for acting suspiciously at a railroad yard -- and the man worked for the railroad company. That sounds like a joke, but it's only the beginning of the craziness at the heart of a case styled Adam Finley v. City of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, et al.

In fact, the case has plenty of ugliness to go with the craziness. When Finley and his wife, Heather, visited the Walnut Ridge Police Department to file a complaint against Officer Matthew Mercado, Chief Chris Kirksey said Finley was lucky not to be in jail, and the chief and a sergeant wound up writing a citation that charges Finley with two crimes -- obstruction of governmental operations and resisting arrest. This came even after Chief Kirksey had seen body-cam video that proves Finley did not obstruct or resist anything. (Video of the encounter with Officer Mercado is at the top of this post; Video of the meeting with Kirksey and Sgt. Matthew Cook, in two parts, is at the end of this post. Note: In the video above, Officer Mercado apparently did not turn on audio to his body cam, so the video is silent for about 30 seconds at the beginning.)

Bottom line: If you are the victim of police misconduct in Walnut Ridge, AR, and you have the audacity to report it, you can wind up facing criminal charges you clearly did not commit, per a dash-cam video. This, of course, sounds a lot like the experience my wife, Carol, and I have had in Springfield, Missouri, where Greene County deputies broke her arm -- requiring trauma surgery and about six months of physical therapy -- during an unlawful eviction in September 2015, and then hit her with an "assault of a law enforcement officer" charge, even though the "victim" officer (Jeremy Lynn) admitted in a written report and under oath at trial that he initiated contact with Carol, meaning she was not guilty, as a matter of Missouri law.

In Carol's case, officers repeatedly lied under oath, and Judge Jerry A. Harmison Jr. violated black-letter law in order to find Carol guilty in a bench trial, where there was not even probable cause to arrest, much less to prosecute.

Compared to Carol, Adam Finley got off easy. He did not have any broken bones, and the criminal charges against him ultimately were dropped. There already has been some semblance of accountability for the Walnut Ridge Police Department; there has been zero accountability, so far, against the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) and its head thug, Jim Arnott, and crooked prosecutor, Dan Patterson.

The police abuse of Adam Finley is relatively tame compared to what happens in some cases, where victims wind up with broken bones, or even dead. For one, Finley (like Carol) is white, so it shows police abuse is not just directed at black people. We have no doubt police disproportionately target black folks, and there is good reason the Black Lives Matter movement grew out of the Michael Brown incident in Ferguson, Missouri. But the Finley case is not about race; it's more about mind-numbing stupidity on the part of an officer, and the corruptness of his superiors -- all of it conducted while cameras were rolling.

Stan Morris, of NEA (Northeast Arkansas) Report, has led news coverage of the Finley story at a local level. Radley Balko, of The Washington Post, picked up on the Finley case earlier this week and noted, right off, the goofiness of it all. We invite you to watch the body-cam footage above, and Finley promptly turns over his ID as a railroad-company employee. (Note: Again, Officer Mercado apparently did not immediately turn on audio to his body cam, so the video is silent for about the first 30 seconds.) In other words, Finley was not "acting suspiciously" at all; he was on the job and had work-related reasons to be at the railroad yard. But Officer Mercado apparently can't grasp that and slams Finley up against his own truck, cursing him, slapping handcuffs on him, and then ultimately letting him go. But Finley winds up facing criminal charges after filing a complaint, and (unlike Carol) he is acquitted. From Balko:

Mercado didn’t turn on the audio for his camera until about 30 seconds into the stop. During that time, the video shows Finley handing Mercado both his license and his employee ID from the railroad company. Mercado then asks Finley to get out of his truck. It’s here that Mercado then turns on his mic. He asks Finley, “What’s with the attitude?” Finley, who appears to have done nothing to indicate an “attitude,” replies, “Nothing.”

Mercado persists. “No, you have an attitude. What’s your problem?” Finley responds, “I don’t have no problem, I’m good.” Mercado again pushes. “I can pull you over if I want.” Finley says, “That’s fine.”

This is obstructing governmental operations? Does an alternate universe exist in Walnut Ridge, AR, especially in law enforcement. Here is more from Balko:

Later Mercado again expresses doubt about Finley’s employment — again, despite having Finley’s employee ID in his own hands. “It doesn’t look like you were working,” he says. As he says this, Finley takes a small step away from the truck. Mercado snaps, “If you get up on me again, we’re going to have problems.” Finley, clearly taken aback at the escalation, flashes a nervous smile. Mercado again ratchets up the tension. “I’m glad you think all of this is a joke, sir.” Finley shakes his head and again tells Mercado that he works for the railroad. Mercado again indicates that he doesn’t believe him.

Mercado then orders Finley to put his hands behind his back, and says he’s going to arrest him for “obstructing my operation.” Finley, clearly nervous, protests and tries to prove to Mercado that he works for the railroad by showing him some equipment in the back of his truck. At this point the stop turns violent. Mercado grabs Finley and throws him against the truck. Finley puts his hands behind his back. Mercado cuffs him and says, “You’re about ignorant.” He then again shoves Finley into the truck, this time with enough force to dislodge his own body camera, which falls to the ground.

Over the course of the next several minutes, Mercado repeatedly uses profanity, lectures to Finley as if he were a child and claims that Finley is “hostile and aggressive.” Throughout all of this, Finley is remarkably calm, insisting over and over that he works for the railroad, and that he doesn’t understand why he was pulled over.

After pointing out multiple falsehoods in Mercado's incident report, Balko strives to put the whole contretemps in perspective:

It’s tempting to blow all this off as a single, insignificant incident in a small town. It isn’t Los Angeles’s Rampart, after all. Or Chicago’s systemized torture. But it also isn’t unique. There’s a steady stream of stories like this one. I was alerted to this particular story by a former police officer who now advocates criminal-justice reform. (He asked me not to use his name, for reasons that will be apparent in a moment.) I asked him: In his experience, how common is this sort of thing? His response:

"This is very common in policing. Looking back on my career, I realize just how often I acted similarly and didn’t even realize it. It was subconscious. I was trained and subtly incentivized to do so. You intentionally create conflict and manufacture noncompliance in order to build your stop into an arrest situation. Because that’s what generations of law enforcers who have been steeped in a fear-based, comply or else, us-vs.-them mind-set do. They arrest people. Arrests are a primary measure of productivity and gives the appearance your department has solved a problem.

"Most aggressive cops have honed this to an art. They are savvy, know exactly how to weaponize numerous petty laws, ordinances, use-of-force policy and procedure against citizens. This cop was off his game and clumsily went through the motions like a desperate door-to-door perfume salesman. Except when cops manufacture a “sale” like this, the “customer” ends up arrested, criminalized, emotionally and financially devastated, not to mention possibly physically beaten or worse. And the justice system will deem it legal, even when it isn’t.

"As far as the police leadership and prosecutors, they knew exactly what they were doing. If someone makes a complaint, you find something, anything to charge them with."

So, the thinking demonstrated by Officer Mercado and his chief is common in policing. And that should concern all Americans, of all colors and persuasions. Writes Balko:

Finley wasn’t shot, or choked to death, or found hanging in a jail cell. He didn’t suffer any permanent or lasting physical injury. Mercado didn’t even use racist or bigoted language. But Finley did everything he was supposed to. From the footage we can see and hear, he was polite, provided ID when it was asked of him and stepped out of the truck when ordered. Despite cooperating, he was treated poorly, detained and roughed up. When he then tried to file a complaint, he was harassed, and the chief of police attempted to turn his own wife against him — by citing video she hadn’t seen and that ultimately vindicated her husband. Yet even after viewing that video, city officials proceeded to prosecute. And even after the video was released, city officials maligned Finley in the press and insisted that the residents of Walnut Ridge believe the assertions of authority figures over the video evidence that contradicted them.

The “lesson” Finley learned here is pretty clear. Power usually wins. You can be as cooperative as possible, but if a police officer wants to dish out some abuse, he can. And he’ll probably get away with it. Try to hold him accountable if you’d like, but just know that doing so may come with a heavy price.

Once other public officials cover up for “bad apple” cops, the story is no longer about the bad apples. It’s about systemic failure. It’s about public servants willing to tolerate abuse because they’re more loyal to one another than to the public they serve. It’s difficult to say how someone in a position of authority — someone with the public trust — could view footage of the encounter between Mercado and Finley and proclaim they believe that the criminal charges against Finley were merited. Perhaps they were just lying. Or perhaps they were so blinded by deference to law enforcement, a fear of accountability or a knee-jerk defense of authority that they actually believe what they’re saying. I’m not sure which of those scenarios ought to worry us more.





Thursday, July 12, 2018

Brian Benczkowski, Trump appointee to lead DOJ Criminal Division, has ties to Russia and Sessions, and insiders see him as a threat to Mueller investigation


Brian Benczkowski, behind Jeff Sessions
A Republican insider -- with ties to a Russian bank and the Don Siegelman case -- has been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Donald Trump's choice to lead the Criminal Division at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). One insider describes Brian Benczkowski as a "fixer" for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and multiple Democrats and news outlets have voiced concerns that the newest Trump appointee could help thwart the Robert Mueller investigation into the Trump-Russia scandal.

Jill Simpson, a whistle blower and retired attorney from northeast Alabama, had personal encounters with Benczkowski during investigation of the Siegelman case as a political prosecution, and she says it's hard to imagine a worse choice to lead the Criminal Division. Benczkowski was confirmed almost strictly along party lines. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va) was the only Democrat to cross over and vote to confirm Writes Simpson, in a Facebook post:

Benczkowski goes back to the EADS Refueling Tanker deal with Oleg Deripaska that Sessions and Manafort and his partner, Rick Davis, at the time were trying to put through, and we, the Alabama Resistance, stopped it by seeing the stories we're told on the Refueling Tanker deal and saved 35,000 American Boeing jobs. Putting a Putin mole in as the chief of the criminal division when he has never tried a case is hoot. I guess all you have to do to get those jobs is kiss Jeff Sessions' and his Russian friend's asses.

This is the second time this week we've had news about a Trump nominee (or confirmee) whose appointment appears geared to protect the White House from the Mueller investigation. The first such news came Monday night with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. We've already learned that Kavanaugh can't even manage his own credit cards, in the name of buying tickets to Washington Nationals baseball games. Writes Mother Jones (MoJo), on the latest news about Benczkowski:

The Senate confirmed a top Justice Department official on Wednesday who could help oversee the Trump-Russia investigation, despite his own troubling connections to Russia and his close ties to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Brian Benczkowski, a former Senate aide to Sessions, was confirmed on a 51-48 vote to lead the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, a job that could give him sway over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Several Senate Democrats have argued that Benczkowski should be disqualified due to previous work on behalf of a Russian bank with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and a general lack of experience in criminal law.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) points to several beneath-the-surface reasons for Benczkowski's nomination. From MoJo:

Whitehouse posits several ways in which Benczkowski could undermine the Mueller investigation from his perch atop the Criminal Division, which would give him insight into the investigation. He could share information about the probe with Sessions, who recused himself from the investigation, or with President Donald Trump’s legal team. He could also slow down the investigation by delaying or denying any requests that come to his desk.

And Whitehouse notes that the Trump administration is surely aware that the president could replace Rod Rosenstein with Benczkowski, since anyone confirmed by the Senate to any post can be temporarily appointed to other posts that typically require Senate confirmation. That would transfer oversight of the Russia investigation to him. “There are lots of nefarious explanations for why this guy at this time gets installed in a position with a window into the Mueller investigation,” he says.

Other Democrats have voiced similar warnings. “The Benczkowski vote could mark a pivotal moment in the Russia investigation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) tweeted Tuesday, as the vote on the nomination approached. “The warning signs are clear.”

Jill Simpson, from her experience with the Siegelman case, has seen signs that Benczkowski simply is dishonest. From a second Simpson post at Facebook:

Benczkowski wrote a letter packed with lies about me when I went to D.C. to testify in 2007, and Scottt Horton did a piece about it at Harper's Magazineshowing what a liar Benczkowski was back then, taking his letter apart showing his lies, which we knew he did for Sessions because of the EADS deal he was protecting for the Russians. 
Now Benczkowski has been confirmed to be the chief of the DOJ Criminal Division,  which is a joke. I can't imagine why anyone would approve this known Russian-government employee ( lawyer for Russian-government Alfa Bank) liar. He is a known Sessions fixer; he fixed the Siegelman case, he fixed the Russian Election stuff for Russian Alfa Bank, so  Sessions could cover tracks at the Trump Tower. And now, Trump is giving him this job to fix the Mueller investigation . 
This one appointment shows that our DOJ is no longer reputable. I tried coming forward years ago to stop this [kind of thing] from happening. I am sad, but this will be a complete takeover of government when Russians essentially control the criminal division. Folks must rise up and say, hell no. I am speaking out as I was a direct victim of this Russian ass-kissing lawyer thug, as he wrote a bunch of lies against me when I came forward as a Siegelman witness.

Simpson has more about Benczkowski's affiliations with the corrupt "Alabama Gang," led by Jeff Sessions:

This is not my first rodeo with the very corrupt Mr Brian Benczkowski. Check what the then Sessions fixer Senate Judiciary DOJ staffer, Mr Breczkowski, did to us in the Siegelman case. He repeatedly lied in writing. This is an old article by Scott Horton on the Siegelman case that shows how corrupt a jerk Benczkowski is
He did this to us at the time for Alabama Gang leader Jeff Sessions, his corrupt boss at the time. Now he is set to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. The guy has zero ethics and morals and would not understand the rule of law if it bit him on the ass. He is Jeff Sessions' fixer and has been for years. Mr. Mueller and his team need to stand against this appointment, or they will get caught in this fixer's trap. We in Alabama have long identified Brian Benckowski as a fixer for for Alabama Gang members, and we all need to stand up and tell all we know on him. This is my start on this Alfa Bank Russian mole bastard.


We reported here at Legal Schnauzer on Benczkowski's dubious actions in the Siegelman case, borrowing from the work of Scott Horton, legal-affairs analyst at Harper's: From that LS post of September 2007, not long after I started this blog:


Isn't it heartening to know that our public officials, particularly ones who take an oath to uphold the law and tell the truth, are capable of telling repeated falsehoods?

And we're not talking about lying in a casual conversation. We're talking about lying in a letter to Congress about matters that go to the very heart of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

That's what we citizens received when Brian A. Benczkowski wrote the DOJ's official response to a Congressional request for documents related to three cases that appear to involve politically motivated prosecutions. The prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is one of those cases.

It wasn't enough that Benczkowski essentially refused to comply with a request from the governmental body that funds his agency and writes the laws he and his colleagues are sworn to uphold. No, Benczkowski has to tell one lie after another.

Scott Horton, of Harper's, is just the guy to dissect Benczkowski's fact-challenged missive. Horton's verdict? In just two paragraphs, the DOJ's chief Congressional liaison tells seven whoppers. It's not easy to tell seven lies in such a small amount of space. But hey, this guy works in the Bush Justice Department.

How serious could the Benczkowski appointment be? Jill Simpson considers it to be extremely serious, and she levels one more blast:

Glad to see it is now coming to light that Jeff Sessions' former Senate Judiciary staffer Benczkowski (who sent an ugly lying letter to Conyers in the Siegelman matter) went and worked for Russian-owned Alfa Bank ( yes the one in Trump Tower that was believed to be sending info back to Russia for Trump Campaign Project Alamo Team and IRA ) after they got caught in the Steele Dossier investigation and the Alabama Project Alamo Election Stealing investigation. 
Now, Sessions wants his cleaner-fixer, Mr. Benczkowski, to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. My guess is that it is to clean up for Sessions and Trump "the mess" (which is how the GOP refers to Mueller) at the DOJ. We at the Resistance have known of Mr Benczkowski's Russian hanky panky for a while, going back to Jeff Sessions' Senate days. It appears folks are on Mr. B's trail now, which is good, considering he is woefully unqualified for the job as head of the DOJ Criminal Division. He has zero experience as a civil or criminal litigator, and to our knowledge and the Democrats on the Hill in D.C.,  he's never even filed a federal appeal. 
In a normal Senate and Congress, Benczkowski would be disqualified due to his close association with the Russian government and his representation of the Alfa Bank. Jeff Sessions and Trump, with this appointment, are not fooling anyone; they are bringing in another Putin ass- kissing Russian mole buddy to fix the Mueller situation. But they are caught,  and, the story is out of the bag due to Rachel Maddow's courageous reporting. We at the Alabama Resistance love Rachel and thank God she is seeing the truth is told. 
Generally, the head of the criminal division of the DOJ often becomes, at a future date,  the head of the FBI. So it appears the Russian government is trying to install a former employee ( Alfa Bank job for Benczkowski) as head of the DOJ Criminal Division, with a possible trail to the FBI. This is breath taking to watch, and not in a good way. I wonder if any members of the GOP are loyal to country in D.C.,  or are they all corrupted by Russian money. This appointment is Russia's fix to protect Trump and Sessions. They paid this gentlemen very well to get them off the hook and to let Trump and Sessions off the hook, and sadly they are all Russian moles. These are Russia's useful idiots at the top of the collusion deal.

Alabama U.S. Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins screws up simple law in "Jail Case," proving she is a corrupt product of the Jeff Sessions/Richard Shelby sewer line


Virginia Emerson Hopkins
William M. Acker Jr. is dead and gone -- thank God -- but Virginia Emerson Hopkins seems hell-bent on claiming his title as the worst federal judge in Alabama, certainly in the Northern District. How is she doing it? By dismissing our "Jail Case" -- the one based on my unlawful five-month incarceration in Shelby County -- on grounds that aren't even close to being correct under the law.

It's pretty hard to dismiss the Jail Case, based on the facts or law. It's a matter of public record that I was, in fact, kidnapped from inside my home (no warrant, in violation of state law, the Fourth Amendment and the U.S. Supreme Court finding in Payton v. New York), and defendants were among those responsible for it. No one can seriously argue the arrest was lawful, given that Rob Riley and Liberty Duke filed a bogus defamation claim, seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO) and preliminary injunction that have been prohibited as prior restraints under more than 230 years of First Amendment law.

Since Hopkins -- whose husband (Anniston lawyer Chris Hopkins) essentially bought a judicial seat for her, by giving generously to Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions -- can't cheat us on fact or law, how does she do it? By butchering simple procedural and statutory law that an orangutan should be able to get right. (Hopkins' "judgment," our Rule 59 motion in response to it, and an amendment to our Rule 59 motion are embedded at the end of this post.)

You might recall that Hopkins hardly has a judicial temperament, as we showed in a post about her screaming fit, for about 20 minutes, at Fultondale attorney Greg Morris when he appeared to represent us at a Rule 26 planning meeting. Now, we can show Hopkins doesn't have the brains or the integrity for the job, either. Given what we've learned about interference in the Jail Case from the Alabama State Bar, it would not be a surprise if Hopkins were collaborating with bar officials to cheat us.

Hopkins' first line of deceit involves the statute of limitations (SOL). She dismissed all six of our federal claims -- First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, False Arrest, False Imprisonment, and Excessive Force -- by finding that we filed our complaint after the two-year statute of limitations for claims under 42 U.S.C. 1983 had expired.

It is standard around the country that the time bar for a Sec. 1983 claim is based on each state's statute of limitations for personal-injury cases. In  Missouri, that is five years; in Alabama, it's two years. So, it's undisputed that our case, in fact, is governed by a two-year SOL. But that is not the only time-related matter at hand. There also is the small matter of when the SOL begins to accrue. In other words, when does the two-year clock start clicking on a Sec. 1983 claim in Alabama, or any other state?

To answer that question, one must turn to federal law. Here is how the U.S. Eleventh Circuit (covering Alabama, Georgia, and Florida) put it in a case style Kelly v. Serna, 87 F. 3d 1235 (11th Cir., 1996):

“Deciding what statute of limitations applies to this action gets us only half way to our destination. Secondly, we must decide at what point the applicable statute begins to run. A statute of limitations begins to run when the cause of action accrues. Accrual of a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is a question of federal law.Mullinax v. McElhenney, 817 F.2d 711, 716 (11th Cir.1987).

As the Eleventh Circuit put it, Hopkins decided only half of the issue. Her memorandum opinion gives no hint that she even considered the second half -- the accrual half, which is extremely important, especially in a case where false imprisonment is alleged.

You might recall that I was incarcerated for more than five months -- from Oct. 23, 2013 to March 26, 2014. As you probably can imagine, being in jail cuts one off from the world. In the Shelby County Jail, inmates did not even have access to a functioning writing implement (a pen could be used as a weapon) or pieces of paper. Federal courts recognize this and have adopted a special rule that applies to cases involving allegations of false arrest/imprisonment. The U.S. Supreme Court has spelled out this rule, as has Restatement of Torts, a compendium of U.S. common law, which applies in courts across the country.

Here is how the nation's highest court put it in a case styled Wallace v. Kato, 549 US 384 (U.S. Supreme Court, 2007):

“The statute of limitations in a § 1983 suit is that provided by the State for personal-injury torts,e.g.,Owens v. Okure, 488 U.S. 235, 249-250, 109 S.Ct. 573, 102 L.Ed.2d 594 . . . For false imprisonment and its subspecies false arrest, "[t]he... cause[s] of action ... provid[ing] the closest analogy to claims of the type considered here," Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 484, 114 S.Ct. 2364, 129 L.Ed.2d 383, the statute of limitations begins to run when the alleged false imprisonment ends, see,e.g., 4 Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899.”

The Northern District of Alabama already has correctly interpreted and applied the law, in a case styled Antonio James v. City of Birmingham (ND of AL, 2012). From James:

“As to Count Two, alleging false imprisonment, the “running of the statute of limitations on false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule-dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned: "Limitations begin to run against an action for false imprisonment when the alleged false imprisonment ends.’” Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389 (quoting 2 H. Wood, Limitation of Actions § 187d(4), p. 878 (rev. 4th ed. 1916).

You'd think that Hopkins might be able to figure out that a judge in her own building already has correctly applied the law regarding accrual of the SOL in a case alleging false imprisonment. But you would be wrong. You'd also think Hopkins might be able to consult Restatement of Torts, a volume that probably is found in every law library -- even in podunk counties -- around the country. You would be wrong about that, too.

In fact, Restatement of Torts provides probably the most clear and concise description of the matter -- and again, this is the U.S. common law, which applies all over -- and that's why we filed an amendment to our Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59. We wanted to provide the most plainly understood version of the law, in hopes that Hopkins and opposing lawyers in the case -- almost all of whom claimed our lawsuit was untimely filed -- might be able to grasp it. From Restatement of Torts:

“For false imprisonment, the statute [of limitations] begins to run only when the imprisonment ends, since the period of imprisonment is treated as a unit." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 899, (1979). See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. at 389,127 S. Ct. 1091 ("The running of the statute of limitations on [common-law] false imprisonment is subject to a distinctive rule—dictated, perhaps, by the reality that the victim may not be able to sue while he is still imprisoned."). The Restatement.

Law does not get much more clear and simple than that. Our Rule 59 motion is pending, so we will see if Hopkins can figure it out. Our guess is that she won't even try; she appears to be so bereft of integrity that she likely will figure out some other way to cheat us.

The law and the numbers, however, do not lie. Here is a summary, involving the dates in question:

* All parties involved agree that Alabama's two-year statute of limitations governs this Sec. 1983 case;

* Hopkins ignores federal law -- as stated by the U.S. Supreme Court and Restatement of Torts -- that governs when our complaint accrues, when the clock starts ticking on the two-year SOL;

* I was arrested on Oct. 23, 2013, so Hopkins wrongly claims our clock started ticking then -- that our complaint had to be filed by Oct. 23, 2015;

* But I was incarcerated for more than five months -- released on March 26, 2014 -- and under the law cited above, accrual of our complaint began on that date;

* Hopkins admits our complaint was filed on March 26, 2016, which means it was timely per Kato and the Restatement. 

It will be interesting to see if Hopkins continues to get this wrong because, if she does, that is a criminal act -- one that almost certainly is driven by extrajudicial forces that should have forced her disqualification from the case many months ago. Hopkins likely is tippy-toeing over the line of the nation's racketeering laws, involving obstruction of justice and other criminal acts. We've seen evidence that suggests officials with the Alabama State Bar also have stepped into RICO land.

We'd say Hopkins, and her cronies at the state bar, are dancing in dangerous territory, but we're not sure they are smart enough to understand that.

As for the second ground upon which Hopkins wrongfully dismissed our Jail Case, we will examine that in an upcoming post.


(To be continued)